Finals are just around the corner and many of us are sprinting/struggling to the finish line. In many courses grading is the thing standing between us and a change of pace during the summer. There have probably been semesters when you moved through grading efficiently and others when you are wondering how serious those requirements on timely grade entry from the Office of the Registrar really are. Those different experiences were probably driven by different habits. Take a minute to think of your best and worst grading habits.
My best habit has always been preparation. This was the time in the semester when I would be motivated to focus in the evenings and clear my schedule of lingering grading, manuscripts in need of attention, and other projects. This allowed me to focus on grading final papers or exams when they came in without having other work to do. When I executed well I would be done with grading on Wednesday of final exam week. My worst habit was the mini-reward. I would be proud of myself for grading one or two papers and take a minute to read ESPN or check facebook, then that minute turned into 10, then I needed a cup of coffee, soon 30 minutes had passed without additional progress.
Despite commonly held beliefs, you do not have enough time to create a new habit before final exams and papers come in, but you do have time to get started. The least we should do is commit to being conscientious of our habits so we can make note for the future. This can be a challenge as habits, by their nature, are often automatic.
This tip was inspired by one of my better habits, listening to the Teaching in H
igher Ed podcast by Bonni Stachowiak and her episode on habits.
Her guest Natalie Houston is a regular contributor to the Chronicle and said something
that hit home for me, “habits save us tremendoustime and energy, but they can also lead us to doing a lot of things mindlessly.” It made me think about the things I do mindlessly which are not that productive.
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Today’s tip is about a tough issue without an easy answer: homelessness and food security. A study from the Chancellor’s Office brought some of those issues home to us. They are estimating up to 12% of students have insecure housing and up to 24% experience regular food insecurity. This is based on a limited preliminary study which is being continued. These numbers are shocking, but consistent with other studies, including some national work on Community College students. As many of the researchers note this is a difficult topic because of the stigma associated with housing and food insecurity students are often reluctant to self-report these problems.
This is a tough topic, but you may be wondering what it has to do with teaching. First and foremost, we care about our students as people and I would imagine most of us would want to help our students even if these problems did not intersect with learning. Unsurprisingly, they do intersect with learning. The aforementioned national study from Wisconsin’s HOPE lab reports “The data suggest that students feel quite compromised by inadequate living situations, and often struggle to focus on school.”
It is not your responsibility as an instructor to ask distracted students if they are hungry or offer up a room in your house. We can point them toward resources on and off campus.
Our Wildcat Food Pantry is a great resource for students, but did you know they can also sign up for EBT in Kendall 110? Also, students should ask about veggie bucks at the Wednesday sales outside the BMU. I would suggest these resources for all students rather than just ones you think might be in need. The pantry should be a resource for some people, and other students might be in a position to donate. In any case, the emerging research on this topic should give us pause as we are often quick to judge our students. That distracted look or forgotten assignment may be the result of dire circumstances outside their control.
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