Upcoming Enhancer book

February 10, 2015
Possible cover

Possible cover

I hope to publish the next enhancer book in March

 

Melal was an enhancer, which meant she had the ability to do magic. She lived in an area where enhancers were harassed and persecuted. As things got worse she decided to leave, joining a woman named Nefance whose wagon offered her a quick way out of town. What she didn’t realize was that Nefance was with a group that intended to start a war.

Tekad was unfairly thrown out of his home because of the treachery of Nefance, the woman who raised him. As a homeless vagabond, he met Nefance again, along with Melal.

Tekad wanted nothing to do with the war, but Melal was attractive and she wanted to save a group of deluded girls who were all enhancers and thought that they were doing a wonderful thing to help the war. In both war and peace, Tekad and Melal found that caring for young enhancers was both dangerous and rewarding.

Teach like I say, not how I teach

January 24, 2015

As usual, the week before classes start, we had meetings. Some of presentations at these meetings are designed to help us teach better. In one meeting, the speaker said that for teaching math, the students should have lectures for only a third of the time. The rest of the time they should be actively working, instead of passively listening. He actually had us actively working now and then for a minute or two. I didn’t time these sessions, but it was between five and ten percent of the total time.

If a class runs for 100 minutes, they schedule it for 110 minutes and tell us to give the students a ten minute break. Meetings often run longer than that in practice, and in theory one speaker was scheduled for two and a half hours without a break. Do they really think we have that long an attention span?

Most speakers had good Power Point slides that were legible, but when I have sat in the back of the room, some speakers have slides I can’t read. A speech teacher I know once said that any visual aide should have two characteristics: people should be able to see it and it should help. We had some in the meetings that were too long to read without ignoring the speaker. What do they think they are accomplishing? Do they wish to be ignored? Or, do they want us to be impressed when they put long paragraphs on the screen?

If these speakers believed what they said, we would have very different meetings.

 

The quality of students at the community college

October 19, 2014

Two recent incidents in Intermediate Algebra (high school Algebra II) help explain the low pass rates of students.

In the first case the student was trying. He was supposed to be working on an online assignment which involved factoring of trinomials. I saw he had another screen up and asked him about it. He said he was working, which was true. He Googled the factors of 45.

In the second case, the student arrived fifteen minutes late to a computer classroom, where beverages are not allowed, carrying a cup of Starbucks coffee. When I reminded him of the rule, he put his coffee cup next to the wastebasket. I threw it away after he left without it. This would not be a particularly significant incident except the fifteen minutes he missed of class was from a test which was 16% of his grade.

These two incidents display the major reasons students don’t pass, lack of prerequisite knowledge and lack of commitment.

 

What are tests for?

August 30, 2014

The last line in an article from The Washington Post was a quote from a Chinese official: “The habit Chinese students have formed is that they only memorize things but not absorb them. They forget about everything once the test is over.”

Most people think tests are there to measure students’ progress. That is not the only reason for tests, but some think it is.

The measurement of progress is reported to many people:

1. The student. This is often skipped in standardized tests designed to measure the teachers or the schools more than individual students, but the tests that are most important to the student should be reported to him.

2. The student’s parents. Obviously, this step should be done only if the student is a minor.

3. The teacher. Usually, the teacher grades the test, but with electronic and standardized testing something else grades the test. As a teacher, I’ve often used test and quiz results to modify reviews for the final exam and to change the emphasis the next time I teach a course.

4. Where the student goes next. This could be a job or simply the next semester’s course. Usually, the report is only a single grade.

5. Society. This helps judge the quality of the teacher of the school. It rarely names individual teachers or students.

A second goal of tests is to help student learning. Students often think they know a subject until they are tested on it. If the student doesn’t get feedback, ideally quickly, that student will have difficulty learning. How the students use the results of the test often determines how well he does in school. Graded homework, quizzes, and tests give the students an idea of how much they know. If they only study to do well on tests and forget about it afterward, they are not studying properly. Their actual learning will be incidental, not the goal of the work they are doing.

Unfortunately, American students have formed the same habits as Chinese students. If we want any real progress in education, students need to know things after they take their tests.

 

Be polite to strangers

August 4, 2014

Some people are too sensitive. Someone described an incident where a child was backing up with a shopping cart and when she said “Watch out,” the mother complained she was rude. She could have said, “I am walking behind you. If you back up, back up without looking, you may be hit by my cart. Please be careful.” By the time she said that, the damage might be done.

It is more important to issue warnings promptly than politely. Rudeness rarely accomplishes what one wants it to. Most people are not going to think, “He was rude. I deserved it.”  They are going to stop at the first sentence.

In this day and age of crazy people, I try to be polite to all strangers, because I certainly don’t want to offend someone who may decide to retaliate. That may sound paranoid, but it would only be paranoid if I dwelt on it. When I force myself to be polite in situations where rudeness seems justified, I almost never make the decision based on fear. I don’t think that people may be crazy,  only that I’ve decided to try to be polite. It’s like buckling seat belts. I almost never think in terms of potential accidents, just that I should buckle them. Unlike seat belts, routine politeness brings more immediate positive results than buckling seat belts. People tend to be nicer to me.

Another release

July 23, 2014

I’ve published a short story, Kidnapped by Fae, on Amazon. It is another story about Bengt and Tian, who appear in The Secret of Sanctua.

The Secret of Sanctua

May 27, 2014

The Secret of Sanctua is now available on Amazon.

 

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Locking up grandma

January 10, 2014

I recently returned from visiting my mother. She’s in an assisted living facility and we are investigating a memory care facility, although she does not need it yet. The memory care facility locks the residents in. While touring the facility, one man suggested I put her there now, so she can adjust to it. What? She doesn’t need it yet, she’s happy where she is, and they want me to move her? I would certainly be unhappy to be put in a locked facility when I didn’t need it. It would seem like imprisonment. No, more accurately, it would be imprisonment.

I don’t resent the freedoms I’ve given up with age, because it is the price I pay for living as long as I have, but I am aware of them. I have many limitations that I didn’t have when I was younger. I spend more of my time and energy staying healthy. It takes me longer to do many things. I have trouble learning my students’ names. The list goes on.

My mother was unhappy when we persuaded her to give up her car. I don’t blame her, because having a car means freedom to go places. I will be unhappy when I reach the point I cannot work, since the ability to work is another kind of freedom. She is in her nineties. She may never need to go to the memory care facility. She could go into a nursing home or die before she goes there. I am not going to try to lock her up until she needs to be locked up.

The Fall of Larkesong

December 23, 2013

My friend Summer Hanford has a short story available on Amazon. It will be free on December 25th and 26th.

The Fall of Larkesong

The Fall of Larkesong

Different priorities

November 6, 2013

I talked to someone who is working part time and claims he is under employed. He’s spending more than he’s making. At one point in the conversation, he mentioned getting a bottle of water. I suggested a drinking fountain, which was actually closer than the machine selling water. No, he wanted a bottle of water. I realize this is not a major issue, but if I were short on money, I wouldn’t buy water.

 


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