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Getting All Goggle-Eyed Over Your Lack Of Pants

, , , , , | Learning | October 17, 2017

(There’s one guy in my chemistry class who behaves so that we can never tell if he’s being funny or just stupid. It’s usually a mix of both. We are taking a test.)

Question #8: “Which item does the safety contract mandate you wear at all times during a lab? A) goggles B) lab coats C) flip flops D) pants.”

Student #1: *walks up to [Teacher]* “Hey, [Teacher], what’s the answer to number eight?”

Teacher: “We’re in the middle of a test, [Student #1]. I can’t just GIVE you the answer!”

Student #1: “But [Teacher], I honestly can’t tell. Are you sure it’s not a trick question?”

Teacher: *takes test, reads over question* “This is obvious! Did you even read the safety contract?!”

(At this point, the entire class has stopped taking the test to listen to the argument, which is by no means quiet.)

Student #1: “Well, you need to wear goggles, but pants are important!”

Teacher: “Which item is implicitly stated on the contract, [Student #1]?”

Student #1: “But pants are more important than goggles!”

Teacher: *mentally head-desking* “Seriously?! Tell me why you need to wear pants, specifically, in a lab environment.”

Student #1: “I won’t be allowed into school without them, and they’ll protect my legs if I spill chemicals on them, like this!”

(He then proceeds to march back to his table, backhand [Student #2]’s water bottle, and send it flying across the room, spilling partway on [Student #2] in the process.)

Teacher: “Now all you’ve done is spill the chemicals all over [Student #2]’s legs, not yours, AND spilled his water bottle!”

Student #1: “So, he needed pants more than goggles!”

Teacher: “No! That wouldn’t happen unless he worked with someone especially clumsy during his lab, and most people take the chemicals and put the beaker up to their face to measure or examine them!”

([Teacher] grabs an empty, clean beaker from her desk and demonstrates by putting the exposed end close to her eye.)

Teacher: “If you don’t have goggles, you may go blind if you slosh the liquid out of the container!”

Student #1: “But if you -”


(The entire class starts cracking up, and [Student #1] walks back to his desk in defeat. The next day:)

Teacher’s Aide: *wasn’t here yesterday* “So, this goggles vs. pants question–“

Teacher: “NO.”

(The entire class cracked up again.)

Have Recourse To Use The Resource

, , , , | Learning | October 5, 2017

(It’s finals week, and we’re English majors in a 200 level class.)

Professor: “You may bring any notes or texts you wish for the final; it’s open book. I’m not here to make you memorize random facts. I’m trying to teach you how to find the answers you’re looking for. Anything in the room is fair game.”

Classmate: “Can we use the Internet?”

Professor: “That would not be in the room, so no. Review your texts, take notes, and feel free to help each other out. Anything in the room can be used. See you tomorrow for the test.”

(I go home and do a quick review, tabbing a few pertinent facts in my book, and come to take the test the next day. Most of the test is fairly simple, or at least easy to look up with over 20 people working together. Then, we hit a snag.)

Classmate #1: “Anyone got 23, yet?”

(There is a chorus of “No,” after which we all start searching for the answer, with no luck.)

Me: *after a good five minutes, and realizing that we won’t have time to finish if this goes on much longer* “Hey, [Professor]?”

Professor: “Yes?”

Me: “You said we could use any resources in the room, right?”

Professor: “I did.”

Me: *screwing up my courage* “Well, you’re in the room. So, what’s the answer to number 23?”

(The whole room falls silent, with everyone staring at me while I blush and fight to maintain composure. The teacher blinks a few times, as if she had never considered that possibility, and then looks down at the book in her lap, turning the pages. I figure she’s not going to answer, and go back to hunting through the text.)

Professor: *after a minute* “Page 143.”

(I immediately flip to said page and start skimming; the answer is in the second paragraph, barely mentioned and without a single other reference in the entire book. You’d have to go page-by-page to find it, if you didn’t already know where it was.)

Me: “Thanks, [Professor].”

Professor: “Don’t make a habit of it. I’m administering the test, not taking with you.”

Me: “Yes, ma’am. Thank you.” *to the class* “Twenty-three is .”

(We all passed, and yes, we got number 23 correct. The professor now specifies that she and her TAs are not testing resources.)

The Science Of Pranking

, , , , , | Learning | September 18, 2017

(I like to prank my students every now and then, or respond to ridiculous questions with ridiculous answers. My students like this, and can catch on to when I’m kidding, but sometimes I can still trick them. After two semesters of this, one of my students approaches me during a work period and asks if he has any homework. I bring him to the work board and point out three things, and he tells me he has completed them all.)

Me: “All right, then. I guess you have nothing left to do except prepare for your science test.”

Student #1: “Science test?”

Me: “Yeah, that huge one worth 50% of your mark? It’s tomorrow.”

(A moment of panic sets in before he realizes I’m kidding. We laugh it off, and a bunch of the other students who hear the exchange laugh about the “science test” as well.)

Student #2: “Wait? WHAT? What science test?”

Student #3: “There’s a science test?”

(There’s a moment of silence where we realize these two students clearly weren’t paying attention. Before I can say anything, another student pipes up.)

Student #4: “Yeah, don’t you remember? We’ve been reviewing for it all week.”

Student #2: “What?! I was away for a week!”

Student #5: “Oh, that’s not good; it’s worth 50% of our science mark.”

Student #3: “WHAT?”

Student #6: “Yeah, the test is huge, too. Over four pages.”

Student #2: “Oh, my God, why are we working on our stories? We have to study!”

(The two students raced to their desks to get their science books, while the rest of the class burst out laughing. Finally, they realized it was a joke. I was so proud!)

Everyone Gets An “A”!

, , , , , | Learning | September 12, 2017

(We’re coming up to the first exam of a summer class, for which I’m a TA. We’ve been discussing the importance of study design and accidental influence.)

Professor: “Often, these kinds of things can be hard to predict. Let’s look at a real-life example: when you take exams, there’s always an empty seat between each student. But here in this classroom, you’re all packed in. So, we split you into two rooms. We do this by randomly assigning each student to room A or B. There’s no room actually called, “Room A,” you see, it’s just what we call the two rooms. As you might recognize, both those letters are grades you can get on a test, and we were worried that this might influence the outcomes of the exam. What do you think we found?”

Student #1: “Well… if you’re primed to think you’re going to do well, maybe you’re more relaxed, more confident. So, better exams in room A?”

Professor: “Good! Any other ideas?”

Student #2: “If I’m coming into an exam thinking I’m already in the worse-off group, I’m going to read all the questions carefully, double-check my work, and so on. But if I think, ‘Look at me; I already got an A,’ then maybe I’ll be sloppy.”

Professor: “Also good! Both make sense, both are intuitive. So, [Other Professor] and I got together to study this. We looked up all the grades by room assignment to see what the difference was. We isolated students to switch rooms between midterms and finals to see if they improved or worsened. We even looked into how long they knew their room assignment to see if there was a dose effect. And what do you think we found?”

(There’s pandemonium for a while, while the students argue. Finally, we put it to a vote: 42% think A did better, 14% think B, and the rest don’t think there was a difference.)

Professor: “Despite your votes, the room B students had a higher average! Now… how many of you are checking your emails right now to see who’s in what room tomorrow?”

(Most students sheepishly raise their hands. The rest are too caught up in their laptops.)

Professor: “[Student #3], which are you in tomorrow?”

Student #3: “Uh… 1102? Is that A or…”

Professor: “See, we forgot that the students are just sent the room numbers, and not our little A/B system. So, here’s my last two pieces of information: statistically, flukes do happen occasionally, and we’ve gotten rid of our A/B system entirely!”

(On exam day, I saw that the A/B column I was used to now sorts students into group “A” and group “Other A.”)

Have A Lot To Answer For

, , , , , | Learning | September 5, 2017

(My friend and I are taking a summer class together. It’s one of the most basic ones in our major, and is a pretty small class, so the teacher is pretty laid back about it. We have the option to do the final on our own at home or during the final class, and he gives us free reign to help each other. About halfway through, the first person submits the test.)

Classmate: “Hey, guys… I just submitted the test and it’s showing me the correct answers.”

(We all stop working and look at the teacher.)

Teacher: *laughs and shrugs* “Go for it.”

(So, the classmate read off all the answers one by one. Easiest A ever!)