Monthly Archives: March 2013

Student Drawings on Exams

I thought I’d share some of my favorite student doodles on exams.


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Stick figure Philosophers on Ethical Theory:


 Dean Kamen (from my Ethical Considerations in Technology exam):  


Garfield’s point of view on Ethical Theory:


Mill vs Kant: 

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In a rush:


Portrait of Equality 7-2521 from Anthem

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Notes for the Intro to Philosophy Exam: 

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How To Survive Boring College Lectures

OMG, this class is so boring!  How are you going to get through it?

It’s true.  Some lectures could be more effective at putting you to sleep than Ambien.  Nevertheless, attending lectures remains a key ingredient for performing well in college.  Here are some pointers:

1. Even A students get bored at times by lectures.  What is the difference between the A student and the C student?  Their approach to the lecture.  Don’t let “boring” become an excuse for not showing up to class.  Dive right in, sit near the front, buy a coffee, and simply face the fact that you will be less than entertained for a couple of hours.  Get in the mental game and you will survive.

2. One of my friends from graduate school took impeccable notes, and before exams everyone lined up to study with him.  When I asked him his secret his response surprised me: “I’m bored in class, so I write everything down.” That is an A student approach to the problem!  Instead of avoiding lecture he planted himself close to the front of the room and made it a bit of a game to literally write down word for word what the professor said.  Give it a try.

3. Absolutely read the material before class.  If you are unfamiliar with the course material then it will only magnify the boredom.  Not reading would be like signing up for a book club, going to the gathering but never bothering to open the book.  Or, to put it another way, it would be akin to listening to an inside joke for two hours and paying money for the experience. How boring!  Be sure to prepare and stay in the loop.

4. When you are reading the material create possible questions to ask in class (if the professor takes questions).  Participating in class speeds up time for you.  And, you never know, your question could prompt others to speak up and the class could take an intriguing turn.  Dare I suggest, you might enjoy the class then?

5. Do not take out your phone to answer or read emails.  Again, this will make the boredom worse.  You are essentially running away from the problem by turning to the cell phone rather than confronting the issue head on.  This is a C student response.  Moreover, it is a bad habit.  After college you might find yourself in other boring situations like work meetings.  It is not a good (or beneficial) idea to tune out and gravitate to your phone while others are talking.  Indeed, there will be times when your good friends bore you!  Would you take out your phone while they talk?  Of course not.  For class time, strengthen your concentration abilities and keep the phone in your bag.

6. This last point is a bit painful but it must be made, namely, are you making an effort in the class?  Finding something interesting, like recognizing beauty, takes time and thought.  One isn’t always “struck” or in “awe.”  Often, interest is the result of devoting energy to appreciation of said subject (or object).  When you learn more you will discover more things to be interesting.  The boring lecture just might-maybe-possibly-I’m-sorry-to-point-it-out be indicative of your disposition rather than the professor’s.

Overall, keep the end goal in mind: to do well.  We’ve all been through a boring lecture.  You will survive!  Remember, it is your grade on the line, so don’t shy away from the class even if you need to muster all of your brain power to stay alert.  Good luck!

CLICK here for my book on how to succeed in college.

Click here for some more great tips on getting through lectures from College Success Now.


“The more things a man is interested in, the more opportunities of happiness he has and the less he is at the mercy of fate.” Bertrand Russell

Reflections on Ending the Academic Term

Only a week ago I dreamed of finishing up this latest batch of term papers and sending off my students’ grades.  But, as the end is here I admit that I find myself a bit melancholy.  The feeling always sneaks up on me despite its consistent appearance over the years.  On the first day of class it is difficult to imagine that in just a few weeks time I will know my students by name (not i.d. numbers), their interests, read their work, and be witness to the evolution of their thinking.  We are part of each other’s lives for such a brief time, and in another couple of weeks I’ll meet my new group of students, forge new relationships and the cycle will continue.

Am I too invested?  Well, I can hardly conceive of teaching any other way.  In my very early years of teaching a tenured faculty member who sat in on one of my lectures said to me afterwards: “Forget about knowing their names. Focus on your writing.”  I distinctly remember nodding my head “yes” politely all the while thinking to myself  “Can’t I do both?”  I’m glad I didn’t take that advice, for I’ve noticed that when I invest in the students they are more likely to invest in the class.  This is the goal, yes?

Learning is about growth, dialogue, and sharing ideas not only fostered by the instructor but by the students as well.  It should be a fun, engaging environment, and it should be an avenue to seeing the world anew.  I like being a moment of that experience for the students (and hopefully a helpful facilitator of that).  Truth be told, I learn a lot from them.  I get a plethora of book, movie and t.v. show recommendations, some of which I have then passed on to others.

There are days when I collapse the moment I get home after a long day at the university, relishing that divine instant my feet are freed of shoes and I’m swimming in my oversized comfy clothes.  Sometimes my eyes burn from being in front of the computer returning emails and then moving on to read assignments.  I consume an unholy amount of coffee to keep my attention sharp.  The respite after grading the final exams seems so sweet indeed.  But, here I am nearly done and all I can think of is the wonderful time I had these last few weeks at work in the classroom.

7 Books to Read (After Your Intro to Philosophy Class)

Did you enjoy your Philosophy course?   Here are books I recommend to students who want to continue thinking about topics from the class:

1. Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder.  This is a lovely read that covers the story of Philosophy from the Ancient Greeks to the Existentialists.

2. The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin.  If you enjoyed Descartes, then you’ll like this short science fiction on the power of dreams.

3. The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs.  Fancy a charming read and brushing up on your knowledge of the Bible?

4. Socrates Buddha Confucius Jesus by Karl Jaspers.  A brief yet interesting book that compares the life and teachings of these thinkers.

5. Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin.  For those interested in Identity theory and racial justice (and/or extraordinary journalism).

6. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.  Not explicitly Philosophy, but you could use your knowledge of Utilitarian Theory when reading about the very real conundrums described in this book.

7. When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin D. Yalom.  What if Nietzsche went through psychoanalysis?  This one is for the Psychology majors and Existentialist enthusiasts.

How to Fail a College Course in 9 Steps

1. Rarely show up to class.  On occasions of attendance come late and/or leave early.  Be sure to create a healthy amount of noise while packing and unpacking your bag.  Consider knocking over your energy drink or your classmates’ things as you shuffle in and out the classroom door.

2. Call the professor by his/her first name.  You aren’t into that status BS.

3. Sit in the back row and check your email on your phone.  Compose some emails.  Keep the phone in view so that fellow students envy your audacity.

4. Avoid proof reading at all costs.  Type stuff up, print, and skip the staple.  Instead of writing “you” just write the letter “u” throughout the paper.  In fact, treat the entire assignment like an excruciatingly long, boring text.

5. Ignore important dates like the ones in bold on the syllabus that tell you when exams are scheduled and things are due.

6. Never bring the text book to class.  In fact, why buy it at all?  Just wikipedia everything.

7. Avoid note taking entirely.  Whenever the professor says “This is important” or when something is put up on the board, abstain from writing it down.  Keep your arms folded at your desk.  It’s probably best that you don’t even have a notebook and pen out in the first place.

8. If you do find the urge to participate, ensure that your question unequivocally proves that you never opened the book.

9. Do not go to your professors’ office hours at all…except on the day after your final exam to inquire, “So, what am I getting in the class?”

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