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I’ve heard it said that every moment is a teachable moment.

Yeah, right.   Although one time I convinced a pair of proselytizers to read the Tao Te Ching.

Something that I find harder to deal with than another person’s ignorance is a persons unwillingness to examine their own evidence.   I realize that everyone has their own journey, and we have to make our own tools as we go along.   Teachers, parents, and others try to help smooth the path and offer up some alternate tools, ideas, and strategies for dealing with the world.   What isn’t always clear is whether those tools work for every situation.   Sometimes they are helpful, sometimes they are harmful.

Everyone can use some more tools.  I like the communities that question ideas, because it means that sooner or later bad ideas can be thrown out and replaced with better ones.   Surrounding yourself with like minded people may be comforting, but it doesn’t help with this process.

People are good at recognizing patterns, but they suck at statistics.

When someone hands you an idea (right or wrong) it is really easy for confirmation bias to creep in.   It feels good to have an answer.   This is why people think that horoscopes are true, or think that vaccines cause autism.   Having a bad day?   Mercury may be in retrograde.   Or you may be cursed.   Or fluoride in the water is making you feel sick.

When people spot a pattern, they look at things that confirm their hypotheses and often ignore things that go against their new found pattern.   Critical thinking isn’t easy.   Which is why people feel threatened when you tell them otherwise.

How often to people change their minds?

So… back to teachable moments.  No matter what, you cannot change another person’s mind.   You can only lay the groundwork for them to change their own mind.  Also remember: fear talks louder than reason for most folks.   Acknowledging the fear is good, and it can open the door to reason.

One of the things that is necessary is to get them thinking.  As much as we may want to say “You’re wrong, here is why,” that isn’t productive.   “I’d be happy to talk about that,” is a statement that actually opens people up.   Talking with people can have unintended consequences.   I’ve had to reevaluate some of my own beliefs… and I wouldn’t have if I had talked at people than with people.

 Learning from mistakes

I have an odd juxtaposition.   In private, or in writing I find myself aggressively going after another persons ideas and beliefs.   I’m relentless and sarcastic.    When I’m arguing with the phantom idea, I am loaded with weapons-grade-snark.   In person, manners and civility reign.

It is okay to change what you believe.   No one is immune to bad ideas.   I look on it as weeding my own garden of thoughts… bad ones will choke good ones if you let them.

Every moment is a teachable moment, but sometimes we are the ones who need to learn a lesson.

 

How could I resist following up a post on critical thinking and bias with a rant about students.

The ones who are currently burning my bacon are the ones who are crying “it’s not fair!”   Why?   Why do some students cry “unfair?”   For some reason not giving special consideration  is “unfair”.  This level of entitlement just perplexes me… although I see it happening more and more frequently.

Do you even syllabus?Some of my students think that I am quite cruel (incidentally, ALL of these have happened within the last 6 months):

  • I’m unfair for requiring attendance;
  • I’m unfair for not taking late work (from unexcused absences);
  • I’m unfair for making students answer their homework questions (rather than just trying), and show their work, and include units;
  • I’m unfair for requiring students to check their work, after I announced it in class;
  • I’m unfair for making students take tests after they were absent;
  • I’m unfair for requiring doctor’s notes after a week long absence;
  • I’m unfair for not reteaching a day’s lecture and supplying notes for a student who was absent;
  • I’m unfair for not allowing calculators on tests (in a basic math class);
  • I’m unfair for not allowing notes on tests;
  • I’m unfair for not allowing cellphones to be used as calculators;
  • I’m unfair for failing students who REALLY NEED to pass, but couldn’t be bothered to attend class regularly, turn in homework, or show up for tests.

 

There are times I have to wonder:   am I really teaching college students?   I will admit, most of my students look at their fellows strangely when they ask for these things.   But there is a certain type of student who never matured past their early teenage years it seems…

So with that in mind, here are my midterm misanthropic teaching fantasies:

  • For my teenage students who feel put upon by homework, I want them to understand the grim reality of “day-in, day-out” with employment.   And how failure to do the work can mean unemployment.
  • I have been seriously tempted to tell students who ask “do I need to show up for the test?” with “You’re a grownup.  You can decide whether you want to pass or not.”
  • When someone asks if they missed anything in class, I want to say “Yes, fill this out,” and hand them an application for McTuckyFried Bell.
  • I have an extended kidnapping-and-interrogation fantasy for students ask “do I need to know this?”   Basically I want to my quizzes administered with waterboarding as motivation.
  • I want to have an anti-whining drone in my classroom.   Armed with digitalis-darts to paralyze whiners.
  • I want an oubliette,  for educational purposes, of course.

 

I will not kill my students and wear their skin.   I will not kill my students and wear their skin.   I will not kill my students and wear their skin…

 

The hardest thing with encountering bias is forgiving the person who holds it, especially if it is yourself.

It isn’t easy for people to look at their own prejudices.   It also is hard to think of ourselves as believing in something that isn’t true.  This is why folks surround themselves with like-minded people, and before long find that they are living in an echo-chamber of their own ideas.   It feels good to belong, and so people (myself included) will avoid looking at things that clash with our ideas and ideals.

Eventually there comes a point where you may find yourself in a loop of rationalization, twisting facts and memories to better suit you.   At this point, you have an opportunity.   You can do nothing, continue on as you have before, and retreat to your echo-chamber.   Or you can question your own ideas, challenge them and see if they hold up under scrutiny.

There is a thin line between being committed to an idea, and dogma.

The notion of looking at things dispassionately, without outside influences can seem cold and heartless at first.   It can  open your mind to new ideas however, and give you perspectives different from what you are used to.   Intellectual honesty comes with the price of eating a healthy portion of crow from time to time.   It is embarrassing to admit that you have been wrong, or deceived.

Recognizing bias in others

Spotting bias is like spotting a toupee.   There are some really horrible and obvious ones that stick out!   The subtle ones are harder to spot.

So here are some to the ways to spot bias, and how to evaluate their statements.

  • Look for hidden premises.   Facts are easily checked, but often times people will replace or suppositions or hypotheses for other evidence.     These can be as subtle:  “if rich people have more money, they will spend more and make the economy better.”   The premise may sound plausible, but is untested or untestable.   Which brings us to…
  • Unfalsifiable beliefs.   I find that an important question to ask is “what will change this person’s mind?”  If there is nothing that will change a persons mind about a topic, then you are likely dealing with a dogma rather than a rational belief.
  • Controversial ideas.  Is the idea widely accepted?  Does it go against conventional wisdom?    If it does, it doesn’t mean that it is wrong, but people love to play the underdog.   With these, there will likely be an underlying hypothesis that needs to be examined or tested.  In these cases you may find that they have cherry-picked evidence from disreputable sources, and outright ignore what scientific consensus says.  (For example:  anti-vaccination movement trusts Jenny McCarthy rather than the American Medical Association)
  • Underlying investment.   This is a pretty broad category.   Would you trust a study denying cancer cases from a tobacco company?   How about a parent defending the innocence of their child?   Emotional involvement is a tough nut to crack, and you may find that people will reject anything that goes against it.

Overcoming personal bias

Very few people choose what they believe.   Rather, they take what they were handed by their cultures/parents/peers and then they rationalize it to themselves.   It is easy to distort other positions in support of your own ideology. Personally, I don’t think that it is possible to completely strip away bias and look at the world without any expectations.

But.

It is possible to start to strip away some of the bias that is handed to us.  Start with something small, because the more you have invested in something, the harder it will be to change your mind.   Start asking questions, and make sure you look from answers from both sides of the debate.    As you do this longer and longer, you will find that you are starting to spot logical fallacies more easily.    A word of caution:  everyone slips up  from time to time, and you will find bad arguments and evidence on any side of a debate.

We are all moved to protect ourselves.   Try to notice when you are protecting an idea, rather than improving on your understanding.   Changing your mind isn’t easy.   You will end up feeling embarrassed as hell, but making mistakes is part of being human.   You will be a better person for the effort.

I had a student come up to me last week, just as a test was about to start   I was nice enough not to laugh.

“Do I need to take the test?   I don’t know the material.”

“Okay.”

“Why can’t I be tested on the stuff I already learned?”

“Because this is a subject test.   This is the material we’ve been going over for the last few weeks.”

“I don’t know this stuff.”

“Okay.   How much time have you been putting in?”

“About 5 hours a week.”   (I recommend 8 to 16 hours for most students)

“So I think you should spend some more time working on the material.”

“Fine, I’ll take the test.”

 

One thing that constantly perplexes instructors at every level:   students who want to be passive receptacles for knowledge.   Some students don’t realize that they need to work/study/read/listen in order to know things.  I admit, it makes me sad.   Part of me wants to blame our culture which encourages passive entertainment, and a media which spoon feeds people sound bites to support opinions that they already have.     Or by people who reward minimal effort and actual achievement equally.   We protect people from the consequences of their actions.

How does that work again?But I’m a college professor, and soldier on.   I make my lectures entertaining.   I allow people who are willing to put in effort to keep trying.

Ultimately I come around to this:   students are responsible for their own learning.    I can give them the information and showcase the skills, they are the ones who actually need to apply it.

This brings me to one of the things I’m happy I can do as a college professor.   I fail people.    I think of this as the “other kind of educational experience.”

I have a personal philosophy:   There is no such thing as a right without a corresponding responsibility.      (I should also say, there are MANY responsibilities that don’t grant you special rights.)

Students have a right to be taught, but they have a responsibility to learn.

*sigh*   I can fix ignorance.   I can’t fix stupid.

 

Things don’t always go as planned in a classroom.   It happens when students miss some key piece of understanding and end up falling farther and farther behind.   The atmosphere in the classroom can become tense:  the instructor tries to keep things on track, but the students who are behind feel bad that they aren’t up to speed and the students who are ahead end up resenting them because the instructors need to slow down.

So how can students get back to a happy medium?

I admit, I like to play games with the way people think.   I experiment with different ways of explaining, and different ways of getting people to behave differently.  I rely a great deal on my understanding (and remembering) emotional cycles when I was a student.

Procrastination, Shame and Blame

The beginning can be something innocent.   A late night, a bad lecture, or missing class for some reason.

Whatever the reason, the student finds themselves with a gap:  their work isn’t done and their understanding isn’t up to the task either.    To fill the gap, it will take an extraordinary effort, and being a little behind doesn’t seem that bad.

The gap in skills starts to affect other work.   The other students seem to get the material, but it doesn’t click for the student.   They feel bad, but it is hard to pinpoint where they lost control or how to get it back.    The instructor is ahead and new material doesn’t make sense.   People who try to help may come off as condescending, or frustrated with their slow progress.   The person blames themselves for the problem, or starts to feel like they aren’t “smart enough.”

As frustration mounts, the person tries to make sense out of the situation.    They rationalize that they must not be smart enough to get the concept, or that the instructor isn’t very good.  They start to feel powerless.  They will blame others for their failures, at the same time that they justify their own insecurities.

When someone feels resentful, hurt, ashamed, or angry, it is easy to put off work in lieu of other distractions.  Which reinforces the skill gaps, which reinforces the negative self-image/sense of inadequacy, which ultimately leads to a sense of futility.

To be clear:  it sucks to watch, it sucks to go through, and its hard to clean up after.   But it is a cycle that can be broken.

Breaking the Cycle

The good news is that people can be brought out of a spiral like this, but there is no easy fix.   The hardest thing to combat is the sense of powerlessness that can accompany falling behind.    As students, it is imperative to recognize that it will take sustained effort.   As instructors, we need to recognize that students don’t always have this self-knowledge.

So here is what I find works as a teacher:   (1) Prioritize skills, and cut lossesEnforce deadlines rather than pile on more work.     This basically comes down to identifying the key things that a student needs to work on rather than the complete past assignments.   Nobody likes to lose grades, but the boundaries helps students break out of looking backward and into looking forward.   (2) Praise and patience.  Acknowledging even the smallest of steps as progress is helpful, and helps relieve the sense of shame.   It also helps to acknowledge that struggle is part of the process, but making mistakes is not failure.    (3) Set out a plan with incremental steps.   The hardest part of breaking out of a procrastination cycle is the sense of being overwhelmed, so having simple (minimal) work is a good way of getting going.   Having a few things to do means that once one thing is done, then the next tier or goal can be reached.   Then the next goal will seem easier to reach.

Finally, momentum can carry the day.

…. and the horse you rode in on!

The funny thing about this is that this applies equally to teachers as it does to students.    Teachers get frustrated and will feel like they have lost touch with their class just as much as students may feel lost in the class.    It is easy for teachers to blame lazy students for not doing their work, but there is shared responsibility:  students need to be encouraged if they are going to get engaged.   It is okay to have a bad day teaching from time to time,  and sometimes you won’t be able to give it everything you want.   Focus on the successes, and it will be easier to be patient.

So:   keep up the good work.

Never give up.

I’ll have to put off procrastinating for another day.

without evil

 

I’m an evil genius, and proud of it.

Is that vain of me?  Probably.  Do I care what you think?   You may want to ask if  I respect you enough to care about your opinion.   If so, I will listen to you.   I may not change, but I will listen.   In all honesty, I strive for the “evil” part of this equation.  Being a genius is a documented fact  (the byproduct of lucky genetics and having effective education), and is nothing to be especially proud of.

The difference between being Evil and being Bad

To me there is a huge difference between being evil, and just being bad.

I equate being “bad” with being ineffectual, lazy, dull, inane, stupid, or willfully ignorant.  Bad people are the kind of people who never admit to being wrong, or even worse, they never doubt that they are right (regardless of the facts).   Bad people will harm others without a second thought.  Selfishness, apathy, uncaring and disinterest are traits of bad people, but evil is … different.

Evil isn’t passive, it is engaged.   An active, intelligent force that will adapt itself to overcome obstacles.   Evil truly CARES!

Evil may be sadistic, but it is sadistic with an intention beyond the simple infliction of pain.  Every hurt is aimed at crafting some greater goal. The glee that you feel from being evilly sadistic isn’t just for the sake of the pain, but for the direction it is taking you.

Ultimately, it challenges the very foundations of what you believe and accept.   When it hits an obstacle, it will adapt.   When it hits a boundary, evil will test it to it’s limits.   Yes, being evil is impolite, but evil never rests.   Evil is self reflective, loathing its own weaknesses and striving to overcome them.   Yes, evil people often times have a rapier wit that can leave others bleeding, but they will direct it at themselves as much as others.

I think that why people don’t like evil is because growing hurts.

On being Good, and why being good can be bad

Being a good person is supportive, empathic, caring, and often nurturing.   There is nothing wrong with this on the surface, we all need care and support!

The problem arises when people are thoughtlessly good, and end up supporting bad behavior.   Actions borne out of the desire to help often do harm.   With the best of intentions, you can make people weaker by removing obstacles that will make them grow.    Empathy that cannot bear to see a person hurt, robs another person of the growth that comes from overcoming pain.     Nurturing that is aimed at building another person up, can have the effect of creating dependence and weakness.

Have you seen what happens to kids with “helicopter” parents?    The kids will never know that they can fail if they don’t do enough.   Mediocre efforts are awarded high praise.   In the worst cases, spoiled children turn into spoiled adults.   The entitlement these people feel is horrible and revolting.

Personally, I think every child should have skinned knees and burned fingers … sometimes.   And for the spoiled adults:  I personally want to watch them forced with the choice of feeding themselves or going to the doctor because they are dangerously sick.   Irony sucks, doesn’t it?

Love is Evil

“Love” is an emotion that people try to paint as a happy emotion, the pinnacle of all emotions.   Some folks equate love with companionship, but selfishly clinging to another out of fear of loneliness isn’t love.   Jealousy isn’t a symptom of love either, it is simply a symptom of insecure neuroses.   Many people make that mistake.    Love does not demand to be returned,  loneliness and desire do.

Love isn’t desire, it isn’t sex, and you won’t always recognize it when you see it.

The painful truth is that love has a dark side.

The truth about love?     Love is not always kind to those who feel it.   To truly love means to care deeply, but not impose your own needs or desires on the loved.   It means to desire the happiness and well-being of another, without regard to our own happiness.  Love is not blind, it makes you see the flaws of another and forces you to accept them.   It forces you to grow… and if you are lucky, you can be a part of that other persons life and you can both become better, but only at the other persons behest.    Love only feels good when you love someone and are loved back.

To experience love is to accept uncomfortable truths about ourselves.   Love hurts so good.   It is often painful, occasionally harmful, and it will push your limits.

Love will either make you grow, or it will break you in the process.   And that is why I say that love is evil.

Think about it.

[…]

Which brings me back to my original statement:   I am an evil genius,  and proud of it.

Love is evil, and sometimes, evil is love.   So when I say I’m an evil math professor, I’m really saying that I care and I want my students to be happy and succeed.   And even though I am exasperated at times, I am happy you are in my life.   Thank you.   I only hurt you because I care.

 

 

P.S.    Yes, I know I’m not using the dictionary definitions of good, bad, and evil.    These are reflections on my own idiosyncratic thinking.      I also make these conceptional distinctions between the ideas of  cute, pretty, attractive, and beautiful.    Or the distinctions between smart, clever, and wise.

I probably think too much.   *shrug*   I like my brain.

My students share with me when they have math dreams.    Sometimes they make students anxious, some make students feel like they are smarter… I tell my students it is a reflection that they have math on the brain.   I don’t know how the theories of mind intersect with dreams, but I know that I had math frequently when I was in school.    It was pretty common for me to fall asleep over calculus that was stumping me, dreamed I was doing math,  then woken up gotten it right.

Generally my teaching dreams are pretty prosaic:  some simple anxiety dreams rehashing student discipline, or  imagining the first day, or even just dreaming of the homework burn barrel in class.

Last week I dreamed about waterboarding students at school with another teacher.   It was interesting, because the other teacher (in her teacher voice) was explaining in great detail:  (1) why waterboarding was torture and how it was morally repugnant; (2) how to effectively and efficiently waterboard.    We hooded and zip-tied a student to a table, tipped one end, applied water and… voilà.   We violated the human rights of a student.

So please, turn in your homework on time.

One of the other off-the-wall teaching dreams involve teaching students how to solve equations.   Whenever the students tried to divide by zero, they shot off into space.    I did use my scary teacher voice.

I like my brain.

Winter term has finally begun!Weapons of mass instruction

The first day of a class is always interesting.  You hand out your syllabus, and try to get a feel for your students.   I know students shop around for their instructors, but I sometimes wonder what attracts these particular students to my classes.   Inevitably some students will show up for the first day, and I will never see them again that term.     Whether they just found that my classes demanded too much work (possible) or whether they discovered they have important business for the next 11 weeks,  I always wonder what becomes of these students.

Then there are the students who want to negotiate.  This week, one particular student complained that I was asking them to do so much work that it was equivalent to a part-time job.  My response was “Welcome to college.   If you don’t like this amount of work you need to do, imagine needing to do it again next quarter.”   He didn’t look pleased.

Most of the work in the first week of class is getting the students used to the class.   Things in the first week that I think help:

  1.  Establish your position.  Basically, let the students know that you are in charge but they are not powerless.   I’m more apt to be authoritarian in the first week just so people don’t try to push back later in the quarter.
  2. Let them convince themselves that they need the class.  It is impossible to force people to want to learn, but they are already halfway there when they show up in your classroom.    In my class, I have them introduce themselves and tell me what their dream jobs are.   Then I try to link that dream to passing the class later.
  3.  Give structure and tools.  Some classes benefit from being free-form, but I find that most students need to have a clear idea of what is expected of them.   So,  I give it to them:   everything from classroom expectations,  how much work they should expect to put in, to how they can earn the various pieces of their grades.   After that, I give them the extras:  where to find tutoring, counseling, and financial help on campus if they need it.     My syllabus is a dense document.
  4.  Start building class culture.   A classroom culture is something that will come about on it’s own from the personalities inside it, but as the teacher they will follow your lead.   I let people know that the things that are valued are patience with their own process, and hard work.   It isn’t just about work, though.   I also get excited about math (letting them geek out too), as well as being patient with them to encourage them to ask questions.   Having some inside jokes help too.
  5. Get them thinking about excelling, not just passing.  Extra credit is one of the things that is controversial in some classes, because it can artificially elevate mediocre or failing grades.   I do like to offer things to the class to get them thinking about not just how to pass, but how to excel.  If they expect to excel (by doing extra) then they start to value themselves as good students, and become good students in the process.      (Ah it is fun to play with people’s’ brains)

 

I’m pretty happy with how my classes look this term.    I’ll know more about them next term.

The game is afoot!

 

Winter is coming!   Winter term that is.

So pick up your #2 pencils and a fresh case of RedBull, because it is going to be a fun one.

Aries (March 21 – April 20)

I know you had some ideas about what you would be learning this term, Aries.   As much as you may have grown already, this term is going to be about getting what you need rather than what you want.

I know that you may want to complain about that this term.   Okay.   You are welcome to do so.   But whining won’t actually help you.   You are going to need to choose to learn.   So suck it up, and do the work.

Taurus  (April 21 – May 21)

So there is good news and bad news:   the good news, this term you have a chance to learn some amazing lessons.   You can get not just basic skills, you can get the insights on how to use them.   The bad news:   this won’t come cheap or easy.   You are going to pay in both money and time.

Once in a lifetime opportunities come only once. Don’t miss out.

Gemini (May 22 – June 21)

It is said that there comes a point where you stop trying to be who you want to be, and start being who you are.   This is only partially true:   you should still try to be who you want to be, because it is part of who you are.   Your aspirations are part of you, and they give you the chance to be more than what you are now.   So shake up your routine, and be the better version of yourself.

Also:   you should avoid getting recruited into a cult by a Pisces or Aquarius.

Cancer (June 22 – July 22)

You are going to learn some really important lessons this upcoming term.   Your relationship will be intense, consuming, and possibly fueled by cheap booze.     While learning your Kama Sutra is fun, the real lesson comes when things start to go wrong.   You can learn humility the easy way by listening, or the hard way by pain.

The problem is your ego.   This isn’t about you.   Tough shit..

Leo (July 23 – August 22)

Your moon is in Virgo, and Saturn will be hanging out in Gemini. So whenever Mercury goes retrograde, drop everything and buy lottery tickets.   This will be an investment in your future, because the more you buy and the more you tell people about it, the more likely you will be picked up by the gentlemen in the nice white coats and taken to an institution with padded rooms.     They have Jello and Oxycontin.

 Avoid being shanked by Scorpios.

Virgo (August 23 – September 23)

Here are a few things you should consider:   most murders are committed by people known to the victim.   “Stranger Danger” is almost fiction (less than 5% of abductions), as most child abductions and abuse are done by someone known to the child. People get bitten more often by their own pets than by strange animals.

This is a good analogy for your term: don’t be afraid of the unusual, but take care of the familiar topics.   “Easy classes” have some pitfalls that you may have overlooked.

Libra (September 24-October 23)

I know you have every intention to focus entirely on your classes this term.   I will say this is a good plan as far as it goes, except that the rest of your life won’t be quiet.   You have family and friends, relationships and obligations, work and money issues.     Your life can’t be compartmentalized easily, so plan some time to take care of yourself too.

Scorpio (October 23 – November 22)

The fact is that your stars and planets don’t really impact your life.   Your text books have a greater gravitational pull on you than they do.   The choices that you make are what truly impact the events of your life and your future.   It isn’t comforting, but know that the circumstances beyond your control are neither benign nor malicious, the world simply doesn’t care.

 So keep working, and don’t drink the metaphorical Kool-Aid.

Sagittarius (November 23 – December 21)

You know the old story about the caterpillar that is asked how it is able to coordinate all of it’s legs when it walks, and then loses its ability to walk from over-analysis.     You may feel like this happens to you… but you are considerably smarter than a caterpillar. It won’t necessarily be comfortable, but a little self-reflection may be helpful to you.

 Also, see if you can figure out how other people apply similar skills to yours.   They may not do it better, but having alternatives can be helpful.

Capricorn (December 22 – January 20)

There are times for you to shine, and those times will be when you are awake.   I’m not just referring to when you aren’t in bed, I’m talking about the times when you aren’t acting purely out of habit.   Try not to multi-task, you will only lose track of what is really important.

 Also:   Keep your head and arms inside the vehicle at all times.   It’s all fun and games until someone gets decapitated.

Aquarius (January 21 – February 19)

 It is true that too much of a good thing isn’t good for you.   Ask anyone who has gotten vitamin A poisoning (scary, they turn orange… too much and you can die).   Interestingly, the same goes for too little of a bad thing.   Take some risks, earn a few scars and learn a few life lessons.

 Avoiding danger simply for the sake of avoiding danger isn’t wisdom, it’s cowardice.   Learning from mistakes is wisdom.

Pisces (February 20 – March 20)

I know you value honesty in your life, but I will say that a little creative editing of events can make all of the difference for you this term. If you are truly honest with yourself, then you’ll recognize how much you edit events for your own narrative anyway.   Embrace it.

As much as you want to be liked, holding out for universal approval seems both unlikely and quite frankly boring.   Creative excuses aside, be prepared to take the consequences if your white lies are found out.

So remember, use your powers however the hell you want.   They are your powers.

As for classes:   bring them on.

Alphone Mucha - Zodiac 1896

The holidays are upon us!   It behooves us to remember when we are surrounded by the festivities, the shopping, the eating, and catching up post-final sleep there is a new term just around the corner.      There are a few blissful weeks in which we can plan for the new term.

So teachers:   here are your horoscopes for the next term

Aries (March 21 – April 20) 

This upcoming term is going to be educational for both your students and you.   There are astrological warnings about Mercury and Saturn in your sign.   Which I think means that you should watch out for American cars backing over you in the school parking lot.

At some point your class will be disrupted by a group of students addicted to MMOGs.   So a pretty typical class, really.

Taurus  (April 21 – May 21)

You are an excellent listener.   Which is good, because you can hear some of the most amazing rumors this term if you keep your ears open.   Students tend to be undisciplined about their speech, which will be good for a laugh later on.    Try not to gossip, but instead consider blackmailing others for fun and profit.

Watch out for falling rocks.

Gemini (May 22 – June 21)

You may have a love/hate relationship with your students this term.  You will see the best and the worst.   There won’t really be much middle ground:   you will have students who do everything you ask, and all of the additional work.   They will ask intelligent questions, and work hard.   Then there are the other ones:   when they show up, it will be hard to keep from grinding your teeth.

The good news is that you can level the playing field by assigning some of the good students to work with the bad ones.   You’ll hear about it, but it will keep you sane.

Cancer (June 22 – July 22)

This is going to be a good term to go back to the basics.   Students will supply their own imagination later.  Reenforcing the fundamentals now will pay off later when your students actually pass.    It isn’t pretty, it isn’t exciting, but you can prevent disasters from happening later.

Also, you should stay away from Virgos and Aries with Ebola.

Leo (July 23 – August 22)

I know that you are generally busy, Leo, but this term will be crazy.   A lot of good things happen from all of your hard work, and at the very end, you will get a full nights sleep.   By the time you get there, you may just be a bundle of nerves.   Just remember,  you do get some time out for yourself to eat and sleep.     You can do it, just don’t forget your anniversary.

Stay strong, Leo.    For some reason I see your moon in Taurus.   I think that means to rely on Red Bull.

Virgo (August 23 – September 23)

Burn, baby, burn.   School will take a backseat to love for you this term.   Not to say that you will give short measure to your students, but I will say that your students may enjoy better scores if you find yourself grading post-coitus.   This is a side we don’t get to see very often, Virgo.   Run with it.

Don’t get so distracted that you lose track of the important things.   Like paying your mortgage.   Or pants.

Libra (September 24-October 23)

The stars have aligned for you Libra!   Which is to say, that entirely random events light years from your current location are sprinkling light on your head.   What does this mean for you?   Absolutely nothing.   The gravitational pull of your car has a greater impact on your life than does your stars.

Hard work and dedication mean so much more than the layout of your stars.     So teach it like you mean it.

Scorpio (October 23 – November 22)

Due to lack of interest this term, Scorpio, your horoscope has been cancelled.     I think you can do better without it, anyway.    It only goes wrong when you try to do what other people tell you to do.

Sagittarius (November 23 – December 21)

You have worked long and hard to make some of your assignments foolproof.     There is good news and bad news.   The good news is that you get a chance to improve upon your already impressive work.   The bad news, they invented a better fool.

This is a good metaphor for your term.   So remember, it isn’t just a place for your students to learn and grow, it is for you too.

Capricorn (December 22 – January 20)

This next term will feel a lot like the last term, Libra.   This is because you end up with the same students going through your classes a second time.   There are some opportunities here:   you can help them get the skills they missed the first time.   Just keep their mediocrity from passing onto others.

Administrators will also be annoying.   So, it will feel a lot like last term.

Aquarius (January 21 – February 19)

 Thank you for playing nice, Aquarius.   We know that you don’t really believe in horoscopes, so this was quite a nice gesture to read this.    Instead of vague predictions of doom or glory, how about I offer you a piece of good teaching advice instead:    take care of yourself.   Nobody else has your interests at heart as much as you do.

Also:  never cook bacon naked.

Pisces (February 20 – March 20)

The funny thing about going down a rabbit-hole of crazy is that you don’t realize that you are doing it.   One step leads seamlessly and logically to another, which leads to another.   Everything seems logical when you are in the middle of it.  Before long, you find yourself doing things you never would have believed possible.   In retrospect, it looks crazy.

So while there is a great deal to be said for going with the flow, there is something to be said for sticking up for some structure.

Also:    avoid angry Leo’s armed with axes.

So, teachers, those were your carefully crafted horoscopes.

Next up:   student horoscopes.