HOF: Job Interview Q&As

by Dr Davis on December 20, 2014

Quote from: chaosbydesign on January 11, 2013, 9:36:22 PM

1. “If you were to get rid of one state in the U.S., which would it be and why?”
I couldn’t possibly get rid of just one. That would leave an uneven number of states, and I dislike uneven numbers.

2. “How many cows are in Canada?”
None. There is only a ‘c’ in that word. You also need an ‘o’ and a ‘w’ to spell ‘cow’.

3. “How many quarters would you need to reach the height of the Empire State building?”
The Empire State building is 443m; a quarter is about 2mm thick, so you’d need approximately 221500 of them to reach that height.

4. “A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?”
He says “why am I here?”. If he doesn’t know, how could I?

5. “What songs best describes your work ethic?”
Still Alive by GLaDOS

6. “[Amazon CEO] Jeff Bezos walks into your office and says you can have a million dollars to launch your best entrepreneurial idea. What is it?”
Art made from failed scientific experiments.

7. “What do you think about when you are alone in your car?”
Work, of course.

8. “How would you rate your memory?”
I don’t remember.

9. “Name 3 previous Nobel Prize winners.”
Albert Einstien, Barbara McClintock, Shinya Yamanaka

10. “Can you say: ‘Peter Pepper Picked a Pickled Pepper’ and cross-sell a washing machine at the same time?”
If the person I was trying to sell to did not speak English and I had a translator who said ‘Peter Pepper Picked a Pickled Pepper’ meant ‘this is the most awesome washing machine in the world — you have to have it’, then probably.

11. “If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?”
That depends. How would you prefer to be cooked?

12. “How would people communicate in a perfect world?”
In a perfect world, there would be no people.

13. “How do you make a tuna sandwich?”

14. “My wife and I are going on vacation — where would you recommend?”
That you both go to different places. You’ll enjoy it more.

15. “You are a head chef at a restaurant and your team has been selected to be on [the TV show] ‘Iron Chef’. How do you prepare your team for the competition, and how do you leverage the competition for your restaurant?”
Watch the show, and tell them to watch the show too.

16. “Estimate how many windows are in New York.”
With a population of around 8 million, I would estimate that taking offices and homes into account, there are probably around three windows per person, so around 24 million.

17. “What’s your favorite song? Perform it for us now.”
I would, but I was always advised not to interview drunk.

Clock ClipartQuote
18. “Calculate the angle of two clock pointers when the time is 11:50.”

19. “Have you ever stolen a pen from work?”
You mean those weren’t free?

20. “Pick two celebrities to be your parents.”
John Cleese and Marie Curie

21. “What kitchen utensil would you be?”

A fork. More points to stab you with.

22. “If you had turned you cell phone to silent and it rang really loudly despite it being on silent, what would you tell me?”
I tried to silence that, but technology rarely listens to me.

23. “On a scale from 1 to 10, rate me as an interviewer.”
1 or 10, depending on whether the scale goes from ‘awesome to terrible’ or vice-versa.

24. “If you could be anyone else, who would it be?”

That guy over there. Because he already works here.

25. “How would you direct someone else on how to cook an omelet?”
Google it.

So… would I get the job?

For B&P writing class…. What other outrageous answers could we come up with? Could we come up with amazing answers? Let’s practice these for fun the first day. How many different weird amazing answers could we generate?


HOF: The lightbulb has to want to change.

by Dr Davis on December 19, 2014

No matter how stellar the course design is, no matter how pedagogically brilliant the in- or out-of-class assignments are, no matter how well your carrots and sticks are set up to reward or discourage given behaviors, in the end you are still ultimately powerless to make change happen. There is no magic assignment structure, no perfect metaphor (and God knows I’ve tried thousands), no enlightenment-guaranteed koan that will make every student go “Oh! NOW I get it!”

lightbulb-smThe lightbulb has to want to change.

… I don’t mean to say that no student will be motivated by your efforts — you will undoubtedly catch the ones who are really genuinely interested in learning. But it’s important to accept that there is no way to craft a net that will catch 100% of the fish. They are more interested in escaping than you ever could be in catching them.

From voxprincipalis


HOF: Practice.

by Dr Davis on December 18, 2014

student-listening-to-musicLearning music and language are not primarily cognitive skills. They are primarily athletic skills. You have to practice, you have to work out. Even when you have learned it, practice to retain the skills. Practice to be physically fit in anything that requires a physical response.

From mdwlark


HOF: Keeping Standards

by Dr Davis on December 16, 2014

I will not see the light. I will not.

I expect a single PDF attached in the CMS before midnight and it better be. I shall have my single PDF.

I expect one inch margins, stapling on the lop left, and a 12 point serif font. I shall have my staples, margins, and fonts!

I expect debits on the left and credits on the right, no matter what your mother or therapist told you about free expression. Debits, left. Credits, right. Forever.

I expect a salutation in every email. I expect a student name in every email. I expect proper grammar and standard English. I even expect complete sentences, b!tch that I am.

I expect that deadlines are deadlines. Better to learn that from me than your soon-to-be former boss, the IRS, or the SEC. Or, even the county probate judge or your ex-wife’s alimony lawyer. Deadlines are deadlines.

You will take my standards from my cold dead hands and then they will choke you in return because you didn’t read the part of the instructions warning you about the boobytrapped hands.

I will not see the light because I have a dream.

I have a dream that young adults can learn not only to read and follow instructions but also to solve their own problems. We start with small problems to give them some warm fuzzy feelings, then we move on to progressively more difficult situations. It’s called education and personal growth.

I have a dream that young adults, despite a myriad of disadvantages and a modicum of easy breaks in life, will rise up and learn to meet and even exceed the standards we set for them and that such young people will eventually look for higher standards to achieve and exceed, far beyond our wildest dreams.
From octoprof


HOF: What to Remember about the Semester

by Dr Davis on December 15, 2014

from mended_drum

one of the most wonderful parts of our job is that we get to keep starting over fresh. Every semester is a new semester with a chance to do (nearly) everything right this time. Even at an SLAC like mine, student memory is brief, and you can reinvent your class, your pedagogy and yourself as often as you need to. In other words, if you think you made some mistakes or there’s something you need to add to your syllabi, make a note of it, and then remember: next semester everything is new again.


HOF: Penalty on that Ignoring

by Dr Davis on December 14, 2014

When I assigned papers, I required 5–10 pages because that gave wiggle room, and required a rough draft where I could slash the puffery and require more content. Failure to follow the suggestions from the rough draft meant a one-letter-grade penalty, so only a few people ignored my comments.

From conjugate


HOF: Limiting Topics Brings Knowledge to Life

by Dr Davis on December 13, 2014

Here’s why I and my composition-teaching colleagues do not let students write arguments about certain topics.

First, let’s remember that I’m talking about first-year students who are learning about argument–about logic, fallacies, good evidence, bad evidence, finding common ground with opponents, refutation, and so on–for the very first time in their lives. The three or four short essays that my students have already written for me are the most writing they have ever done in one semester and perhaps more writing than they did in all of high school. Nearly all of my students enter our community college underprepared for high school, much less first-year college work. Many of these students have never used a library and none of them has used a college library.

In the catalog, the title of the course is Composition I. But it could just as well be called “Basic Introduction to College through Writing.”

school_research computer martinI’ll begin with a banned topic that rarely has anything to do with religion: gun control. When I allowed students to write about gun control, those who chose this topic were almost without exception paranoid far-right survivalist/militia fanatics who see New World Order conspiracies everywhere, or the children of such people. It was a self-selecting group: those obsessed with the topic were those who chose to write about it. And to these students, the gun-control argument has two sides: people who love freedom, and people who hate America and want to destroy America and want this to become a land of mindless slaves. A person who wants any sort of gun regulations whatsoever belongs to the second group. A person who’d like to see 30- and 50-round detachable magazine made illegal isn’t merely incorrect; he is an enemy every bit as dangerous as any foreign terrorist.

And to those students, arguments that support regulation of firearms simply don’t exist. Any data used to support arguments for gun regulation are fake–simply made up–or come from some foreign dictatorship where the people are already mindless slaves. It’s not that my no-gun-restrictions students didn’t want to consider other points of view. It’s that they simply denied the legitimacy of those points of view, since the students already knew that such viewpoints are lies concocted by communists or fascists who hate America, and so on and so forth.

My gun-loving students simply couldn’t do real research or construct even part of a proper argument. I think the term is “epistemic closure.” There’s really not an argument to be made when the choices are Good and Absolute Evil, is there? It’s as pointless as explaining why one should prefer Mister Rogers to Hitler. The inevitable poor grade on the assignment merely proved that colleges are controlled by communists or fascists who hate America, and so on and so forth.

The same kind of thing happened when I and my colleagues let students write about abortion, same-sex marriage, or prayer in public schools. With those topics, the self-selecting group consisted of religious fanatics. Please note that I am not saying that all religious people are wild-eyed fire-breathing theocrats. But I live in a part of the country where we have lots and lots of fanatics and more than a few wild-eyed fire-breathing theocrats. Catch John Hagee’s or Rod Parsley’s act on television sometime. To many of my students, that’s what a real Christian looks like. Pope Francis? Not a Christian. Demonic, in fact. I’ve had to shut down such a diatribe this semester.

For the religious fanatics in Comp I, the argument over abortion has two sides: God’s and Satan’s. It ain’t complicated. They don’t write arguments. They write sermons. Other points of view simply do not exist. My students who wrote about abortion always repeated the usual claims: women who have abortions are more likely to get cancer; women who have abortions kill themselves; women who have abortions become sterile. Giving them evidence to the contrary–science-based evidence from good sources–accomplished nothing. The articles are lies; the data are fraudulent; it’s all the work of pagans or atheists who like to kill babies. There is no need to waste time considering the ideas of people who have already proved that they are demonically evil by having such ideas.

Some of our students have been taught to leave a room when ungodly or demonic talk begins. If, say, a beginning-of-class conversation about a science story in the news drifts into mention of evolution or the Big Bang, a student will quietly pack up his or her books and leave, because he or she has been trained to get out of a room when Satan starts talking. It has happened to me and most of my colleagues.

And as with abortion, so with same-sex marriage, prayer in public schools, and other topics with a religious component. The students who write about them will not, can not, consider ideas other than their own because they already know that those other ideas are quite literally lies from Hell. They don’t write arguments. They refuse to. They write bad sermons. And if they get bad grades, they know that the instructor is on Satan’s side.

Again, please note that I am not claiming that all Christians fit a stereotype or caricature. But I live where the stereotypes and caricatures originated. I live where it’s not hard to find ramshackle little churches–old single-wides, as often as not–on back roads, churches that fly the Confederate battle flag next to and sometimes above a cross, and where men go to worship service with their AR-15s slung over their shoulders.

So I proscribe some topics. I try to make students begin arguments and research papers not with an opinion, but with a question about an important topic about which they know little and about which they know that they know very little. Then they need to show me that they have learned to use the college library well enough to find sound evidence that steered them to a point of view on the topic, and that they have examined the evidence for other points of view, and that they can assemble the products of their research into a logical and coherent whole that meets the requirements of the assignment.

It’s easier to accomplish that by proscribing topics that begin and end with Us or Them, Jesus or Satan, Liberty or Slavery. If it’s a topic that sometimes leads to shouting and screaming, pushing and shoving, fisticuffs, or gun play, then maybe it’s a topic that first-year composition students will not handle well.

Then, once a student has constructed a reasonably good written argument, I can say, “See what you did here? This is what grown-up discussion looks like. This–this way of thinking–is how all of should approach everything we think and believe, because everybody believes at least a few things that just aren’t correct. What you did in this assignment is how we can make sure that the things we believe make sense.” And I repeat the old saw: If you never change your mind, what’s the point of having one?

And then, next semester or next year, my composition students can apply their new knowledge in other courses such as sociology and philosophy, and maybe even re-examine some of their own assumptions. My Comp I class, after all, is not the last one in which students will have to make arguments. They’ll have plenty of opportunities to tackle controversies in other courses. My goal is to help them take the very first step in learning how to tackle a controversial topic.

from eumaois


CHE Fora HOF Reading

by Dr Davis on December 13, 2014

computer and glasses closerThe Chronicle of Higher Education fora Hall of Fame has given me some interesting post-final-grading entertainment and ideas. As I read, I will continue to post these.

Note: I am reading backwards through the HOF because… because I am reading backwards.


University Cannot Educate You

by Dr Davis on December 12, 2014

“You must realize that a university cannot educate you. You must do that for yourself, although a college or university is the place where it is likely that you can study most efficiently.” –Seville Chapman, in chapter 2 of How to Study Physics, 1955. Found online at: http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/chapman.htm


Plagiarism sources

by Dr Davis on December 11, 2014

The first one I found referenced on the CHE fora is a flowchart of levels of plagiarism–though not all the academics agree it is accurate. I linked it because it is a place to start talking.

The second one is an online test for recognizing plagiarism from Indiana U.

Another plagiarism source–which I cannot watch because my flash is out of date–was recommended to me. It is at Northern Arizona U.