The Unofficial Manual for Graduate Teaching Assistants
Teaching Introductory Computer Science Courses for Non-majors
LATE HOMEWORK When a student turns in his/her project two weeks late
and asks for full credit, accept the late work and tell them that it
will be awarded full credit. However, do inform them that you will not
have time to grade it until after you complete your Ph.D.
DISRUPTIVE STUDENTS 1. If students will not stop talking when the
class period begins, announce that there will be a quiz the following
day on today's lecture. Then leave. 2. If your students are prone to
reading the school paper in class, try taking out a full page ad in
the paper informing them that they are going to flunk your class.
LECTURES 1. In the event that you are unprepared for a lecture, be
sure to use the class time to stress to the class the importance of
keeping up with the readings. In fact, spend most of the class time
stressing this. 2. When the time comes to lecture on a subject you
know nothing about, the art of controlled digression is invaluable.
Here, you try to incite unrelated questions from the class which you
answer at length. Then at the end of class scold them for digressing
and tell them they'll just have to get the material from the book.
GRADING 1. Always use a fire engine red felt-tip marker with a 1/2
inch tip to grade papers. Position your comments strategically so that
they spell "DUMB" when seen from a distance. 2. You may grade
assignments however you like. Here is a guide to quick and easy
grading: 20 % Name 20 % Penmanship 50 % Homework is stapled together
10 % The work itself Warning: Be prepared for a 60% class average.
GRADING ERRORS If student A approaches you complaining that an answer
on their exam was marked incorrect but was marked correct on student
B's exam, promptly mark student B's answer incorrect as well. This
will redirect the heat from you onto student A.
EXTRA CREDIT 1. If students request extra credit to make up for the
homework they didn't turn in, be sure to make the opportunity
available to them. Some good extra credit problems are: Solve the
dining philosopher's problem, using semaphores. Write a C compiler for
the Commodore 64. Translate Moby Dick into ASCII-8 code with a
leftmost odd parity bit. Design a replacement for the 80486 chip.
Build a File Allocation Table (FAT) out of balsa wood. 2. You may also
wish to tell the student that they can do extra credit work while you
decide whether to accept it. When the student turns in the work,
decide against it.
CHEATING 1. When it is obvious to you that several people have copied
each other's homework, grade one person's work on a separate sheet of
paper, then photocopy your comments onto everyone else's homework. 2.
Should you have very skilled cheaters in your class, try giving
incorrect information during your lectures. This should result in
incorrect answers on exams. Examples that have proven effective
include: The three components of a computer system are Larry, Moe and
Curly. The only possible digits in the binary system are 0, 1, and 2.
The three components of the CPU are the ALU, REGISTERS and cheap
bathroom lighting fixtures. The microphone is an output device.
"Booting" the computer involves waving a large magnet over your hard
drive for 60 seconds. MS-DOS is the operating system for the CRAY
Y-MP. When preparing to purchase a new computer system running
Windows, you should make sure it has at least 128,000 bytes of main
memory. Protocols include saluting your computer and calling the mouse
"sir". CPU stands for Ceramic Public Urinal. Structured Programming
says that you can write any computer program using only three basic
control structures: Sequence, Selection and Guessing.
LAB You are expected to spend at least 4 hours each week in the lab to
assist with student's questions. Students have been known to come up
with some real beauties: "Why should I save it? I wasn't done yet."
"My disk erased itself!" "Hurry up, I need help. This was due last
week." "Directory? What's that?" "What do I need my textbook for? I'm
using a computer." Here are the solutions to the most common problems:
P: "The screen is blank - I can't see what I'm doing" S: Turn on the
monitor P: "How do I get into Windows?" S: Stare at it long enough and
it will start to look like candy. P: "I can't get this computer to do
anything." S: Have them move to a computer that has a keyboard. P:
"The stupid printer printed the wrong file." S: Reprimand the printer.
P: "WordPerfect didn't do what I told it to do." S: Tell them they
have to earn its respect first.