In ten minutes, I am going to be teaching my calculus class. The lecture will start, as it always does, with a three-minute quiz, in which I ask some basic questions about the section we're going to cover today. Half of the class invariably cannot get a single thing right on these quizzes, which only require you to have skimmed the first two pages of the section. This annoys me.
The following thought occurred to me last night, while I was coming up with today's quiz, and grading the previous one: In the statistics class I am taking, the instructor asks us to read the chapter before we begin covering it. Except for the first chapter, I have not done as asked, and so far, it hasn't come back to haunt me. So maybe I should cut my students some slack. But then I had a second thought: If, tomorrow, said instructor were to give us a pop quiz on the stuff we were supposed to have read, that would definitely be the last day I came to class unprepared. I've been giving these quizzes for six weeks now, and every time it appears to be a complete surprise to them.
I get that I'm teaching math, and math is hard, and no one likes to spend a lot of effort on things they're not good at. But when you're a student, that's your job. You, the working public, wouldn't go to a meeting without any idea of the agenda. If your boss asked you for a report, you wouldn't hand him a couple of dog-eared pages on which you've written a series of semi-coherent, unrelated sentences and numbers with no explanation. If you did, you wouldn't be working very long. Maybe that's the point, that the students who feel like they don't need to show up to class, or study outside of class, won't be students very long. I think I've helped a number of them out the door over the last four years.