Thursday, August 27, 2009

Michael Pittarelli Raped My Mind

I just got out of one of the most excrutiating lectures of my life. And believe me, that's saying something. I've had some awful teachers before, but this one takes the cake. I can sit through mind-numbingly boring and ineffectual lectures, but most professors I've had, however dull and convoluted their lectures become, usually stop short of being physically painful to listen to. Mike Pittarelli crosses that line running. Seriously, I've had bouts of food poisoning less painful than the experience of listening to this man talk for two hours.

First of all, he takes the full class period, and in fact runs out of time at the end, to discuss maybe 30 minutes of material. This is because he has a very confused, misguidedly casual approach to lecturing. It's never really clear what point he's trying to get across, just that he's trying like hell to make it. You can only hope to guess at what information he's hoping to convey, while he aimlessly circles the point of the story for what feels like hours, occasionally straying close to the point but never really reaching it. It's kind of like watching a bashful young schoolboy trying to work up the courage to ask out the preppy cheerleader.

Then, after ten minutes of ambling about like a late-onset Alzheimer's patient, just when you think he's about to make the point he's been working toward the whole time, he stops and switches to a new topic, wandering off in a completely different direction than you expected. If there is a more perfect living example than this of a functional adult with severe ADD, I have yet to encounter them.

I also don't understand how he can possibly justify jumping back and forth between chapters the way he does. There's a reason the more advanced stuff is saved for 200 pages later in the book: if you present them all together just because they seem related, it makes the whole discussion too confusing for new students to follow. At least, I'm pretty sure the discussion would've been confusing, if I in any way had the ability to continue listening, but by then I had lost all will to go on living, let alone keep listening to him prattle on about decomposing and rejoining database relations.

In short, I don't have a RateMyProfessors account, but this experience made me consider it. Guys like this may have some talent in their given field, but Mike clearly has done too much acid in his heyday to adequately teach his craft to impressionable youngsters like myself, and it's a terrible shame that he's allowed to continue doing it. If anybody else has him, I'd love some tips on how to survive this class, which is a requirement for pretty much every other class in my major.

EDIT: I found his profile on RateMyProfessors:
I guess I'm not the only one who's noticed. Of course, not many raters on the site had him for 350, which I do. I think the only reason people like/pass his class is because he does the same open book/notes tests that Sam Sengupta does, except Mike has a weird grading curve where having 53% on a test can net you a B+ or so. And at least Sam was bearable to listen to in lecture. I learned quite a bit without even reading the book. Mike lost me in a hurry. I think I might be better off just reading the book and sleeping through his lectures.

1 comment:

  1. I had him for 350. The trouble is everyone is blank so he starts going of in several directions. The trick is to really try. Focus on every word, furrow your brow, stare at him the entire time. Then after he talks for about 2 -2 and 1/2 hours. Slowly and deliberately raise your hand and ask ..."What?"

    Seriously this works great. I got an 85% or so on his first exam. Most get a 30%