Thursday, 21 August 2014

Teachers are agents of change, asserts JMI academician

Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH - Learning is a continuous process and even teachers learn a lot to keep them abreast with the modern day changes, a senior academician said here recently.
"Teachers are the agents of change. They bring a revolution in society. They are the most important elements in the school. Teachers must have certain characteristics: they must be trustworthy, truthful, and touchstone of quality," Abdul Naseeb Khan, principal of New Delhi-based Jamia Senior Secondary School said.
He was speaking at the interactive session for senior Indian International School Riyadh (IISR) organized by Jamia Millia Islamia Alumni Association (JMIAA), Riyadh Chapter.
Dr. Zubair Meenai, professor in the Department of Social Work, was also present.
The idea was to share educational expertise of the visiting Jamia faculty with the school staff to enable them to benefit from the knowledge base and practical experience of the eminent Jamia educationists.
Welcoming the guests, IISR Principal Dr. Shaukat Parwez underscored the importance of education for both the genders.
He said women could participate in public life as borne out in the life of women during the time of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Parwez thanked JMIAA Riyadh President Ghizal Mahdi for taking the initiative of making available the guests of the association to the school and creating an opportunity for interaction with the teaching staff of the school.
Addressing the teachers Khan said they should inspire their students and bring out the best in them. They should teach their students the art of living together. They should respect the individuality of each child. He asserted that training sessions should be held regularly to keep the teachers up-to-date with the latest developments in training technology. He also stressed on peer-to-peer exchange of expertise, whereby teachers could demonstrate their teaching skills and share it with other teachers. Khan also said teachers should be paid well so that they are able to meet their needs.
Prof. Meenai, who has been closely associated with the Centre for Early Childhood Development and Research (CECDR) at Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), shared his insight about psychological and social aspects of managing classrooms.
He said that teachers must ask themselves: Is my class inclusive and diverse? From which linguistic backgrounds do children come from? What are their learning styles? Do they learn better by listening, watching, or experiencing? Are there any learning disabilities among students? Does any child face visual, auditory, or any other challenges? For example is a child suffering from color blindness? Is the child hyperactive? What is the nutritional status of children?
This is important because better nutrition is correlated with better cognition.
He urged teachers to hear all voices in the classroom and devise their teaching strategies accordingly. 
The two guests took questions from the participating teachers on various topics including ways to strike a balance between English language teaching and promotion of mother tongue.
Dr. Asma Shah, vice principal of IISR girls’ section proposed the vote of thanks. She also thanked JMIAA for this initiative. The program was conducted by Farha Tazeen.
© Copyright 2014 The Saudi Gazette. All Rights Reserved. Provided by, company

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

No league table is perfect: Why you shouldn’t worry about university rankings

As the Times Higher Education releases its 2014 Reputation Rankings, Ben Jackson advises prospective students to take league tables with a pinch of salt

BEN JACKSON                                                   Monday 10 March 2014

When the Times Higher Education supplement first published its World Reputation Rankings in 2011, I was exploring my university options. I attended open days and ordered more than thirty prospectuses. But my main concern at the time was the reputation of the universities I was looking at. I wanted to study at a prestigious university, whatever that’s supposed to mean. So league tables like the World Reputation Rankings were right up my street. But are reputation rankings, and league tables more generally, worth our time? As a finalist at King’s College London, widely considered a prestigious university (King’s comes 43 in the 2014 reputation rankings), I’m no longer convinced. The things that have done me the most good at King’s – the student newspaper, particular lecturers and the campus’s location – aren’t generally reflected in rankings.
Dan Seamarks, a prospective journalism student, thinks league tables are an outdated form. “I was constantly told that I must look at league tables and use them when making my final decisions,” he said. “However, all of my universities’ strengths lay in different places.”
League tables offer different ideas of what makes a good institution. World rankings have been known to place a university far lower (or higher) than in national ones. How can the London School of Economics be placed 68th in the QS World University Rankings while sitting third in the Guardian’s domestic table? It’s enough to puzzle any prospective student.
You have to do your research to find out what qualities various tables take into account. QS goes so far as to weigh universities based on the proportion of international students and staff. However, I doubt sixth form students have the time or will to investigate the differing criteria used to produce tables while they’re coping with the demands of A-levels.
Another problem is that one league table on its own can only tell you the prevailing mood that year. A university can fluctuate massively from year to year. If you chose Sussex purely for its position of 11th in the Guardian’s 2012 table, you’d be disappointed when two years into your course it dropped a staggering 39 places.
Dr Wendy Piatt, the director general of the Russell Group, a collection of top universities (so in a way its own league table),warned last week: “Ranking universities is a process fraught with difficulties so students should not use league tables alone when picking a degree course.”
I’m inclined to agree. By all means, look at all the league tables you can get your hands on. But remember, they won’t take your personality into account. As a King’s student, I can tell you there’s no point going to UCL if you like making friends. More objectively, you shouldn’t go to sports-mad Loughborough if you hate competitive sports. I chose my university because when I visited, I just felt at home. No league table can tell you that sort of thing.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Can Early Computer Science Education Increase Women Involvement In Technology?

Women have definitely made quite a mark in the world of medicine or law, but why are they lagging behind when it comes to Computer Science, which is definitely one of the most lucrative industries of the future? One primary reason could be the conception or rather misconception of many about how women are “no substance and only flash”. It becomes quite easy for the male dominated industry to presume so, without much of research, so we would rather begin with some excerpts from the most successful women in the business.

Hear ‘The’ Women Speak 
According to Cindy Bates, Vice President of Microsoft’s Small and Medium Sized Business, “Technology is woven into everything. You can’t talk about anything these days without technology as one of the ingredients,” further adding why women should be more eager to join any technology diversion she says “and we need to do a better job of exposing women to technology related jobs.”
Earlier even women were not much keen to join the technology field, as it was looked upon as a “man thing”, though scenarios are changing but still women have a long way to go.
Harvey Mudd’s President, Maria Klawe gives us a clearer picture as she draws her research and gives a rather substantial description “We’ve done lots of research on why young women don’t choose tech careers and number one is they think it’s not interesting. Number two, they think they wouldn’t be good at it. Number three, they think they will be working with a number of people that they just wouldn’t feel comfortable or happy working alongside.”
Women should be more proactive to learn new technologies to catch up with the other sex and visualize “the impact a technical background can have on a woman’s career, and the economic potential that accompanies it.” as suggested by Intel’s CIO Kim Stevenson, she further adds women shy away from the IT industry as they are not fully aware of all available options in this field.

Why Do Women Avoid This Field? 
Let’s look at a case. Sofia Westwood has been facing the odds ever since she bargained for Computer Science at Stanford as a freshman. She was the only woman in a class of 8, and would be familiar to all instructors not for mettle but gender. She was vivaciously outnumbered in all sessions and classes by the other gender, in spite of the university raising percentage of women being awarded CS degree from 16.
Both Stanford and Cal have been working on improving the women count graduating, but are yet to see significant improved statistics.
The absence of women as software engineers, system analysts, database administrators, computer research scientists is not only frustrating but also infuriating, as they miss out on a hefty package and expertise in these fields, which should not be the case.

Reality Behind Fewer Women
It is not true that women are clumsy for the role of a software developer, when given technology related tasks they excelled at it. Then why such a gap in tech related positions? Here is the real reason why.
Women do not choose a career in technology, they seem happier in other fields.
According to a research by Girls Scouts and Guides a mere 13% teens who are girls are interested in a career in computers. If we take a look at the girl vs. boy career graph it stands such that girls right from the beginning of their career opt out of technology related studies.

How To Bridge The Gap And Get More Women?
It has been cited that for an individual to be inclined towards computers, indulgence in maths is an absolute necessity. Taking up computer science early in one’s career and interests in analyzing and music are also relevant to a career in IT. 80% business leaders believe that exposure to computer science classes can bring more women into the field of technology. Around 60% of the experts suggest breaking the myth of technology being a male dominated industry and encourage a better vision on technical path.
Apart from that a good mentor, a worthy guidance is all that would see women soaring high in the skies of technology. Wrapping it up with a speech by Bill Gates in the Gulf “Any country where half their population is not allowed to reach their full potential is not going to be competitive.”. Thus it is we the common people who are responsible for the underutilization of talent and narrowing our own possibilities to embark on a flourishing career in computers.
It is certain we can achieve if we believe

Friday, 21 February 2014

15 Powerful Ways Your Writing Can Make a Difference

"True joy comes when you inspire, encourage, and guide someone else on a path that benefits him or her." - Zig Ziglar
The stages of writing an article, from initial brainstorming, researching, outlining, and completion, do not have to be overwhelming.
You know two things:
·  You need to grab your audience's attention.
·  You need to become a formidable force in your niche.
How do you achieve this?
Think about where you want your work to take you. Next, consider the impact of your work and how it has affected your audience. No matter how many articles you produce, nothing will compare to the experience and emotion that readers experience because of your work.
A simple idea can transform someone's life. An inspiring, positive message can cause a chain reaction that changes a mindset or belief. With your writing, you're not merely giving your reader something to read to pass the time. You're lighting a game-changing fire under the seat of their pants that challenges them to reach into their thoughts to consider what they've read as well as how it impacts their life and those closest to them.
Are your ready to make a positive impact? Make your writing stand out in an ocean of bland and uninspiring content with this list of ways you can impact others and truly make a difference.
15 Powerful Ways Your Writing Can Make a Difference
1.      Inspiring Others Starts with Your Story: We can never hear enough inspirational stories or initiatives for good deeds. 9 out of 10 commercials you see don't even touch on it, they're all about advertising. The is also a common error in the volume of submissions we receive from new authors. If you really want to make an impression on others and give them hope, start with yourself. Show others how you empower yourself. How do you prepare for the day? How do you ensure your time is spent wisely? How do you remain productive without missing out on priorities? Empower your audience by sharing your story.
2.      Good Deeds Matter: Random acts of kindness are generous ways to surprise and reward strangers. In some places you can order "suspended" coffee or food, making it available for others who need it more. The homeless or people in need can ask if there are any suspended items available, and since they are already paid for, it's a free item. Make a list of good deeds that you feel are the most rewarding, and use personal examples by including the message you're trying to send with each one.
3.      Express Your Enthusiasm: List ways your readers can be authentic and tap into their passions. Enthusiasm is contagious! Help your readers build character and reject their feelings of self-doubt with your enthusiasm. Share lessons from your successes and failures. Keep them engaged by clearly and honestly communicating your advice.
4.      A Cause or Movement Important to You: Write about a cause or movement that has real meaning to you. There are several groups actively making a difference and their rising number of followers determines their expanding range of impact. What groups have you been following? Where do you see change that is needed?
5.      Encourage Fitness: Physical fitness isn't limited to improving appearance. It can make you feel better, reduce anxiety, decrease stress, prevent disease, connect with others who have the same goals, and give you a sense of purpose. Share your thoughts on health and fitness by highlighting what works for you. List techniques close to home to help with relaxation or with a workout routine. Your tips can be instructional or merely a change in lifestyle, but don't forget to list the benefits!
6.      Fun Activities with Goals in Mind: Provide your readers with useful goals to stay positive by listing fun activities to try. These can be indoor team-building exercises or creative-outdoor activities. Expand your usual recreation material and share something new you have tried. Think of goals you prescribe to your readers, but make them fun and engaging in order to stimulate the mind and improve their relationship with themselves. It's amazing how a simple change in a hobby can transform an outlook on life. What ideas can you share?
7.      List Heroes of All Kinds: A hero can be a role model that you have a personal relationship with, or someone you look up to that you have never met. Write about some of these people, fictitious characters included. Think about their qualities and what makes them unique and heroic. If you were to create your own superhero, what characteristics and powers would you have? What adventures or journeys would you go on? Would you have a trustworthy sidekick? Be as creative as you want!
8.      Communities and Their Impact: Charities or foundations don't have the reach most businesses do, but that doesn't stop them from improving the lives of people. Provide a list of ones that are at the top of their game in helping those in need. Nonprofits need your exposure to grow, provide visibility and credibility to keep providing services. These communities are everywhere: make it a goal to discover and write about them through your articles. Help spread the word, support their cause!
9.      The Effects of Gardening: Gardening is a soothing and rewarding activity. It can improve your satisfaction with life and get you more connected with nature. You can list some of your favorite recipes as "comfort food" and the benefits of ones on the healthier side. Do you know of any gardening or cooking clubs in your area? Do some research and reveal some of these with your readers. Help them see nature and the environment as inspiring topics. It's also good exercise and can be a goal-oriented hobby with delicious results.
10.  Think About the Troops: You don't need to talk about the complexity of war or the impact it has on families to inspire your audience. There are many things you can write about that touch on the experience our troops go through. They get visits from celebrities and leaders in business; they are not tucked away overseas by themselves. Our Veterans are also not hiding; they're out there trying to make a difference. You can pay it forward by interacting with them, and writing about organizations they are active in. With their permission, tell their stories.
11.  Improving Relationships: You can use your own experiences with relationships to help educate and make a difference. Touch on your strengths, weaknesses, and how you overcome personal battles. Social media is growing by the day and the connection with your audience as well as their connection with each other can only help you all grow. Discuss how to remain proactive in an argument and steps you take to communicate properly with various personality types.
12.  Review Impactful Books or Movies: Stories can invoke such emotion and drama, whether it's over time with a book or in 1 sitting for a movie. Choose some of your favorite books or films and explore various opinions and messages conveyed. What parts make you reflect the most? What characters do you admire and what strengths make them memorable? There are so many choices to review, making it an ongoing adventure for your writing.
13.  Volunteer Work: It can be tough to find time in our hectic work schedules to do volunteer work. Touch on volunteering and note the variety of ways people can be involved. It's a great way to make a positive impact in a community and any little bit can help. Through your passion and encouragement, you may inspire hundreds of others to volunteer!
14.  Going Green: Energy efficiency and conservation can have a lasting impact on your wellbeing, not to mention it can help your finances. We hear the phrase "going green," but are we really doing the best we can in reducing our carbon footprint? Think about the environmental impact you leave behind and share your thoughts through your writing. Sometimes all it takes is awareness to create a movement as strong as helping the environment.

15.  Travel & Leisure: Visit new and interesting locations that are great for exploring, or have a peaceful appearance. Capture the landscape in detail and explain how it makes you feel. Think about the vision and structure of the people or environment around you. It's important to list specifics and make the visit appealing and feel adventurous. If your writing makes your readers feel like they are there, that's exceptional writing!

Monday, 10 February 2014

Five Reasons Why Teaching Is Still Great

I can open up just about any news source and click on yet another manifesto about how teachers are exhausted, schools are failing, or parents don’t parent.
But there is no other job I'd rather have than teaching right now.
I’m downright tired of the negative news. There are still countless reasons to celebrate the profession and we educators are due for a reminder.
1) Countless Small Wins
I'm hard-pressed to think of another profession with the potential to have so many small victories and breakthroughs every day.
Take this past Wednesday, for example. Jujuan, Deonte, and several other students voluntarily stayed after school for English tutoring. They helped me teach a student from another class, Anthony, about appositives and complex sentences. They raced up to the whiteboard grasping green and blue dry erase markers and explained the basic structure of a literary analysis paragraph. They wanted to be there, to get better. I smiled inside and out. Pretty big win.
Earlier in the day, I told Kirsten that somebody fixed my speakers. Her eyes lit up—she lives for music. At the end of class, I played one of her suggestions off the class playlist. Small win.
Some of my former students with intellectual disabilities emphatically fist-bumped me in the hallway, asking when they could be in my media class again. Small win.
Demetrias, an oldest child who lives with her mom and four younger siblings, often taking on enormous childcare responsibilities, entered class with some good news. She asked if I could help her apply for an advanced media summer program. Bigger win.
There are still many thorn-in-the-side moments during the school day, and it's not easy to ignore and filter them to make room for small wins and breakthroughs. But it's possible, and it's one reason why teaching is still great.
2) You Can Focus Your Efforts
The demands keep piling up on our desks and in our psyches like an overflowing garbage bin. We need to raise test scores. We need to stay everyday for tutoring, if necessary. We need to call parents. We need to sponsor more clubs and activities. We need to fill out paperwork.
I refuse to add to the already-significant demands of my job, however, by makingexcessive personal and professional sacrifices to do things that parents, local businesses, politicians, and other adults should be doing more of, like helping build character, crafting more sane education policy, and providing opportunities for youth to be positively engaged in communities. I'm only effective day in and day out in the classroom when I can put on the brakes and focus on what's in front of me.
But I will dedicate myself to focusing my efforts on what matters: teaching and nurturing kids, creating engaging lesson plans, and charting student growth. If I focus on what I can do well and control in my classroom, I’m not going to spend much time on or stress about the other stuff. My contract does not require me to fix society, even though that's the explicit and implicit message we educators receive daily.
That's not to say I don't choose to be a teacher leader; I do on my own terms. I don't say yes to everything. Part of my job—part of my commitment to my students—is to say no when an opportunity isn't a good fit. We can—and must—do this, especially if policy makers and building leaders continue to pile on demands.
3) It's Not a Desk Job
Some days, due to testing or being flat-out tired, I'll spend a good chunk of my time in my $20 faux-leather chair, procured from a local Goodwill store. But most of the time, I’m buzzing around room 137 and Fern Creek's hallways, creating opportunities for more small wins. As I circulate, I’m challenging and supporting individual students, but I’m also building connections—asking Daneshia to analyze the latest hit by Trey Songz, or complimenting Lawrence on his art project on display.
It’s these types of interactions—strongly linked to my No. 1 reason why teaching is still great, the opportunity for countless small wins—that keep me going, and make me appreciate the lack of redundancy in the job.
I’ve been teaching nearly nine years. And I never wake up and think, Wow, I've got to face another day just like yesterday, or like last week, or like last month. The variety of challenges and encounters keeps the work of teaching exciting. Yes, it can be exhausting at times, but I’d never describe my job as boring.
4) I’m Encouraged to Play With Technology
I've used Edublogs with middle and high school students. While I've retracted my more permissive stance on cell phones in the classroom, I've tested out Poll Everywhereand other services that allow students to use their gadgets. Via Skype and Google Drive, I've connected my class in Louisville with students in Miami to collaborate on writing and media work. I've utilized all sorts of tools to challenge students to create authentic digital-storytelling projects.
Plenty of professions are light-years ahead of education when it comes to technology—but there are few jobs that offer so much possibility with technology tools and applications. Some tools are better than others, for sure, but this is part of the journey, part of what it means to innovate on a daily basis.
5) There Are No Limits to Professional Growth and Exploration
Many teachers—including myself—gripe about inflexible and mandatory professional development within their school districts. There is good reason for the displeasure: Teachers are excluded from the design of the training sessions, so the results don’t match what we need. But I’m guessing if you’ve got a dynamic idea, lesson, or classroom structure to share, your principal won’t stop you from swapping ideas with others, or creating your own professional development session.
And then there’s the professional development available beyond our schools, via online communities and independent organizations like ASCD that offer outstanding networking and professional growth potential. Many educators even consider Twitter to be a great PD source. They’ve learned to navigate the sea of 140-character messages to share and build on ideas with educators around the world.
Three organizations outside of my school district help recharge my batteries by connecting me with dynamic folks and ideas: Middlebury College's Bread Loaf Teacher Network, the National Writing Project, and the Center for Teaching Quality’s Teacher Leaders Network.
It’s easy to feel isolated within our buildings and school districts. But with a little bit of effort, we can find and create the professional networking and development that suits our needs.
Let’s Hear From You
Many of us have challenging work environments, but we can also be proactive in celebrating and creating the moments, students, and conditions that keep us returning to the classroom year after year.
What made you fall in love with teaching to begin with? What great things have you discovered as your career has unfolded? What do you do to maintain your own job satisfaction?
Paul Barnwell has taught in the Kentucky Public School System since 2004, and he now teaches English and digital storytelling at Fern Creek Traditional High School in Louisville, Ky. He’s currently striking a balance between work and life by bow-hunting, gardening, watching football, and writing. A member of the Center for Teaching Quality’s Teacher Leaders Network, Paul blogs at Mindful Stew.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Keeping in touch with professors after graduation

Asked by : Henry, 2013 May
I have an academia related question for you. I graduated from a small liberal arts college in May 2011. I enjoyed my time there immensely. I was able to form some awesome relationships with my professors and some administrators (most of whom were my bosses for part-time jobs or internship supervisors). I moved to Japan for work about 6 months after I graduated, and I’ve been here ever since. Before I left, I visited my university and said goodbye to my friends and professors (and let them know about my moving/work plans). We all said the familiar refrain: “Let’s keep in touch!”
Question 1: Do professors *really* want to keep in touch? Or do they just say that to make you feel better as you leave the comfort of the college bubble?
Question 2: If they do really want to keep in touch, what are some appropriate, non-awkward ways to do that? 
I’ve thought about emailing small updates, but every time I sit down to write one it feels awkward in a way I can’t quite put my finger on. I feel like I’m imposing on their busy schedules if I ask questions about them/their lives, but I feel self-centered if I only give information about my life. Is there some sort of script that could work in this situation?
Full disclosure: While there are no immediate grad school plans, I do want to go back eventually. So I might be requesting references at some point in the next few years. But I really would want to maintain some sort of contact even if I didn’t have grad school aspirations/need someone to say nice things about me.
Do you (or the Amazing Awkward Army) have any ideas on what is the most appropriate/least awkward thing to do here? 
Thanks for your time!!
B. A. (Bachelors of Awkward)

Dear Bachelor’s of Awkward:
I really like this post from The Awl on how to get and keep a mentor. It applies to any field.
I teach college, and I definitely like to hear what former students are up to. I’m delighted when they get jobs, make great work, marry each other (that one Production 2 class was a hotbed of romantic glances, let me tell you!), and their success in life is my psychic carrot.
But I do not hold “keep in touch!” as an ironclad contract, no more than “friends forever!” was when it was written in a high school yearbook. It’s okay if it’s just a platitude – that’s why platitudes work, because you can take them seriously or ignore them if you want to with no hard feelings. Since the burden of keeping in touch is definitely on the former student,  what matters isn’t the professor’s expectation about whether you’ll keep in touch (we don’t really have one), but your wish to keep in touch and what you do about it.
For you, I recommend postcards. Studying overseas you’re in a prime position right now to send people postcards, right? Beautiful photo of faraway location + a very short space to write a message + no expectation of reciprocity + person gets nice mail that is not a bill or a flyer = thoughtful and not-intrusive. There’s a postcard of L.A. on my fridge from a former student who just started her dream job, and it made my day when it showed up in my mail a week or so ago. Script: “Dear Professor, I am writing from (where you are), where I am (what you are doing). I often think of (thing from our class) as it applies to (what it applies to) and hope you are doing well. Best wishes, _______.
A very occasional email is also great.
So here’s the thing to keep in mind. While I do want to hear from former students, I’m not thinking about them all the time. I wasn’t WAITING to hear from them. Occasional = once or twice a YEAR, unless there is some specific thing they need or some conversation gets started that we’re both very involved in. Some guiding principles:
Keep it VERY short. You don’t have to share all your thoughts or chatter about your life or ask them lots of questions.
Keep it relevant to the subject you have in common. If you really have nothing to say and are trying to think of something to say, there is no need to say anything. If you have areas of common interest, send them a link to an article or a book that you think they might like. Google them before you write – Have they had anything published or screened recently? “Congratulations on your book coming out, I’m looking forward to reading it,” is always a nice message to get, I would think. Better yet, “read your book/saw your film/article/photo series/poem/short story/paper, congratulations.”  ”Thank you,” never goes awry.
You can give personal updates – “I got a job,” or “I reworked that thing I wrote/made in your class and got it published/into a festival/conference” is always a good one. “Here’s how I’m using something I learned in your class” is another. “I recently read something related to our class and thought you might enjoy it – have you seen this?
If you need a favor, ask for it up front. “Dear ______, would you be willing to write me a letter of recommendation for graduate school? I really enjoyed your class and would love to get your support as I move into the next stage of my education.” It will help them write a good letter if you jog their memory about what work you did in their class. “My final paper for your class was called “Title” and was about x and y.” It’s also a good idea to update them on recent work and give them a little info on what you’re studying and what you hope to do with it.
Professors expect requests like this. It’s part of our jobs, and we had to awkwardly reach back and ask for letters when we went to grad school. So don’t feel like you have to make months or years of weird small-talk to work up to a request. If I don’t feel like I can write an enthusiastic letter, I just say no directly and suggest the student ask someone who knows them better. I would never write a letter of UN-recommendation. I also have a personal rule that if multiple people are applying for the same scholarship, I will write letters for the first two who ask me.
Don’t worry too much about your grade. If you failed the class, I will probably remember (and wonder why you’re asking me for a reference). If you were a super-standout A student I will probably remember. In between? I won’t remember and won’t think about it all that much. What I will remember is how engaged you were. Did you always come to class? Did you ask good questions? Did you try? Did you improve? Did you ask questions when you didn’t understand something? Did you have interesting paper topics or film ideas? Did you collaborate well with others? Don’t NOT contact someone because you didn’t get an A. Grades really don’t matter once you’re done with school and aren’t a referendum on how the professor feels about you.
How big is your favor, exactly? Can you make it smaller and more specific?
It’s often flattering to be asked to read a former student’s screenplay, but I personally have a blanket “No, sorry” policy about this because I know I will not get to it in any kind of reasonable amount of time and it will go sit in the awkward favor pile gathering dust and guilt particles. However, I will look at bios, synopses, log-lines, trailers, or even cuts of short films – anything where I can look at it in 20 minutes or less and give some immediate response.
Realize that asking your former professors to take a look at work – an article, a paper, your novel, etc. – that you are asking for a pretty big favor and a significant investment of their time, and do not be offended if they say no. Be very specific and targeted about what you are looking for and make sure it’s not just attention or approval. “Read this long thing and give me your thoughts (by which I mean approval)?” will likely get a groan. “Photography teacher, I am submitting a portfolio of 10 images for a grant next month and am trying to narrow it down from these 15 possibilities. Can you give it a quick look and help me?” or “I’m going to program where you went to grad school, are there any courses I should be sure to take or any people I should be certain to meet?” seems pretty reasonable to me.
If you ask them for advice or feedback, take it gracefully. You don’t have to agree with any of it or implement any of it, but you asked for their thoughts and they gave them to you. The correct answer is “Thank you!” and not a detailed explanation of why they are wrong.
Follow up. Say thank you for the initial favor, and say thank you again when you update them on how everything went. “Thank you for writing the recommendation. I got into school and will be starting in x program in the fall!”  Or “Thank you. I didn’t get in this time, so I’ll be improving my application and trying again next year. May I ask you for a letter again?
Watch for reciprocity. Someone who emails you to say thanks for the postcard or the article, or gladly gives you notes on something, someone who responds promptly and expresses that they are glad to hear from you, someone who asks you what you’ve been working on lately, or sends you an article or book or link that they think you might enjoy wants to be in that conversation with you. Over time if you actually share common interests and get along well, it will develop out of a teacher-student place and into a friendship or a good working relationship.
Be social, within reason. Every few years when I go back home, I call up my high school English teacher and take him out to lunch. It’s always delightful to catch up with him, and the lunch is a way to say thank you for times he read us Shakespeare plays while doing ALL THE VOICES and wrote insidious and great exams like  ”Describe how Hamlet is directly or indirectly responsible for every death that happens in the play. You have one hour.” (Seriously, that was the whole thing). So dropping by office hours for a few minutes or emailing a former prof to lunch or coffee or for a beer is not a crazy thing, as long as you’re respectful of their time and let them gracefully say no.
Don’t be a pest. If reciprocity is not happening, just like in any other relationship, take the hint and let it drop. Sometimes keeping in touch will get you that one recommendation letter that you need that one time and good memories of a class where you learned stuff. That’s a really good outcome, so don’t worry if you don’t create lifelong friendships with all of your teachers. No, really, don’t worry. We big awkward nerds like you, we are busy as #$%@!,  and we wish you the best even if we never really bonded.