Teaching as an adjunct can be a lot of fun. It is also challenging. As I have encountered a number of situations, I realize such a blog can be helpful, both to me and to others.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Two Or Three?

It seems like four months ago I was in the same position. Well, if it wasn’t the same, it was similar. I had three courses I was offered to teach and I was carefully watching enrollment numbers to see if all would go. Two of the three went no problem, but the third barely squeaked by. Once some other classes were cancelled, mine picked up some additional students, but it was touch and go for a while.

Once again, this coming semester, I will be teaching three classes, pending enrollment. Two of the classes have enough students to go. The third class has only six people registered so far, and I would not be surprised if it is cancelled.

The thing is, I am not sure what I want. On the one hand, the third classes means extra money coming in, extra money that is very helpful. Still, I learned this semester just how exhausting it is to teach three classes. Three classes keeps me away from my day job more than I want, or should be as well.

I have decided to just roll with the punches. I will not do anything to try and make the third class go, nor will I do anything to try and get it cancelled. If it goes, I will teach it. If it doesn’t, I will have more time in the office. Either way, my plan is just to accept it and roll with the punches. As the saying goes, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Saturday, December 29, 2007

I Hate Cell Phones-Part 2

In a previous post, I discussed the annoyance of cell phones when trying to teach a college class (click here to see that post). The question then is , how do we as instructors deal with it?

Certainly I do not have all the answers, or perhaps, I do not have any of the answers. I do not know if this will work, but I have added a section to my course syllabus entitled CELL PHONE ETIQUETTE. In that section, I state the following:

I should not even have to address this but it is becoming more and more of a problem and needs to be addressed. Cell phone use in class is NOT ACCEPTABLE. This includes, but is not limited to, using your phone for making or receiving phone calls, text messaging, playing games, doing research, or connecting to the internet. In short, you should not use your cell phone at all during class.

For every instance when you use your cell phone, I will deduct one point off your final average. So, if you are texting a friend, EACH time you send a message, or receive one, a point will be deducted. If your phone rings in class, for each ring one point will be deducted from your average. These occurrences will be upped to three points on days when speeches are being given.

Your cell phone should always be on vibrate during class session and is to be used only in the case of a true emergency. If your phone vibrates and you suspect there is an emergency, please quickly get up and quietly go out into the hall and take the call. Be prepared to talk with me after class and let me know about the emergency.

If I feel it is a legitimate emergency, I will not deduct the points. If it is not an emergency in my eyes, however, than the points will be deducted. Therefore, you want to let people know that they should only call you in case of an emergency during class.

Since this will be the first semester I am trying it, I have no idea if it will help. I certainly hope it does, and I will let you know.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Learning History Through Travel

The following is a paid post
It is sponsored by Hotel Reservations

My son has a new book from which he enjoys reading. The book is various stories that include the history and facts about various landmarks in the United States. There is a story about the Whitehouse, a story about the Liberty Bell and a story about Mt. Rushmore, just to name a few. My son is enjoying these stories and he is learning history at the same time.

My wife and I are talking about taking some mini-vacations so we can visit some of these sites. Right now we are thinking about getting him to Philadelphia. As my wife and I were talking, I thought back to the time I was his age. Every summer my parents would plan a four to six week vacation and we would visit sites around the United States.

The vacations were usually taken by car and planned weeks in advance. My mother would sit down with a bunch of different Triple A tour books and decide our final destination (one year California, one year Florida, sometimes Toronto or Montreal). She would also determine where we would stop along the way, what sites we would see, and how many days we would stay at each stop. My mother would make reservations for each location (sometimes at fancy hotels but many econo-lodges as well as we would be away for six weeks) and we were on our way.

I may not have fully appreciated it at the time, although I did enjoy the vacations. Still, this was a great way to learn history. I think if more students had the opportunity to do things like this growing up, many would be more culturally savvy.

Thinking about it now, what amazes me the most was my mother figured this out before the days of the internet and the rise of the computer. Now there are all sorts of various sites to help out. Sites like Hotel Reservations can help you find available locations and find the best prices around.

The site allows you to put in the location to where you are travelling, the dates and it will tell you what is available and for how much. The site also includes a list of Bed and Breakfasts and Condos available for rent. It offers rebates and vacation packages as well. A site like this is worth checking out. It certainly would have saved mom hours of planning.

I Hate Cell Phones!

In yesterday’s post, I talked about needing to address some things in my syllabus that occurred this past semester ( Click Here to see that post ) . First and foremost on the list is cell phone usage. After seeing what took place this past semester, I am left to ponder what we ever did before these devices came out. For me, the biggest challenge is the fact that cell phones are no longer used just for phone calls.

I tell my students that cell phones should be on vibrate, or turned off, during class. I tell them that if there cell phone goes off during a student’s speech, they will lose points on their speech. I tell them that despite saying this in every class, every semester, by the end of the course, someone’s cell phone has gone off during a speech (true again this semester). I tell them that I understand emergencies do arise and if the cell phone vibrates and it is an important call, they need to take it out in the hall. Enough said, right? WRONG!!!!!!

First of all, my students don’t seem to understand that they should not be using the cell phone at all during class. They think that it is okay to text message other people, since they are not talking and thus not distracting the class. They do not consider the buzzing noise the phone makes when a message is sent or received. Moreover, they do not consider the ethics and importance of actually paying attention in class. Worse yet, I have students who text message people while other students are giving speeches (and I discuss the importance of ethical listening in class).

When students give speeches, I sit in one of the student chairs set up in the room (as I am part of the audience). Usually, based on where students sit, there is a general area I sit in for each class (one of the seats usually not used by any of my students). In one of my classes, the student who was sitting next to me would always text message during the speeches. I WAS SITTING RIGHT THERE! You would think the student would know enough not to use the phone in front of me!

In another class, a student had signed up for the army and was leaving for basic training after the semester ended. Her soon to be drill instructor (or recruiter, I really don’t remember which), would call her constantly during my class and she would take the calls out in the hall. She would tell me that when the army calls, you have to take it.

I respect the job the army does and I respect and admire college students who get involved with the military. I do not respect the lack of consideration they apparently give to teachers and school. I told the student that when the army was willing to allow her to interrupt her basic training because I had called her on her cell phone, then I would have no problem with them calling her during class. Until that time that they were willing to extend to me the same privilege they were demanding, I had a problem.

Worse yet, a friend told me that students use this as an excuse, that students who are joining the army, usually only get one phone call and then things are pretty much set until training starts. I do not know if this is true, but if I find out I was being played, I will be furious and I will probably see if I can change the individual’s grade.

Finally, I am puzzled by the approach taken by some students who are not able to make it to one of the class sessions. Again, I say in my syllabus, if you can’t make it to class (especially on a day you are scheduled to speak or have an assignment due), you need to be in touch with me BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS SESSION and let me know why. I go so far as to say, if the student has a valid reason but is not in touch with me ahead of time, points will still be deducted from the speech. Only if there is a valid reason (valid as deemed so by the instructor) AND I have been notified before the next class session, will you avoid having points deducted.

I give the students three phone numbers for me (including my cell phone). I give them to e-mail addresses. I put them all on the syllabus. They should be able to figure out how to reach me. Still, often times when students cannot make it to class, they will call other people on their cell phones, or text message them and tell the other individuals what is going on but they never get in touch with me.

Yes, cell phone usage is a major problem. I have some ideas as to how I can address the issue and I will share them in a subsequent post. Still, if you have any ideas, I am all ears.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Another Session Still To Go

Well, the holidays are over (minus New Years) and I hope everyone had an enjoyable one. For many college teachers, this time of year is spent getting things ready for the next semester, and I am doing that too. Still, most teachers are done for the Fall semester. I, however, am not.

Two of my three classes are over, and grades have been turned in. The third class, however, is the one made up of high school seniors. This class usually starts a couple of weeks later and, as a result, it ends a couple of weeks later. Whenever I have taught it in the fall, it goes into January.

This year, however, it is really strange. We had class on Thursday, 12/20. Then we broke for the holidays (which is where we are at right now). On January 3, we will return. We will just have class on the third and that will be it for the semester.

It seems to me that it is silly to return after the holidays just for one class. If this is the schedule the college has, I will adhere to it. And, in truth it will be helpful and some students were not able to give their final speech before break, so we can at least get these done. Still, it just seems strange.

Well, I just need to be sure that I do set some time aside during the semester break to update my syllabus and address issues that occurred this semester that bothered me. Still, that is a post for another time.

Again, Happy Holidays to you all and a Happy New Year. Thank you to all who have read my entries and thank you to those who have commented and provided feedback.

Wishing you all the best!

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Scarry Experience

This past semester I had an interesting challenge when one of my students was talking about committing suicide. The student was doing this in a joking manner and I think he just wanted to get attention. Don’t get me wrong, he was having a bad week, but with 20 other students in class at the time, I think it was an attention getting mechanism.

On the other hand, I know enough not to ignore such things as when a person talks about suicide, there is a real possibility that the individual is truly contemplating it. Moreover, how do you feel if you do nothing and heaven forbid a day or two later it turns out the student committed suicide.

I waited until the end of class and pull the individual aside to talk and asked if I could call anyone. The student assured me at this point that he was fine. I suggested he talk the next class off as kind of a mental health day. The individual did and then the following class session he returned and everything seemed fine.

This was the most severe but there are challenges a College teacher has to deal with in today’s society. What do you do if a student attends class drunk? What should you do if someone comes in stoned or you think the person is abusing drugs? Personally I think you need to take the student aside and suggest he or she get help and you should be willing to help. Still, ultimately the decision is up to the individual to get help.

It is amazing all the things I never stopped to think about before I started teaching as an adjunct. I am guessing that most full time professors have to go through some kind of formal training (and if they don’t, they should be required) and it probably would be a good thing to require adjuncts to go through it as well.

Researching A Speech Via The Internet

The following is a sponsored post

When it comes to group presentations and persuasive speeches, a few topics seem to be most popular. One that students truly enjoy is that of healthy eating. The facts are amazing. In one speech, I heard a student say that in a couple of years unhealthy eating (eating at fast food restaurants) will become the number one cause of preventable deaths, overtaking smoking.

I always tell my students when they choose a topic like this, they must be sure to show they have done research. It is amazing how much information is available. There are sites that provide information about ways people can lose weight. los angeles weight loss .

While JourneyLite offers surgery as a way to help people reduce weight, they also include information about education as they believe the two go hand in hand. The information is out there and available to students. Certainly getting information from various websites, including this one, shows research on behalf of the student.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Can I Get An 'A'

You’ve got to love students. I spend the entire semester telling them what they need to do to get an “A” in my class. I outline it in my syllabus and tell them what is worth what. I let them know from the beginning that it is not so easy to get an ‘A’ in my class. And, I stress things that are important to me, such as attendance and not talking while I am, or even more importantly while other students are giving presentations.

So how come, despite saying all this, it is often the biggest offenders that come up to me the last two weeks of class and want to know what they have to do to still get an ‘A’? The time to worry about that is not at the end of the semester when it is too late to do anything. The time to worry about it and focus on it is at the beginning of the semester.

Invariably, I will have students that ask if they can do things for extra credit. Truth is, I do not allow that. I have so much grading to do at the end of the semester, the last thing I want to do is start looking over extra credit work.

On top of that, I don’t want students who have poor attendance, who have been discourteous to others, who have consistently delivered speeches late, to be able to make up for all this and still get an ‘A’.

I cannot, and will not guarantee anyone an ‘A’, but if you are going to get one, you need to play by my rules. And, for that matter, if you play by my rules, you probably will end up with nothing lower than a ‘B’. It amazes me how many C’s, D’s and F’s I give because if they play by the rules, they will do better than that. Hopefully they will learn!

Payday Loans Can Help

The following is a paid post
It is a sponsored post by Payday loans

Well, it is that nice time of year for me where I get a bit of time off as we are between semesters. Like students, I find this time relaxing and enjoyable. It can also be a little difficult. You say a few weeks without class means no paycheck coming in either.

Fortunately, should there be a need, it is nice to know that Payday loans can help. This is an on-line site where you can borrow money in as little as 24 hours and work out terms on repaying it.

Hopefully, I won’t need to take advantage of it, but it is nice to know it is available should I need it.

The Final Exam

Every semester I seem to surprise my students by giving a final exam. Now, this should come as no surprise, but many feel since it is a public speaking class, the speeches should serve as the grade and there should not be any exams.

I actually understand this thinking but the course catalog tells me I am supposed to give them an exam, so I play by the rules. I put it in my syllabus. On the first day of class, when I go over the syllabus, I include a PowerPoint presentation that shows the breakdown of all the assignments, including the final exam. I even put in the PowerPoint presentation, next to the line that shows the weight of the exam, “Yes, there is a final exam in public speaking”. Still, it seems to surprise the students and catch them off guard.

I also tell my students that anything covered in class in fair game for the exam and anything in the textbook, regardless of whether or not we cover it in class is fair game for the exam. From previous semesters, I know some of them brag about the fact that they never opened the book and can sell it back at full price because it is still shrink wrapped. So, here is the dilemma I pose to them.

I review for the exam and tell them what they should know. A lot of it comes from the textbook. I usually include a question that says “According to your textbook …”, and I tell them about this question in advance, so in order to get it right, all they have to do is open the book and look up the answer.

As I did that this semester, I had students complain once again. One even told me she had already sold the book back to the book store. I simply state, “I told you on the first day of class, anything in the book is fair game for the exam. I even told you that some of you are not going to open the book until you start studying for the exam and others of you may not even open the book then. Some of you will be able to pull it off, but know, if it is in the textbook, even if I don’t cover it, it is legitimate for me to put on the test.”

The students moan and groan, but usually admit that they do recall me saying this. This time, as I reminded them of this, one of the students looked at me and he said, “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you”.

I guess I was. I understand that my class is not the only one the students are taking and that they do have lives outside of the classroom. Still, I am willing to work with them if they are willing to work with me and they do need to keep up with the reading and know what is going on.

One of my other favorite questions to include on the exam is to say, “Which of the following was not a topic used for a speech by a student in this class?” I then list three topics that were given and a fourth one from a class the previous semester that was not used in the current semester. This way, students who are not there for speeches, or who feel they only need to be there on the day they are speaking, are being slightly penalized.

Perhaps I am a little mean, as I enjoy marking this question wrong on the exams of the students who missed a lot of classes. On the other hand, I enjoy marking it right on the exams of the students who had good attendance.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Student Returns!

Life has been so crazy lately and things so hectic, I have not had a chance to enter a post in a while. As a result, not surprisingly, there are so many things going on that I have to decide which one to blog about (Maybe I’ll enter more than one post today). For today, however, for this blog post, I will discuss something that happened yesterday.

Seemingly this is a non-event. I had a student show up for class. Well, I have a student, in fact many students, show up for class every day. What makes this day so special? This particular students has not shown up to class for weeks. I had given up on him and thought he just dropped the class without officially withdrawing or dropping (I have had students do that before). I did not even set aside a speaking opportunity for him to deliver his final speech, which start this coming Monday.

After missing about 15-20 classes in a row, and having done this earlier in the semester (although then it was ONLY about 6 classes in a row), the students shows up and after class asks me if the work can be made up. I did ask what had happened and why all those classes were missed. The student told me there was a need to return back home, but that was all that was said.

I do not like to pry and I respect the privacy of my students, but COME ON! I was told the same thing when the six classes were missed earlier. I told the student then, I write it in my syllabus and review it in class, if a student is going to miss class (especially one where an assignment is due—and there were 2 major speeches, 2 minor speeches and a group presentation this individual missed), the individual should be in touch with me before the next class. With six classes left to the semester, it is a little late to be discussing this issue.

Softie that I am, I did tell this student the speeches could be made up and it was still possible to pass the class, but the grade would probably not be that good. The student wants to make up the speeches. If this person knocks my socks off with the makeup speeches, aces the final exam, and hands in everything else that is due, maybe the grade will be a ‘C’. More likely I expect this individual to finish with a ‘D’ in the class, and that is already, I think, being generous. After all, this individual should certainly finish with a lower grade then someone who has earned a ‘C’ in the class and been there every session.

If this student, by the way, misses any more session, my feeling is, the individual will get an ‘F’. I am already going out of my way and making my life more difficult by getting these makeup speeches in, so the student needs to make sure to attend the last 7 session.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The TASER Speech

The following is a paid post

Listening to student speeches for me is always an enjoyable and educational experience. Sometimes students base a speech, however, entirely on personal experiences. I always let them know they should do research on the topic and include more than just their own thoughts and experiences.

One student recently did a speech on TASERS, especially following the recent controversy. His argument was despite some problems that can occur, they are still a lot safer than guns and other weapons and police should carry them. It was a good speech but I think a little more research would have helped.

For instance, it is very easy for people to obtain various gear through the internet. Such sites as 5.11 tactical have a lot of gear that people might want. A lot of this gear is very appropriate and there is no reason not to get things from this site.

Still, it does show just how readily accessible different items are, items that in the past might have been a lot tougher to obtain. Certainly information like that, information about how easy it is to get various police equipment can and should be included in a speech about TASERS.

A Needed Break!

The question is, when a day off comes around, who enjoys it more and benefits from it more, is it the students or the teachers? Truth be told, I think that days off are just as important for teachers. As an adjunct, with everything going on in my life this semester, I have been extremely busy. This means that I have not been as sharp in the classroom as I should be (or at least want to be). It also means, when I am critiquing, the students are not getting my best effort.

It is important to point out that, while it may not be my best, it is still very good. The time off, however, gives me an opportunity to recharge my batteries. This is important as it should make me more effective for the rest of the year. In addition, I have a few extra days to work on critiques, days when I do not have to worry about the day job (okay, well I do have to worry about it but I am not going into the office).

I have to be smart and not fall into the trap the students do of procrastinating and not getting around to critiquing speeches until the very end of vacation. I honestly do not think that will happen. My guess is, when Sunday night rolls around, I will have done less than I wanted to get done but more than I realistically should expect myself to get done. If I can do that, it will be a successful break for me.

I hope my students use the time off just as wisely to work on speeches, group presentations and anything else on which they may need to catch up. It always amazes me how much students will let slide. And, if they let work slide, I tell them to be in touch with me and tell me what is going on (not a difficult requirement and something that can actually help their grade), but it is amazing how often they do not do something so simple.

I guess that is part of the fun and mystery of being a college student!

Thursday, November 22, 2007


The following is a paid post

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year, like many Americans, I stop and think about those things for which I am thankful. Of course, good health, family, love and friendship top the list. But I also stop to think about some of the not so obvious things.

I recently heard someone say we should be thankful for the things which are not so good because it makes the good times seem that much better. Also, sometimes we may not fully realize that things happen for a reason and we do derive benefit.

I used to work in Florida, North Florida, and I am not a Florida person. Still I was gaining valuable experience and that experience actually helped lead to my adjunct opportunity.

Still, while I am not a Florida person, there were some things I enjoyed like having the opportunity to visit St. Augustine, the oldest city in Florida. St Augustine is located in North Florida. I recently learned about a festival, the First Friday Weekend Artwalk. The St. Augustine Artwalk seems very enjoyable. It occurs on the first Friday and Saturday of every month from 5pm to 9pm and they give free tours.

There is music, entertainment and refreshments at a number of participating galleries. In November there is the fall arts and crafts festival and in December there is the Nights of Lights festival. There are a number of featured events as well. This looks like a very enjoyable festival and I would actually be interested in returning to Florida to see the St. Augustine Artwalk .

My Meeting

One of the things I like to do if I am up for a job and do not get it is to set up a meeting with the person or people involved and find out where my weaknesses were. I do not get angry with them for not hiring me. I tell them I want to find out my weaknesses to better improve myself, and that is true.

When the full-time position I applied for did not come through, I set up a meeting with the person who heads up the office that oversees this person. He is a friend and I have taught classes for him through this department.

I found out that when I met with the Dean (the third of the three interviews I had, and the highest ranking official) there was a question about marketing that I did not knock out of the park. The impression I get is it came down to me and one other person and this other person handled that question very well. I was speaking in generalities and the Dean wanted specifics.

I actually recall this question and thinking that while I handled it effectively, I could have done better. That certainly seems to have been the case.

My contact was quick to mention that he did not want to put it all on the Dean as he too was involved in the decision. He did say, however, he was rooting for me. Again, my impression is he was impressed with the candidate that ultimately was offered the job and he was impressed with me. He could have gone either way but had no reason to go against the candidate that ultimately was hired.

Certainly this gave me the information I needed and wanted. I am not better and hopefully the next time a situation arises when I am being interviewed, I will do better.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Printer Workout

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This is the time during the semester that I get little sleep, that my students give lots of speeches and that my printer gets a workout. It seems that I am frequently printing out critiques. Between my three classes, I probably print out at least 10 two page critiques a week.

I find that I frequently need to replace cartridges. Fortunately with sites like Cartridge Finder, it makes my life easier as I can find out what machines take what cartridges and I can also find out who has the best prices available.

If you find that you are doing a lot of typing, or just not sure what cartridge to get for your machine, Cartridge Finder can help.

Friday, November 16, 2007

No Full Time Offer

As you probably figured from my What Am I Thinking post , the full time position I was up for where I teach did not come through. Had it come through, I would not even be teaching one class next semester, let alone three (Yes, I have agreed to the three).

I certainly had hoped that the full-time position would have come through. It would have kept me involved with the college and with college students and it was a position I believed in, letting highschoolers know about programs they could take advantage of for college credit.

Still, just because I did not get the position, I am not bitter. At least they called me in for an interview and gave me a shot. I am still bitter that when it came to the full time teaching position, they never even called me in for an interview. I am good enough for them to ask to teach all different times of the day, places, five days a week, whatever they want, whatever they need, but when it comes to a full time position, for that I am not good enough.

At least going through the process I did, interviewing for a position, helped to reestablish my sense of fair play in the field of education. I got what I felt I was entitled to, a chance to sink or swim on my own, to be interviewed for the position.

I did have a meeting with the person who heads up the department, just to find out what my strengths and weaknesses were during the interviewing process. I will be entering a separate post about that meeting in the near future, but one thing he told me over the phone was I truly was among the top candidates on the list, and this was not just lip service, they truly were interested in my. A simple comment like that, for me, can go a long way in restoring my faith in the entire process and, for good or for bad, be willing to once again take on three classes (which may very well be a killer). Well, hopefully I can manage.


The following is a paid post

Working as an adjunct at a Community College, I have noticed there seem to be a number of fundraisers that go on. Some are ones to which I donate (time, money, or food), others are good causes but ones to which I do not make a donation, and still others are not causes that ring true to me.

As someone who has a bit of a background in marketing, I am always curious to see how various groups, institutions and individuals go about fund raising. I recently, while surfing the web, came across a site that actually helps people learn about how they should, or could, put fundraisers together and gives fundraising tips.

What I find interesting about this site is how they have various links based on what you are looking to do. For instance, there is a link you can click on if you want to learn more about Food FundRaisers. If you need ideas for Campaigns, this site can help. Whatever it is that you are looking for, before putting your next fundraiser together, it is worth checking out and learning as much as possible.

As we enter the holiday season, with Thanksgiving just around the corner, I hope everyone has a very happy holiday and that those people looking to increase food donations for this holiday are successful so everyone can partake in a festive and enjoyable meal.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What Am I Thinking

This semester has been gruesome and gruel some. I am teaching three classes and I am teaching every day of the week. This is in addition to my “day job”. I had previously decided that next semester I would not teach three classes and I would not teach every day of the week.

As it turned out one of the classes I teach they decided not to offer next semester because it usually does better in the fall semester than the spring one. As a result, I figured everything would be all set. Well, of course, things don’t work out so easily. I ran into the Dean earlier in the week and she asked me something about if I was teaching the same classes next semester. I told her one of the classes was not being offered and she commented to the effect of, “So, you are available to teach another class.” I asked her what she had in mind.

First she mentioned that it would be for another course in the curriculum, Interpersonal Communication. Well, so far where I teach they have only been willing to let me handle Public Speaking courses, so I figured this was a good sign. It would also be a three hour class once a week.

As it turns out, it actually is a public speaking class but it is only one evening a week, on an evening I am available. So, it would not pull me out of the office during the day and it is only once a week, but the time I need to put into grading and critiquing is huge.

I am actually foolish enough to be toying with the idea of teaching three classes next semester. I am not sure what I want or what I will do, but I am thinking about it and that is the last thing I thought I would be thinking about at this point in the current semester.

I’ll keep you posted.

Car Trouble

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It was about one year ago that I had a very scary experience. I needed to head out of state so I left my car at the airport and flew to my destination. When I came back I found the car was not handling well at all. Still, I needed to get to my class on campus as I had to teach that morning (I was not smart enough to call in sick). As I drove, I was praying every step of the way. Fortunately, the car got me where I needed to go.

After I made this drive, I thought about the old joke about a cab driver and a preacher who die on the same day. The cab driver is let right into heaven but the preacher is asked question after question, having to defend his time on earth. Finally, the preacher frustrated asks, “How come the cab driver was let right in but I, a man of the Lord, have to defend my existence.”

The angel answered, “When people heard you preach, they got a good nap, but when people got in his cab, they prayed.”

Well, it was my car, and I was driving, but I prayed. It was that very day I went down to the dealership to find a new vehicle and I needed to move quickly. How much easier things would have been if I knew about CarsBlvd. I could have gotten information on all sorts of cars and been able to do my shopping right on line. Enter the information you want and the site will tell you the deals that are available. So, if you want something like a Honda Car Quote you can get it quickly and easily.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Group Presentations

I am at the time during the college semester that my students are working on group projects as they need to do a group presentation. It is amazing to me how they often overlook certain details and how they often forget the importance of appearance and perception.

If you are working with other people in a group, one of the first things that should be done is make sure you have each other's contact information. I have watched groups fail to give each other a phone number or an e-mail address, so it is impossible to get a hold of certain members outside of the class.

I am also amazed at how groups respond when I give them class time to work on the presentation. Yes, it is fine with me if they go to the library to do research or if they go to the computer lab. What amazes me is the number of students who simply view this as an opportunity to leave early. In fact, I observed one group that always used this "free time" as an excuse to leave early. Then, the session before the group was supposed to present, they asked if they could have an extra session because they were not ready. Of course they were not ready, they never used the time provided. Had the group taken advantage of the time I provided and still needed extra time, I probably would have given it to them. Students, be advised, when you are given time to work on a project, impress the teacher and use it. We do take notice.

Then there is the issue of students not only ignoring the class time but also refusing, or be unwilling, to put time into the presentation outside of class. The do not want to get together. They seem to have this feeling that if each member of the group works on one portion of the project, they do not need to get together to see how it all fits together. They just get up there and present. It is not even that they realize this is a gamble, they actually expect it to work out well.

The last aspect which amazes me is how students who miss a group presentation do not consider how it affects everyone. First of all, the student is unable to make up this assignment. If they miss another presentation, where they are the only one presenting, they can do it another time (the loss points, but it can be done). Since this is a group presentation, it cannot be made up. In addition, if a group is expecting a person to be there with some material and the person never shows, the rest of the members have to scramble to cover that portion.

Most of this is just plain old common sense which is why it amazes me how much of it the students do not know.

An Adjunct's Salary

The following is a paid post

The other day I sat down to figure out how much money I am really earning with all my running around. It was pretty depressing. The bottom line is I am an adjunct, so I do not get benefits and obviously colleges and universities use adjuncts as a way to save on their expenses. Still, I teach because I love it, but I have to figure out a way to pay the bills. And, now with the holidays coming up, it gets even tougher.

The coupons from a website like CouponChiefs can be very helpful, as it is a good way to find gifts and save money. They strive to provide a one stop coupon deal and discount resource for their Web site visitors and focus on customer support, providing coupon codes and promotional deals.Whether it is looking for a product from Home Depot , or Dell , or one of countless other stores, you can find gifts for everyone, including yourself, here.

During the holiday season, and as we near Thanksgiving, things are only going to get crazier, it is one way to make your life easier.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Time Spent Critiquing

I was reviewing some comments on the blog and I found an interesting thought. When I grade speeches, I include a full critique. I discuss what was done well, what need improvement and I talk about both the delivery and the content of the speech.

I have cut down on what I include but I can take up to 30 minutes (15-20 is more realistic) writing comments. This is a throw back to when I was in school. I did not like teachers who simply put a grade on a paper. I wanted to know what the teacher liked and what s/he felt could be stronger. I guess many of us teach using the style we felt was most effective for us when we were students.

A comment on the blog suggested that it would not only be easier, but perhaps the students would prefer it if I just put a grade on a speech. As tempting as that is, I do not think I could do that. In addition, if I critique a speech, I feel that if (and when) challenged about a grade, all I have to do is tell them to look over the comments. Of course, they still complain in groups, but would not talk to me one-on-one about a grade.

Still, I have to admit, that I finished this past week with 19 critiques to type. I have never been that far behind, but the day job has just been that crazy. My MWF class had six people speak on both Monday and Wednesday, my Tuesday-Thursday class had five people speak on Tuesday and my High School Class had two people make up the missed Informative Speech.

While I may cut down even further on what I tell them in a critique, I still feel the need to critique however. My goal is to have everyone finish the semester as a better speaker than when they started. If I do not provide the necessary feedback, that will not happen.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Pay Per Post

The following is a paid post

I recently learned of a new site called PayPerPost word of mouth ethics and I am very intrigued and even excited. This is a site that actually enables bloggers to get paid for blogging.

By visiting the PayPerPost site PayPerPost and registering (your blog needs to be 90 days old), you will find opportunities available to you from various advertisers and companies that want you to review their site. Not everyone qualifies for all opportunities but, there are a number of them listed. Each one will tell you how much they will pay you to submit an entry on your blog. I believe the minimum is $5 for an entry.

What is great about this is you get to chose which requests you feel fit on your blog. For instance, in terms of teaching, I see there are a number of opportunities that deal with tutors. Certainly something like that would fit on such a blog.

A friend of mine actually told me about this blog and mentioned that if you take advantage of various opportunities, you could easily earn about $100 a week (or more). I have not yet really started to examine these opportunities, and I don’t know that I would be looking to make $100/week. Still, knowing that the opportunities are out there and that possibility exists, it is very encouraging.

Getting paid for what we love to do, how exciting and intriguing.

Busy, Busy, Busy

With three classes this semester, what I had feared might happen certainly seems to have happened. There are not enough hours in a day. If you simply look at the frequency I had been posting on this blog up until a month ago, and then you look at the past month, you can see that there has been a dramatic decline.

Of late, it has been the day job that has been keeping me swamped. I have never been this busy with the day stuff. Now, when I am busiest with teaching (because of juggling three classes), I also am the busiest at the other job.

Well, certainly things have suffered as I have about 20 speeches I need to critique. I plan on getting them done this weekend and the truth is, I probably should be doing them now instead of blogging. Still, what I have not done much of in the past few weeks is anything for me. I have been answering to one person or another. I have been falling behind in all my work. Yes, perhaps the smartest thing to do is to focus on the school work that needs to get done, but who ever said I was smart. Actually, for my own sanity, I just need a little bit of time to do the things I find relaxing. One of those is blogging, so the speeches can wait another hour, the work will still be there.

Hopefully I will be back to blogging on a more regular basis. I enjoy it and it really helps me.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Differences Between The Classes

It is crazy how things can change. When I started teaching a group of High School Seniors Public Speaking, I quickly learned out how challenging it could be. While it was true that the students were coming to the college environment and they were getting college credit for the work, I found that there was a big difference between High Schoolers (even seniors) and College Students.

This semester, of the three classes I am teaching, I think I like the High School class the best. The class on the main campus has 22 students (actually now 21 as one withdrew). They can be a good bunch and discussions can be interesting. The problem is there are some talkers in that class. Stopping a lecture and staring at a student does not even do the trick any more. I actually came close to asking one of my college students to leave my class last week, because it got so bad. I have never done that as I feel college students are entitled to be treated like adults.

Then there is my class of traditional college students at the campus center. There are 14 students but two have apparently stopped coming. I am sure they will complain when they see their grade, but if you don’t show up, don’t expect to pass. Now the problem with this class is they just do not seem to care. All they are interested in is getting out early. When I try to get a discussion of the ground with them, it is like trying to get a hot air balloon off the ground that remains anchored. The things that other classes have always responded to, this class just gives me blank stares. In fact, when I graded the first speech for students in this class, I was a little harder than I normally am for a first speech. If they are not going to work with me and show me they are putting in the time and effort, I am not going to work with them.

This leaves me with my High School Seniors, the group that comes to the campus center. I have learned how to pull the reigns in on them a little more than other classes. Still, I treat them like adults because this is a college class and that is how they should be treated. I think they appreciate it and realize that most of their high school teachers do not treat them this way. So, for this semester, at least at the current time, this is the class that seems to be the most interesting and enjoyable to teach and the class that, on the whole, seems to be the most interested in learning.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


When the semester started I was all excited about having a one hour and 20 minute break between by two classes on Tuesday and Thursday. I figured that I am not getting enough exercise and I could use the time to go out for a walk. Oh, the best laid plans of mice and men…

Right now the day job is so hectic, I do not have time to take care of everything that I need to. I am supposed to have a program ready to go by Wednesday, End of Day. Even if I were putting full time in from the office and extra time from home, there is not enough time to do this. The client, of course, does not want to hear.

Since the software is only on my office and home computer, I cannot do anything between my two classes for the day job. Instead, I am putting all my time in the office (and even at home) into this program and then working on my school work between classes.

I really get frustrated with clients who are completely irrational with demands. I wanted to start this program a couple of weeks ago but my client said “no” because their client said to hold off. Now it is crunch time and no one is listening to the fact that this is the clients fault and that I honestly have my doubts about being ready for rollout tomorrow evening.

I am not sure what will happen, but it promises to be interesting. Hopefully, once this is out of the way, I can put more of my time back into the schoolwork.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A New Pet Peeve

One of the things I dislike most about teaching is grading. I like giving feedback and helping make people better speakers. I dislike having to put a grade on it. Still, this is part of the job so I do it. Sometimes my students like my grades, sometimes they don’t. Truth is most of the time the get at least a B-, as long as the student gets up in front of the class, tries, and delivers the speech when s/he is supposed to speak. That does not mean students always like the grade. I tell my students I will always listen if they have a disagreement, I may not agree, I many not change the grade, but I will always listen.

Today in class, some students started complaining about grades they received. I told them that I would gladly talk to any of them, one-on-one, after class, but it was not going to turn into an “attack” session at the current time.

I deliberately wrapped up class 15-20 minutes early so anyone who wanted to discuss the grade could do so. Sometimes students are running from one class to another, or I need to run, and it is not feasible to talk with everyone after class who wishes to talk with me. This way, I figured no one has anything to do for at least 15 minutes, the next class on campus does not start for another 25 minutes, they could approach me.

Would you care to guess how many students came up to me? That’s right, Zero, none, nada, not one! In other words, as long as there are a bunch of students together, they are willing to “take me on” but the minute I set the ground rules, tell them it will be one-to-one, no one has the guts to talk with me. I talk this as a personal insult. I pride myself on making myself available to my students, regardless of what I need to do, yet no one will discuss this, they would rather bitch, complain and work in groups.

At this point, if someone approaches me about the grade received on this speech, I do not think I will be available. It is really the first time I have even felt like I am not willing to listen to concerns (or even gripes) of the students.

I know it has been a while since I have posted. I have just been swamped and a little overwhelmed. I have wanted to post for awhile and today I just needed to vent. Hopefully this will resume the flow of consistent posting.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

A Routine

Well, it is time to get into a routine and stay there. I realize this sounds a little strange considering the semester, my semester, started the very end of August. Still, I have yet to get there. First of all, while two of my classes started the end of August, the third one did not start until two weeks later, mid-September, since it is made up of high school students.

Even once all the classes got underway, I was still not in a routine. Many people do not know but there are a number of Jewish Holidays, major Holidays, Holidays that one is commanded to take off from work (and in this day and age go to the synagogue and pray). The first Holiday is Rosh Hashanah, and most people know that one. This Holiday is celebrated for two days. In effect, I needed to take Wednesday and Thursday off from work. Ten days later is Yom Kippur. That one fell on a Saturday, so know time was needed. Four days later, or two weeks after Rosh Hashanah, is the Holiday of Sukkot. It is a seven day festival but only the first two days are Holy days, again a Thursday and a Friday this year. The week after that is Shmini Atzeret/Simchat Torah. Again, Thursday, Friday this year. Within a four week span, there are four Holidays and this year, I needed to take 6 days off of work. That means that for each of my classes, I missed three session.

One session I sent in a video tape, one session they were given an at-home assignment, and one holiday I just gave them the day off. Hard to get into a routine. To complicate matters, now that the Holidays are over, school is off tomorrow because of Columbus day, so I still cannot get into a routine. Hopefully, after that, I should not need to take any time off and we pretty much meet straight through until Thanksgiving break.

Of course, nothing is ever definite. My wife is down with pneumonia. I have a respiratory infection and my son had croup last week, but is hopefully over it now. So with sickness, anything can happen. With the way things played out at the beginning of the semester, at times it felt like the gods were against me. Hopefully, there is not more problem with sickness and the gods will now work for me.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Absent Minded Professor

Sometimes I think I know myself too well. Mind you, not that this is always helpful, but it is a fact. As I mentioned in my last post, I was looking with a folder that had some notes. I had four speeches to critique and I had planned to do the work on Tuesday. Normally I would do it even earlier, but I was busy critiquing other speeches.

Well, on Tuesday, I could not find the folder. I thought maybe I left it at the campus center where I teach on Tuesdays. My motives for bringing it there were pure. I had hoped to get to critique a speech or two between my two classes, as I have an hour of down time. I did not get to it and thought that I might have left the folder with the notes there. I also thought I might have left it in my office.

In the previous post, however, I said it was possible I even had it in the car. I had checked that night and did not see it, but who knows, maybe I overlooked it. As it turns out, the following day my son was giving me a hard time about getting ready for school. I had to carry him out of the house and put him in the car (that used to be easier). As I put him in the car, I looked down and guess what I found? There, in the back seat, was the folder with the notes. It was too late to type up the critiques, but at least I had my notes and I had my folder.

The thought that entered my mind at that point was, “The absent minded professor lives”. It seems to me a move like this, misplacing a folder and not finding it when you look in the place where you have actually put it, is typical of the absent minded professor. Well, hopefully the absent minded professor will be no more and I will be able to keep track of what I need.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Where Are My Notes

I think all the classes are beginning to catch up with me. Over the weekend, I critiqued 11 icebreaker speeches (a speech of introduction), typically the first speech given by students. It is a non-graded speech, but I always look to provide a lot of feedback here so the students know how I grade, and what I am looking for. I also critiqued five informative speeches and a make up speech that one of my students missed.

This past Monday we continued with informative speeches in one of my classes, but only four people spoke. I figured I would be in good shape to critique those this evening. After all, with 17 speeches down, four in one night would seem like a cakewalk. Now for the problem.

As I got set to beginning typing my critiques, I noticed I did not have the folder that had my notes in it for the informative speeches I need to critique and grade. I first thought I would leave those at home, so I would have them when I was ready to type. I made a conscious decision however, to take them with me to school today since I have an hour of free time between my two classes. Unfortunately, that hour was used taking care of some things for my “day job” and I never got to the critiques. Now, I am not sure where I left the folder.

It could be at the campus center where I was teaching today. That is about an hour away from my house and 20 minutes away from the main campus, where I teach tomorrow. It could be in the office where I work, which is only about ten minutes from the house. The problem there is, I do not know if I will get a chance to get over there tomorrow before I have to go to teach. If I don’t I need to decide if I ride the extra 20 minutes to the campus center to see if I left it there (and if I did not, it would just be a waste of time and gas) or do I make the 45 minute drive back to the office after class only to possibly have to turn right back around and drive another hour to the campus center (and an hour back).

Of course there is the possibility that it is in my car or in the house. I have checked both places and have not found it. Just because, however, I have not found it does not mean it is not there.

In other words, the absent minded professor lives.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Whose To Blame

It always amazes me the way student speeches go. Usually this does not happen until the second or third speech the students give, but this semester, right from the get-go. They are given the speaking assignments well in advance. I give them my home phone number, my cell phone and my e-mail. I ask in class if they have any questions or need any one-on-one help with their speech. I tell them if they are uncomfortable, they should call me and ask for some assistance.

Well, the first day of speeches, one of my students never showed up. The student showed up the next class session and said a friend of hers had told her that the informative speech was actually persuasive. The student claims she e-mailed me asking this question, with a copy of the speech. Now, I never got it, but even more troubling is the fact that at the 11th hour, she is making changes and not ready to go. Better to do the speech on time, even if it is missing the objective of the speech than to give it late. What is the student waiting for.

A second speaker e-mailed me at 11:30PM, the night before her speech was to be given. The e-mail told me of trying to finish a powerpoint presentation and now having just got a computer with vista, she was having trouble putting the last few slides together. She asked if she could switch to the next day. It would be better if students did not wait until the last minute to put the finishing touches on.

I am a softy. So for all the protests I make here, I let students switch things around. I do, however, take off a few points, as the speech is not given on time.

So, the question is, am I contributing to this type of destructive behavior or is it just the students? Either way, hopefull this behavior will stop.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Asing For It

It is discouraging when you have a student that is seemingly asking for a bad grade. We are currently in the middle of informative speeches and one of the students volunteered to speak on the second day of speeches. When it came time for this individual to speak, it was quite apparent that there was little preparation. Still, the speaker got up and spoke.

Unfortunately shortly into the speech, this individual realized just how unprepared he was. In his speech, we started getting expletive after expletive. I will try and give a student a little leeway if something like this happens. It does not happen often, but sometimes the nervousness of a speaker overtakes the speaker.

Unfortunately, this speaker after using it once, started using one every other sentence. I am far from a prude, but in a professional speech, that does not cut it. In fact, even the other students in class finally asked him to clean up his language. So, unfortunately there is not much I can do. I know some of the other professor would fail him. Some of the students in my class, if they were the teacher, would fail this student. I won’t do that. I understand the frustrations of speaking, of losing your place, freezing, and just in general having things not go the way you had planned. If a student gets up in front of the class, the student will get some credit for speaking. However, while I will not fail this individual, the grade will clearly be reduced because of the language.

There is never a dull moment in class.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Overlooked Scheduling

The first time it looked like I was going to be teaching three classes in one semester, I was so careful in planning the syllabi and making everything jive. I wanted to avoid having a week where I would have to listen to students in all of my classes give speeches. It takes some time to critique them and I wanted to space them out. I successfully did that and was happy. Unfortunately, one of those three classes did not have the necessary enrollment and my efforts did not matter. I can handle students in two of the classes speaking on the same day.

The second time, the story was much the same. I got to the point where I did not really expect all three classes to go. It varied as to which class did not go, but one of them did not. So, at some point I stopped worrying about how the speeches fell.

This semester, I have three classes, all going, for the first time. This semester, I did not stop to plan out and make sure that students from all three classes were not giving speeches in the same week. It may have worked out that way, but I am not sure.

As it stands right now, I have five speeches from my MWF class that have to be critiqued. I have 11 icebreakers from my class of high school seniors that have to be critiqued. There were supposed to be 14, but three students were absent. And, I have one speech from my other Tuesday-Thursday class that has to be critiqued- a makeup icebreaker. So, while this was not the fault of the syllabus, last week was a week where I heard speeches from students in each of my classes and have to critique them. I hope that does not happen again.

I take a little bit of comfort in the fact that there is an hour break between my two Tuesday-Thursday classes, so if need be, I can use that time for critiquing the icebreakers of the high-schoolers. I would rather use that time for something else, but if I need it, it is there.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

It's Starting Already

It is amazing how things already take shape. We have started the first graded speech of the semester. I tell students if they miss a speech I deduct five points and grade it on a harder scale as they have more time to work on the speech. I also let them know if they have a valid excuse AND they contact me before the next class, I can forgo the five point deduction but not the harder scale since they still have the additional time.

Well today I was supposed to have 6 speeches but one student was not there and I have not heard from this individual (yet). On Monday, there were also supposed to be 6 speeches but one student did not show and one who did show was not prepared. The one who was not there on Monday claimed that I was sent an e-mail but it just was not getting through to me. I never saw it.

The second student, while I am disappointed was not ready to speak, at least came up to me and said, “I forgot”. At first it seemed like there was an excuse coming and then the student stopped and said, “You know what, I just forgot”. That approach goes a lot further with me.

Still, usually it is not until the second or third graded speech that students start missing the scheduled speaking date. It is very frustrating when it happens at all, but for it to be happening this early in the semester is very depressing. Sometimes I just wonder about the dedication of today’s students.

I am always tempted to make students who give late speeches wait an extra session for my critique and grade. I am always tempted to provide less feedback as my protest statement. Thus far, however, my conscience has always won out and I have been unable to do that.

Hopefully the rest of the students are there, on time, to give the speech on the date that each signed up for.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


My father taught as an adjunct professor for over 30 years. He had quite a following. He also had numerous degrees he had earned, many of which carried certain titles. Any were appropriate. Still, he used to tell his students if they wanted to make him feel smart, feel good, put him in a good mood before grading, they should call him ‘Professor’. When he first told his students this, he was not a full professor, although ultimately he was able to get the degree, despite being an adjunct.

I have a slightly different relationship with my students. I am on a first name basis with them, they can call me by my first name. This is something my father never would have done. Still, while I do not have any such degree, there is always a rewarding feeling when some of your students call you professor. I, of course, am not a professor. I think my rank is adjunct lecturer, but I am not even sure.

While I tell my students that they can call me by my first name, I also know that some of them are more comfortable calling me by my last name, or using a title, and I am fine with that. In fact, like my dad, sometimes I find it feeding my ego.

In fact, when I was interviewing for the full-time position (still no word) at campus, as I was getting a tour, a former student passed me in the hall and said, “Hey professor … , how are you?” That could not have been timed any better or more perfectively. It was a nice feeling and one that may help to earn me a position.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Where Are You?

It seems every semester I have a student or two on my roster who never shows up to class. I e-mail the students but never hear back. The college policy is, if someone never shows up, you have to give them a failing grade and you list the last date the student attended class, which in this case would be the first class session.

I used to feel bad about failing these students. They never showed, maybe something happened, maybe they thought they dropped, who knows. I do, as I said before, however, e-mail them and try to do my part. Still, I would rather not fail such students.

Last semester, however, I learned something very interesting talking to one of the other adjuncts. It seems that in order to get certain amounts of financial aid, students often need to take a certain amount of credits. So, they register for a class to which they never intend to show. Sure, they fail the class, but they still get the financial aid.

When I learned of this little fact, I stopped feeling so guilty, so sorry for the students I failed because they never showed up. And, in the event the instructor who told me this is wrong, it is still up to the students to know what they have dropped and what classes they still have. Again, as a result, I do not feel so bad when I have to fail these students.

The joys of teaching.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Happy Camper

It is interesting how things work. Sometimes what we initially think is a negative can turn out to be positive (and, of course, Vice-Versa). Over the summer I had applied for a full-time teaching position at the college where I work as an adjunct. I have posted on this before, how I have always done what was asked of me and was disappointed that they did not even bring me in for an interview for the position. I would have been fine with them hiring someone else, but I really felt they should have tossed me a bone and interviewed me.

After this happened, I decided I needed to stop being so accommodating. I am not suggesting that I should cut back on doing my responsibilities, but I needed to also concentrate on me, instead of doing the things I hoped might bring me a full-time position.

As a result, when I put my syllabus together this semester, I took off all the Jewish Holidays. It is certainly legitimate and protected by state law. Still, it is difficult when you have seven days needed to take off within a month span (assuming none of the holidays fall on a weekend). This year, since Yom Kippur fell on a Friday, I only needed six days off. Still that meant that I needed last Thursday and Friday off (9/13-9/14), as well as this coming Thursday and Friday (9/27-9/28) and the following Thursday and Friday (10/4-10/5). In the past, I might have worked a couple of those days because I felt self conscious taking off so much time at the beginning of the semester in such a short period. This year is different. I took it off with no hesitation as I decided this was important to me and what I had done for years before.

As it turned out, many of you know from a previous post that after not getting the teaching position, I interviewed for another position on campus. I do not know if I will get it (I hope so), but one way or another, at least they did what I feel they needed to, they gave me the opportunity to interview for it. From here, they will decide who their favorite choice is (and I’m sure rank the first few candidates in order in case the first person offered the position turns it down).

In other words, I am taking off all the days I want (need, or feel entitled to) and I have the opportunity to obtain a full-time position at the college. I am a happy camper.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Whose Line

Today we played Whose Line Is It Anyway in class. Before the students give their first speech, I play the game, it has become one of my trademarks. First we watch a bunch of segments from the show and then we play.

I remember when I was in High School, if our English teacher wanted to “reward” us, she would show us some videotapes of the Best Of Saturday Night Live (Old Cast) and we all enjoyed it. In part, I show the clips for the entertainment and enjoyment purposes. It is not a reward, but it helps students get a laugh before their first graded assignment.

In addition, it teaches the students how difficult it can be to come up with creative improv stuff. The main purpose, however, is to make the students embarrass themselves a little bit. I am not looking to make this a horrific experience, just a little bit of embarrassment. After everyone has had a chance, I explain that most speakers are nervous when giving a speech because they are afraid of doing something that will embarrass them in front of others (whether that is making a mistake, poor delivery, or something else). Here, they have just embarrassed themselves in front of the rest of the class so they no longer need to worry about that and they can just relax and concentrate on doing well.

This exercise usually seems to help and even if it doesn’t, most of the students enjoy playing the game. And, perhaps as an added treat (or maybe an added bit of displeasure) I play too. They, as a class, can pick which event I participate in.

I would not ask my students to do something that I am unwilling to do.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Dealing With High-Schoolers

It is interesting how perceptions can change over time. When I first started teaching my class made up of high school seniors, I found the group to be difficult, it was hard for me to teach. It still requires some additional tolerance and I have to deal with certain issues that many other instructors do not, but I have grown to appreciate this class.

Many seniors come to my class and have had limited to no experience with college classes. I treat them like they are traditional college students. They have the freedom to come and go as they please; they call me by my first name; they are treated like adults.

When I start teaching this way, they seem to enjoy it. They give me the impression that they have never had another teacher that does some of the crazy things I do, and they enjoy that. So, this class has move from one of the ones I found most difficult to teach to one of the ones I enjoy the most. I like the course material, but I like the approach and the way they relate to what I am teaching. These days it seems like I am able to get a livelier discussion going with the group of high-schoolers. I guess this is my reward.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Taking Off The Mirror

It is amazing the obstacles we tolerate so that we can do our jobs. My new house has a nice size, two and one half car garage. Since we get a lot of snow and cold weather, this is a good thing. Unfortunately, I have not yet learned how to gage the distance of things appropriately. I went to pull the car out of the garage the other day. I was certain I was clear of the sides of the garage but in backing out, I hit the side of the garage, taking off my side view mirror.

Fortunately it was not that expensive to fix and it did not even take long to get it done. It did, however, take me a couple of days to make the calls and get everything set up. If I were not teaching, things would not be too bad. My “Day Job” is about five miles away from my house. Teaching, however, takes me about 40 miles out of my way, every day.

Try driving 40 miles without a side view mirror on the driver’s side. It is not easy, even for those of us who do not think we use it that much. Now, try driving with a broken side view mirror. The shattered glass makes it even more difficult than driving a car with no mirror.

Here I am, driving for the past couple of days, with a side view mirror that does not work, heading to campus, making sure I get the job done (I am so dedicated- lol). Well, now it is all taken care of and fixed. The next step is to get me fix, to get the eyes checked (it has been too long since my last exam) and to see if I have a depth perception issue. All I have to do is find the time. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

You Did This To Yourself

It was not long ago that I was posting blog entries expressing concern that my second or third public speaking classes might not go, that enrollment would be too low. As I indicated in subsequent entries, both other classes went and for the first time, I am teaching three classes in one semester.

As the old saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for, it might come true”. Well, I am sure that when I start getting checks from the university, I will be pleased to have extra income (especially because my main job, the day job, is one where the boss pays me what he can, when he can, since there is not a steady stream of money coming into the business. I can go weeks, or even months without seeing a paycheck, hence the reason for teaching classes in the first place). Right now, however, I am definitely feeling the pressures, the stress.

I could be feeling the stress because I am teaching three classes. I could be feeling the stress because I take off for the Jewish Holidays and there are so many around this time of year it is hard to get into a routine. I could be feeling the stress because I interviewed for a full-time, non-teaching position with the college. I could be feeling the stress because for the first time in months, things are picking up at the day job and I am really the only person in during the day and cannot afford to be out of the office so much. Of course, when showing up to teach brings in a paycheck and being in the office does not, I cannot afford to give up the teaching.

No matter how you look at it, the bottom line is, I am dealing with stress. This is the time where I would be happy if I only had two classes. This is the time where I would be thrilled if I was only teaching three days a week (as I usually do in the Spring) instead of five days a week.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could choose when we got busy, be able to space out the busy times from one position to another so it does not get crazy with all the jobs right around the same time. Oh well, nothing I can do about it now but try and enjoy it.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Liar, Liar

Today was video day in class. I showed a portion of Jim Carey’s Liar Liar. The movie is about a lawyer who makes a living lying and he does not leave his deception in the courtroom, he lies to his family as well. His son makes a birthday wish that for 24 hours his dad cannot lie, and the wish comes true.

There are a number of scenes in the movie that I could use to make a point but the one I like is the one where a coworker, seeking revenge and being the only one who knows Carey cannot lie, brings him into a boardroom and makes him tell each member there what he thinks of them. Carey’s facial expression and body language in general, along with his vocal variety, make the scene funny.

That is precisely the point I want to make. The lecture is about delivery and gestures. Rather than just getting up in front of the class and telling them, “Do this, don’t do that,” I like to actually show them and show them by playing a clip from a movie to which they can relate.

Honestly, it was a little frustrating when a couple of students continue to talk during this. Usually when I do something like this, especially with a movie like Liar Liar, I have the class in the palm of my hand. This is an interesting group. As a whole, they can get lively discussions off the ground but, there are times where a few students are not paying attention were I know they would actually enjoy the class AND learn something if they did. These, of course, are the same student who will complain to be about grades at the end of the semester. Folks, if you pay attention you might be surprised with what you learn!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A New Position?

I recently interviewed for another position where I teach. This is a full-time position and involves helping to run the program where high school students can get college credit. There are over 40 high schools that participate in this program. Those 40 plus schools are spread out over a 15 county area, so the person who has this position will stay quite busy.

I am not sure how it will play out but I know one of the classes I teach at the college is actually under the umbrella of this office, I teach a group of high school seniors. I have been doing this for the past three years or so. It has its challenges but it is also fun.

It is up to the hiring committee to decide if I am the best candidate. It is up to the hiring committee to decide if my experience teaching this class actually makes me more qualified to handle the position.

It is up to me to make sure that if I get the position, I continue to periodically teach one of these classes. It does not have to be done as frequently as I am doing right now but I need to keep touch with where I started from, with the grass roots. Doing this is helpful, I believe, because it will provide me with first hand knowledge of what is happening with the program and what challenges students and teachers involved with the program face. Of course this is just one arm of the office and staying involved with the program would not help me with the other arms of the program, but it would still keep me involved and I believe that is very important.

I will keep you posted as to what happen; if I get the job or not and if I do, how I will manage to stay involved with teaching.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

My penitence (or T’Shuvah)

Having had a rough class my last session, I decided that my students needed to see me at my best and I hope I came through at the last class session. It helps that the material is amongst some of my favorite. I was talking about organizing the body of a speech and introductions and conclusions.

For the organization part, I start off by giving them a recipe of how to make a dish for dinner. The recipe however is out of order. So, I say something like first do this than that, however before you get here you should also do this. Even before that, do this. Continue by doing that. And it goes on like that.

I asked the students if they would be able to figure out the recipe and they tell me they probably could. I then show the same recipe in chronological order and ask them which one would be easier to follow if they were cooking and which would be quicker (because you do not need to decipher anything). Of course, they tell me the recipe where it is organized chronologically is best. I then not only tell them, but show them that the way you organize a speech (or anything really) is important.

After this part of the lecture, I talk about introductions and here is where I usually am able to have every class member focus on what I say (at least for a short period of time). I tell them I am big on introductions and introductions are important. My next line is something like, “A speech without a good introduction is a lot like sex … … … … … Without foreplay”.

I go on to tell them that it can get the job done and it can even be good, but if they want it to be truly memorable, than it is important. Usually, by this point all eyes are on me and students are amazed that I actually said it. I think it is a great analogy and it makes the point. Most of the semester I will not reference sex. I do try to be politically correct, as much as possible. Certainly I do not want to insult anyone. I think this is another reason why I get their attention, because they feel it is out of character for me.

And, it I did not make it up to them with the lecture, I actually let them go about five minutes early (which is a rarity for me).

Friday, because of the Jewish Holiday, they had the day off from class. Now, it is back to the routine and while I do not feel I “owe” them a good class, certainly I always want them to enjoy it, so it is time to start looking over Monday’s lesson.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Three's A Charm

Today started my third class. Up until now, I have never taught more than two classes in a semester. I have been offered, but enrollment for one of the three classes never took off, so I only did two of them. The two that I did would vary, but only two.

Of the three classes I teach, one is on the main campus. Any public speaking class on the main campus will go. A second class I teach is at one of the campus centers. I usually do this one once a week, on Fridays. This semester, based on when they wanted be on the main campus, I was switched to a Tuesday-Thursday schedule. This class sometimes goes and sometimes doesn’t. It is going this semester. The third class I teach is also at the campus center, but it is for high school seniors, in the different area schools. This one also sometimes goes and sometimes does not. This semester it is going.

Because the third class is with high school students, it usually starts a couple of weeks later and today was the first class session. Right now it feels overwhelming and that I have a bit too much on my plate. Still, I am going to do this, do it well and enjoy it.

I realize if I were not an adjunct then I would not have additional responsibilities to juggle. Still, doing three actually puts me in awe of the full timers at the community college who teach five classes.

Well, here is to a full, fun and exciting semester. Cheers!

Monday, September 10, 2007

An Unprepared Teacher

Today was probably the first day ever where I was not prepared to teach. Do not get me wrong. I have had those days where nothing goes right. I have had those days where the students are not paying attention and no matter what you try, it just does not work. I have had, like everyone else who teaches, those days where you just feel like chucking the whole thing and doing something else. Today was not like that.

The movers came this past weekend to move us into our new place. The computer was not set up and we will not have internet access for a few more days. As a result, we left the computer set up in the old apartment, which we still have some time to vacate. The computer is still hooked up to the internet (which we still have at the old place) and it is also hooked up to the printer. An old computer is in our new place. By the time it was set up, along with enough of the house to do work, it was time to put the child to bed (and of course he wanted me to do it). I did not start typing up my critiques for the class until close to 9PM, and I had 13 to do (and I still have 11 for my Tuesday, Thursday class). I stopped around midnight and did the last three around 5:30 this morning. I still had to print them out.

I had hoped to have time to stop at the old place to print them off of my thumb drive, but there just was not enough time. When I got to campus I had to print them out and attach the comments from all other students to the critique. I then realized with less than 10 minutes to the start of class, I did not even know what I was supposed to cover in today’s class. Fortunately, on my thumb drive I have a lesson plan of each chapter in the book. I found a copy of my syllabus so I knew what chapters we were covering today. I printed them out, grabbed them and ran to class. I did not have a chance to look over the notes ahead of time or to skim the chapters, which I like to do. I still have no idea how comprehensible I was (or comprehensive for that matter), but I just never felt like I had a grasp on that lesson, and I hate that.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Personality Traits

It is amazing how, after students give their first speech of the semester, I am much better at knowing everyone’s name. The initial speech is a speech about themselves. I tell the students, however, I am not looking for an autobiography of their life. I want to know what makes each person unique, what makes them who they are.

When I first started teaching I had a tough time getting this across. I then noticed that in the textbook I use (adjuncts do not have a say in the matter, we are just told), there is an appendix towards the beginning about the icebreaker. It has great information and I rely on it heavily during the first two class sessions so the students know what I want.

Then, after a couple of semesters, I was sent a copy of the videotape that goes with this (and now CD and DVD). These contain examples of the different types of speeches, all of them student speeches. So, now I show them to the students and we discuss them and the students have a much better time understanding what I want. As my dad used to say, “It is so much easier if you know what you have at your disposal”.

Now, when I hear the students give the speech of introduction, the icebreaker, they discuss something that happened to them during the course of life (such as one student who told us his father died when the student was just two years old). Some students take one item and explain many different things about the personality through the item. For example, one student discussed her charm bracelet and what each charm signified.

It is fascinating that once I hear the speech, I have something tangible to attach to each student. This actually makes it much easier for me to remember names as I will recall each student by something about his or her personality.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Procrastinating Or Not, You Decide

Things are as I feared. I now have 21 speeches to critique and I have not yet started the process. Nine of them should be handed back tomorrow. Now, I can be a procrastinator, but I plead not guilty this time around.

The first nine speeches were given yesterday and I had hoped to start the process. After class, however, I had a doctor’s appointment. From the doctor, I had my “regular” job, I needed to get some things there. Last night I had a meeting for a club I am involved with. It is a public speaking organization and as a result, since that is what I teach, it is definitely worth my while to attend. At that meeting, it was decided that a few of our members needed to be contacted via e-mail. When I got home, I started doing that. In addition, I am trying to help my wife pack as the movers are coming this weekend to move us from our apartment to our new home. Since I pulled a muscle, or strained it, or did something, over this past weekend, my wife is not letting me do much packing, but I am trying to help a little.

Today, I had my second class to teach and I just realized that my third class, which starts this Tuesday, still needed a course syllabus to be completed, so I do that. Again, I still have to do some things back in the office for my main job. So, with today’s class another 11 students spoke, thus raising the total to 20 speeches that need to be critiqued.

I do like to get the speech critiques back to them As Soon As Possible, especially for the first speech, so it looks like after I finish helping my son with his homework tonight and put him to bed (I certainly should be doing this if I cannot do much to get ready for the movers. This will free my wife up to do those things), it looks like I will be up late, pounding the keyboard, typing up feedback for speeches.

This, to me, is when the life of an adjunct gets overwhelming. Trying to get all this in while still going into the office to take care of other things. Oh well, it could be worse. And, yes, typing this entry is therapeutic. It is amazing that something which takes up even more of my time can be so helpful when it comes to reducing stress.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A Lot Of Speeches

I am about to enter one of the busiest, or perhaps in a sense most difficult parts of the college semester. I know it seems strange to read that considering the semester is just over a week old, but here is where things are.

Every semester, the first formal speech the students have to give is one where they introduce themselves to the rest of the class by revealing some aspect of their personality. It is a non-graded speech, except for the fact that it counts in class participation so they cannot just skip it or plan on “winging” it.

I liked the students to know where I feel they are starting. They should know what I feel their strengths and weaknesses are. As a result, each student will get a full critique from me. Usually, in any given speech day there are no more than eight speaker and that is already a lot. I try to keep it to around six. Since this speech, however, is much shorter, many more students speak each session. I also try and get the students the critique back by the next class session. Sometimes I fail, but I try. Again, especially with the first speech, I want to get it back to them ASAP so they can formulate a game plan for the rest of the semester.

My 55 minute class has 22 students. Approximately half of them will speak tomorrow and the other half on Friday. My Tuesday, Thursday class is one hour and 20 minutes and has 13 students. All of them will be speaking on Thursday. That means that I will be listening to and critiquing 35 speeches over 3 days with the intent of having all critiques handed back my Monday.

I like these speeches, I just wish I did not have to critique them. Usually I enjoy giving feedback to students but this is just a little too much.

Oh well, I will survive… I do every semester.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Labor Day

Today marks the unofficial end of summer. There was a time that just about all schools started the day after Labor Day. Now, it is very haphazard. Some schools still start this coming Wednesday. Some schools start tomorrow and many schools, especially Colleges and Universities started this past week.

I started last week. Yes, it is nice to start a little earlier as that means that I will end a little earlier. Still, there are other schools that will not start until this week and will also end right around the same time I do. It does feel a little awkward to teach for a week and then turn around and have a day off. I think that there is something to be said for going back to the old way, all schools start the Wednesday after Labor Day.

Actually, in terms of days off, it is interesting how my Monday, Wednesday, Friday class differs from my Tuesday and Thursday class. On MWF, I have something like three or four days off for the semester. For my Tuesday, Thursday class, I only have one day off and that is Thanksgiving Thursday. I think that it would be advantageous to give students another day or two off for Tuesday, Thursday classes, just so they get a chance to recharge their batteries.

The college, however, does not see it that way, so I will be in class when I am supposed to be there. Hopefully students from all my classes will use today to get some extra rest and recharge and they will be ready to go tomorrow.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Making Use Of Your Time

Do college students make the best use of time? How about teachers? Or, human beings in general. All to often we think about all we have to do and feel like we just do not have enough time. Sometimes this is true, but other times perhaps we are the ones who make it too difficult.

I once read a quote that said “The time we spend wasting is not wasted time”. I agree. Therefore, I am not suggesting that we waste too much time, rather I am suggesting we do not plan as well as we could. This point was driven home just a little while ago by my son.

He is watching cartoons on television and is engrossed. I asked him if he wanted lunch and he said, “nay, not right now”. I know he is so engrossed by cartoons he just does not want to be bothered or think about it. I told him that he needed to realize that it will take time for me to make his lunch and if he tells me now, it can be ready at the end of the show. He acknowledged this but still said he was not ready to decide on lunch.

Let me tell you what will happen. The show will end, he will tell me he is hungry and then he will start whining because he will have to wait for me to make lunch. He does not matter that I pointed this out to him.

As frustrating as this is, I think the rest of us are just as guilty of doing things similar to this. When we could be working on a lesson plan or preparing school work (or in some way have some of it prepared while we are relaxing), we do not think about it. Then it gets late in the day and we start looking to cut corners.

Hopefully, we will all learn the best way of making use of the time that we have (and yes, making use of that time includes relaxing so we have more energy for things when we need it). And, hopefully my son will not whine or have a temper tantrum.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Learning Names

As the semester gets underway, I (like most teachers) face the task of learning the names of students. Being that I teach a Public Speaking class, even my large classes do not go over 22 students, so it is certainly doable for me to learn all the names). I have often wondered if it is easier for an adjunct like me to learn the names, or if it is easier for a full time teacher to learn.

As an adjunct, I teach fewer classes than a full-timer. Teaching at a community college, full-timers teach five classes. As an adjunct, I cannot teach more than three classes. This means it is easier for me because I have fewer students overall.

On the other side, a full-timer is on campus a lot more than an adjunct. This means that he or she sees the students around campus. Students can come say” hello”. Full-timers hold office hours (or more office hours) depending on the institution. Again, this allows students to spend more time with a professor early on and learn names.

I guess the truth is, it really depends on the individual teacher and not whether or not the individual is a full-timer or an adjunct. I am usually not so great when it comes to learning names. Still, I usually can learn the names of all my students within two to three weeks of the start of the semester. I think I am on pace to do that. I certainly hope so, as I feel I owe it to my students to not only know who they are, but to also learn there names.

I’ll let you know in another week or two if I succeeded.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Class Dynamics

Yesterday I posted about possible ways to get students involved in class conversations. Today, I was thinking about the dynamics tat make up a class. A few semesters ago, I had two classes. One of the classes had 22 students. It met on Tuesdays and Thursdays for One hour and 20 minutes. The other class met once a week, on Fridays. It was a three hour class (from 12:30-3:30) and no other classes started later than 3:30 on Friday afternoons and most other classes had already come to an end. That means that my class was the only thing preventing students from starting the weekend. This class had a total of six students. How a class with only six students actually went is a story for a different day.

Now, if you think about the two classes, the one you would think would have livelier discussions (at least the one I would have thought) would have been the Tuesday, Thursday class. The class is for less time and there are more students. In addition, the Friday class would already be thinking about the weekend and waiting for me to stop talking so they could leave. Still, this is not what happened.

The Friday class probably could be a case study in small group communications. Everyone felt a part of the class. They liked the discussions and participated. They knew there were not many students in the class so they would have to hold up their end of the class by speaking. Also, with fewer students in class, students were less intimated and less self conscious as they felt they were only be judged by a handful of people.

It was an interesting and fun class. It taught me to expect the unexpected and not to make certain assumptions about teaching. Still, every class has its own personality and it takes time to learn the personality.