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.

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.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Getting Them To Talk

A reader yesterday asked the question, “as a new adjunct, how do you get a shy class to participate in class discussions”. It is an excellent question and it really warrant its own entry (at least one).

I certainly am interested in what other readers have to say and any tips they may have. I feel that what I tell my students about public speaking applies to this topic as well. What works for one person may not work for another. You could ask 20 different people about this and get at least 20 different answers. That being said, I find the following things work for me:

First, give the class time to gel as a unit. Do not expect that discussions will take place right off the bat. The students need time to get use to each other.

Two, even in a “shy” class, usually there are one or two students who are talkative, or more talkative. Use them to help get discussions started. Be careful as you do not want them to monopolize, but let them get the ball rolling.

Three, read facial expressions. I showed my class today some video tapes of student speeches. As they were playing I was watching the students watch the speeches. At the end of the video tape, I said something like, “Watching student ‘x’, her body language indicated that she did not like this speech at all. She was so put off by a comment, she had a tough time focusing on the rest of the speech”. Then I asked if I was right. Sometimes this can backfire but today I nailed everyone of them. They looked at me with an expression that said, “What are you a mind reader”. Still, when I told them what I thought they thought, they responded and got involved in the discussion.

Fourth, certain topics lend themselves to discussions. If you are talking about something current that students can relate to (and that applies to your topic), it will spark some discussion. Michael Vick or Leona Helmsley are two current newsmakers that will probably work.

Next, some statement will get your audience riled up enough, they will comment. Try telling them that Osama Bin Laden has not been treated fairly by the news media, for example. Yes, this would have worked better a few years ago but that comment would probably get students angry enough to talk.

Finally, do not be afraid to call on students and ask what they think. If they are hesitant or do not want to say anything, let them off the hook. Still, calling out their names can help get discussions going.

I am far from an expert on this but those are my suggestions or tricks. For me, they usually work and if you use them I hope they work as well. If anyone else has other ideas, please comment.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Old Students Saying "Hi"

Today was the first class of my Tuesday, Thursday class at the campus center where I teach. As I was walking from my car to the building (a very short walk in comparison to most campuses as this is more like a parking lot at an apartment complex), three former students (one from last semester and two from the semester before that) stopped me to say hello. I always enjoy it when students come up to me and say “Hello” because that means the enjoyed my class, or having me as a teacher, or more importantly they feel they got something out of my class.

One of my former students even told me that her cousin was in my class. That told me that she had obviously talked to her cousin about my class and about me. When I was a student these conversations had a huge impact on which classes I took. I presume things have not changed that much. Either the former student suggested to her cousin that she talk my class, or if it was after her cousin had already registered, she did not say things that made her want to drop the class.

I am not sure what other students in the class heard. On the whole, my quick read is it is a good group although a fairly shy group. My feeling is it will take awhile to get the students in class participating in discussions (but I think I am up for the challenge).

Monday, August 27, 2007

An Extra 25 Minutes

True to my word, I held my students right up until the end of class today. This actually was not enough time. In the Spring Semester I am usually given a class that meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays for one hour and 20 minutes. In the Fall, the switch me to a three day a week class. Each session meets for 55 minutes. Those extra 25 minutes make a B I G difference and I would have really liked them today.

Must of the class was spent going over my course syllabus. I also handed them a survey to find out about their likes and dislikes and how familiar they are with old television shows and movies (Old in terms of being from my generation), ones that I plan on working into my lecturers.

I did not have a chance to talk about my grading policy (and not giving out many “A’s”). I did not have a chance to talk about when they will get my critiques back (They usually like to have the grade the same day they give a speech. I usually get it back the next class session but will let them know it could be as much as three sessions later—one week from when they gave the speech). I did not have a chance to talk about the rules I want them to use when they evaluate a classmates speech. I did not have a chance to have them respond to a question of the day, or even explain to them what this is. All of these things will have to cut into Wednesday’s class time, time I want to use for something else. Still, I will manage.

The truth is, for a first class session, I felt things went well. I think they have an idea of who I am and what I am all about. I even had one student in class who, when I took attendance, indicated he was in the wrong class but he would like to see if he could switch into my class because it sounded more interesting and more enjoyable than the math class he had at this time.

On the whole, this was a good first class and I am excited and ready for the next one.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Critiquing A Speech

I need some advice. As I start my semester tomorrow I also tell my students that even though I teach a public speaking class, they will have a final. I also tell them that the final will consist of multiple choice questions as well as an essay. In addition, I even tell my students what the essay question is.

I tell my students I want them to take a speech they heard during the course of the semester (not one they gave and not one of my lectures) and I want them to critique it using all concepts we have talked about in class as well as those outlined in the book. The more they give them, the better. They can use a speech we heard in class or any speech they have heard, even if I was not there and did not hear it. (I do not tell them this but they can even make up a speech if they want as I am more interested in having them explain the concepts).

Last semester, one of my students, a member of the local Jaycees (and an officer) asked me to be a guest speaker at one of their meetings. She then critiqued the speech I gave on the final exam. I found it very difficult to grade a student critiquing one of my speeches (although I did find it quite humorous and flattering).

I like the students to have the freedom to critique a speech they like, one with which they feel comfortable critiquing. So the question is, should I set up further limitations and tell them they cannot critique a speech of mine (should they hear one), or should I just admire the creativity and “suck-up” ability of students if they are smart enough to come up with this idea? What do you think? I am interested in reading your responses.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Catching Up

I t looks like the second class will go, as I am up to 12 students. This is a good thing, but it also means all those things I had been holding off on, waiting to see if the class will go, I now have to get done. With the semester starting on Monday, and one of my classes starting on Monday with the other one on Tuesday, I will be spending my weekend doing such things.

I need to find a copy of the survey I want to distribute and print out copies. I need to do the same thing with the rules for evaluations, as I require my students not only to give speeches, but to evaluate each other. The biggest time consumer will be getting things set up on line. I do not do a lot of things on line but I can post a copy of my syllabus there and set up topics for discussions.

I do have my PowerPoint Presentation all set to go for my Monday, Wednesday, Friday class, but I now have to put one together for my Tuesday, Thursday class. It always amazes me, no matter how much I do ahead of time, the scrambling that takes place last minute before the semester starts. You would think I would be used to it by now but I keep deceiving myself into believing I will have all of it done ahead of time.

Oh well, that is what next year is for.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Sigh Of Relief (I Think)!

Yesterday evening I got home and checked my registration numbers. The second class was still listed and had eight students listed as being registered. What I did not know was if the eighth student had registered in time or if the class had been cancelled already.

I got an e-mail from the secretary this afternoon. She told me that they came very close to cancelling the class but due to the heroic efforts of the dean of the campus center (he really is a great guy), they did not. They decided to revisit the enrollment numbers tomorrow (Friday).

When this decision was made, the secretary let me know that there were seven or eight students registered and by the time she sent me the e-mail, enrollment was at nine. When I checked I saw that another student had registered, bringing the total to 10 registered students.

I am tempted to send all ten students and e-mail and tell them that if they do drop the class they should wait until Monday, so I will know the class is going. It seems probable that this class will ultimately go but I will definitely fell better when I get the official word. Right now, I am going to go on the assumption that it will go. I’ll keep you posted.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Up And Down And Up And Down And...

Today is D-Day. I will find out if my second class goes. This is the one that had as many as 11 students, but recently dropped to seven. As I indicated before, officially classes need ten students for them to go, however at the campus centers, they usually let them go with as few as eight.

I was excited when I had 11 and figured even with a few dropping (or being dropped if they did not pay), it would go. My mood took a down turn when last week my number of registered students dropped all the way to seven.

Yesterday I sent the dean of the campus center an e-mail just to check in and see what was happening (maybe they would let it go with seven). He told me the decisions would be made at a meeting slated for 3PM today (Wednesday) and I should check back the following morning (Thursday AM). He also let me know that there were a few students, three, who were in for placement at that very moment, and that might help me. Also, others might be waiting until the last minute to add the class.

I checked yesterday late afternoon and was thrilled to see an eighth student had added the class and I figured I was in great shape for the 3pm meeting. Once they decide to let a class go, it will go even if additional students drop it, or withdraw from it afterwards. Everything was great.

After checking it, I had plans to go out to dinner with the family. I got home and checked it again, thinking maybe someone else had added the class. Guess what? The person who added it, to become the eighth member of my class, was still listed as a student in the class, but another student who had been there for a while, dropped the class bringing me back down to seven, and again leaving doubts as to whether or not it will go.

I have been checking the website periodically, hoping to see an eighth student there, but so far it remains at seven. So, I have been up and down and up and … I am just exhausted. I will be happy when this process is over and hopefully I get word that the class is going.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

'Till The End

Tonight I am going to put my PowerPoint Presentation together that I will use for the first day of class, in less than a week. It still does not feel like the school year is around the corner but it better soon or I will be in serious trouble, especially as I get set for the first class.

I know a lot of teachers let students out early that first class session. I learned the hard way that I want to keep them to the end, or close to the end. Filling that time, actually is not difficult as I will go over, in detail, what is acceptable and what is not. The syllabus will be well covered. In addition, I gve them a survey to find out their likes and dislikes. It helps me when I decide to use video tapes from movies to make points and it lets me know how familiar they are with the movies I use. For instance, when I cover gestures and demonstration speeches, I like to use the infamous scene from When Harry Met Sally. By knowing how familiar, as a class, the students are with this movie, I know how much I need to do to set it up.

Whatever it is, I will fill the time. A few years ago, I had a Friday afternoon class, a three hour class. I used to often let them out early but when I wanted to use the whole time, I lost the students around the two and a half hour mark. Yes, they were still in class but most of them were literally just taking up space. I decided from that point on, I would use the entire time provided to me, or most of it and they seldom get out of class early. And I am one of those who feels the first session sets the tone and I need to do it from day one.

Well, here is to another semester knocking on my door.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

So, How Many Classes

My semester begins in a week (a week and a day for those who are counting) and I still do not know if I am teaching one class, two classes or three classes. I love the way this all works. My class on the main campus will go. 22 is a full class and I have 22 students. In fact, the few times when someone has either changed the schedule and dropped the course, or has been booted out by administration if funds were not received in time, within 24 hours, someone else has claimed that spot. It will be a class of 22 when I start. If past experiences hold true, there will be a couple of additional students that will want to add it and I will let them in, bringing it up to 24. Two to three will drop it and another one or two will just stop showing up somewhere in the middle of the semester and I will finish with about 20 people.

The other two classes are more unknowns. The college has five college centers for people who do not live right by the main campus. These are usually about 30 miles away in different directions. I have a Tuesday/Thursday class at one of the college centers. While 10 is usually the minimum required for a class to go, usually the administration will let it go with as few as eight at a campus center. My class, which meets late morning and therefore should be at an ideal time for students, has had as many as 11 students. Right now, it is down to seven. It has had this many for the past four or five days. So, I do not know if there will be more people registering this last week or if they will let it go with only seven students. The dean there is very good (actually excellent) and may very well see what can be done to get me at least one more student in the class. We will see. The decision should be made probably mid-week this week as to if it will run or not.

The third class is also at this college center but it is made up of High School Seniors (from up to as many as six different area High Schools) who come to the college to take classes in a college environment. It will not start until two weeks after the ‘regular’ college classes start. Information for this class is not available on line and I probably will not know until a week or so after the college semester starts how many people are in the class and if it will go.

Strictly from a monetary standpoint, I would like the classes to go, but there is more than that. I enjoy teaching, so I would like the classes to go. Also, it does take time to get a syllabus together and get things set for each class. As a result, since I have already put in the time, I would like the classes to go.

Right now, however, all I can do is wait and see (and moan and complain), so that is exactly what I will do.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Buying Textbooks

This is a paid post

When I first got back to the classroom and started teaching I was amazed at the price of college textbooks. The book I use, I estimated to be selling for about $40-$50. I was shocked to learn that it sold for between $75-$90. I think the price of books is unreasonable and can certainly understand the frustration of college students when it comes to this expense. I know how I felt about years ago when I was a student.

There are websites and places where students can go to find the books at cheaper prices and I think it makes sense to do it. Afford-a-book is one of the sites where you can get prices of college textbooks and purchase what you need. The site has a link to the textbook portion and if you enter the name of the author, or the name of the book, it should being up the information.

If you use this site to buy textbooks, you do need to be careful. Make sure you are getting the correct edition of the book (or that the teacher does not mind an older edition, something that I tell my students is fine). Also, nowadays, sometimes the books come with a bunch of other material. Here it looks like everything is a la cart. Make sure you are getting the materials you need and make sure you are ordering the textbook and not the workbook, or some other associated material. Still, if students can find a way to save money on books, I think it makes sense to take advantage. Good luck!

Thursday, August 16, 2007


As I have stated in previous posts, I am a member of Toastmasters, a public speaking organization. Yesterday, my role was to run the meeting. This actually starts a week in advance as you confirm roles. I had everything set and then the day of the meeting, it seemed to come apart.

I had two people, one of whom was scheduled to speak and the other to evaluate, call me and tell me they could not fulfill the role. This did not give me much time to find replacements, although eventually I did (at the expense of my work).

Both people who backed out did so because of health issues, and if they were telling me the truth, these were certainly legitimate issues. The problem is this type of thing is happening more and more frequently at our meetings. We are a professional club, made up of professionals, yet sometimes the behavior is far from professional.

I get frustrated when my students back out of speaking roles in class. If they have a legitimate reason, they can make up the speech, but it does set me back. I get frustrated, but I am beginning to understand. We, as adults, as professionals, are not being good role models. Children and students learn by example. They will do what they see others do. When professionals cannot be trusted to follow through, to show they have a strong level of commitment, to show that they understand what has to be done, then it really is no surprise that college students do not understand the importance of follow through and of delivering on their commitments.

Hopefully things will change at my Toastmasters meeting. Hopefully things will be different in the classroom this year. Time will tell!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Getting Sleep

I had planned on attending a training session yesterday at the Community College where I teach. Planned is the key word. Now, it is a session I have been to for the past three years and while I always learn something new, I certainly have enough information to use the equipment and teach effectively, from previous sessions. Still, the Community College likes us to go, so I go.

Following a house closing and my mother-in-law being in the hospital with a fractured bone, my wife had gotten little sleep. In addition, she works overnights, so she had to be up all through the night. As a result, the only chance she would have to sleep would have been those few hours when I was at the training session.

I was able to cancel my attendance. I also got word from the administration that they have all the materials they need from me, so it should be all systems go. Now with a house, hopefully my wife will be able to get some more sleep during the day (not having to get anything ready for closing as well as being in more comfortable surroundings). As I mentioned, hopefully the house will help me become a more effective teacher.

While I would have liked to have been at the training session, I am glad I made the choice I did and that my wife was able to get some sleep. I am gearing up for the beginning of the school year and am almost ready and I am looking forward to it.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Lessons From Day Camp

My son this year has been doing a number of different day camps this year. In the past he has done just one camp but he decided that variety is the spice of life. My wife and I have no problems with him doing it this way. It is a little complex trying to remember which camp he is at which week, and what time he needs to be picked up, but these are all minor things.

One of the day camps my son went to this summer seemed to be a bit much for him. While he enjoyed it, he did tell me that they try to cram too much into the day and it is exhausting. I certainly can understand this.

It occurred to me that there are two very important lessons here when it comes to teaching. First is, like my son wanting to attend different camps, I need to make sure that things are different for both me and the students. I should not just recycle lesson plans teaching them the same way as I have in the past as I will get bored. I also need to make sure that things are different enough from day to day and week to week so the students do not get bored.

The second lesson is to try and avoid cramming too much into one day. Sometimes, based on the amount of time, things can get tight. Sometimes, if a student misses a speech for a legitimate reason and needs to make it up, it can set me back a little and force me to cover more in a given day than originally planned. This is okay, but I need to make sure I am not overloading the students. They need to be able to digest the information as well.

So, a big thank you goes to my son for reinforcing these lessons.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Getting Organized, By House Rules

We did the walk through of the house my wife and I hope to buy this weekend. Of course, there were some issues that came up, and at one time looked like it might lead to the whole deal falling through. In the end, we were able to reach a compromise and now it looks like it is all systems go to close this week.

There is no way we will be moved in by the start of the school year, not may school year which starts in a couple of weeks or even my son’s school year, which starts a week later. Still, the end of apartment living is not too far off.

One thing having a house means is more space. When things are all said and done, it may just be more space to put our junk, but right now the thought of being able to get organized a little better is certainly exciting. There is shelving in the basement and I want to claim a portion of this and get things set up, keeping my textbooks, video clips that I use and papers on one of those shelves. Of course, with my luck, the basement will probably get flooded and that stuff will be destroyed. Still, I really think that this will be a way to stay organized and keep things clutter free.

Of course, I may need to change things around. If I need to, I will. Still, I know, it will be easier to have things set up with much more space, and a basement. While it will take some time to have everything set, certainly I can start moving stuff in ahead of time and stop by there before I leave for class. This way, I can start getting things out of the apartment and into the house (which needs to happen), start organizing things the way I want and start freeing up some space in the apartment for the remainder of the time that we are here.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Pay It Forward

I recently read an article in the newspaper about a restaurant owner who is putting on a fund raiser to help a woman who has been diagnosed with cancer. The woman needed to move away from the area for treatment and that meant being away from her four-year-old and six-year old children. The restaurant owner is sponsoring a raffle to help raise money for spinal cancer research, as well as help be able to send her children to spend time with her. Check out the website at www.HarmonysHope.org .

As it turns out, this women was at this restaurant fairly frequently and was always looking to find a way to help other people in need and see if she could get local businesses to contribute to the cause. According to the article, the owner saw her come in and noticed she was not her usual self, so he asked her what was wrong. He decided to help out.

As I was reading this, I immediately thought of the movie and book, Pay It Forward. The idea that when you do something nice for someone else, instead of looking to pay that person back, you pass it on, pay it forward. Here was a woman who was always doing something nice for others and not expecting something in return. In return, however, it was not one of the people she helped that helped her, but someone else.

As an instructor, I can only hope to touch someone’s life a fraction of the way this woman did. Still, I hope that by putting my energies into teaching, I help, in some small part, to make better human beings. Citizens who someday will not turn around and do something to repay me for helping them but something to help others in need, something to make the world a better place.

I realize it sounds too altruistic, a bit utopian, and many even arrogant or self serving, but I think many of us who get into the profession truly have this hope. I hope it is a desire that never leaves my body.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Am I Ready

The beginning of the school year is becoming more and more real. I know time has been ticking away but now I am getting my on-line materials set for the start of the year. Now I am putting my PowerPoint presentation that I use for the first class together. I do still have some time, but it is just a little over two weeks before I go back and start.

Of course there is the excitement and optimism. I wonder what the classes will be like. Last semester I had some classes that were great when it came to discussions. It kept the class interesting for everyone. It did add a challenge, at times, as I needed to wrap up one discussion to move on to another topic. Most of the time I did this successfully, but every so often I chose to let a discussion continue longer than I had planned because it seemed to interest everyone.

As a student, I always found that the breaks started and ended almost exactly when I needed them. School would be frustrating and I would need to get away and sure enough, a break came. Then, I would be enjoying the break, but I felt like I needed to get back to the routine of school and fortunately that feeling usually coincided with break ending.

Thus far I have felt that way as a teacher as well. I am not sure that I am fully ready for summer to end (or at least for it to be time for me to get back to the classroom), but then again, I do have two weeks and change. I have a feeling when that time is up, I will be ready. If I am not, I am sure you will “hear” me complain about it on this blog.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Grass Is Always Greener

I was reading Sarah’s blog, Reflections on Teaching, and she has a very interesting post about politics at a community college. She talks about how as an adjunct she was immune from some of the politics and other happenings at the college. At the very least, she says she was gone from campus quick enough to avoid any of the teacher cliques. Now as a full timer, she gets to see it first hand, up close. She is facing the difficult situation of wanting to sit back and listen at meetings, as well as jump in feet first and voice her opinions to help make things better. I find the post interesting and I guess, to me, it points out that the grass is always greener on the other side. (It is not an easy situation, and I wish you the best of luck).

I would love to have the opportunity to teach as a full timer at the community college where I am at. I am guessing as an adjunct, Sarah felt much the same way. When you get the chance, you learn of the other issues that you were shielded from before. Obviously, each position has its own challenges.

This is not only true in the classroom. In society, we often wish we could switch places with someone else. For those people who actually get the chance, most find out that maybe they are better off not switching.

I would still love to become a full time professor. But, Sarah’s post has reminded me that I should always be glad with whatever I am doing, especially if I am having fun doing it. In addition, it is important to realize the challenges that other people, people who play different roles than we do, experience in their daily, professional life.

Thank you Sarah!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Barry Bonds

Baseball has a new homerun king and his name is Barry Bonds. How many of you are sick of hearing about this already? How many of you feel it does not belong on a blog about teaching? Well, if you answered “yes” to either question, you might want to stop reading. Or, continue on to see how I work this into teaching.

Every semester I have students work on a group project. Many prefer the individual assignments, but in a professional setting, sometimes people have to work in groups, like it or not. I tell my students that they are to take a situation that needs addressing and try and find the best solution to the problem (and it is acceptable to show us why the way it is currently handled is the best route to go). I tell my students that ideally they should come up with a unanimous recommendation. I, however, realize that sometimes that cannot occur. In such a situation, they need to tell us the recommendation of the group (Majority rules) as well as the dissenting opinion.

I am always looking for new topics. While steroids has been something that has been done in the past, certainly this controversy could make that a more interesting topic. In addition, perhaps my students can address the issue as to how baseball should look to handle the Bonds’ situation. Should there be some kind of asterisk next to his name? Should it just be viewed as the new record? What are the alternatives?

Of course, I want to see if this topic comes up at all during the semester. If a number of students do a speech about this, I will probably shy away from it. If it does not come up at all, I might also shy away from it.

Certainly it is another topic that can be suggested for my students. It can be debated in the classroom as much as it will be debated on the streets, in the bars and over the internet. So, what are your thoughts about the new holder of the record?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

McDonald's And Teaching

So, the new study shows that food with a McDonald’s wrapper around it tastes better than food without it. Give a child two identical food items, even healthy items, but a wrapper around one and not around the other, and the kid goes for the wrappered item.

Is there a lesson for professor here? Is there a lesson for adjunct here? Maybe for students? Do you find the following to be true:

Is a student more likely to get a job because s/he has a college degree, even if someone without the degree is just as qualified?
Are students more likely to accept something because they hear it from a professor (or any teacher) as opposed to anyone else?
Are students and administrators more likely to value the teaching of a full professor over that of an adjunct?

I do not know the answers to these questions. To the best of my knowledge such studies have not been done. Still the "McDonald’s" study suggests it is a possibility. I do know that at times, I have felt the answer to the questions above are yes. I do know that at times, others I have talked to have also felt the answer is yes.

There are times when I think, however, that I am just being cynical and that the answers are in fact, no. I am not sure which, however, are my moments of doubt and which represent what I truly believe. It is like the parable of a king who dreams he is a cockroach. When he wakes up, he summons his advisors and asks them if he is a king who dreamt he was a cockroach or if he is a cockroach who is dreaming that he is a king.

Certainly there is a lot to be said for education. Certainly there is a lot to be said for those who teach students. There is a lot to be said for adjuncts and of course, there is a lot to be said for full professors.

What I choose to believe is, despite what kind of wrapping may be put on something, education wins out, as it should. The professor who truly care about their students, and this is certainly the majority, also win out. That is what is key. Students have to truly want to learn and teachers have to truly want to teach. If that is what happens, then regardless of the wrapping around it, everyone wins.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Female Managers

One of the things I enjoy about teaching public speaking is hearing the topics my students come up with. Sometimes it is amusing what they try to get away with. Sometimes it is amazing how they pick a topic that seemingly in not challenging and can prove how and why, in reality, it is a challenging topic. Sometimes it is just interesting to hear the unique topics that are picked.

A couple of semesters ago, I heard one of my students who was majoring in athletics, state she wanted to be the first female manager of a major league team. She recognized the difficulties of females actually playing in the major leagues, along side of men. She, however, argued that there was no reason that a female could not manage.

Reading a number of blogs out there, I am inclined to agree. There are many women who are knowledgeable about baseball. While it is true that most managers, and I stress the word "MOST", have played major league baseball, there are the exceptions.

It is, of course, important to start changing the attitudes of players and fans, and that of course, is not easy. When New York Mets’ announcer Keith Hernandez stated last year, upon seeing a female masseuse in the dugout of an opponent of the Mets, commented that women do not belong in the dugout, it showed we still had a long way to go. On the other hand, the fact that there was a female in the dugout of one of the teams, as part of their training staff, it shows that we have become more accepting of things we once would have called "impossible".

My guess is that at some point, we will see a female manger of a major league baseball team. Seeing the drive and determination of the individual who gave this speech, she just might be the one.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

When Did I Become A Snob

When did I become a snob? One of the things I enjoy about teaching is it helps keep me young. It also helps keep me current with issues young adults are facing, with words and terms that are current, with the whole approach. In addition, although it has been more years than I would like to admit, it still does not feel like it was that long ago when I was in college.

College is a great time and, although I do teach, I think it is important for students to take advantage of certain situations outside the classroom. Of course, I do want them to also get their work done, especially the work for my class.

With all this being said, I find myself with a little more of an elitist’s attitude. I live in an apartment complex. Recently it has started catering more and more to a college crowd. I find myself preferring things the way they were, before there were so many college students living in my building. I find myself resenting the way they are very loud in the middle of the night, coming and going through the main door of the apartment building, with little regard for the other people here.

Perhaps the thing I find myself most amazed at is the amount of empty beer cans and bottles I find in the trash room. I am amazed because of how many they go through, as well as how much “money” they throw away because they dump the cans and bottles. They but them back in the cartons from which they came out, so it is not uncommon for me to pick them up out of the trash room and make about five dollars a week, it not more, on this. I realize $5.00 may not be a lot of money but I cannot imagine myself, when I was in college, taking a five dollar bill out of my pocket each week and leaving it for someone else to pick up.

Yes, it was not so long ago that I was in their shoes. Yes, I enjoyed it at the time and still enjoy hanging around with college students, to a certain degree, however, I am very glad, upon seeing all the things I notice in my apartment complex, that I am not a college student today.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

High School Students

The headache is gone and I am thrilled. I put the finishing touches on two of my three syllabi for the upcoming semester. The third class is an interesting one. It is actually the first one I started teaching and it is for high school students.

High School seniors from about six area schools can opt to take certain college classes. These particular classes are open to everyone who is a senior. There is no grade requirement, or prerequisites, if you are a senior, sign up and pay the money, you are in. Seniors get the opportunity to take the class for cheaper than they would at college and enter college with some credits.

The class is taught during the day at the college and students need to find a way to get to class. The college schedule is different from the area high schools (and usually each high school has a different schedule as well to make things even more confusing). Officially the students are responsible for being in class when I hold it, even if it is during a school break for them.

There are, however, challenges. Students need to leave early for a sports event or practice (I get that from my college students as well), something is happening at the high school (such as homecoming) and just the maturity of a high school student, are all challenges.

Most of the individuals I teach, however, are truly respectful of my and the material. They work with me and I think they get a good taste (albeit a small taste) of what college is like. I also get the opportunity of broadening my horizons and learning how to teach to a different group of students. The more diverse student body I can teach to, the more effective of an instructor I am.

Overall, I do enjoy this program and recommend it for anyone who is able to take advantage of it.

Friday, August 3, 2007

A Headache

Today is one of those days I am very glad we are in the middle of summer and I do not have to teach. I am fighting a massive headache. I am prone to headaches but the ones like this, where breathing, driving, slight movements and even sitting still hurt, are few and far between (Thank goodness).

If I had to drive to campus today, deliver a lesson plan, or worse yet, have to listen to students speak, it would be driving me nuts (just typing this hurts). These are all things that I love about teaching, and I hate feeling this way. I am just going to take off early from the office and lie down and see if I can get myself back to normal (or as normal as I can be).

If I were teaching today, I would not be able to do this (yes, I one of those people who shows up no matter what – well almost no matter what). So, today is one of those day, where if I need to have this kind of headache, works out well.

Time to get some sleep.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Extra Credit

A couple of years ago I was talking with a student after class and he started telling me his thoughts on fallacies in argumentation and persuasion. The textbook I use covers that material as part of a chapter. I asked him if, for extra credit, he would like to teach the class that portion of the material and he agreed. He was a good student and did an adequate job. Honestly, I thought he would do more with it, but he handled himself fine.

Since that time I have always toyed with the idea of making this mandatory. This is a public speaking class and what better exposure than to teach the class so material that they should use when preparing a speech and will need to know for the test. On the other hand, if the student does not do a good job, the remaining people in the class could suffer. Also, if I teach the material and someone gets a test question wrong, I can handle my own should the student challenge that it was not covered appropriately. If a student says the other student who taught this material did not do so adequately, it actually creates an awkward situation.

This is almost a catch 22 situation, but I have always erred on the side of caution and taught the material myself. As the semester will get underway in less than a month, once again I find myself wrestling with this issue. I will probably end up just leaving things the way it has been, but it would be nice to change it. Maybe I will allow students to pick certain topics and present them for extra credit.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


I had the opportunity to talk to a friend the other day, who is currently looking to teach a class as an adjunct professor. This would be his first opportunity and it appears as though he is close to landing one, in not both of them. To hear the excitement and eagerness in his voice is wonderful and brings back many of those feelings I had when I was in the interviewing process.

One thing I found surprising, however, was one of the community colleges where he interviewed, pointed out a telephone, a hotline, in effect. He was told that if a student ever got out of hand, he should pick up that phone and someone from public safety would come right over.

I have had students get out of hand, sometimes. They try to talk over me, they do not pay attention, sometimes they even show little regard for other students. That last one is really the only one of which I will not tolerate and it will result in a lowering of the guilty party’s grade. Still, this does not happen often.

I have never been in a position, felt the need, or even thought there was a real chance, of needing to call public safety. I guess, in one sense, it is like an emergency exit on a plane, something that will probably never be used but can leave people feeling much better because it is there. In addition, I guess when we see the craziness of some students, at the high school level with some of the random shooting, at the college level, think about the situation in Virginia last year, these things do happen.

Still, they are the rare events and as I said before, I am pleased that I have never even felt threatened or uncomfortable in the slightest. I am guessing this is true of most professors.