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.

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.