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.