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.

Friday, December 26, 2008


As we come to a new year, I often take a moment to reflect on the things that have occurred over the past 12 months. When it comes to teaching, I am very fortunate. Despite getting frustrated with my students at times, I really enjoy it. I am fortunate enough to teach for a community school where they appreciate me. I am lucky enough to teach both on the main campus and at a campus center.

While I would not want to teach all my classes at a campus center, I find the atmosphere more relaxed and find that the staff is always looking to make things easier for those of us who work there. Often times, it is the small, simple things that make a difference, like this past year they purchased some new Vending machines (including a coffee machine that freshly brews individual cups of coffee). And, when they purchased the machines, first they look to get feedback from teachers and students.

I realize they are not in the Vending Machines Business, still it is nice the way they go about it. I would not be surprised, as well, if they did some on-line checking about Vending Companies. It is amazing what you can find on-line and that websites to checkout vending companies do exist.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Working With Me

The way this semester has played out and the way next semester will start, is truly very interesting. Since I teach one class made up of high school seniors, it ends later than the other classes. Italso starts later than the other classes. The class was, however, supposed to end this past Tuesday (12/23).

Due to a death in the family, I needed to cancel a class a week earlier (12/16). The truth is, with the number of student speeches still needed to be given, I really could not afford to cancel a class. Of course, that is the kind of thing you worry about afterwards.

The administration has been great in working with me. They are letting me hold one last class on January 6. This will enable me to get through everything. What makes it so interesting, however, is the little time I will have from one semester to the other. I finish this semester on the 6th and start up again on the 20th.

This makes it a little harder to prepare for the upcoming semester as I like to revise my syllabus and consider various changes during the “downtime”. Still, given the situation, I really have no complaints and appreciate the willingness of everyone to work with me.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Welcome to Black Friday! Yesterday was the day we all sat around the table, ate as much food as possible and expressed those things for which we were thankful (and a Happy Thanksgiving to all). Today officially starts the Christmas season, or perhaps I should say “Traditionally” starts the season as merchandisers have been moving up the date the season begins.

Still, today is the day one can find certain sales and deals (some of which will last). The 511 Tactical is one place people can look for various items. They look to provide items that exceed the needs of their customers, with functional innovations, while delivering exceptional quality. It might be worth checking out their merchandise.

Where Has The Time Gone?

On Tuesday, I will be returning to class following the Thanksgiving recess (along with, I hope, the rest of the class). As I was checking my syllabus to see what I had left to cover, I found it amazing to realize that there are only four more class sessions—three of which are for final speeches. Where has the time gone?

Somehow it felt like I had more than this. Somehow, it felt like those students who had missed a speech had more time to make it up. While some of the reasons are legitimate, students better be prepared to speak when we come back and hope I can squeeze in the speech because it is going to be tight. If they are not ready to speak when I call on them (if I can swing it), they will not be getting credit for the speech.

Still, this is a good class and I think the majority of people will be able to make up the work. This is one of those classes that I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Acting Ethically

I am currently discussing persuasive speaking with one of my classes. I let them know that within persuasive speaking, the emotional appeal is very powerful. After all, many of us do things when others try to make us feel guilty. I also explain, however, that it is important to do this in an ethical manner, otherwise you may get what you want in the short run but pay the price in the long run.

A new website, Report Phone Numbers, is trying to help. I know I get calls from companies and they do not take “no” for an answer. You end up having to hang-up on them. Report Phone Numbers allows people to post reactions to certain phone numbers on line so you can see how companies act and if people are acting ethically.

Hoping For The Best

I had high hopes that my trick worked to reel in my talkative class and get them to pay attention. After telling them I would raise the grades by half a letter if behavior shaped up, the next class session things improved dramatically. After that, the following session was slightly better than things had been. At this point, it is back to what it had been.

I doubt that I am going to be able to fully reel them back in but I do have a few tricks up my sleeve. The main thing is, I need to plan on each one lasting for one to two sessions and then move on to something new. I am willing to try and see what happens. I do not hold out as much hope as I once did but maybe I will be pleasantly surprised.

How Old Are You Anyway?

I was in class yesterday and my students were teasing me about my old age. Right on cue, I needed to read something and had to take my eyeglasses off to be able to read it—and I wear bifocals. Wow, did the students really let me have it then, teasing me about my age. It was all in good fun but I did relate to what they were saying. For years, I never would have needed to take off glasses to read something up close.

Even though I wear bifocals, I find they do not help me with reading. As a result, while the doctor says I should use them, I do not want to spend a lot of money for the different things I now need in glasses. The truth is, I wouldn’t want to spend a lot of money anyway but now, if I am getting things I should have but don’t se them that much, I am looking to cut down on the cost.

I recently learned of Optical4less. You can get antireflective coating for free. You can find eyeglasses for under 15 dollars. They even have a virtual try-on system. It is nice to know there are ways to save money and find what you need when looking for eyeglasses.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Yes, There's Class Today

When I first looked at the class schedule for this semester, I was a little surprised to find out that I had school today. There was a time that Veteran’s Day was an automatic day off, and for many it still is, but not where I teach. The truth is that with the way it is celebrated, Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day have become the same holiday. On Veteran’s Day, I frequently hear people talking about remembering those who have served in war, both living and dead, to defend our country and our rights (and we certainly should do that). On Memorial Day, I hear that same sentiment expressed.

The truth is, to most college students, it is simply a day off from school and to many adults, simply a day off from work. I know I have one student who was not there because he is a veteran and actually takes part in various celebrations. Certainly for him, this is an excused absence. I would even go as far as to say that anyone who talks to me about not being in class today because they were at festivities honoring veterans, I will give them an excused absence.

What surprised me most, however, were my high school students. They all had off from high school today. College policy is, regardless of the high school schedule, if there is college, these students are expected to be there. I am okay with that approach. Still, on such days, speaking from previous experience, very few students show up. This year was the opposite. Three students, and only three students, did not show up to class and one due to illness. Perhaps it was due to the fact that we actually had speeches; perhaps it was because parents made them; perhaps it is because this group is conscientious. Whatever the reason, they were there and I was appreciative.

Monday, November 10, 2008

What Kind Of Teacher Is He?

It is interesting how things work. Yesterday, I wrote about my willingness to raise grades by half a letter if I can get the students to pay attention. I indicated that I think it is working, and I do believe that. I also made the students sit through “The Lecture,” which can be one of the most annoying things. I used to hate when my parents would lecture me. Still, I think I made some effective points that the class seemed to understand.

One belief which I shared with my class was, if a student came up to them and asked what kind of teacher I was, they would not be able to answer. “You might be able to see he is an easy grader, or a hard grader. You might be able to say, ‘He let’s us talk,’ but when it comes to my teaching style, you have no idea what it is.” I actually thought that got through to them and made the point I wanted to make.

The proof will be in how they respond for the rest of the semester. It is still too early to tell. In addition, right now, we are in the middle of Demonstration speeches. Still, just gauging things by the lack of talking and side conversations going on during student speeches, things are much better. I actually have little patience for side conversations during student speeches.

It is interesting, with the informative speech, I told them I took off for talking during the speeches, I told them I did not want them engaging in a dialogue with the speaker, unless the speaker was asking a question. Still, they did not get it. Right now, they seem to be understanding what I want. I hope it stays that way.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Plan Worked, I Think

IT is nice when a plan works as well as expected, as well as had been hoped for. I have in previous posts talked about the students in one of my classes and how they just keep talking. My plan was to lower the grade on the first speech each did by half a letter grade and then tell them that I would be willing to raise the grades by half a letter.

When the students came in, I gave them the critiques, with the grades on them right at the beginning. Normally I do not do this until the end of class. If they are given the critiques earlier, they are reading the comments, they are discussing their grades with other classmates, they are frustrated with the grade making it hard to pay attention or they are happy with the grade, also making it harder for them to pay attention. In this case, I have trouble getting them to pay attention anyway, so I figured I would give them back early. In fact, most students stop by the classroom about 10-15 minutes early, put their stuff down and wait in the lobby. So, as they came in early, I gave them the critiques.

It is interesting to see the change in expression on the faces of the students. One student saw a glum looking expression on my face as I was passing out the critiques and asked me, out of concern, if she passed. I told her she did and she breathed a sigh of relief. When she saw her grade, a ‘B’, she was disappointed and expressed her displeasure. A moment ago, she was concerned about failing and now she was upset with a ‘B’.

All the students were not happy with their grade. While I used a harder standard than normal for the first speech, it is not like the grades were terrible. I gave out three “C+’s”, a few “B-‘s” and the rest were “B’s” and “B+’s”, with one “A-“. You would think I failed them all. Still, for a first speech, an introductory course, high school students, I try to take all this into account in grading under normal circumstances.

I then told them if they were to pay attention, to allow me to teach, I would raise the grades by half a letter. One wiseass wanted to know for how long they needed to pay attention and when I told him for the rest of the semester, he (jokingly, I think), said it was not worth it for a half a letter.

I further told them that this was not an individual deal, it was not that for those who paid attention, I would raise their grades and for those who didn’t, I would let it stand. I explained that in order for the grades to be raised, they all half to pay attention.

It seems to be working. They still do some talking, but at least I can get my lectures in, I can complete my lesson plan. Hopefully it keeps up.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama's Victory Speech

I have a new speech that I intend on showing to my students for years to come. One of the difficulties with showing a class an historical speech is, if they did not live through the time, they cannot fully appreciate the speech. While Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech was one of the greatest of all time, most of my students today were born in the 80’s, or 90’s and it is hard for them to appreciate the speech in the context of the time.

The second aspect is, since it is a period of time through which they did not live, they are not as interested in the speech as they should be (at least in my humble opinion). When I showed the speech of Franklin Roosevelt asking for a declaration of war, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, while some found the speech interesting, many did not because it happened a long time ago.

To counteract this, I try to find some current speeches as well. So, when I show FDR’s address, I juxtapose George W. Bush’s speech following 9/11 and argue that it was basically the same speech, looking to do the same thing. The newest speech that I will add to my repertoire is Barack OBama’s victory speech.

Forget whatever your personal feelings may be about the man (positive or negative), if you just look at the speech, I believe, you will see one of the greatest speeches, better than most inaugural addresses. Obama certainly wanted to deliver a speech that looked to heal and unite following a bitter election season. He also wanted to set forth his agenda and begin the work. He succeeded.

The speech invoked the words of Abraham Lincoln, and the image of a man looking to lead a country, and heal a country, through its most difficult time. The speech was part MLK, using part of his speaking style and imagery to get the public to respond. The speech was also part JFK. O’Bama was able to invoke imagery, talk about the advanced we have made throughout our history, talk about what still has to be done and talk about the significance of electing a Black man to the office of President. His ability to tell a large part of his tale through what a 106 year old woman saw, was very effective.

Obama’s speech was almost flawless. I say almost, because there was one point toward the beginning, where he seemed to lose his place and have trouble getting restarted. It is possible this was just emotions getting the best of him but to me, it came across as though he were reading off a teleprompter and the prompter stopped for a moment.

Still, it was an excellent speech, an historic speech, and for my purposes, one that deserves to be studies for years to come.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Campaign Speeches And Persuasive Speaking

As the political season winds down, so will by entries about the presidential race. Fortunately (at least for me) I still have a couple of political entries left. I found it interesting that John McCain said Barak O’bama will say anything to get elected. It seems to be that it has been McCain who has adopted that philosophy.

There are certainly issues that McCain could use against O’Bama, legitimate issues. McCain even references some of them on occasion. For instance, during the last debate, McCain talked about how when O’Bama was the underdog in the Democratic primaries, he was all in favor of campaign contribution reform, he was going to talk with McCain and set limits and follow certain guidelines. O’Bama did not do that.

This is an issue John McCain should be all over. “Can we trust him? He doesn’t stick to his own words and ideas”. McCain should continue to point out how once O’Bama became the candidate of the party, he changed. Instead, what do we get? We get Sarah Palin talking about William Ayers and how O’Bama pals around with terrorist.

I will soon be discussing persuasive speeches with my classes and a lot can be learned from this campaign season. Making charges without backing them up, continuing to say things until you find what sticks and constantly changing your position are all not good ideas when it comes to public speaking. I think my students will understand these concepts better simply due to the fact that I can reference the campaign.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What Was The Assignment?

During my last public speaking class session (the one I held before I took off the last day for the Jewish Holidays), I discussed small groups and group presentations. I explained that small groups usually come together to address a problem in society. They do not like the way something is being done and they examine the problems and possible solutions, ultimately coming up with a recommendation. I even explained that sometimes the group may decide that, despite not liking the way things are currently being done, it might decide that the current solution is, in fact, the best alternative.

The assignment I gave to the class, to be completed on the session that I would not be there, was to break themselves into 4 small groups, pick a topic (something they thought was wrong in society that needed changing) and begin researching the topic. I got a call from one of my students on the day this assignment was supposed to be done, the day I was taking off for the holiday. A message explained that the students did not know what they were supposed to do so they were just skipping class that day.

I come back to what I said in yesterday’s post. If they would actually stop talking for a moment and listen, they would have known what the assignment was. If I was not clear, questions should have been asked in class and they should have had a clear understanding of what they needed to do in my absence. I keep hoping that once they get their grades on the first graded assignment, I can start reining some of them in as they will start to realize that their constant talking and lack of attention actually has an impact on their grades. Time will tell.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Shut Up And Listen

When I was in Junior High, I remember a teacher asking me and my classmates a series of questions. Upon learning that no one knew the answers, he told us to put our books away as he was giving us a surprise quiz. One of my classmates told him, “If we do not know the information, you should not give us a quiz, you should explain it to us”.

For years, that comment made a lot of sense to me. I have tried to remember it when I teach. If the students’ don’t know something, it may be the way I taught the information and I should try to explain it again. For the most part that philosophy has served me well. This semester, however, I am running into a slight problem.

I have one class that talks and is very loud. I can teach from the back of the room, stand right next to the people who are talking, glare, give dirty looks, ask people to leave, it does not matter, they keep talking. When I try to get some discussions going, I sometimes hear one of the students say something like, “I’m so lost. What does this have to do with public speaking?”

Normally, upon hearing a comment like that, I would look to re-explain the importance and significance of the topic I am discussing. The problem is, I do not know whether they do not understand the information because I am not clear or because they are not listening.

I think back to my Junior High teacher and the situation that occurred and ask myself now, “Did we truly not understand the information or were we just not paying attention”. I can understand and see the value now in giving a pop quiz when you think the class was not listening. Still, I choose to err on the side of caution. I would not want to give a quiz in such a situation since it could be my fault. Still, it would be nice if the students in this one class would occasionally shut up and listen.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Learning Something New

I enjoy learning new information and learning how to do things. Perhaps this is why I enjoy the demonstration speeches more than any other given by my students. As indicated in a previous entry, it is important to follow proper public speaking procedures and it is important to create a strong introduction.

Another aspect that is important to a good demonstration speech is, you need to be demonstrating something that the majority of people cannot do, or haven’t learned how to do. After all, a demonstration speech is supposed to teach us something new. I tell my students (and I have included this in previous bog posts), a demonstration speech about how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is not a strong speech since most of us know how to do it (and those of us who don’t can probably figure it out without any help).

On the other hand, last semester I had a student who gave a demonstration speech about how to create a website. While it might have been difficult to get all the information in during the allowed time, I give this student a lot of credit for trying to do it. I also learned a very important lesson—if I am going to develop a website or having website hosting, I think I will leave it in the hands of the professionals. Sites like WebHostingRating.Com has all sorts of awards and articles and you can see the ratings of the top sites. Yes, if I need to develop a website, even though I have learned some of the essentials from my student, I’m leaving it in the hands of the professionals.

Talking Outside Of The Classroom

Keeping up with the demonstration theme, one thing I think most students never consider is giving a demonstration speech outside of the classroom. I always tell my students that if they have a speech that needs to be delivered from a different location, that is fine. This is a throwback to years ago when a student who worked on the student paper wanted to bring us into the newspaper office to show us how the paper gets put together. I told her, as long as she could get in, and we could get there in a responsible amount of time, it was fine.

Since that time, I have had some students give demonstration speeches from the parking lot, the cafeteria, and the lobby of a building where a microwave was located. The advantage of giving a speech out of the classroom is, you can put yourself in the proper setting. So, if a student is giving a speech about changing a tire, it can be done outside in the parking lot.

The disadvantage is you are no longer in a structured environment, there is not lectern and you have to deal with background noise (and maybe a few strange looks from people passing by). Still, I think mot students never consider giving a speech outside the classroom and it is worth thinking about.

A Powerful Demonstration Speech

In one of my classes we are coming up on the demonstration speeches. It is interesting to me how, every year, people forget some of the rules of informative speeches when it comes to demonstration speeches. For instance they think rather than using a creative introduction to capture the attention of the audience, they can just say “Today I’m going to demonstrate how to…”.

Another mistake that students often make is thinking a demonstration speech can contain no information beyond how to demonstrate the process. I tell students that these speeches should also contain new information. So, if a student is demonstrating new techniques when it comes to cataract surgery, it is appropriate to issue factual statements such as, “This is the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness, effecting millions each year” or “People can have cataracts and not even know it”. It is even appropriate to tell us there is a way for the elderly community to be able to possibly get the process done for free. Of course any such statements need to be accurate.

It is these types of techniques that lead to a more powerful demonstration speech.

Monday, October 20, 2008


The past few weeks have been a little difficult. While I enjoy the Jewish Holidays that fall during this time of year, it is exhausting. Mainly, it is exhausting because you cannot get into any routine. My classes have been in full swing and I needed to take one session off, then I am in for the next two sessions, then I am out for the next session, then I’m back in for one class and finally, tomorrow I will be out for the last of the days I need to take off for the holidays.

Based on the requirements where I teach, I certainly have assignments for the students to do while I am not there. There must be a certain number of hours each semester dedicate to course material so I need to make sure I do not just give them the day off. Sometimes I feel like I am just giving them busy work (only because I am). Other times, I feel I am allowing students to make maximum use of their time but I doubt if they do. For instance, in one of my classes we are coming up to demonstration speeches while another one of my classes will soon be starting the informative speeches. One of the days I gave them out of class time to work on the speeches.

Personally I hope the students take advantage of this time and actually work on putting the speech together. A number of students wait until the last minute to put a speech together and it gets frustrating. They think, due to internet access, they can wait until the last minute to research and write the speech. As for practicing it, that is another matter entirely that they don’t even consider (despite warnings from the instructor).

Of course procrastination is nothing new. I am not suggesting it is starting with my classes. What bothers me the most (and I do not know if this is a new phenomena or not) is the way students have convinced themselves they do a better job if they wait until the last minute. I am glad I did not wait to the last minute when planning the course and considering what I would need to do to take off the Jewish Holidays.

Up next, stay tuned for some posts about demonstration speeches.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Halloween Costumes

In one of my classes, we are moving into demonstration speeches. It is always interesting when these speeches occur close to Halloween. I always get some speeches about carving Jack-O-Lanterns or how to properly engage in other customs and rituals affiliated with this day. It is also interesting to see what new information I learn about Halloween. Last year I learned the myth about Jack outsmarting the Devil and how we ended up with a Jack-O-Lantern.

This year, I wonder if I will learn about how costumes originated and became part of the festivities. Certainly that is a major part of Halloween. And nowadays, the holiday, costumes and all, is not just for kids. How many adults plan to dress up? I often get some who come in costume to class. I have even been known to come to class wearing Halloween Costumes.

So what costume fits your personality? An angel or a devil perhaps? A superhero or a supervillian? I have worn them all before but perhaps the most interesting costume I ever wore was when I dressed up as a gorilla. Maybe, just maybe, when my students come into class this Halloween, they will be taught by a gorilla. After all, while gorillas can be dangerous, from all I have read, they tend to be gentle. That is the way I like to think of myself; gentle but capable of being someone to watch out for.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Campaign Stategy

It’s time for another look at politics and how it ties in to my public speaking class. Recently, Sarah Palin has gone on the attack with claims that O’Bama pals around with terrorists and then some toned down comments. I find the comments to be inappropriate. Moreover, there is little doubt in my mind that the attacks are actually that o McCain and his strategists and not those of Sarah Palin.

I see the attacks as the last act of a desperate man. The attacks signal a change in strategy and as for as I am concerned, indicate that McCain is now more interested in winning the election than in the principles he so dearly claims to represent. Both candidates had stayed away from such tactics (remember O’Bama’s reaction when it came out that Palin’s oldest daughter, an unmarried 17 year old was pregnant? He refused to useit and told his people to back off). McCain claims to be a maverick, is willing to buck party principals for his own beliefs, but not when it comes to winning an election. I think that it is going to cost McCain in the long run and while he may end up getting some undecided votes, I think he will lose more. Again, that is the way I see it.

I am sure that most McCain supporters will claim that Palin’s comments are fair game. They are accurate and people need to be made aware, they will claim. The fact that O’Bama and his people do not like them simply shows how accurate these claims are and that they have hit a nerve. In the end, it will end up bringing more voters to support McCain-Palin than the few they might lose. Again, that is how I see McCain supporters viewing the comments.

I tell my students that when you give a speech, everyone sees it and hears it slightly differently. What one member of the audience likes another one will dislike. While one member might think you spoke too loud, there will be someone else who will claim you did not speak loud enough. In politics, obviously a lot of how you view something has to do with whom you are supporting. However, what about the undecideds? I am sure that they all don’t see such changes in strategy the same way and the challenge for politicians is to decide what changes ultimately bring them more voters.

I am curious to see how tonight’s debate goes. With the problems concerning the economy and the market and with the changes in tactics, along with the town hall style of debating, it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. Like the politicians, I am interested in how it impacts the undecided voters. I will be using the information for class.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Biden-Palin And Ethos, Pathos And Logos

I will soon be discussing the topic of persuasive speeches with my students and I will be talking about Ethos, Pathos and Logos. The terms were first used by Aristotle. According to Aristotle, the most important of the three was ethos, credibility. He argued that each time you spoke, you needed to reestablish your credibility, there was no carry over.

In today’s society, certainly we look at the carryover. As the debate between Sarah Palin and John McCain started last night, expectations were based on previous performance. The credibility, or lack thereof, these two built up previously certainly had an effect on how we viewed them during the debate. Aristotle would disagree saying we should act as though we are hearing them for the first time each time they speak.

Certainly one thing which does occur with credibility is it waxes and wanes. Speakers can do and say things that at times will increase his/her credibility and at times decrease it. What were those moments for you during the debate?

In today’s society we tend to give the most credence to pathos, the emotional appeal. It would be nice to say that we are most interested in the logical appeal but I do not believe that to be the case. We are told (or we teach students) that emotional appeals are effective but they need to be backed up with logic. In theory that sounds great; in reality I am not sure it is true. We do things and get people to do things, based more on “guilt trips” than any other approach.

I found that there was a fascinating part in yesterday’s debate that dealt with an emotional appeal. Towards the end of the debate when Joe Biden choked up and said he resented the implication that a single father is not concerned with raising his children, that it was not just Sarah Palin who could talk to those issues but he could as well, I was a little surprised. I never felt there was even the hint of a suggestion he was uncaring when it came to his children, or children in general. Maybe I was just tired but I thought he was looking for a way to slip them in to make an emotional appeal and it really did not fit where he put it, he made it fit. He planned to use the line and it was just a matter of when and where.

As unacceptable as I found his comment, I found Sarah Palin’s response even more shocking. “Senator, no one is suggesting you are not a caring father and you should be respected for what you needed to do to help your children. That does not change the fact, however, that your policies, the policies of Barak O’Bama are dangerous for children,” would have been one way to respond. “Joe, I apologize if you think I was implying that you do not do a great job with your kids. You deserve a lot of credit for the job you have done with your kids. The question, however is…,” and continue from there.

Palin responded by simply talking about John McCain as a maverick. I thought the timing of that answer was terrible. She looked completely unsympathetic to the difficulties that Biden needed to handle. I thought she lost points for that. The emotional appeal she needed to have was not there.

Looking at debates is an excellent way of examining ethos, pathos and logos and I look forward to the remaining debates to see how they manage to get worked into my lectures.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Leave A Message

I have a policy of giving my students my home number and my cell phone number. This way they cannot claim they were unable to reach me if a situation occurs and keeps them from getting to class (especially if the student is supposed to give a speech). Most of the time, however, if there is a number I do not recognize on my cell phone, I let it go to Voice Mail. I really do not want to be distracted from what I am doing at that time. Sometimes a message is not left. I have found Phone Lookup Investigator to be very helpful in such cases. This way I can find out if it is someone I need to callback or if I can just ignore it. Still, I would prefer if they simply left a message.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Playing By My Own Rules

Sometimes we have the opportunity to lead by example. Sometimes, others might not even recognize what we are doing but at least we have the opportunity to please ourselves. With the way the Jewish Holidays fall this year, I will be missing a number of classes for the semester.

One thing which this means is, in order to make sure I hear all the informative speeches, I will be cramming them into two days instead of my normal three. This is going to make it tougher on me in terms of staying focused, critiquing speeches and typing up responses and getting them back to students in a timely manner.

I frequently tell my students that I list on the syllabus all the public speaking dates. Even if something comes up, they have enough notice to get the speech done. I too live by those words. Something has come up, me missing a few classes, and I have to own up. Even if it means staying up late or making other sacrifices, I have to make sure I do what I need to so the students all get speeches in and so I evaluate, critique and grade them fairly and quickly.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Thank You Students

It is always fun to have a student make a suggestion and be able to successfully implement it right away. Soon the informative speeches will begin. A session or two before that, I have the students engage in a game of Whose Line is it Anyway. They all seem to enjoy it.

There are a number of ideas behind having them play this game. First, they see that improvisation is not that easy. Second, it gives them a little fun before the seriousness of graded speeches starts and finally, it usually embarrasses most people a little bit. I explain that the reason many people feel apprehensive before giving a speech is they are afraid they will embarrass themselves in front of others. Then I tell them they just did so simply relax and enjoy giving the speech.

One thing which I do when playing the game is I tell the students they can put me in any skit(s) they want. I would not ask a student to do something I would not do myself and usually they enjoy seeing me play the games as well.

It was suggested by one of my students that we do a game called “Green Screen”. This is where you have a reporter in the field and two anchors at a desk. The reporter only sees a green screen, no images on it, even if s/he is looking at it, much like a weatherman. The anchors, who can see the images, give clues by asking the reporter certain questions about the event and the reporter has to guess where s/he is.

I do not have a green screen but I can put images up on the board. So, I went to youtube and put an image on the board. The only difference was the person playing the part of the reporter was not allowed to look at the screen. It went so well we actually played two of these games and I now have another game to add to my arsenal. Thank you, my students!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The McCain-Obama Debate

The debate between McCain and Obama took place and I am glad it did. I thought both candidates came off fine and neither had any major blunders. There were a couple of aspects about the debate, however, that did annoy me.

First off, McCain referred to Obama as compiling, “The most liberal voting record in the United States Senate”. Honestly, such comments bother me, largely because we hear them every election cycle. We were told that the Kerry-Edwards ticket was the most liberal ever; ditto Gore-Lieberman; ditto Clinton-Gore, etc. I just finished discussing with one of my classes how, when you make a claim, you need to back it up otherwise it is just an assertion. It bothers me to see politicians just throw buzz words around—try backing up the claim.

I also felt that both candidates, when they were asked questions or attacked on an issue they did not want to answer, simply found a way to question the opponent’s judgment. Both candidates did it and I noticed it as it happened but now, naturally, as I try to come up with an example, I can’t think of any specific ones. I do remember Obama making an attack on McCain, although I cannot remember the specifics beyond the fact that it had to deal with foreign policy, and McCain instead of responding came back to a claim he made earlier about Obama, as the subcommittee chairman, not holding some face to face meetings. As stated before, though, both candidates did this.

So, there is definitely material I can use for my Public Speaking class. Still, on the whole, I did think both candidates came across effectively and presidential. As to who won the debate, I am guessing that depends on who you were favoring heading into the debate. I think McCain supporters are going to say that he won the debate while Obama supporters are going to say he won the debate. That perhaps is another lesson I can use when we get into persuasive speaking.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Lessons From The Past

It is amazing how things which happened years ago can still have an impact on one’s life. I remember when my wife and I were moving to a new apartment and I ended up needing a truck rental. Driving such a vehicle was not my idea of fun and I keep driving at a snails pace because I was not comfortable with a rental truck; it was too big.

Having the opportunity to drive something smaller, or even pay someone to do the move for me was the lesson I learned and since that time, when moves have needed to take place, I’ve learned from my previous occurrence. It is that same approach I hope I bring to the classroom, willing to learn from things I’ve done in the past.


Years ago, when Iran had taken U.S. hostages, then President, Jimmy Carter, refused to campaign. He said that all his time needed to be put into the negotiations. Of course Carter had an obligation to do what he could to help the hostages. Carter, however, also had an obligation to tell the American Public what a second Carter terms would look like and to explain how he would handle some of the situations that had occurred (some his own doing).

Now, almost 28 years later, John McCain seems to want to hide as well. The economy, right now, is THE ISSUE, it is what is on everyone’s mind. Claiming that he wants to help find a solution, that talking about this could have negative affects and that now is not the time for campaigning, McCain appears trying to duck the public, much like Carter did.

Right now, this is the issue on everyone’s mind. Hearing the candidates debate, especially about how they would handle this situation (I realize this debate is supposed to be about foreign policy but clearly if it happens it would need to be, and should be, about the economy), is not only fair game it is the way things should be handle. Hearing how the two candidates would deal with this situation could sway my vote. I want to hear the plans.

Teaching Public Speaking, I tell my students it is good to talk about timely topics, topics in which they are interested, topics which they believe would interest the audience and would be important to the audience; Senator McCain, this discussion meets all of my criteria. Stop hiding and start debating!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Cell Phone Speech

Soon the informative speeches start and, as always, I am interested to see the topics students will come up with. Of course there are the standards but it is always fun to hear some of the more unorthodox speeches. I think back to a student who gave a speech about cell phones and talk about how agents get people to purchase cell phones, to switch from one company to another.

This student used to do that while in high school and he confirmed that a umber of these agents will lie and say whatever they need to just to get you to switch, so they can get a commission. I know I have felt that agents have lied to me at times.

Of course, there are the honest agents as well and there can be some good deals available. You have the at&t wireless deals that might be worth checking out. There are other deals as well. Compare the deals. So if you hear something about free Samsung phones and something else about free Motorola phones, take the time to find out which deal is better. Is everything you’ve heard true? Maybe. What can you get ion writing?

Perhaps you want to take a moment and assess if you want a blackberry and if a free free Blackberry Curve is your best option. Maybe it is or maybe you are just better with something like a free Nokia phones.

Regardless of what you end up getting, make sure to check and double check. Maybe you’ll end up with a free Palm Centro. As long as you know what you are getting into, have not made a snap decession and have checked your facts and information, you should be fine.

Good luck and remember the power of public speaking can make people aware of the good and the bad!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Wakeup Call

I HATE homecoming! Don’t get me wrong, I think school spirit is important but I think it sometimes gets in the way of teaching and that is a problem. I run into this especially with my high school students. The fact that I end up with students from two to five area high schools does not make it any easier as each school has homecoming at a different time.

This semester I only have students from two local schools. One of these schools has the majority of students and the entire group came in very loud, rowdy and energetic. This can be a rough group (although good kids) but today they were just over the top.

In addition, due to a rally, the students told me they needed to leave half an hour early. I hate when this happens for sports and I hate it even more when it happens for homecoming. I let the students know they are still responsible for the work and they will not got credit for being there the whole time but it did not seem to matter.

I was forceful in explaining that even if I don’t get to cover certain material in the book, or they are not there to hear it, when it comes to giving speeches, I expect them to incorporate all of the information. That seemed to take them back a little but it did not stop the nonsense. Perhaps that will happen shortly.

I have decided, and this may be a little unfair on my part, when it comes to the first speech, I will end up lowering everyone’s grade by half a letter (the lowered grade will be the only one they see). Since Public Speaking is subjective anyway, I don’t think I will have a problem doing it. I think that will bother a number of students but I think it will also get their attention.

Come the end of the semester, I may raise everyone’s grade to what it normally would be but I really think these folks need a wakeup call and I am perfectly willing to give it to them.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bush, Bailout And How I Would Grade Him If He Were In My Class

I find the entire issue with bailouts to be quite scary. I feel this way on a number of fronts. First off, the actual situation that is occurring is frightening. I do wonder, however, if people are looking to make this scarier than it needs to be.

I also question the time of this. It is amazing how skeptical and cynical we (at least I) have become. Bush has been president for eight year. The situation is announced as an election is taking place and Bush is getting set to leave office. Did he previously withhold information? Did he do certain things to prevent knowledge and damaging affects during his presidency and not care about dooming the next president? I think one must really consider these types of questions.

I find it scary that Bush is asking Congress to act quickly and the American Public to help without telling anyone his plan. Before we can decide if the plan is worthy, we must know what it is. I find it scary that McCain wants to use this as an excuse not to campaign. Yes, he and Obama have an obligation to cast votes on this plan but this is exactly the type of situation the voters should hear candidates talk about. Let’s know the difference between the two and how they would handle the situation.

If some of my students did something like this, I would be all over them. Asking for support in a speech before telling us the plan, carefully revealing information so one can question the ethical behavior of the speaker, suggesting it is more important to act than understand the situation, these are all points I would make and places where students would lose points.

Hopefully Bush can redeem himself and still pass the standards I would set up for my students. Right now, he hasn’t!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Just Say No

By nature, I try to be a mellow individual. I like to help people if I can. The problem is, sometimes people take advantage and sometimes they do it without even realizing. Sometimes, when you agree to help someone, it can also mean a hardship for you, the individual.

As I have indicated in the past, there was a time I had hoped to teach fulltime. I would still love the opportunity but I no longer expect it. Perhaps tied in to this, perhaps not, there was a time that, if someone asked me to do something for the college, I automatically said yes. That is still my nature and my gut feeling. As a result, I am always proud of myself when I tell the college, “No”.

The college where I teach has a number of campus centers in surrounding counties. It is an attempt to get higher enrollment by letting individuals know they do not have to go all the way to the main campus, they can stay closer to where they live. Certainly, among other reasons, with gas prices the way they are, this can be an incentive. Those same incentives are not necessarily there for the teachers.

I commute 40 miles each way when I teach. I recently received a phone call from the dean of another campus center who wanted me to teach a class at his center. It would be another 20 miles (in each direction). There was a time I would have said, “Yes”. I still wanted to. I would like to teach at different locations, expand my contacts and see if it can lead to a fulltime job.

That would be nice but it is not realistic. In addition to a number of other factors, the campus centers do not have any fulltime teachers, only fulltime administrators. If I were to get a fulltime position, it would have to be through the main campus.

The extra time, the extra gas mileage, the extra pressure of teaching in a new facility would all weigh on me over the course of the semester. If I did it, I know I would pay the price. I was proud of myself, I said, “No”.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Happy Hunting

Isn’t the internet wonderful. A couple of days ago I blogged about how I was not able to stay up and watch the Tina Fay spoof on Sarah Palin on SNL. A friend left a reply and told me that I could find the skit on hulu.com. As a result, I was able to watch the bit.

First, due to the internet, I was able to place an entry on a blog and have it available to anyone who checked it out. Second, I can get a response. Because of technology, that clip can know be found on the internet and I was able to watch it. And, if you have not seen it, it is worth checking out.

What it points out is a point I frequently make to my classes. Due to the technology that is available, we now have access to information which we never did before. The information is available 24-7.

Yes, it is important to make sure make sure the information is accurate. Certainly it is easier to spread misinformation these days because of the internet too. Still, information can be checked and it is easier to find the information.

So, whether you are looking for the spoof on Palin, information for a speech or paper, or just some other type of information, I wish you Happy Hunting

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Race

One of the things I do at the beginning of each semester is I hand out a survey to the entire class. The survey helps me plan for the year. First, I am interested in student likes and dislikes (sports, television, movies, politicians, etc.). This actually helps me help them if any student comes up to me and needs help picking a topic for a speech. I always start with what the individual indicated on this sheet and we sit down and try to come up with a fun topic.

One thing which surprised me this year was finding out how many of my students actually enjoy politics. I confess, I actually enjoy watching conventions, listening to campaign speeches and following the ins and outs of the game. Ironically, I find this much more interesting than government, but I find that interesting as well.

I also am fascinated by different ways in which a topic can be presented. Sometimes there are places where one can get information about a topic that might not be obvious at the offset. For instance, fictitious books are one such source. Obviously, the entire speech should not come from this source, that is not true research. After all, a fictitious book is just that, fiction. Still, there are experts that can be used.

Richard North Patterson has quickly become one of my favorite authors. I have yet to read one of his books that I have not enjoyed. More importantly, I find his books make me think. I am currently re-reading the first Patterson novel that I read, The Race. The book deals with a Republican primary, getting to the convention and the backroom politics and deals that are taking place.

The book is fiction but it is obvious that a good portion of this was written based on things that actually do happen in politics. To use a snippet in the introduction or the conclusion would be effective. A speaker could draw a parallel to a situation in the book and a real life situation. Certainly this book definitely allows for that.

I also highly recommend the book to anyone who has not read it and who enjoys politics. Based on the number of potential political speeches I may hear this semester, I am curious to see if anyone uses this book in a speech.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The High Schoolers

Both of my Public Speaking classes are now underway. As I indicated, the class made up of High School students always starts a few weeks later than the traditional college classes. This group of students seems like a good bunch, an intelligent bunch and an opinionated bunch.

This group of students also seems like a talkative group. This group of students also seems like an immature group. This group of students also seems like a group which may very well be tough to manage. They will certainly test me in a number of different areas and a number of different ways.

When I first walked in, about 5 minute before class was supposed to start (having set the room up earlier that afternoon), I was asked if everyone was there. Taking a quick head count, I noticed that I had one more name on my roster than students in class. I know that often times, on the first class session, especially for the High School students, I don’t have a complete roster when the course starts. I told them that, according to my list, we still had one more student. When the next student walked in, all the other students starting applauding. When three additional students walked in, one-by-one, as each one entered, s/he received an ovation. When the dean walked in to great the class, he received an ovation. It was a nice touch but also showed a rambunctious crowd who was going to do things its own way.

As I started some discussion, the students were willing and able to participate. They were also able to get off topic, talk over each other and have some side conversations. I did let them know this was unacceptable and will be putting an end to it. Still, as this second class gets started, it does remind me of the difference between High Schoolers and College students, even if there is only one year age difference between many of them.

Still, this is a class I enjoy teaching and I expect to, I KNOW I will, get through to them

Monday, September 15, 2008

Those Who Can't, Teach

The old saying goes, “Those who can’t, teach”. I know that this does apply to some but in my dealings with people, both as a student and a teacher, I find it is not true of the vast majority of teachers. I, myself, try to keep myself firmly rooted in my start as a public speaker. I still get up in front of other people and deliver speeches. I even get involved with speech contests to remind myself that, while I may be good, there are others who are better. And, if I happen to win the contest, it reminds me of the increasing talent that is around me, that many of the others are just as capable as I and I was fortunate to win.

There is a humorous speech contest that will I will be occurring later this week and I will be one of the participants. Without bragging, I like to let my students know that I participate in such things. It helps them understand that for me, this is not just theory based. It helps them understand that for me, I am not just talking, I am participating, I practice what I preach (or at least I try to).

One of the other skills I try to teach public speaking students is evaluations. It is important to know how to evaluate someone. How do you let a person know his/her weakness(es) without insulting the individual or making the person feel bad. Most of the students may well be in a position at some point in the future where they need to deliver criticism to an individual/ If done correctly, it makes the individual better; if not, it can lead to the person being upset, doing a poorer job and possibly even quitting. As a result, they get to evaluate each other in class.

There have been instances, if time allows, where I will practice a speech for the students. That get to see my abilities (whatever they are). They also get to provide feedback. They are learning evaluation skills and I am honing my speech based on what the students have to say; I get to see how it plays to an audience.

I do not do this with every speech and I certainly am careful because the last thing I want to do is intimidate anyone. If done incorrectly, that can happen. If done correctly, however, it can be a huge success.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I'm Old

I have come to the conclusion that I am old. Okay, that really is something I have known for a while but every so often something happens that makes you face this kind of realization anew. As one can probably tell by reading this blog, I enjoy politics. I have written entries about the convention, convention speeches and how certain moves have played out. As a result, I was looking forward to SNL yesterday.

Even after Obama pulled out from his guest appearance, there had been a lot of talk about how SNL would handle Sarah Palin. As many observers guessed, that role went to Tina Fey. While I haven’t watched SNL (or Saturday Night Live, as it called when I first started watching it—with the original cast), I was intrigued and wanted to see how this would come off. I was curious to see what bits they would include and if there might be any slight indication of a preference for one candidate or the other.

There was a time when, staying up to watch a show that started at 11:30PM was no big deal. Now, faced with having to get a son out in the morning, teaching religious school on Sunday and needing to function, and just my age and the amount of sleep I need, I was unable to stay up to watch the show.

As I said, I’m old!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Leave Or Die

I have watched with fascination the reporting of hurricane Ike. The hurricane is now headed for the Houston area. Apparently, officials in that area have told residents to evacuate. In fact, the message is, in effect, get out or die, face certain death. There are a couple of different thoughts that come to mind.

We have all seen hurricanes that were a lot more serious than expected. I think Katrina is a good example. While some people would have stayed anyway, most people did not expect the hurricane to be as severe as it was. Certainly we have seen the other side of this as well. I think Gustav was an example of something that was supposed to be devastating and was no where near as severe as predicted. This leads to people questioning the credibility. When it comes to speeches, it is important to be credible. This is an example where a lack of credibility on behalf of the weather service can literally lead to a loss of lives.

The second aspect that I noticed is a throwback to my days as a radio news reporter. I find it interesting that while everyone is told to evacuate an area, it is the people in the media, in the news, who move closer to these disasters. We tell people to do what we don’t do, what we refuse to do. Again, from an ethics point of view, can a person who is not doing something effectively ask others to do it? Is it ethical for a smoker to urge people to quit smoking?

A speaker needs to be effective and looking for ways to get the message across. A teacher needs to be looking at current events and try to find a way to use them. Although this semester is young, so far I have had no shortage of opportunities.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9-11 Reflections

It was refreshing to see John McCain and Barack Obama call a truce due to 9-11. Certainly there are events that transcend politics. On 9-11, we should not be thinking about politics, we should be reflecting on the good and the bad. In terms of my discussion on ethics, perhaps this idea fits right in.

It is my thought that we should all take a moment to reflect. It is my thought we should all appreciate the country in which we live. It is my hope that we never see such a tragedy again, be it in this country or on foreign soil.

Staggered Courses

I will be beginning my second class next week. Since this is a class for High School students, taught at the College Campus, it always starts a few weeks later than the “traditional” college classes. It is always interesting to see how such a process plays out.

This semester, these are the only two classes I am teaching and they are both on TR. In one sense, it would be much easier to simply use the same lecture for both classes. Life would be so much simpler if the two classes were on identical schedules. Obviously, if the starting date differs by three weeks, that cannot happen. This means I need to put extra time into having two lesson plans set, even though the courses are the same.

On the positive side, one of the things that used to frustrate me as a student was a teacher who simply repeated the same lesson, session after session in the day. If the teacher had already covered the material three times in a given day and you had this individual for the fourth session s/he taught that day, the instructor would probably sound bored and be tired of teaching the same material. By teaching different things, it forces me to stay fresh.

Another advantage is, if I am not happy with the way a particular lecture went, if I am disappointed that I did not have time to look over the material as much as I had hoped, had wanted, maybe even had needed, I get a second chance a few weeks later.

So, there is both good and bad in having the classes staggered by a few weeks. Since I have no control over that, I might as well accept it and enjoy it. I hope classes are going well for all of you who are either teaching, or taking them.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Pot Calling The Kettle Black

In response to my last post, I recently learned of this clip on youtube which has McCain making his own comment about putting lipstick on a pig. I guess people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

Click Here if you want to see the clip.

Lipstick On A Pig

One of the things I try to teach my students is, one giving a speech, while no topic is off limits, you have to be careful not to offend anyone. I understand that and I agree with it (although certainly this can be taken to an extreme). So, is it offensive, when talking about a person, to say if you put lipstick on a pig, it is still a pig.

This comment came out of the presidential campaign. In case you are unaware, this situation went something like this: At the convention, VP candidate Sarah Palin, in her acceptance speech, asked what the difference was between a Hockey Mom and a pitbull. The answer, she said, “Lipstick”. Obviously, the point she was making was she can be a strong and tenacious (both as a VP candidate and as VP) as a pitbull.

Barack Obama then took this line of Palin’s and twisted it around. Obama said that if you put lipstick on a pig, it is still a pig. He then went on to say, “You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change. It's still going to stink after eight years”. The point he was making is that, regardless of appearance, regardless of gender, Palin’s record is her record and her lack of experience is her lack of experience. Moreover, he was suggesting that McCain’s ideas were nothing more than George W. Bush proposals said by someone else.

Was Obama’s comment unfair? Was it sexist? That is what the McCain camp is claiming and I am sure that there are many who agree. In terms of public speaking, one has to be aware of comments that someone MAY find offensive. Of course, in politics, it is not necessarily that the comment has offended someone, it is a mater of trying to make it sound offensive so the point of the comment has the shelf life of spoiled milk while the comment itself continues to live on. By the way, Obama was guilty of doing this when Hillary Clinton made a comment about Robert Kennedy being assassinated in the primary in 1968. The point she was making was, until the party has a nominee, you never can be sure who it is going to be. The Obama campaign, however, argued that this, in effect, was suggesting that someone could, and many even should, assassinate Obama.

So, was Obama out of line with his lipstck comment? I am sure there are some who felt he was. Personally, I think Palin was the one who first used this image and Obama in no way was suggesting the Palin was a pig. Still, it points out just how careful someone has to be on the campaign trail and when speaking. I devote an entire class to the ethics of speaking so this episode will now enter my repertoire of things to use when discussing ethics.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Icebreakers

I find it ironic that it is a non-graded assignment that takes the most amount of energy out of me during the course of the semester. One of the first assignments I give my students is to deliver an icebreaker. This is a speech where they introduce themselves to the entire class. I tell them, however, I am not looking for them to come up tot he front of the class and give an autobiographical sketch of their lives. I want to learn something about the individual’s personality. What makes him/her who he/she is?

The assignment has many purposes. First, it gets the students thinking. It gets them up in front of the class, having to give a structured speech. It lets me learn each student’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to public speaking. It also gives each student and idea of how I grade and what I am looking for in a speech.

The speech, itself, is not graded, other than Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory. It is early in the semester and I have not yet gone through the chapters in the book the deal with putting a speech together. Still, it is important to get them up there. So, I get all the students in class up on a given day and each one does the icebreaker. Last semester it was 22 of them; this semester it was only 20 of them in a class. Still, sitting through 20 speeches in one class, taking notes on them, staying focused, is a lot (for me as well as the students). I know I could do it over two days but, first I want to get them out of the way and second, and more importantly, I don’t want some to feel that it is unfair because some students had an extra day or two to prepare.

All icebreakers were given on Thursday and the next few days were spent typing up 20 critiques. Anytime that I type up a critique, I put time and effort into it. For the icebreaker, I put extra time and effort into it. Students learn what I think, how I would grade it they were getting a grade on the assignment, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. In addition, if I can show them early on how much I stay focused on the speech, how intent I am on making suggestions to help, than I earn their respect earlier, instead of later. So, while there is no grade that gets entered into the gradebook, I just finished one of the busiest times of the year.

Friday, September 5, 2008

One Last Look At Sarah Palin

One of the things I teach my students is, when you give a speech, not only is how you say something important, so is what you say. Certainly it is important to do research and important to be accurate. So, how accurate was what Sarah Palin said in her acceptance speech?

Yesterday, on Yahoo’s homepage, I came across a story that examined some claims made by Sarah Palin in her speech compared to the truth about the situations. The article suggesting something to the effect of Fact vs. Fiction for Palin’s speech, did not stay up too long. I have tried to find it since but it appears to be gone. I would have liked to have included a link.

There are two specific items I recall. First had to do with the so called Bridge to Nowhere. It is true that Palin argued against it. This, however, did not occur in the early stages. She actually supported the bridge and wanted to claim the funds. It wasn’t until others started criticizing building a bridge to an area with only 50 house and until she started taking some heat on the issue that she changed her position.

I have nothing against changing position but when you are accusing others of doing that for political gain, be careful of engaging in the same tactics. After all, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

A second claim that was pointed out had to do with Obama not sponsoring a piece of legislation. It was pointed out that while certain measures may not have his name on them, he certainly worked with others in the drafting and wording of the legislation.

One thing which is true is she did put the jet up for auction on e-bay. It did not sell there and she did sell it elsewhere.

McCain's Speech

Listening to John McCain speak yesterday, a few random thoughts occurred.

1. The man is not a terrible speaker. He certainly does not have the oratory gifts of Barack Obama and he may not have been as effective as Sarah Palin but he certainly kept his audience entertained. Of course, it is easy to keep a convention crowd entertained but he handled it well.

2. I would have like a little more substance. I really did not feel he gave us an idea of what he wanted to accomplish as President. Perhaps others disagree but for me, I thought there could have been more substance.

3. I find it interesting how McCain has positioned himself as a servant of the people and how it is they who want him to run. If memory serves correctly, this is not McCain’s first run at the presidency (although it is the first time he has received his party’s nomination). To suggest that McCain has not changed positions or try to appeal to various wings of the Republican party is absurd. Still, that is exactly what McCain tried to suggest in his speech and what others had to say about him at the convention.

4. It is going to be an interesting two months.

Coming up later today, one last look at Sarah Palin.

The Record Says

Have you ever truly gotten angry at a student? I think the angriest I ever got was when a student attempted to plagurize a speech. This student actually took a speech that another student gave, in another class, with another teacher. We talked, however, and both students ended up in trouble. Personally, I think something like this should result in Criminal Court Records for both students. Things, probably for the best, did not go that far but the situation did give me something else to talk about when it comes to my discussion on ethics.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Was It Appropriate For Lieberman To Speak?

Apparently the Democrats have indicated that, while they understood Joe Lieberman was speaking at the Republican Convention, they felt he went too far with his attacks on Barack Obama. It is a fascinating dynamic.

First off, I am not sure what the Democrats were expecting from Lieberman. This is a convention and convention speeches, by their very nature, tend to be attack speeches. Certainly Lieberman made no secret of his respect and admiration for his friend, John McCain.

Yes, Lieberman was the VP candidate for the Democrats in 2000 as Al Gore picked him as his running mate. However, since that time, Lieberman lost a primary to another Democrat but ran in the general election as an independent. Running as an independent, Lieberman won. Still, while be an independent, he does caucus with the Dems.

Did Lieberman, as a result, owe it to the Democrats, the party that nominated him for the second highest office in the United States, not to speak at the convention? Doesn’t a person have the right to publically endorse anyone he or she wants? Doesn’t the constitution grant us Freedom of Speech? Still, why it certainly was legal, was it ethical and/or appropriate? I suggest that is for you to decide but I would expect that more Republican would respond he was ethical while Democrats would say he acted inappropriately.

Personally, I do not find Lieberman to be a particularly riveting speaker. Still, to the convention crowd, he was riveting and to those watching at home, it was more the fact that he was saying these things as opposed to how he said it, or even exactly what he said.

That, than, leaves us with the question, will the Democrats take action against him and is it appropriate. The Democrats could certainly tell Lieberman that he can no longer caucus with them. After all, he is an independent who ran against, and beat, a Democrat in a general election and has no publically supported a Republican. One could even claim that this is not retaliation, just bringing things to where they should be.

Regardless of what happens, I am guessing some people are not going to be happy. Again, considering that I deal with the ethics of public speaking, this fits right in. What ethical responsibilities did Joe Lieberman have or not have in regard to speaking at the convention and what ethical responsibilities, if any, are the Democrats bound by?

I love politics. Aren’t they great?

Sarah Palin's Speech

I would guess that many of you watch Sarah Palin’s convention speech last night. Former mayor of New York City Ed Koch used to ask, “How Am I doin’”. Well, how did Sarah do last night?

I thought there were a number of positive things about her speech. The first thing the McCain-Palin ticket needs to do is sure up its base. If we accept Convention Delegates as being the base (and that point can be argued), certainly she was effective. She was on the national stage, the big stage last night and she did not falter. I did find it a little awkward when she talked about being the mother of “one of those troops,” since I have always consider the word ‘troop’ to be plural. The thought going through my brain at the time was, “The woman must have an awfully big uterus to be the mother of an entire troop”. I would have preferred her using the word ‘soldier,’ but really this is a minor point.

I also thought she spent a little too much time talking about her family and her family life. I do not feel that qualifies her to be Vice President and really does not tell us much about her. Yes, it is important to talk a little bit about family and upbringing in this day and age, yes she did indicate that parents of “special needs children” would have an advocate in the White House (which said something about policy) but the amount of time she spent talking about her family was overdone.

To my surprise, she did a nice job of talking about the issues. Did she only portray one side? Of course, but this is a campaign, this is the Republican Convention and that is to be expected. She let us know her position on drilling for oil and then mentioned other things that could be done to reduce the US reliance on oil (I thought Barack Obama said something similar at the Democratic Convention but still Palin told us something about her beliefs. She talked about line item vetoing and closely going through a budget, she talked about the need to cut rather than rely on the ‘tax and spend’ policies of Obama.

Given the fact that she has only been Governor of Alaska for two years, she did a nice job of combining attacks with telling you a little about her philosophy and approach. Did she tell you what she would do as Vice President? No, but let’s face it, other than advise the President, be a representative of the United States in some World Affairs and be ready to take over at a heartbeat should something happen to the President, the VP doesn’t do much. Personally, I think Sarah Palin would do great at the first two items mentioned but I have great and grave concerns about the third.

I did find it amusing how the Republicans criticized the Democrats for having no Executive experience at the VP or Presidential level. I did not know that was a prerequisite for the job and for years thought the belief of both parties was someone who had experience on the Federal level, with Federal issues, was better qualified than someone who had Executive experience on the State level. I still find it amusing that people are claiming that Sarah Palin is more qualified to lead than Barack Obama (maybe she would do a better job, I don’t know, but at this point to say she is more qualified is absurd). The claim, however, that he has never authored a piece of substantive legislation as either a state legislator or a Senator I thought was effective.

In viewing Palin’s speech as a speech, given the surroundings she had, I thought she did an excellent job with the speech. Should she win, I have no idea how good of a job she would do as VP (or President, should the need arise).

Stay tuned for reaction to Joe Lieberman coming up later today!

Preparing For An Impromptu Speech

Recently, I gave a speech at my Toastmaster meeting and tackled the “Speaking off the Cuff” assignment. This assignment calls for the speaker to pick five categories and then let a person choose one of the categories and the speaker gives a five to seven minute speech on that category.

The idea behind this assignment is, when we give an impromptu speech, it is not totally unprepared. We usually are only asked to talk about topics of which we have knowledge; we often have an idea that we might be called upon to speak. The assignment goes on to say, as a result, we should always have some stories in the back of our mind that we can adapt to certain public speaking situations.

I absolutely agree with this philosophy and approach. It is true, it makes a lot of sense. For this assignment, however, I chose to do things slightly differently. The one down side to this assignment is, in effect, one can prepare five separate speeches and then based on which one is picked, that is the speech you give. Many people would have a tough time coming up with five separate speeches but some would not. I believe I am in the latter category. That was my reason for doing things differently. I told the person picking my topic that she had complete control over the topic. I did not want to limit her to five topics and know what they were.

The way I attempted to handle the situation was to have ten different anecdotes and figure, depending on the topic picked, I would adapt one of those anecdotes to the question and make a point or two with my story. After all, the point about having stories ready to go is quite valid.

Overall, it worked fairly well. It was not the strongest speech I ever gave but it certainly held together and responded to the question.

When it comes to teaching Public Speaking, students often panic when they learn they have to give an impromptu speech in class. I think this approach helps, to know that although it is impromptu you still can prepare. Not all student do prepare speeches but just knowing you have the option can release stress in regard to that impromptu assignment.

Later today look for a post concerning my thoughts of Sarah Palin’s speech. Also, keep your eyes open for a post concerning Joe Lieberman speaking at the Republican convention, which I also expect to have posted later in the day.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sarah Palin To Speak In Less Than Ideal Circumstances

There has been a lot of talk of lot surrounding Sarah Palin, John McCain’s pick for the Vice Presidential nod. In a previous post I indicated that I felt she provides some balance to the ticket and I still feel that way. The down side is, given McCain’s age and health, I personally do not want someone as inexperienced as Palin a heartbeat away from the presidency. I think the two of them would work well together but if it ever came to the point where over the next four years she would be running the country, I would have concerns.

I found it humorous that the Republican talking heads claim that she has more experience than Barack Obama. I am not suggest he has a lot of experience and it is up to you to decide if he is qualified to run the country but don’t insult my intelligence by claiming she has more experience than he.

Obviously, there have been a number of issues that have already arisen concerning Sarah Palin. Despite what McCain says, despite what Palin says and despite what Obama and his people say, the fact that Palin’s 17 year old daughter is pregnant is absolutely news worthy.

Of course candidates and their families deserve to have private lives (although in today’s political society, that is not the way it works). Still this is newsworthy given Palin’s record. Palin believes schools should not teach sex education and that it should be left up to the parents to teach their children abstinence. Obviously, by her own standards, Palin failed. Of course the final decision is always up to the individual. I am not suggesting that Palin should be monitoring her 17 year old daughter 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Still, she, Sarah Palin, is the one who made this an issue. How can she tell the people of Alaska that they are responsible for making sure their unmarried children don’t have sex when she can’t even prevent her daughter from having sex (and getting pregnant). To me, that is the story.

Other issues regarding Palin have also come out during the campaign and she has not even been in the National eye for a week. What amazes me about this is, despite what is coming out, it appears that people are ignoring it and giving her a free pass. A friend of mine suggested that McCain could not get out of this well, so he should get out of it quickly and drop her from the ticket.

I don’t claim to know how the entire public feels about this but, from what I can tell, most don’t seem to care. The Republicans are not letting it distract them and it seems that McCain will keep her on. I am excited to hear her speech tonight, amidst all this craziness. All public speakers, at times, speak in less than ideal circumstances. While the convention is a favorable and welcoming atmosphere for Palin to speak, given all of the issues, we will not only learn something about Palin’s character tonight, we will learn something about her public speaking abilities.

Ethical Lessons From Gustav

It is a relief to see that Gustav was not nearly as devastating as was predicted. People fled Louisiana based on predictions; Republicans changed their convention based on predictions; people across the nation braced for another devastating storm, similar to that of Katrina, based on predictions. We all breathe a sigh of relief that the predictions were incorrect.

Yesterday, in my Public Speaking class, the discussion dealt with ethics in public speaking. Are there any ethics and if so, what? Is it ethical to give a speech praising Osama bin Laden or Adolph Hitler? Is it ethical to urge people to break the law, be it smoking marijuana or actually going out and killing someone? Can we say that you should never urge someone to break the law. For instance, when MLK urged people to hold public sit-ins, or had blacks been urged to sit in the front of the bus, following the lead of Rosa Parks, isn’t that urging people to break the law. Where does one draw the line?

These are tough questions, and perhaps have no right or wrong answer since everyone views it differently. Still, one can ask similar questions about the way the reporting of Gustav was handled. Did the media turn this into a story, claiming that the hurricane was going to be on par with Katrina when they knew that in fact it was not? If so, are they to blame for forcing people to leave who might not now should another hurricane head that way? Is the media to blame for forcing the Republicans to alter their convention—to my ultra right wing friends who see the media as too liberal, do you see this as a plot of the liberal media to destroy the Republicans’ fun?

Then there is the other side of the issue. Should the media have just sat on the information for fear it might be incorrect or the hurricane might change course? If so, would the media be to blame for any deaths and/or injuries because it did not alert people as to how serious the hurricane was believed to be?

Similar questions can be asked in terms of threats to national security. Following 9-1-1 and the implementation of the homeland Security office. When there was a report of a threat that never materialized, we were critical for being told there was a danger. Had we not been told and something had happened, we would have been critical for not being alerted. Did the office actually intercept intelligence and prevent terrorist activities from occurring which we were never told about? We don’t know and probably will never know.

Considering the ethics and questions involved when it comes to reporting, to creating a story or simply reporting the facts or just waiting to find out what the facts are before reporting is a very difficult job. Examining these situations can actually show how tough the “ethics question” is when it comes to public speaking.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor Day

When I was going to school, schools traditionally started the year the Wednesday after Labor Day. This was true of the elementary schools, the middle schools and junior highs, the high schools and the colleges and universities. I am not quite sure why it was that Wednesday and not the day before since Tuesday was the day immediately after the holiday, but the start of the school year was after Labor Day. Some schools still do that. My son starts the Wednesday after Labor Day.

Still, this approach has largely changed. Like many instructors, my college courses started the week before Labor Day. School began the Monday before the holiday. While it may allow the school year to end earlier and help institutions meet standards and goals, there is a problem with this. After just one week of classes, students are getting a day off.

I teach a Tuesday morning class. For many of the students, this is the first class after the Labor Day holiday. That means, when they return to classes on Tuesday, it is hard getting them to refocus. Many have still not broken out of the summer vacation mode and now they aren’t even given a chance to settle into the school year before getting a day off.

I realize that this is not going to happen but, I think schools which start before Labor Day should sit down and truly reconsider. Perhaps some of those who make the decisions should try teaching a class the day after Labor Day and see what they think.

Either way, it is good to be back teaching as I enjoy it. I just wish we had a little more time to ease into the routine.

To one and all, teachers and students, here is wishing you a good, enjoyable and successful semester.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

McCain, Gustav And Class

It is amazing how Gustav can affect so many things in so many different ways. First of all, the people of Louisiana, some still feeling the effects of Katrina, are bracing for another, potentially devastating, storm. As someone who teaches public speaking, I think how this can be used in a demonstration speech, explaining how hurricanes are formed, I think about how this can be used in an informative speech, telling us about either one of those storms and I think about how it can be used as a persuasive speech, talking about the way we should protect ourselves from a hurricane or what government should be willing to do before, during and after such storms.

I think how Gustav is changing the way John McCain and the Republicans will hold their convention and I wonder if it may actually help John McCain. Much to McCain’s credit, he has said that they need to act first as Americans and then as Republicans. With such a potentially devastating storm coming in, it could be necessary to take emergency measures and McCain stands ready. His willingness may actually cast him in a better light (much like 911 cast Guilliani in a good light). I am not suggesting that McCain is happy about the hurricane, only that if he handles things correctly, it could actually get him more votes than a “normal” convention would.

Regardless of how it plays out, I will be using it in some way during class this semester. In some way that means I am benefiting from others misfortunes, and I truly do not like to do that. Still, it is important to use events that are current when trying to come up with examples for a class. I would rather that Gustav was not occurring and not threatening to do damage to anyone. I have no control over that, however, so I will use the cards I am dealt (much like McCain).

Friday, August 29, 2008

Obama's Speech

As a piece of rhetoric, and I do not mean that in a negative sense but rather the classical definition as put forth by Plato, Aristotle and others, I thought Barak Obama’s speech last night was very good. Actually, I thought the speaker before him, Senator Dick Durbin, was also very good. Durbin was able to get the crowd involved. I believe this is something that you want to do at a convention and the speakers I had heard up until then did not do that. Durbin got the crowd shouting “No,” after a number of questions. This was a successful introduction then to Barak Obama.

In terms of Obama’s speech, I thought he was charming, charismatic, interesting, and for a convention speech, fairly effective in laying out his plans. Obviously I would not expect any speaker at a convention to be able to talk on all the issues, or give you a lot of specifics. Certainly at a convention you claim to be able to do more than you can. The reason for that is, without the help of others, specifically those in the legislative branch, you can’t do everything. Still, at times Obama told you how he was going to get things down.

Obama used repetition effectively. I am actually surprised that thus far I have not heard anyone mention how he borrow from Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech. Obama, like King, kept coming back to the line, “Now is the time”. Still, Barak did this effectively.

I thought Obama’s speech had a clear introduction, body and conclusion and if I were grading him in a class, he would do well on that particular assignment.

Off of the topic of public speaking for a moment, I thought John McCain was very effective waiting until the day after the convention to announce his choice for Vice President. The fact that he waited and the novelty of Sarah Palin, a little known politician, a politician from Alaska and a female, certainly have taken some of the attention off of Barak Obama’s speech. Now I am interested to see how McCain and his fellow Republicans do at their convention. Once again, I’ll be grading.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Convention Speeches

I watched some of the convention last night and while I did not hear any speeches from start to finish, I did hear large pieces of certain speeches. Teaching public speaking, I think the speeches demonstrated certain things that I can use for class.

Last night featured many women speaking. Barbara Mikulski. I actually was fascinated by her introduction. I thought you avoided using any attention getting devices and simply came across as angry. I would have rather heard her start off on a different note and then build to a climax. I did not feel that she did that.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, I thought was very effective. I liked her introduction and the symmetry she used, talking about happy to stand before the convention as a Senator, Happy to stand before the convention as a woman, happy to stand before the convention as a number of other nouns she used and finishing off with being happy to stand before the convention as a supporter of Barak Obama.

The introduction I thought got the audience’s attention, set up her speech nicely and clearly said she was behind Obama. She then discussed the issues that were important to her and made her run and said these were also important to Obama. The speech was well written and well delivered.

What I thought Hillary did not do, and none of the speakers did, despite having the opportunity to do it, was play off the audience. When they started using catch phrases, as I’ve seen done in conventions past, either you get the audience to say the phrase with you or you get them to respond by saying, “No,” or “Yes,” depending on what the phrase is. I think that would have helped.

Still, I certainly felt, from the point of view of teaching public speaking, the convention speeches delivered yesterday were worth watching.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Barak Obama's Mistake

The Democratic Convention is underway. It appears as though it is all systems go and, while it certainly does not get the attention it once did, most likely the Dems will get a boost out of the convention (as will the Republicans after their convention in September).

Barak Obama and The Democrats also tried to get a bump heading into the convention by using a novel idea to announce his Vice Presidential choice. I think the idea was good but it backfired, in large part (in my estimation) due to the way it played out. Obama wanted to announce his choice by text message. Those reporters, and others, who gave Obama their cell phone would be the first to know.

Obama then blew it. He told the world on Thursday that he had made his decision but he was not going to announce it. It was as though he was sticking out his tongue and saying “Neh, Neh” or “Ha Ha”. By some reports he was supposed to announce on Friday, others said Saturday and, for his purposes, Obama seemed content to sit on the information.

It is not surprising then that someone started to leak the information. As a result, the Obama campaign sent out a Text message at 3AM on Saturday, announcing the choice of Joe Biden as the VP candidate. They had to scramble to save face. Unfortunately, some damage was done.

First off, initially I was interested in who he was going to pick. When he said Thursday night that it was a done deal, I may not have liked it but I could give him a little time to make the announcement when he wanted. By the time Friday afternoon rolled around, I lost interest (I think others did too). I thought he handled things poorly and as a result, I have had little interest in watching this convention. I also think he did not get the anticipated bump.

The lesson here is, you can come up with a great idea for teaching, for getting messages across in the classroom but the idea is only part of the battle. You need to have the idea and it needs to be implemented carefully and correctly. Hopefully, I will be able to learn from Barak’s mistakes.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Working For The Weekend

The old song, okay I guess not that old, says, "Everybody's working for the weekend". Well, as the new semester gets set to start (for me it is this coming week), I know that feeling, or perhaps, more appropriately it is, "Everybody's working for the Holidays".

I can almost guarantee that when I walk into the building on my first day, someone, maybe a student, maybe a secretary, maybe even the dean, is going to tell me how many more days to go before Christmas vacation. This seems to be par for the course teaching where I do and, it is even part of the camaraderie and fun and games. Everyone takes this kind of thing in good spirits. Still, it does point out that we focus on the Holidays. With that in mind, I wonder how many people can tell me how many more days until Black Friday?

Still, Black Friday is not what it once was. With websites like iblackfriday.com, one can now go shopping without leaving the comfort of home. It used to be that you had to fight the crowd, get out at 4 AM (or earlier). In fact, once a friend who had children dragged me out to go shopping with him (it was before the days that I had children). I decided right then and there, it was not worth it. Now, computers and the internet make it much easier. Perhaps it is worth it today.

Whether it is a department store, an office supply company or a Disney Store, today you can look for the items you want on line. Avoiding the crowds and not having to use the gasoline could definitely make the experience worthwhile. Now, I just have to remember to put a little of the money aside so I will have it when I want it and then I too can be working for the Holidays.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Different Perspective

As I have mentioned in some previous posts, I am involved with a Toastmaster organization. Recently, we had a joint meeting with one of the other Toastmaster clubs that meets in the area. It can get frustrating, confusing and exhausting, it is a lot of hard work to pull it off, but they are always enjoyable and they teach us a lot. We each have an opportunity to learn a slightly different way of doing things.

It is that approach that has helped me during my time as an adjunct instructor. First off, I talk with other adjuncts and hear the issues with which they have to deal and how they handle these matters. I hear the frustration and enjoyment and have "Borrowed” some ideas from them.

I have also talked with other instructors who teach Public Speaking. It is always interesting to get a different perspective. I take what I hear and balance it with my own feelings and perspectives and perhaps make some changes. Certainly it is a lot of work but it can be rewarding.

One thing which, as of yet, I have never done, is sit in on a class of another Public Speaking’s instructor. I think that would be fun and helpful. If I could sit in when speeches are given and talk with the teacher afterwards to find out what grade was given and why and see how, or if, we differ, I think it would be helpful. Perhaps this is the year to talk with others and see if that can be arranged.