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.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Coming Into Focus

As I enter the second week of classes, things are starting to come into focus. I am close to memorizing the names of all my students (54 in all between the three classes I am teaching). I pride myself on getting to know who my students are quickly. I am beginning to learn who the talkers are and who needs a little bit of coaxing. Fortunately I have a number of students who, at least during the early stages, seem to enjoy voicing their opinions, relevant to the topic.

Having recently needed to purchase bifocals, I truly enjoy it when things come into focus and realize and appreciate the importance of this more and more. Like with an education, I also recognize the every increasing prices of glasses. It is nice there are places like Zenni Optical: Sell Rx Glasses $8 with case! (sponsoring this post), which help keep costs in line.

Just like students choosing classes, they have a number of different types of frames so you can find what is best for you.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Mitt Romney and John McCain are going at it. Rudy Guilliani is hoping for an upset victory in Florida. Barack Obama won the South Carolina primary and regained the momentum but Hillary Clinton is still considered the frontrunner, and John Edwards is fading fast.

I love politics, I truly do. I find all of this exciting, interesting and fun to watch. And, come primary day here, I will vote, just like I will in the general election. I do that regardless of the race. I vote in local city council and school board elections all the way up to the presidential election. It is my civic duty, a right, and an obligation. I truly feel that way.

I found it interesting then, when one of my students urged people not to vote in the upcoming election. I try to allow my students at every class session to respond to one of a few topics I pick out (it helps make it easier when they have to speak in front of the class). One issue I mentioned was the presidential primary and upcoming general election. And, as indicated, one of my students picked that topic and said we should not vote since it is just a figure head and it really does not matter who wins.

It was an interesting perspective and the first time I heard someone urge people not to vote. I even commented that this would be an interesting persuasive speech. This coming week I am going to be talking about the ethics of public speaking. I plan on using this as an example. Is it ethical to urge people not to vote, to ignore their civic duty? I have a few other examples I plan to use to discuss ethics but I think, since this was a topic already brought up by one of the students, it would make for an interesting discussion.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Getting The Feel

As each semester starts, I promise myself I will not make any judgments on my classes for the first couple of weeks. Every semester I fail in keeping that promise. I realize that it is difficult to get a feel for a class so early. I realize that sometimes looks are deceiving, both for good and for bad. This is why I make the promise.

Just like students, however, probably make early judgments on teachers, I make early judgments on students, or at least on the personality of my classes.

My Friday class seems to have the strongest personality. It actually has the fewest number of students, at 11. In previous years, I have found that often times the class with the fewest number of students tends to be the class that is most eager to learn and participate.

I like my Thursday evening class. The problem I noticed (and it has only been one session), is five of the six Japanese students sit together, across the back of the room. From the first class, I got the impression that language and understanding English maybe a problem for them. The sixth exchange student, by the way (also from Japan) sat in the front row and while he indicated he was concerned since English was not his first language, he did seem to have a better grasp on what I was saying.

Then there is the Tuesday-Thursday class, with 23 students. I have not yet gotten a read on this class, and I think it is because it has that many students. Some of them are talkative, which is good. Some of them say they are not intimated when it comes to speaking in public, which is also good (if it is true). Other indicate they are terrified. It has the potential to be a good class but it could also be a difficult one.

Hopefully all three classes will go smoothly. Hopefully they will all be comprised of students who are interested and who want to learn. I am looking forward to, and hoping for, and enjoyable semester.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


The other day I commented about how, in a class of 12 students, six of them were exchange students. Well, the overall numbers in that class are growing and I am honestly surprised. The end of last week there were a total of 12 students registered. By the end of the weekend, 12 became 14.

I checked again today, the first day of the semester, and I see that I now have 19 students. For a Thursday evening class, there are 19 students, and 22 is a full class. Public speaking classes are capped at 22. The fact that a class which meets one day a week, for three hours, has 19 students amazes me. The fact that the class meets in the evening and it still has 19 students surprises me even more.

I do enjoy teaching and I do enjoy students but I was figuring on about 10 to 12 students in this class. I think I still have the time to do things the way I wanted, the way I had planned. Still, honestly I did not want to have to critique so many student speeches. I was banking on the fact that the class would go, but would have relatively few students.

Yesterday we celebrated the life of a great American, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. To steal a phrase from him, but used in a very different context and certainly being nowhere near as elegant, I guess the check has come back marked, “Insufficient funds”.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

It Starts All Over

The new semester starts tomorrow, 1/21/08. I do, actually get a laugh out of this as the first day of the new semester is a Federal Holiday and, as a result, a day when school is closed. Still, it is time to get back into the routine.

I am making a copy of my syllabus and will be marking it up to go over it with the students on the first day of class. Unlike previous semesters, I plan to forgo the PowerPoint presentation and just actually go over it with them. I think that in past semesters, sometimes the PowerPoint has actually taken away from the message I want to get across about what is important. I will try it without one this semester and see how it goes.

The next thing I need to do is print out copies of the ‘survey’ I give my students on the first day of class. I like to find out what they like, how to reach them and with what television shows, movies and sporting events they are familiar. I like to use snippets of movies and TV programs during my class and issuing the surveys helps let me know how much I need to set up these clips.

So, the first day for me is an exciting day. I know students like to find out a little about their teachers. I also like to find out a little about my students and see what overall personality I think the class has.

Tomorrow I will finish getting things ready for the first class but more importantly, I will take it easy and get some rest so I am good to go on the first day of class.

To all others teaching a class or classes this semester, I wish you good luck and remind you to have fun; words I plan on and hope to remember throughout this semester.

Friday, January 18, 2008

International Students

I was recently looking over the roster for my classes. One of my classes currently has 12 students in it. Of those, six are exchange students from Japan. I have had international students in class before and it certainly makes class more interesting. There is a different perspective and different topics they use for speeches. Still, half the class being exchange students, especially for a Public Speaking course, seems a bit much.

As much as I enjoy having International students in class, there is a difficulty with this situation as well. I have often ended up with students who do not speak English very well. At times, due to accents, it is hard to even understand certain speeches. In fact, there were certain speeches where, come the end of the speech, I actually had no idea of the topic on which the individual just spoke.

It is also difficult to decide how much of leeway to give exchange students. Is it fair to demand more from students born in this country than others? Is it far to cut some students some slack but not others?

It is my understanding that advisors often times suggest, and even push, exchange students to take a public speaking course. I understand why, but I think that the advisors miss the point. Perhaps, just like schools have English as a Second Language class, which deals mainly with writing, they should also offer Public Speaking in English as a Second Language program. This would allow students who are not from this country, who do not speak English as well as others, to still get the advantages of a public speaking course, without putting instructors in a difficult position.

I, honestly, wrestle with these issues. I enjoy the international flavor. I have even had International students come up to me and thank me for the classroom atmosphere I provide and my willingness to work with them. Still, I do not look forward to some of the challenges that come with this.

A New Semester

The following is a sponsored post.

Adjunct teaching, for me, is a lot of fun and I am looking forward to the start of the new semester. I begin next week. In addition, however, to letting me do something I enjoy, it is also nice to have some extra income coming in. In fact, it was the teaching gig that helped make it easier for me to get a mortgage for my house.

In this day and age, it is nice to be able to get on the internet and look up information about mortgages and see who can do what. Whether you are looking to get a new home in New York, a Florida Refinance or a home equity loan for a piece of property in California, these day, information is literally at your fingertips.

So, enjoy the teaching gig and do it for the enjoyment, but don’t forget that, financially, it can and does help as well.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Audio Books

I will probably regret this later but right now I am enjoying the fact that I do not start classes until next week. A lot of my colleagues and friends who teach at other institutions have already started. This week seems to be the week for many people. Not for me.

I will probably regret it later when they finish teaching before I do, but for right now, I am enjoying the time off. As a political junkie, I have time to follow the primaries and see how well the different candidates are doing. As a reader, I have time to enjoy some books without having to worry about ‘making better use of my time’. I am enjoying it.

I think I will resume my audio book ‘reading’ this coming semester as well. Having to make a 45 minute to one hour drive, two ways, three times a week, should give me plenty of time to listen. So, I will check out what is available in the library.

One of the nice things about books on tape (or CD, or whatever) is having the ability to work them into my class. One semester I was listening to Dracula on my drive into campus and I used it for part of one of my lectures. I did that with Dan Brown books as well. In fact, I have used some things from his books for the past number of semesters. Like everything else, it is getting old and many of the students are no longer familiar with The DaVinci Code, so it is time to find some new references and new materials.

Might as well kill two birds (or even three) with one stone. Listen to the book to make the ride more enjoyable, listen to the book because I want to read it, and get some additional teaching material. Hopefully that is how it will work out.

Monday, January 14, 2008


I realize that we are in mid-January. I realize the semester ends in December. Still, I have just finished everything I needed to do for the previous semester and it feels great. It is not as though I was procrastinating either.

As many of you may know, one of the classes I taught was actually comprised of high school seniors and it did not end until the first week in January. The way the schedule worked out, we had one class after the Christmas/New Year’s Holidays. The students needed to turn in a few things on that day.

Not surprisingly, some of the students were not back into the routine when classes resumed and I did give them an extra week to get things to me. So, I needed to get all the papers that had to be graded, grade them, enter everything into a spreadsheet and submit my final grades. It has been done.

In the meantime, while I was waiting for things to be handed in to me, I got my course syllabi for the upcoming semester completed. I set up the information I want the students to be able to access on line. I got everything I needed to do for the Spring Semester taken care of.

I may only have a week (a week and a day if you want to get technical) before the new semester starts, but now I have everything done and I get a chance to relax. I plan on taking full advantage of this week.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Semester Break

The new semester is just a couple of weeks away and it is time for me to start gearing up for my classes. So, I am taking inventory of the big news stories to have occurred during the break. Amazingly enough, I think the two biggest stories to hit during the month break are Jamie Lynn Spears becoming pregnant (or announcing her pregnancy) and the fact that Hannah Montana has a body double. It is amazing to me that among the top searches on web search engines is Miley Cyrus.

The question is how can I use them in my classes. I certainly have some ideas. In terms of Miley Cyrus, I plan on using her name when I first start discussing the ethics of public speaking. I always make the point that ethics need to be considered every step of the way. I explain that what is most important is the student can articulate why s/he felt a speech was ethical if others feel it is not. I explain that if they cannot, whether it be in public speaking class or in the ‘real world’ when they have a job, they will be the consequences.

I will look to illustrate that point this semester with Hannah Montana. Had Cyrus been able to explain, immediately, why she used a body double, perhaps apology, or certainly do a better job than she did, perhaps there would not be such a controversy. The fact that Cyrus did not has led to all sorts of problems and it will be interesting to see what effect it has on Hannah Montana.

A second way I can use this is to explain that students can use this as a possible topic for a speech. As a professor, what would be most interesting for me is to hear a student defend the actions of Miley Cyrus and explain that with the busy schedule of Hannah Montana, Cyrus had no choice. Of course there are other ways to work her into a speech as well, but that would be the most intriguing (I think).

Then there is Jamie Lynn Spears. Certainly in terms of speeches, and persuasive speeches, she could easily be used. This past semester I had a couple of students deliver speeches dealing with sex education. I have also had students deliver speeches about abstinence in the past. I can’t help but think these students would have loved to have had a situation like Jamie Lynn Spears’ (not that they wanted her to get pregnant) to help make there point.

Beyond that, possible speeches could include if her show, Zoe 101, should have been cancelled and if Spears’ pregnancy should have had an impact on Mama Spears and the book she was set to realize.

There are other events that have happened over the past few weeks that will work there way into my lectures, but for now, I am already planning ways to work Miley Cyrus and Jamie Lynn Spears into my classes. I am sure I will come up with other possible ways as well.

I look semester breaks as it is a great opportunity to gather new material.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Learning Session

Before the start of each semester, the community college where I teach holds a review session to go over the online information that is available as well as some of the technology in the classrooms. I have been to a number of these sessions. Sometime I feel like I would prefer to stay home but each time I go, I learn some new things.

Teaching a public speaking course, I devote a class or two to discussing working with visual aids. I also explain to the students that if they are giving demonstration speeches, there are ways they can show us how to do something other than by using the actual item itself. For example, if they are giving a speech about changing the oil in the car, pictures or a model car often times work better than actually taking us out to the parking lot and using the actual car.

One of the things I learned yesterday is, there are actually interactive animation features available for a whole variety of topics. In the health care field, there is a picture on the operating table and you have to put the parts in the proper place to resuscitate the individual. If you do, you see him come to like. If you do not put things in the proper place, you see the monitor flat line, the individual turn blue and the breathing stop.

As much fun as it might be for me to use this, and I very well might, I am thrilled with the idea of showing this to students. I plan on incorporating this into my lecture on visual aids and letting them see all of the ‘fun’ things they can do with the computer.

I truly believe that some of the students will really enjoy working with this and, if they enjoy it, chances are, there speech will be even better.

I will let you know if it works the way I am hoping.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Our Instructions

I still have some time before the start of the next semester, although not as much as I might like to believe or actually have. Still, the campus is sending out information about the upcoming semester. Traditionally they remind faculty that if there are classes the day before a holiday, we are obligated to teach.

I am actually okay with this but somehow it seems I am one of the few. If there is class scheduled by the college, I plan something for that session. If the last day of class is a Monday and by the previous Friday all students have completed all of their work, I still hold class and tell students they are obligated to be there as I will take attendance. It seems though that I am in the minority. The question is, is everyone else wrong or am I just foolish for playing by these rules?

We are also reminded that the first session sets the tone for the semester and students often view this as a class where all that happens is; the instructor introduces him/herself to them, hand out the syllabus and assign the textbook. Personally, I think that is a full session. I take the time to go over my syllabus, which is very detailed. Students who miss the first class or add it after that session truly miss a lot. I don’t think there is anything wrong with just doing those things on the first session. I do, however, think that teachers need to be detailed in the introduction so students know what to expect.

For me, that usually fills the entire session (Unless I am teaching a three hour course, in which case I do more than that). But, I think this is perhaps the most important session for students to attend. Of course, if they attend this one, they will learn how strongly I view attendance and thus know they should not miss class for the rest of the semester unless they have a real good excuse.

And still with this attitude, I can have students nominate me for instructor of the semester (click here to see that post). I know this does not really fit here, but I did warn readers I would be looking for excuses to link back to that post.

Monday, January 7, 2008

A Great Honor

I have received one of my greatest teaching thrills. Every semester, the campus center where I teach names it’s instructor of the semester. The students nominate the various instructors they feel are worthy and they write a paragraph or two as to why they feel the instructor should receive this honor. They are turned in, reviewed by the administrative staff and a decision is made.

This semester, I was named instructor of the semester. I taught two classes at this center and received nominations from students in each of the classes, in fact, multiple nominations from each class. I believe I actually received at least five nominations.

What is interesting is, in past years I have never received a nomination. There have been semesters where I felt I should have been nominated, but it never happened. I am not sure if it was because the students did not pay any attention to the notices about this event, were too nonchalant or did not think I was worthy, but I was never nominated.

This semester, I felt that many of my students didn’t “get me”. They were in class but seemingly just going through the motions and not responding to my comments or participating in the class discussions I attempted to get off the ground. This semester I felt was one where I should not have been nominated. I guess it is true that you never really know how you affect a student’s life.

Despite my feelings, I’m not giving back this recognition. I consider it an honor and I consider it recognition that I truly care about all the students I have had over the years. I hope that I have helped them and made a difference. I hope that, at least some of the students, feel that they are not only better public speakers, but better human beings because they have had me.

So I am proud and I will probably find a way to link a number of future posts back to this one because I truly feel like shouting from the rooftop that I have received this award, this honor, this recognition. I want the world to know (well, at least readers of this blog)

Sunday, January 6, 2008


I remember when I first started working as an adjunct at another institution, I was talking to a full-timer and he mentioned that adjuncts tend to give out far too many “A’s” and “B’s”. I guess I fit that category, yet I find it interesting that most students think of me as a hard grader.

I am far from the hardest Public Speaking grader at the institution, but I am also not the easiest. Students tell me that other instructors basically give you an “A” every time you give a speech. I do not believe this to be the case and I know students will use whatever arguments they can find to try and convince you (even if they are not accurate). Still, I do believe there are some instructors who do not look for as much in a speech as I do.

When it is all said and done, however, probably about 80% of the students in my classes get either and A or a B (there are not + or -). Somehow students think when it comes to public speaking, they should automatically get an A. They may admit they are uncomfortable speaking in public and they are not very good at it, but they still feel entitled to an A. I don’t quite get that.

I tell my students right from the start that I hate grading. I hate grading but I love evaluating, love giving feedback on speeches as my job is to help make them better speakers. The problem is, once they get the critique back, they jump down to the grade before reading the rest of it and once they see the grade, they often times can no longer read them comments objectively. I am toying with the idea of handing the critiques back without a grade and then telling them the grade at the following class session (A full professor once told me she did that).

Yes, I wish I did not have to grade. Yes, I wish I could just grade them based on attendance. In truth, I do think my class is a lesson in perseverance as there is a lot to do in a short time.

When I first started teaching I was told to grade honestly but to understand these were students at a community college and when it came to public speaking they were fragile and scared. My charge was to improve their self confidence in the area of public speaking, provide them with a positive learning experience and grade objectively. I think, for the most part, I have done that. I certainly hope so.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Learning From My Students

One of the reasons I enjoy working as an adjunct professor is due to what I learn from my students. Yes, of course, as an adjunct, as a professor, as a teacher, I am responsible for teaching the students. I like to think I do a pretty good job of it, and actually, I am fairly certain I do pretty well in this area. Still, I enjoy learning from my students.

I do think this is one of the things that helps make me a more effective teacher. I do not come into things with the belief that I know it all and cannot learn from my students. In fact, some of the changes I have made to my course syllabus, and my teaching style, have been as a direct result from student suggestions. For instance, I look to give students more opportunities to speak in non-graded situation so that it hopefully helps when they get to the graded assignments.

One of the things I enjoy about teaching public speaking as an adjunct is, I can learn from the topics the students choose for speeches. I give them a lot of leeway in this area, and I find I learn more. For instance, a couple of semesters ago, I had a student deliver a persuasive speech about the book My Sister’s Keeper. Based on the speech, I ended up reading the book and thoroughly enjoyed it.

It is always a little difficult when I find that I enjoyed a speech and learned from it, to grade it. The reason is, I am still one of these teachers who believe a speech should not be graded on how much I enjoyed it, but how well it met the assignment. I know students often fail to understand this (so do other adjuncts and other full-time teachers), but just because I enjoyed a speech, does not always mean it gets a good grade.

The speech on My Sister’s Keeper was good. It persuaded me to read the book. Still, it had way too many vocal pauses, not enough vocal variety and was far short of meeting the minimum time requirement. So, while it persuaded me, it did not get as high of a grade as I would have liked to have given it.

Still, it does not change the fact that I get to learn a lot from my students and I enjoy that aspect tremendously.

Friday, January 4, 2008

And Then There Were Ten

It looks as though all of my Public Speaking classes are going to go. I have 22 students in one class and that will definitely go. My Thursday evening class has 15 students. Ten is what they officially need to have the class go. Even if a couple of students drop out, I don’t see there being any issue with this class.

It was the third class, my Friday morning class, that was the question. It now has ten students registered. Usually a class at a campus center (as this one is) will go with eight, so there is a little room for students to drop and still have the class go.

So once again, it will be three classes. I am currently making some adjustments that I hope will enable me to better use my time and not get overwhelmed by three classes and a full-time job. So, first off, I have reduced the amount of information I give the students in the critiques. Yes, they still need to be given enough information to help make them better speakers, but the format I use will be much simpler. It will simply start off with the things I liked about the speech. The next part will go into suggestions. The final part will end with more positives.

I also am doing away with a final exam. I always thought I had to give one but my mentor has advised me differently. This will give me an additional two class sessions for teaching (the one used for the exam and the one used for review).

I will be assigning the students a three to five page type written paper and that could take more time to look at, but I will have a metrics set to go and it will allow me to look at things on my time.

I truly think these few things will make it easier for me to handle the three classes. The other thing which will make it much easier this semester is, I am not teaching every day of the week. Last semester I had three classes and between them, I was on the road every day of the week. This semester, it is just Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Thursday being the long day as I have a morning and an evening class and I will probably just hang out on campus. Still, I think I have everything worked out so this should hopefully work well for me.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Hugs And Kisses

Today was my last class of the semester. Two had finished previously, but the third one did not finish until today. I have developed a last day of class ritual, and it seems to work well. It is in large part based on something that my seventh grade English teacher did. It is amazing that something which occurred over 25 years ago has had such an impact.

My teacher, the last day of class, handed out a summary of things that had happened in the class, in a cute format. For instance, she talked about hoping the computer didn’t split up certain teams (students who had worked together on various assignments through the year). She referenced other situations as well. It was amusing and everyone went through the sheet looking for a reference to themselves. Not everyone, however, was referenced.

I piggybacked off this idea. Coming into the last day of class, I write a story. The story contains a reference to one speech given by each student. Usually I put this together in a manner about how much I have learned from my students over the course of the semester. So, for example, one topic that was big in all of my classes this semester was whether or not competitive cheerleading should be considered a sport. Another topic that was big among students was aggressive driving. So, I might start the story talking about how “after hearing speeches in my class, I wanted to see competitive cheerleading live. As I was driving, there were rude and discourteous drivers on the road and I started to beep my horn and show my rage, but then I remembered how dangerous it is to do that,” and just continue from there.

The students seem to enjoy this and I always make sure to include a reference to every student in the class, so they can find themselves. It is helps students recall speeches by other students that they may have forgotten.

I have one additional ritual. I always tell them how much I enjoy teaching and if it were not for them, the students, I would not have the opportunity to teach, to do what I truly enjoy. Therefore, I tell them I am sending them off with hugs and kisses. I then pull out little baggies that have about four Hershey kisses and four Hershey hugs and give one package to each student. They always seem to appreciate it and I even once had one of my male students (same gender as me) respond by coming up and giving me a hug in front of the rest of the class and then kissing me on the cheek.

As I said, the students always seem to enjoy the routine I have developed.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Years Resolutions

“Another year over and a new one just begun…!” Happy New Year to one and all. I hope that 2007 was good to you and that 2008 will be even better. For me, 2007 saw the formation of this blog and I am very appreciative of everyone that has come by. I appreciate anyone who has read my posts (be it one or all) and I am appreciative of those of you who have commented. It truly makes my day.

So what does the New Year hold? I don’t know, but like many others, I have my New Year’s Resolutions. In terms of this blog, I will try to update my post more regularly when things are busy. I will try to keep my posts interesting, informative and entertaining. I will try and not be redundant (or repetitive) in my posts.

As for teaching, a year ago at this time I made the following resolution and I think it is time to repeat it. My New Year’s resolution last year at this time was not to be so nice to my students. A number of people laughed and thought I was kidding. But, in large part, I was serious.

You see, I am a softy. I admit it. I like to see students do well and I am a sucker for a sob story. I know when students are taking advantage of me and I get frustrated, but I still remember when I was a college student and I give them the benefit of a doubt. The problem is, I do it too often, too frequently. It is who I am. I get frustrated with my students for pulling some of the garbage they pull and I get frustrated with myself for letting some of it slide.

Last year at this time, I definitely toughened up. The problem was over the summer months, without realizing it, I softened up. I think it is easier to get tougher in the second semester because there are just a few weeks of vacation. Over the summer, there are a few months and it is easier to forget the things that got you so frustrated and that you vowed to put an end to. So this year, I am hoping that I will become tougher not only in the Spring Semester, but in the Fall Semester as well.

So, once again, my New Year’s Resolution is to become meaner to my students!