Teaching as an adjunct can be a lot of fun. It is also challenging. As I have encountered a number of situations, I realize such a blog can be helpful, both to me and to others.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Do I Need A Lawyer?

It is amazing the things one needs to consider when teaching. I showed my wife the series of e-mails that went back and forth between me and the student who ultimately never handed in his paper and complained about his grade. My wife suggested I keep a copy of the e-mails in case the student wants to bring the issue to a higher authority.

I truly believe the college would support me, but it makes you wonder just when you might want to talk to a lawyer. Maybe teachers should have a lawyer ready just in case, maybe a Criminal Attorneys Los Angeles | Southern California DUI, Felony, Misdemeanor Lawyers.

You've Got To Be Kidding Me!!!

The saga continues. The student who did not hand in a paper or a journal ended up getting a ‘C’ in the class. Said student called me out in an e-mail telling me he deserved an ‘A’, although he could settle for a ‘B’. The student told me it was ‘Crap’ that he ended up with a ‘C’ and finished the e-mail by stating, “Thanks for nothing”.

So, let’s examine. The student wants me to raise his grade but insults me in the e-mail and blames me, not himself, for the poor grade. The student states he worked hard in my class. I would hope that all students work hard in my class. I understand the desire to see the hard work payoff, but students should always make the effort.

Finally, while stating he worked hard in my class, he still failed to turn in two items that are worth 20% of the final grade. If you take a 0 on 20%, it means the highest final average you can finish with is an 80, and that is only if you get a 100% on everything else.

What is frustrating is, I gave this student the extra time he asked for to finish these two assignments. He still never handed them in and now he wants to blame me for what he considers to be a poor grade. I guess it is easier to blame someone else for your own shortcomings than it is to accept responsibility.


Now that grades are submitted, it is amazing to think how things have changed over the years. As is the case with so many items, we now can do on the computer what once needed to be done by hand. What once took hours or days to finalize is now done in minutes and students can get their grades instantly.

We have come a long way in what is available in the field of data collection and it makes life so much easier, for good and for bad. Things like C31C636101 receipt printer, scanners, computers and the internet have changed no only the way we do business, but the way we think.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Extending Deadlines

Yesterday I was discussing how I sent some of my students an e-mail because they had not submitted certain work over the course of the semester. I love the way the mind of a student works and what they will actually say.

I told my students at the beginning of the year they had a paper to write. I even told them what it was about and explained it in my course syllabus. I told the students the paper had to be handed in by the last day of class. This particular class met on Tuesdays and Thursdays. While I did have a Friday class, it was at a different location, about 30 miles away.

In response to my e-mail, one student e-mailed me back saying he did hand me a paper. Further e-mails led to him explaining that actually he put it in my mailbox, even though the paper was supposed to be handed to me directly. After a few more e-mails, I learned he had submitted the paper on Friday, the last day of the semester. It may have been the last day of the semester but the last day of the class he took with me was Thursday. I was not on campus on Friday and he never even e-mailed me to tell me he had submitted it.

Being the nice person that I am, I decide to accept the paper and drive the 40 miles to campus to pick up the paper. Guess what? It was not in my mail slot, or anywhere to be found. I talked with the secretary and he said that no one had come in over the course of the week asking where my mailbox was (it is not always so easy to find) and he did not recall anyone coming in and simply putting something in my slot (and he is usually good remembering such details). So, I drove out for nothing.

I e-mailed the student back and he insisted he put it in my mailbox. I tell him to e-mail me a copy but he explains that he did not save the paper so he does not have a copy. He is willing to retype it but I won’t get it until the end of the long weekend because he is out of town, partying. I even agreed to this.

Guess what? By end of day Monday (Memorial Day) there is no paper in my box. I even checked on Tuesday, just before I had to submit grades and still no paper.

Some students just don’t get it and students like this louse things up for other students as well. The next time someone wants me (or in his/her mind, needs me) to be flexible, I am less likely to do so because of this instance.


As an instructor, I enjoy it when my students show creativity. Now, they still need to be able to complete the assignment effectively but creativity is good. Having suffered through some teachers who do not like creativity, I have decided to try and always avoid stifling others creativity. I do let them know that when you get creative, sometimes you forget the requirements of the assignment but that does not have to be the case.

One of my group discussions this year involved a number of students who tackled the topic of teenagers getting married and the difficulties and stereotypes with which they have to deal. It came about because one person in the group, an 18 year old, recently got engaged and is in the process of planning her wedding.

In the skit, the group went through the whole process of telling family members, to getting 1st Class Wedding Invitations, to an actual mock wedding. They did an excellent job of exposing the stereotypes that they had the entire class rolling on the floor in laughter.

It is a pity they are not putting that skit together now as a new feature on a website about wedding invitations allows you to use a zoom feature to make it easier to see the invitation. Still this group met the objectives of the assignment and they were creative. As a result, those people in this group did very well gradewise.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Missing Work

I am thrilled my grades have now been submitted. Now I can relax. Still, I realize I need to make some changes as to how I collect work. Up until now I have simply told my students to leave papers and journals piled up on my desk and I grab them as I get set to leave. Some of my students have asked if they could e-mail the work to me and I tell them this is also fine.

Now, as I was going through all of the papers, both e-mailed and handed in, I found a number of students that did not hand in one or both of the items. Some of the students are reliable students and I am surprised I do not have their work. It makes me question whether they never hand in the work of whether I misplaced it. I do not think I misplaced it since I have all the other papers in the pile.

To further complicate the mater, I told my students they could hand in the work anytime within the last two weeks of the semester. If something was handed in earlier, I am pretty sure that I graded it, entered it into my grade book and got it back to the student. Still, once I don’t see some grades for certain students, I question whether or not it was my mistake (even though I don’t think so). Of course, once there is even the slightest doubt that exists, it makes me question how I want to handle grading.

So, I have decided on a few things that I want to do for the future. First, I want all work submitted to me via e-mail and I want the students to CC the e-mail with the attachment to themselves. This way, if I never get the e-mail the student can prove the date and time the e-mail was sent. The send thing I want them to do, and students should know this but sometimes the obvious needs to be stated, is to keep an electronic copy of their work so if I misplace something the student can easily send me another copy.

What I did in this case is, I sent an e-mail to all students who, according to my records, did not submit all the work for the semester. Only one responded and I think, in part, this is because now that the school year is over, students are not checking campus e-mail accounts. I graded as if they did not hand in the work and if any of them challenge me after seeing the grade and can show me the completed assignment, I will submit a change of grade form.

In the meantime, to those students and teachers who now are on break, enjoy your vacation!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Window Shopping

Now that the school year is over, it is fun to think about the items that I might like to get over the summer that would make next year easier for me. For instance, one thing that I keep telling myself I am going to look into as each semester ends is some kind of computer software that will allow me to speak and the computer will type what I say. I know such a product exists and they keep making it better but from what I understand, the problem is it takes a long time to train the software to recognize your voice.

I have also toyed with the idea of getting various items and seeing about giving them out to students at the end of the semester. A gift certificate to a restaurant or maybe a bottle of perfume or cologne to the person who is the most improved speaker over the course of the semester would be nice.

I probably won’t do that for a number of reasons including cost, wondering what the student who gets it might think and wondering what the administration might say. Still, I guess right now you could say I am window shopping for next year. I may not get anything, but it is fun to think about the possibilities.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Right Move

This semester is over, although I still need to get my grades done. Currently it looks like I will not be teaching a summer course (I have yet to be offered one so I have no reason to expect that I will be this year). That means I am looking towards the next school year.

I was faced with a tough decision this year and after seeing the ever-increasing price of gasoline, I think I made the right call. Ever since I have been teaching a Public Speaking class on the main campus, I have always been given a MWF class for the fall semester and a Tuesday-Thursday class for the spring semester. The problem with a MWF class is each semester I also have at least on Tuesday-Thursday class, meaning I would be on the road five days a week, putting 80 miles a day on the car.

This past semester I sent an e-mail to the dean and her assistant letting them know I would not be available for a MWF class in the fall. Somehow no one saw that e-mail until after they published the catalog for Fall ’08. Guess what? I was listed with a MWF class.

I touched base with the proper individuals to let them know I could not do a MWF this coming semester. I had hoped they could get me another class. They were unable to do so but did remove me from the class that meets three days a week.

I hope that as the college prepares the schedule for the Spring ’09 semester they give me my Tuesday-Thursday class back. My concern is, having to find someone to cover the MWF class they had initial given to me, they may give that person the Tuesday-Thursday class in the Spring as well. I hope this is not the case. Still, having to be on the road five days a week, on top of my regular job, and pay over $4 a gallon for gas (and who knows what it will be by the time September rolls around), I feel I made the correct decision.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I Need A Vacation

In addition to grading papers and final speeches, I am also grading journals. It is a requirement for Public Speaking that every student keep a journal.

It is amazing how many students indicate in their journals that they now need a vacation. On the one hand, I do understand this feeling but on the other, I wonder what it will be like when the students are out in the ‘Real World’ and will have all sorts of additional pressures.

Still, for those who say they need a vacation, I hope they are able to take one and that they enjoy it. And, for those who wonder how they will be able to pay for it (if it is not being paid for by their folks), I hope they are able to find the necessary Vacation Loans

Monday, May 19, 2008

My Favorite Class

It was the last day of classes and I entered the room quietly. A number of students were already there. Usually I am the first one in the classroom but, hey, students aren’t the only ones who get excited about the semester coming to an end. As I entered I overheard some students talking, students who did not yet know I was there (okay, so call it eavesdropping if you prefer). There was a common theme that many of them expressed. The indicated that when the semester started, Public Speaking was the class they were least looking forward to but now, as the year was coming to an end, it was there favorite class and the one they will miss the most.

Obviously there are a number of factors that make a class successful. Some of those the instructor can control but many of the factors are beyond our control. This class just seemed to gel. People got along. When I tried getting a discussion going, students were responsive. So, in large part, the success is a tribute to the students.

That being said, Public Speaking is considered one of the greatest fears people have in today’s world. To hear people talk about the class in a positive manner, is certainly very rewarding and is, in part, a comment on the way I taught the class. Certainly it was a rewarding experience to hear the comments made. It was also rewarding to know they were not just sucking up for a good grade. It truly was a good group and one that I am sorry I will no longer be teaching. Hopefully next year I will get another good group of students.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Grades, Grades, Grades

As we come to the end of another semester, it is time to calculate final grades. Once again, I hear students complain that I grade too harshly. This is honestly a challenge. I know I am teaching an intro class, Introduction to Public Speaking. Now the people I hear speak, outside of class, are strong, capable speakers. Truth is, it would be easy to fall into a trap and be too harsh.

I do not think I am, however. I do not grade them nearly as harshly as I grade myself and I do not expect them to be able to deliver the same kind of speech I can. I think back to a speech I did when I was in college about the game of backgammon. It was a good speech and today I know I could do even more with that topic.

Internet access is a major factor. For instance, I recently learned that there is a plan to toss dice out of a helicopter during a tournament backgammon game, in an attempt to get into the Guinness Book of World Records. The things I could have done with that.

In addition, the fact that all sorts of games can be played on line is another factor. Whether it is playing poker online or backgammon online (or any other of a number of games), one can learn a lot about the game. First hand research is a wonderful tool.

I know the research I used to put into my speeches and still do. In fact, I will be giving a speech (not to my students) in the near future about poker. I have put a lot of time and energy into researching this topic and preparing the speech. Yes, if I were to hold my students to the same standard I use for myself, most would not pass.

Here Come The Papers

I was talking briefly with one of my fellow adjuncts about grading. I indicated to him that my wife was surprised that I did away with a final this year in favor of a paper. I told the adjunct how my wife asked, “Isn’t it easier grading tests over papers”. The response he gave me I think does a nice job of summing up my feelings, how papers are so much more interesting to grade, to read, then a final exam.

I am still looking over the papers. Some students seemed to know exactly what I wanted in the paper. Others, seemed confused. I think I could have written the paper for a few of my students and they still would have found a way to louse it up.

I have not yet read all of the papers and I know it will take some time. I will probably refine the requirements over the next few semesters until I get exactly what I want. Still, while it will be time consuming, I am looking forward to reading what the students wrote.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Interesting Speeches

It is always interesting to me what speeches ultimately fascinate a class and what speeches they do not find particularly interesting. Today in class, one of my Japanese exchange students spoke and talked about how to count to ten in Japanese and how to put some simple Japanese statements together. It was a good speech and the class was fascinated. I was surprised that you could hear a pin drop, it was so quiet.

A second student gave a speech about picking the right web host for a business or personal site. Again, I found this speech fascinating but the students were not into it. Perhaps when they end up working or if they go into business for themselves, they may feel differently and even rely on some of the information about making the correct web hosting chioce, but for today, that was not the case.

By the way, both speeches deserve an ‘A’.

A Party!

It is amazing to me how much a College class can be like a High School class. We are coming up on the end of the semester. The last three days of class were set aside for final speeches. Still, a number of my students wanted to know if we could have a party on the last day of class.

I explained that the three classes were for final speeches. Still, one of my students asked if all, or most of the speeches were set for the penultimate and antepenultimate classes, could we have a celebration on the last day of class. He even set it up so that when I asked who wanted to speak on each day, 18 of 21 students avoided the last classes session.

Against my better judgement, I agreed if they could get the speeches in we could have a celebration. On the positive side, I guess it is a good sign that they enjoyed the class and wanted to end with a party. In fact, by doing this, my guess is I will have better attendance, a higher percentage of people will be there than I normally get on the last day of class (even when I give a final on the last day). So, I guess things could be worse.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

An Offer For A Hybrid Class

I have been offered to teach a hybrid class next semester and I am really not sure how I feel. It would be a public speaking class and for every two classes done on-line, there would be one session in the classroom, largely for students to give speeches in front of an audience.

Now, I know that on-line education, getting on-line degrees, is the wave of the future and I think there are a lot of benefits, it taught correctly. Still, it does take up a lot of the instructors time, again if done correctly. From my perspective, however, part of a public speaking class is getting over the nervousness, or learning how to deal with it. I believe that the best way to accomplish this is to get the students in class and have them speak, even on non-speech days. It is also important for students to get to know one another so they are more comfortable with each other.

The challenge that it presents is intriguing. As I said, I also believe this is what the future holds. I hear more and more students talking about this. I know there are websites connecting learners to on-line colleges. Perhaps, then, it would be advantageous to teach this class. I am still debating.

Group Projects

I am currently debating how I should handle group projects in the future. Up until now I have simply given everyone in the group the same grade. After all, it is group work and even if someone is not carrying his/her weight, the group presents as a group and should be graded that way.

This semester, however, I had a group that, before it presented, let me know that a couple of members did not deserve full credit. It does point out that it is not fair for classmates to rely on other people in the group to get them through and get them a good grade. As a result, I have been thinking about my options.

The first thing I can do is leave everything alone and simply give a group grade. The second possibility is to give everyone an individual grade. I could combine the two methods and give people a group grade and an individual grade. The last option I can think of is something one of my graduate professors did. He allowed the group to decide, majority rule, what percent of the final grade each member was entitled to and that had to be submitted in writing. So, for instance, you could indicate that all five members deserved 100% of the grade, or you could decide that one of the members only deserved 80% of the grade because s/he only did 80% of the work compared to 100% put in by everyone else.

To give an individual grade (with or without a group grade) not only gives me more work (which I can handle), it also calls on me to make a judgement as to how much each person put in outside of the class. To allow the students to determine what percentage of the grade group members should get does allow for individuals to take out frustrations on others. For instance, when one group was formed, two of the members were going out with each other. They broke up shortly afterwards and four of the remaining six members were close friends with the female. This would allow those five to form a block and penalize the male who broke up with the female. I am not saying this would happen, but it could.

As a result, I am debating right now if I want to make any changes for next semester. I’ll let you know.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Car Accidents

There is an old joke about two students that decide to skip a final exam because of the nice weather and they go to the beach. They then talk among themselves and decide to tell the teacher that they were on the way to the final when the car they were in got a flat tire.

The teacher decides to give the students a makeup test. The test consists of two questions (and the students are seated in different rooms). The first one is only worth five points and is about material that was covered during the course of the semester. The second question, for 95 points, asks, “Which tire was flat”.

I thought of that when a student recently told me he was unable to make it to class because he ended up in a car accident out of state, in Pennsylvania. I questioned if this was legitimate but the student was actually able to put me in touch with the Wilkes-Barre Car Accident Attorney he saw while there.

Of course this could still be a setup, but it does enable me to double check if I like. It still raises the question I have talked about frequently with other teachers; what is an excused absence and even if it is excused, how much of a penalty should the student receive (after all, s/he still was not in class to hear the material)?

I know one teacher who gives students three absences (does not matter why) and after three, for each class missed, she deducts ten points from the students average. I understand the logic and frustration the teacher deals with, I just don’t know that I want to go to that extreme. Maybe I should but, doesn’t the car accident warrant extra consideration?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Papers Over Tests

It is amazing to me how easy it is to fill the time when teaching a class. For the first time since I have been teaching, I have done away with a final exam. I learned that I was not required to give one, despite what is written in the course catalog. To replace the grade, I am requiring students to write a paper critiquing a speech. That’s a post for another time.

As a result of my move, I have additional class time to teach. First, I traditionally have given the test on the last day of the semester. If I am not giving a test on this day, it is another class session that can be added to the time I have to teach. In addition, I am not setting aside anytime for a review, so that is even more ‘extra’ time.

Still, it seems like I am cramming as much as always into the same amount of time. And, much to my amazement, my students simply ask (almost every class session) if they can get out early. Certainly they should know by now that is not going to happen. The only time it does is on speaking days when , through no choice of my own, all speeches are finished early (either because some were short, some students were not there, or in the rate case, all speeches and evaluations have been given and there is some time left over).

I guess, maybe it is a lot like owning a house. When I lived in an apartment I had all sorts of stuff and the apartment was overflowing. Still, it was not until I moved into a house and was able to get all the stuff our (some moved, some thrown away) and think, ‘Wow, I actually managed to get all that stuff in my apartment’! Now, I look at the course syllabus and think, ‘Wow, I was actually able to cover all that stuff in one semester’!

Hopefully my students get something out of all this and don’t just feel like everything is crammed in so tightly that they don’t learn. I certainly do not believe that to be the case, but it is a challenge.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Cost Of Adjuncting

It looks like next semester I will only be teaching two classes (pending enrollment) instead of three. I was offered a third class but, as has been the college’s approach during the fall semester, it is a Monday, Wednesday, Friday class. The other two classes are Tuesday, Thursday classes.

I toyed with the idea and ultimately decided against it. While it can be exhausting teaching three classes as an adjunct, that is not the real reason I turned it down. I could not handle having to be on the road five days a week.

I like driving but when you combine the ever increasing price of gas with the weather conditions I would be driving in, it adds up. In addition, one of the cars we own is being leased. When the weather gets nasty, I prefer this car as it has some extra weight behind it. Unfortunately, because of this, it gets worse gas mileage, and of course, I need to carefully watch how many miles are put on the car.

It is amazing how many factors have to be considered nowadays when getting a car, especially for an adjunct that travels 80 miles round trip each time he teaches. There are those who have suggested a used toyota. There are those who have suggested a used Chevrolet. There are those who say get a new car and there are those who say stay with a leased car.

I can see benefits and drawbacks, for me, with any option. I think it is a sign of the times, and even a little unfortunate, that so many things need to be considering when getting a car.


It is amazing to me how many students, come the end of the semester, just stop showing up to class. There are two more weeks left and I have found in all my classes, there are students who have stopped attending. Some of them may have done this because they feel they have good attendance and can get away with it. Still there are a number of other people as well.

There are students who have missed a number of classes and they missed the past couple of weeks as well. Other students are on the cusps, and these are the students I would have guessed would be in attendance. That is not the case. Some people do not care, no mater what the consequence.

It is those students who are serious that are most surprising. They ask about grades, make it known they want an ‘A’ and then at this point in the semester just stop showing up. What is most surprising is a student who is taking the class with me for a second time. The student failed based on attendance. After failing the class, this same student asked to take the class with me again (that was a surprise).

For a good portion of the semester it appeared as though this student had turned over a new leaf. She was in class and participating. The past few weeks have, attendance has been sporadic and the past two weeks, the student has been in hiding, apparently. Once again, the student is in danger of failing.

I realize we all make our own decisions. I understand the decision of some people, I may not like it but I understand. Others, still confuse me.