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

Saturday, June 28, 2008


I was recently talking with an administrator of a small school. While we were talking, someone came up and asked him if he was relieved now that June was here and the school year was almost over. After this person left, the administrator turned toward me and said, “They have no idea”.

He explained that this is the busiest time for many of those who run schools. This is the time you are focused on the changes that need to be made, on all those details that need to be addressed for the school year to run smoothly. He explained that summer time is often his busiest time of year.

I do not find this surprising and I think it points out how seriously educators must take this time of year, even if they are not teaching and summer courses. The first thing that has to happen is, one must use vacations to recharge batteries. Breaks are important and help us focus on the job when it resume.

More importantly, this is the time to be looking at different textbooks, exploring different ideas for the new semester, revising a course syllabus, thinking of new ways to get the information across, determining what methods and examples are still current and which ones need to be replaced.

Yes, in one sense, I personally get a little bit of a rest since I am not teaching a summer session but I still need to keep my focus on the new year and do what I can right now to make sure come September, everything runs smoothly!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Touch Of Class

I recently applied for a position I saw advertised on the website for the college where I teach. It was actually a position I had applied for about a year ago. I know that a year ago, I was a finalist for the position and it is my belief I was actually the number two choice of the administration. I figured with another person in this office having left, I could apply and argue that now that office could have both me and the person they previously hired.

I got a call from the person who runs this office earlier in the week. Since one of the classes I teach is actually under the umbrella of this office, I know the head of it fairly well. He called to let me know that while the process was still ongoing, I was not up for this position. He explained that the committee was looking with someone with more computer experience and a few of the resumes just really stood out.

Personally, I think my computer knowledge is more in line with what they are looking for than the committee realizes. Still, I was grateful to receive this call. I have stated previously when I applied for fulltime positions at the college that I have felt even if the committee did not want me, they at least owed me an interview since I have always done what they have asked. I am convinced this is why the head of the office called me, to make sure I was not annoyed about being overlooked (or ignored) when it came to the interview process.

The truth is, I actually thought this showed quite a bit of class. I do not have any ill will towards this department. Perhaps if I had not been brought in by this office for the previous job for which I applied I would feel differently, but they did bring me in. Certainly the director has done everything he could do, in both cases, to show me he feels I am a valued member of the team and I appreciate it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Learning While On Vacation

My son recently informed me that by time the summer of 2011roles around, he wants to have visited at least two other states than where we live as well as Canada and Mexico. Upon further discussion, he revised it to visiting these areas my the time he graduates high school.

Now, I am a firm believer in learning about places by visiting them. I grew up taking a four to six week summer family vacation every year, mainly in the United States, so I certainly have no objection to taking him travelling. In fact, I used the opportunity to begin educating him almost immediately. For instance, when I talked about going to Toronto or Montreal, he asked me if those places were in Canada. I then started talking about the difference Provinces in Canada.

The problem with getting to some of these places is finding the time and money to get there. I immediately began thinking about some day trips we could do this summer and he was thrilled about that. He does, however, want to take a real vacation. I don’t blame him. He is 10 and has never been on a “Real Vacation”, so I need to start checking where we can go, what would be fun AND educational and look for low fares and ways that we can get a vacation without spending a lot of money.

Having traveled myself as well as having taught student who have done some travelling and some who haven’t, usually the ones who have traveled are better rounded individuals and actually tend to do better in my class, so if I can set up some inexpensive vacation packages, I certainly am interested.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Learning Responsibility

The more teaching I do on the college level, the more I try to assess the way I work with my son on his school work and wonder if I am properly preparing him for the time when he gets to college.

First of, my son is still in grade school, so the situation is different. He does have certain learning issues (as did his old man at that age) but he is very bright. Still, there are times he becomes angry and violent if we try and get him to focus on his homework and he does not want to. Still, my wife and I try not to ignore things and, for the most part, make sure his homework is done.

One reason we do this is, habits learned now are valuable and often times remain the same habits one follows when one grows up and gets into high school and college. Due to a Jewish Holiday, my son was not in school the beginning of last week (Monday and Tuesday). We did get a list of the homework items he missed and he got those things done.

One thing that he missed, however, was getting together with his group that is reading a book. Each member of the group has an assignment to do and those assignments are determined on Monday. The work is due on Friday. Thursday night I learned that my son had not checked with the rest of the group to determine what assignment was his responsibility.

I told my son that he should call the people in his group and find out what job was his. First, my son did not feel comfortable calling classmates when he did not know any of the families and outside of school might not be particularly friendly with these people. I tried to encourage him to do so but he refused. Ultimately, I put the calls in. I am still not sure if I should have done that because it was me doing something that was his responsibility. Still, we made a compromise.

It became apparent that each member of the group only knew his/her job. I ended up calling everyone in his group and asked each person what job they had. Since there were a couple of people I could not reach, I narrowed it down to one of three jobs. Here is the compromise. I narrowed it down to one of three jobs and my son agreed to do all three jobs even though only one was his responsibility. This way, he would have his assignment done no matter what.

So, I did part of his responsibilities in making the call but I insisted and oversaw that he do all of the work, more than he should have done, so he could get his job taken care of. Hopefully, in the future, he will remain to check what job he has if he is not in school when it is assigned. Hopefully, in the future, he will have developed good habits from this experience.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Hits 4 Pay

You may notice a new ad on the side of this site for Hits4Pay. I recently learned of this site and have figured a number of ways to work it into lectures next semester. First of all, what is this site. Answer, it is a site that sends you e-mails to read and simply by clicking on them and letting them play for 60 seconds, you make two cents. You also end up making one cent for every e-mail that someone you refer to the site reads and you make one cent for everyone that person refers to the site. There is even a $10 bonus for registering. So, how do I work this into my class? In a number of ways.

First off, I may suggest this to some students who are looking to make money. This could enable them to make some money while not taking much of their time so they can concentrate on my class. This is actually the least likely way for it to work into my lectures, but there are other possibilities.

More importantly, I see this as a great opportunity to talk about verifying the authenticity of information. How many times have you read something like this and thought it was just a scheme, and most times you would be right. I found out about this by reading a blog a friend of mine recommended. This friend has actually had e-mail correspondence with the owner of the blog to which he referred me. The owner of the blog has also exposed other sites that do scheme. In addition, there is nothing one has to pay to register with this site. Honestly, speaking from experience, if you just register and do nothing else, you have just made $10. So, in terms of verifying your information, I think this works in quite nicely. I can also use it in terms of demonstration speeches and persuasive speeches, as well as informative speeches, but that information is for another post.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Bell Curve

With the feedback I am getting from students about grades, I began to think about the bell curve. Now, I do not use that curve. I believe each student should be graded on his or her merits. Just because someone in my class got an ‘A’, it does not mean someone should get an ‘F’. Likewise, just because someone fails my class, let’s say due to poor attendance, it does not mean someone should get an ‘A’.

I know there are teachers who use it and certainly, it is one way to make sure you are not giving out too many A’s. There are other teachers who do not use it but check and somehow end up with a grade distribution that looks similar to using the bell curve. I do believe that the majority of teachers today do not use the bell curve.

My father, when he taught, had an interesting take on the bell curve. He argued that a bell curve is supposed to be reflective of society as a whole and since you are dealing with those people who made it into college, you are starting with a more educated sample of the population. As a result, he argued, it is unfair to want your grades to be grouped in a bell curve.

Personally, I guess I do use a bell curve but it is more in the A through C range. Translation, I usually give out a lot of B’s and try to keep the A’s and C’s limited. I do fail students but they really have to work at it. If they do not put the time in or if they skip a lot of classes, they will not pass.

I debate back and forth on this. Perhaps I should change my approach but honestly, I probably am not going to.

Friday, June 6, 2008

A Better Grade

I am still getting comments from various students who are protesting grades. The latest student to complain argued that I let my personal biases interfere with his grade. He gave a speech about hunting. He claimed that, among other things, hunting helps keep the deer population down so there are fewer accidents where cars hit deer. That in turn, he argued, helps drivers avoid paying thousands of dollars to have their car fixed after such an accident.

The student got a decent grade on the speech but I felt he needed to do more. He accused me of being opposed to using Riflescopes and hunting in general. I never told the students where I stand on the issue, so I am not sure what he was basing it on. I guess it is easier to make that claim that admit my critique was accurate and that he really needed to do more in the speech.

The Token Mute

I was at a Toastmasters meeting yesterday. In case you do not know, Toastmasters is an organization designed to help people become better speakers. Each speaker is evaluated by a fellow member during the meeting.

Often times there are guests at the meeting too. The end of the meeting is set aside for guest comments. I was talking with one of the guests during a break and she said she was the “Token Mute”. I thought this was a cute comment but obviously indicated how uncomfortable she is speaking in public.

The comment had me thinking back to my classes and how many students coming in feel that way, they want to be the “Token Mute”. Hopefully by the end of the semester most no longer feel that way.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Dress The Part

Each semester, I start my class off with an introduction. This is nothing new and certainly does not make me unique. Everyone who teaches includes a course introduction. One thing I include in my introduction is dress.

I tell my students that, while they don’t need to dress professionally for a speech, studies have shown that people who interview on the phone do better if they are dressed as though they were going to be interviewed in person. I let the class know they can dress professionally but they should know if they are in a situation where they are making a formal presentation, they will need to dress professionally, even down to the shoes, no work boot, sneakers, or other type of unprofessional footwear

I really am curious to know how many students actually hear me say that, how many people would do it anyway and how many people would just ignore that advice. Just a thought.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

There's No Reply At All

I think the saga with the student who never handed in two of his assignments has come to an end. Despite receiving an e-mail with an accusatory tone, I decided to respond to his e-mail. I explained mainly what I said in a previous post here.

I had hoped that maybe the student would actually take the time to acknowledge he was wrong. I really was not expecting it and I’m not even sure why I was hoping for it. Perhaps it is the educator in me, always seeking to teach students. Perhaps I felt an acknowledgement on his part would show he actually learned something in my class, something well beyond the scope of Public Speaking.

Still, the bottom line is, he finished with a ‘C’ because he did not hand in two of his assignments. That is not going to change so maybe he felt the best thing to do was not respond. I do hope, however, that he honestly understood the point I was making.

Perhaps what is even more telling is, as I tell this story to colleagues, they are not surprised. Some of them are even able to finish my sentences before I do, since they have had similar experiences. I truly want to give students the benefit of the doubt and many, most of my students deserve that. I know that because even when I don’t ask for proof of a claim they made, many still give it to me. It is unfortunate that, as is the case in so many things, a few rotten apples can spoil the bunch for everyone.