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, July 24, 2008

Gas Prices Coming Down

It is amazing to me that I am looking forward to seeing gas prices come down to ONLY four dollars a gallon. Since I do a lot of driving and it will be increasing once the school year starts, it is good to see gas pricing coming down. Still, all I can think about is how it is all in the presentation.

If I told you a year ago that come the start of the 2008 Fall semester, gas prices would be $4.00 a gallon, you probably would have been sick. Maybe, based on what has bee happening to gas prices, you would have believed me but you would not have been happy.

Now, because gas prices were as high as $4.50 a gallon, all of a sudden we are thrilled that they will be coming down to ONLY four dollars. I remember a few years ago how we were sick that gas prices were closing in on $2.50. I remember the anger that occurred when gas prices went over $1.00.

What do we do now? We whine and complain but we pay the price. I am no different. That is what I do.

Still, the lesson in this is that based on how we portray situations, based on the presentation, we can perceive a negative as a positive (or vice-versa). That is something my public speaking students should keep in mind when they have to give a speech. It is a good thing to remember when it comes to persuasive speaking and, ultimately, it is something that should be remembered by students in almost any classroom situation.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Teaching And The Mets

As many of you may know, I am a baseball fan. I have been a Met fan for many years.

When I was younger, I got into the routine of bringing the paper in early in the morning during baseball season to look at the box score. I learned a lot about baseball and about abbreviations and box scores but I also was developing good habits, like looking at the paper in the morning—something I still do.

My parents also used the opportunity to teach me Good Sportsmanship, hard work, the value of a dollar (buying tickets) and the things in life that are enjoyable (like routing for a team) versus the things that are important (like decisions that effect family and friends).

One other thing you can learn from baseball, or really any sport, is the importance of trying your best and not giving up. Yesterday, I was watching the Mets play the Philadelphia Phillies for First Place. The Mets had a three run lead going to the top of the ninth inning. All they needed to do was get three outs before the Phillies scored three runs. In case you are not a baseball fan, that really is not too difficult.

Unfortunately for the Mets, the Phils never gave up yesterday. They kept clawing and fighting there way back into the game and scored six runs in the ninth inning to give them a 8-5 lead. They went on to win the game 8-6.

The teacher in me thinks this is a wonderful lesson. It can and should show students how things are never over until they are over. A student who thinks s/he has a definite “A” in the class needs to keep focus. A student who thinks s/he is not doing well needs to remember how the Phillies kept clawing away until they got what they wanted. It is a good lesson for students.

The baseball fan in me, the Met fan in me, well that is a different story. Baseball is called a game of redeeming qualities. Hopefully, the Mets will be able to redeem themselves tonight!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Making It Enjoyable

When I was in High School, one of my favorite teachers was a Phys Ed teacher. I was not an athlete, or even athletic, by any stretch of the imagination but I enjoyed playing some sports. What I liked about this teacher was, he did not care how good of an athlete you were, he simply cared that you gave it your best. I saw this instructor give some of the star athletes trouble if he felt they were disrespecting him. I also saw him give a lot of respect to some of those who were not good at sports, as long as they were respectful and trying. As I said, I enjoyed being in this teacher’s classes.

My son gets his athletic abilities from my wife (also no athletic ability to speak of) and me. Still, this summer, one of the things he wanted to do was spend a week in summer camp. He knows that this camp will not turn him into an athlete but he was looking forward to it. In fact, he informed me and my wife that if we needed to make any appointments for him, we should not make it during the time he was in sports camp.

While he was looking forward to it, I could only hope that it would be a positive experience for him. Yesterday was his first day of this camp and when I went to pick him up, he had such a smile on his face it was clear that he enjoyed his first day. Hopefully, it will continue like this for the week. I certainly think it will.

My experience with my High School Gym teacher and my son’s experience with Sports Camp serves as an important reminder to all teachers. First, people who may not seem to have great skills dealing with whatever subject we are teaching can still enjoy our classes if we meet their needs. Second, we can help improve the skills of these individuals even if they won’t be scholars in that field. We must always teach with the student in mind.

One of the reasons I got into teaching was to make a positive difference in the lives of students. Hopefully I am still doing that.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Not Holding My Breath

There are assignments I give to students and in an attempt to be flexible, I tell them they can hand it in any time during the last two weeks of class but if they hand it in on the last class session, they should not expect to get it back. One student handed in one of these assignments on the last day of class.

That was fine. He met the requirements and did well on the assignment. Attached to the assignment however, was a post-it note asking that I get the assignment back to him since it included some important memories and he wanted to have a copy. The student further indicated that since he worked on campus, he would gladly come to my office to pick up the assignment.

As an adjunct, I am not on campus over the summer. I also live forty miles away from campus so I do not just want to drive up to campus. I sent this student an e-mail, using the campus e-mail address, letting him know that I would gladly make a special trip to campus but I needed to know his schedule since I am not there during the summer. I never heard back from this student.

I actually dug up another e-mail address I have for this student. I thought maybe he was not checking the campus e-mail, especially since he graduated at the end of this year. So, I sent an e-mail to the student, at the home e-mail address, again indicating I would make a special trip to campus. I still have not heard back.

I find it frustrating when a student is asking for a favor (in the sense that I told the class what my procedure was) and I am willing to grant it, that the e-mails, that the offer, in effect, is simply ignored. Maybe I will hear from him later in the summer but I am not holding my breath.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Aristophanes... ... ... Ridiculous

I am a fan of the old Odd Couple television show. I have been known to quote lines from shows while teaching and with friends as we start doing bits of episodes. One of my favorites is when Oscar and Felix go on Password. At one point, the word is “Bird” and Felix gives Oscar the clue, “Aristophanes”.

Oscar does not get the word and after the other team wins the round every looks at Felix and questions, “Aristophanes”?

Felix explains that everyone knows Aristophanes wrote a play called “The Birds”.

During the commercial break, Felix and Oscar argue as to whether or not “Aristophanes” was a good clue, with Oscar saying just before they come back from break, “No more Greek clues. Aristophanes is ridiculous”.

The next password is “Ridiculous” and Oscar starts the round by saying in a disgusted voice, “Aristophanes”. Felix, of course guess the word.

As a result, for years a couple of my friends and I would do this bit where one individual would say “Aristophanes” and the other would answer, “Ridiculous”. I even taught my son to do this when he was two or three years old.

Recently I got a DVD of the episode and I was watching it with my son, now 10. When he first heard the clue “Aristophanes” for the word “Bird,” he did not understand. All these years, he simply assumed that “Aristophanes” was a synonym for “Ridiculous”.

This instance reinforced a valuable lesson that I already know, one that I can use when teaching. I need to be sure that the students understand what I am saying. Just because they laugh and repeat back, it does not mean they understand. I have tried to keep this in mind as I teach but every so often it is good to have a situation occur where the lesson gets reinforced. So, thank you to my son for his help.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Teaching 16 Year Olds

I am currently involved with a program through Toastmasters (a professional organization that helps people become better communicators and better leaders, in case you do not know). A group of us are working with a number of 16 year olds and teaching them how to speak in public. This is interesting on a number of different fronts.

First off, the program is a learning experience for me. Such a program gives me an opportunity to try new things and see what works. It certainly will help me when I begin teaching next semester as I can experiment with certain ideas I currently have.

Being involved with the program also gives me a greater appreciation for what I already have. While I am enjoying this program and the students are taking it seriously, there is certainly a difference when it comes to learning and speaking between a 16 years old and a college student.

In addition, I need to complete this program in order to reach my next Toastmasters designation. I certainly want to do that and I am looking forward to it. That is the icing on the cake.

For me, this program is win-win and will hopefully make me a better teacher. I have often told my students I like evaluating but hate grading. I grade because I have to but I would much rather work with the students one-on-one to help them be better speakers. This is what I get to do right now.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Safety Net

I am feeling more confident about my decision not to take a Monday, Wednesday, Friday class this coming Fall semester. As I have commented in previous entries , when teaching as an adjunct, teaching five days a week when I am only teaching three classes, travelling 80 miles round trip each time I teach considering the price of gasoline and the fact that I am leasing a car, makes me question the logic. So, last semester, I let the college know I could not do a MWF class.

Of course, there were some concerns I had about this. My main concern was, the two Tuesday, Thursday classes are taught at a campus center, away from the main campus. While I enjoy teaching at the campus centers, it is more likely for a public speaking course to be cancelled at one of those facilities due to low enrollment. So, I certainly questioned whether I might not have enough students and the class would be cancelled.

Fortunately, I am up to 11 students. 10 is what is needed to make it go and usually at the campus center they will go as low as eight. Right now it certainly seems like I have enough of a safety net and don’t have to worry. As for the second class, this is the one that is offered to High School students. I don’t get to see those numbers on line so I am not sure where it stands. Still, this class has never been cancelled in the Fall Semester. In fact, since the Spring semester has been questionable, they no longer offer it then. As a result, there is more of a chance it goes in the Fall Semester. So right now, it looks good and I am happy I made the decision I did.

Educational Conferences

Not that long ago, I read an article on another blog about an upcoming educational convention. The individual who wrote the blog was a lesbian and was discussing concerns that existed over the issue of recognizing Gay marriages. The post discussed how a person could be involved in a gay marriage if his/her home state allowed it yet if something happened to one of those people while in a different state, a state that does not recognize such unions, you run into a whole issue having to do with benefits. As a result, there were those who were protesting where the convention was taking place and refused to go. Although the issue does not directly effect me, I found the discussion interesting.

Now I see that there is a travel agency that specifically caters to the Gay and Lesbian market, that offers a Gay and Lesbian Destination Planner. Certainly we seem to be a long way from the “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” philosophy,as you can find Gay Travel Deals .

While there may be Gay Friendly Travel available for those who want it, what amazes me is still, just how divisive such an issue can be. When people don’t want to attend educational opportunities because they feel they are not getting a fair shake, when educational programs are not always designed to try and accommodate individuals who do not fit the “norm” of society, then how far have we actually come?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Lessons From Sports Talk Radio

I was listening to Mike and Mike in the morning on the local sports talk radio station today and the two of them got into a conversation I found fascinating. Mike Greenberg (Greenie) was talking about how he is addicted to his trio and the two started discussing Trios and Blackberries and PDAs and cell phones and the like.

I found it interesting that Mike Golic, the jock, a former football player, was talking about how such devices have led to a breakdown in communication. Golic told a story about his son and daughter sitting next to each other on the couch and his son laughs. Golic asks what’s so funny and his son replies that his sister (Golic’s daughter) just texted him something funny. The two of them are sitting on the couch, no more than five feet apart, and they are texting each other. That was when Golic went into lamenting how these devices are preventing kids from learning to communicate, to talk with each other.

I agree with Mike Golic. I think that such devices prevent people from learning how to carry on a conversation. I see this with some of my college students. They text during class but have trouble delivering speeches. I would like to think that in some way I am doing my part helping to prevent or slow down the process with some kids by teaching the art of Public Speaking.

Golic also pointed out how when it comes to texting, shorthand and abbreviations are used and how that can lead to more problem in terms of students learning how to write properly. Again, this is something I have seen with my students. Students writing “Should of” instead of “Shoulda” because they don’t really this is a slurring of the words “Should” and “Have”.

Obviously there are students who know how to speak and write. Obviously these problems are not true of everyone. Still, I thought the conversation effectively pointed out some of the things that I, and other teachers, are seeing today.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

New Speech Topics

We have all had those assignments to do upon returning from summer vacation to write a paper for school about what you did over the summer. Well, this is the first summer that I have owned a home. I am learning about moving the lawn, gardening, grilling and dealing with bugs. I am learning about bed bugs chemicaland what chemicals in general one uses in a house. It is unfortunate that I am the one teaching the class instead of “studenting” in it as I would have all these wonderful new topics. To all students out there, keep track of what you are doing this summer, you never know when it can come in handy.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Recognizing Difficulties

Recently a friend was over and he commented about how effective my wife and I were when it came to parenting. The comment was borne out of an approach my wife and I have attempted to take with our son. He is very intelligent and we recognize that and praise him for it. He is a wiz at certain subject. There are, however, other areas where he may not be as quick as his peers. We have never pushed him. He gets encouragement but not overbearing behavior.

In addition, this is a child that has some issues. He is a loving, caring individual but when he gets over stimulated, he can get slightly aggressive towards his parents. We have talked with doctors about this. He sees a psychologist periodically and some behavioral issues are controlled by medication.

I would not suggest that this is the approach for everyone to take. Different people respond differently. Still, we all probably know those parents who close their eyes to a situation and pretend it does not exist. That does not do anyone any favors. It does nothing to help the child, it does nothing to help the parents and it could possibly make it more difficult for teachers and the school system.

Certainly a child is responsible for his/her own actions but a parent has got to be involved and assess things honestly. By doing so you help prepare the child for school, for college, for a job, for life. And, after all, isn’t that the role of the parent?

Sometimes doctors can be wrong. Obviously, the parent knows the child better than anyone else and sometimes doctors need to be challenged. I would say the same thing, by the way, about teachers.

As I see it, recognizing the talents and difficulties of children, seeking the proper treatment (which can be anything from parent involvement to heavy duty medication), monitoring progress and effectives of treatment, is all part of preparing a child for college. And college should be a way of helping to prepare a child for life.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Preparing For College Early!

At what age is a parent responsible for preparing his/her child(ren) for college? That is a question that I have been debating with a friend for the past couple of weeks. Certainly the traditional answer would be somewhere during the High School years, during the time when grades actually start to mean something for colleges. I, however, disagree.

While grades may not mean anything to colleges until you get to high school, you can’t expect a student to simply be able to start focusing on grades and work without giving the individual a solid foundation. Not only does the individual need to have the educational background prior to high school, the individual has to have already developed good study habits. Parents have to do the same thing, develop those good habits in their children at an early age, as far as I am concerned, such an early age that the child can’t even remember his/her life without them.

I try to be careful passing judgement on other parents and the children they raise. We all have our own way of doing things and see things differently. At what age is it acceptable for a child to see a PG rated movie? How about PG-13 or R? At what age is it acceptable for a child to play a video game that involves shooting, or watch that type of show on television? At what age is it acceptable for a child to hear his/her parents swear? Ask these questions to 100 different people and you probably get 100 different answers.

My feelings on these matters are, whenever you choose to allow your child to do one of these things, it comes with the responsibility of providing an explanation. For quite some time I prevented my son from playing video games that involve shooting. Now a number of age appropriate sites he goes on involve some shooting games. I recently showed him one that I like to play but also with a discussion about the difference between reality and fantasy and games and real life. He certainly understood.

The point in all this is, parents are responsible from day one to do what they can to make their children good, upstanding, moral citizens, to teach them the proper way. By taking this responsibility seriously, you help to prepare your child for college.