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

Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

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

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

Where Has The Time Gone?

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

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

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

Friday, November 21, 2008

Acting Ethically

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

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

Hoping For The Best

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

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

How Old Are You Anyway?

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Yes, There's Class Today

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

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

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

Monday, November 10, 2008

What Kind Of Teacher Is He?

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Plan Worked, I Think

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama's Victory Speech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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