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, August 18, 2009

Listening To Music

It is always exciting when family members reach new milestones. My nephew just finished registering for college classes for the first time and I found this very exciting. Perhaps, because I teach college courses, it appeals to me more than most. Still, I love hearing the tales about student experiences, especially when it comes to registering for classes..

My sister told me how he has to take a class called, “Listening to Music”. It is a music appreciation class but the title of the class certainly makes it sound like a joke. Still, music appreciation classes can be some of the most important classes, and difficult ones, students can take (and I struggled to pass one that I took). Perhaps if I took some child music education classes, I would have had an easier time.

I know videotapes like the Baby Mozart programs are said to be very helpful as anytime you have children music programs, it makes things easier for people as they get older. In fact, a good music program is said to help children become better adjusted, be more open to diverse ideas and actually get better grades in school, as well as be more appreciative of music. This is why some adults actually get children involved in baby music classes. So, while we may make fun of the name of the class, we should not lose sight of how beneficial such classes can be.

Bad Moods

The other day I was in a bad mood and when people asked me to do things that normally I would have gladly done, it just rubbed me the wrong way. I didn’t want to help anybody. It is amazing how our perception can be completely different based on our mood.

I try not to grade speeches or assignments, or even write critiques, if I am in a bad mood as it would not be fair of me to grade students at that point in time. Of course, if the student is the one who put me in a bad mood, it could be different. The point is, we all have our different moods and we need to do what we can not to let bad moods, or concerns or anything else, negatively affect us when we are dealing with other people.

Fortunately, for the most part, I am in a good mood and enjoy what I do but it is important to remember, it is not always them, sometimes it is us.

Making The Job Easier

It is amazing how technology can make our jobs easier as instructors. There are, of course, the obvious items such as the computer and word processor, which make it easier and quicker to type of documents. There are other items as well. For instance, when I started feeling carpal tunnel symptoms, I knew if this became a major issue I could find software that allowed me to speak and it would type what I said. When I started experiencing serious back problems, I knew there were Massage Chairs that could make it easier for me to sit at my computer and type critiques, lesson plans, or anything else I needed to take care of. Such chairs have been a godsend for me and enabled me to do work when otherwise I might not have been able to do so.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


As a New York Met fan, this has been a frustrating baseball season. The season has been riddled with injuries, the team isn't playing well and I, as a fan, am just frustrated. Learning to deal with frustration, to overcome adversity, is important for anyone to learn. Obviously, dealing with the frustrations of my baseball is extremely minor, compared to some of the things others have to deal with.

Sometimes, I have to deal with students who have dealt with, or are dealing with, real tragedies and difficulties. A couple of years ago, I even had a student who told me she was contemplating suicide. At the time, I blogged about the fact that the college doesn't train individuals how to deal with such situations.

What is still amazing to me is, how much information one can get on the internet and how one can become self trained on an issue. There are people who run their own internet businesses, teaching others how to do things. Of course, doing something like that would require needing some kind web hosting. But, even information of that kind, needing dedicated server hosting, can be found on the internet. One can learn things about security issues and so much more.

So, the next time you need to get information from the web, do the necessary research, but take a moment to think about the hard work the person who put the information out there had to go through to make it possible for you.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Walking The Dog

It’s time for another dog story. I was out walking my dog and I noticed all the liter people throw on the ground, garbage, sandwiches, all sorts of things. I have a puppy and, like most pups, he likes to eat anything he can get a hold of. I try to catch it in time and stop him from doing so, but do not always succeed.

One reason to try and prevent this is to keep my dog safe. I have no idea how safe it is for him to eat things thrown out. I know if he were in the wild, he would eat all this stuff. The fact, however, is he is not in the wild and animals in captivity, or in my case owned by humans, tend to live longer than ones in the wild.

The bottom line is, the actions of others can have an impact on the life of my dog. Someone throws something on the ground and does not even think about it and my dog eats it, it could cause damage to him. On the other hand, many more people are conscientious. I don’t even know everyone who has passed by there and not committed such acts but to them I say, “Thank you,” as they are helping to keep my dog safe.

Teaching is a lot like this. It is the actions of others, in this case teachers, that have an impact on the students long after the student is no longer in the classroom (at least that is what we like to believe). It is the action of parents, friends and even strangers that have shaped that person into the individual s/he is before the student ever enters our classroom. The things we do have an impact on everybody else and we need to do our best to make sure that impact is a positive one.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Final Destinations

Having to travel an hour everyday to get to where I teach, I have often felt like I should get a supercharger for my car and get to my destination more quickly. This way, I could get to campus faster and spend more time doing other things that need to get done. One day I may just go ahead and get a pontiac supercharger for my car.

In this day and age of the internet, it is nice to know that if I ever decide to go forward with this, there are good prices that I could easily find. I wish you good luck finding the best price and reaching your final destination, safely.

Syllabus Corrections

It is always interesting updating my syllabus for each semester. For the most part it stays the same from semester to semester but there are always tweaks that I make to the syllabus. As I was reviewing the syllabus for the upcoming fall semester, I caught a mistake that would have been humorous if I left alone (or the students would have decided I just wasn't that intelligent. I have something in my syllabus that talks about what happens in the unlikely event that school is canceled due to inclement weather. For the summer class I taught, I added a parenthetical comment about how it would be even more unlikely because it was a summer class. Fortunately, I caught this “mistake” and removed that comment from the syllabus.


As the summer winds to a close, once again I regret that, unlike when I was a child, I will not be able to get away for a family vacation. I hope the students that go away realize how fortunate they are. And, how much better if the experiences can actually help with school work?

Now is the time for students who are enjoying vacation to think about topics they might want to use for a speech. While students claim to like the fact they have complete flexibility to pick their speech topics, the truth is a number of them get frustrated because the range is so broad. This is actually a point made by the author of the textbook that we use.

I always tell students to use things they enjoy talking about. Certainly someone who is on vacation usually enjoys what they did. For instance, a student who went to a fine art gallery in Los Angeles, perhaps saw works by Dino Rosin, could use the museum, the specific pieces of work or anything else s/he learned while at the museum for a speech.

Hopefully as students are enjoying their summer, while they spend the majority of time just enjoying, they do take a little time to consider how their adventures work into various classes they will be taking. Public Speaking is, obviously, a great class to discuss various adventures.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Walking The Dog

The day started out fine as I took the dog out for a walk. The walk started out fine as the puppy was glad to get out for a walk. Somewhere in the middle of the journey it all changed, however. All of a sudden, the dog started nipping and teething. Unfortunately this is not all that uncommon for him and, since I was wearing shorts, the ankle bitter was becoming very annoying.

I tried to get him to stop using the methods we learned in training class but they didn't work. I decided to try some of those methods others have suggested such as pushing him out of the way with my knees (not hard and not hurting him), yelling at him and putting my hands on him to show I was dominate. None of these methods were causing pain to the dog (and none of these methods were working either).

A man in one of the nearby houses came out to make sure that everything was okay. When I assured him it was, he started chastising me, telling me I shouldn't be hurting the dog and that he seemed very friendly and like a good boy. I was glad someone came out to check but I really did not appreciate the comments, which were not at all helpful.

As a teacher, I find that this is a constant battle, knowing what to say when. Sometimes, even though you feel a certain way, you need to stay quiet, even if it is a critique on a speech. A person should not be overwhelmed with too much information. Other times, it is important to make comments. Either way, you need to be careful of what you say and how you say it. I have already had a student tell me there is no such thing as constructive criticism, that criticism is criticism.

When making comments, of course, it is important to have all the facts. The man who came out and chastised me clearly did not have all the facts.

Friday, August 7, 2009


As I am revising my syllabus for the fall semester, a flood of speeches previously given come rushing back. For me, this is actually a very enjoyable part of teaching and preparing syllabi, I get to relive speeches given years ago. It amazes me how many speeches from years gone by I actually remember. Since the demonstration speeches are the first ones to be delivered, right now those are the ones I recall.

I had a student who delivered a speech about how to make your own dress for a formal occasion. She was a fashion major and she argued that she believed people could make a dress in less than 24 hours. She put the theory to the test and made a prom dress overnight. That is one skill I have never even attempted to master.

Another student delivered a speech about how to take care of a garden. That one, at the time, was not one that I thought I could use but a few years later, when I purchased a house, I found some of the knowledge coming back, and very helpful.

As a homeowner, any speech related to home improvement and decorations now has special interest to me as I wonder if I can actually use some of the information in working around my house. Whether it is looking at kitchen sinksand looking to modernize my kitchen or learning about installing a ceiling fan, I find I wonder if I will ever be able to do these things on my own.

Competing With Yourself

Years ago when I was in school, I would compete with my friends to see who would get a better grade on a test or an assignment. When I was in the work place, I would compete with colleagues to see who would finish a day with more productivity. I used to compete with people, and certainly most people do like to compete with others.

When I was in college, I was doing an internship with someone who was considered tops in her field. I made a comment to her once about the fact she had no one to compete with but she told me she did, she competed with herself.

Ever since that time, I find that I compete with myself more than I compete with anyone else. Can I give a better speech this time than last time? Can I find a more effective way to teach a topic this semester than last one? Can I find a better movie clip to illustrate a point? Can I finish this hour with three complete instead of the two I got last hour or, if I don’t get any completes, can I make twice as many calls this hour as I made last hour?

Ever since I “discovered” this method, or really adopted it, I find I do better. I can be tough to please so, I have to please myself and if someone does better than I, good for him or her. I actually encourage students to use this approach as well. Instead of seeing if you got a higher grade than a friend, how about seeing if you got a higher grade than you did on the last speech or assignment. Were you more pleased with the job you did this time around? If so, that is a major victory.

Competition is a good thing but I encourage you to compete with the right person.

Exterior Shutters

I am now in the position of needing to get my syllabus done for the upcoming semester. One change I made is, the first speech students give is the demonstration speech. As with the persuasive one, there are many categories and topics that can be used, like setting up exterior shutters.

Syllabus Time

I am debating if by teaching the summer class it will make things easier for the fall semester or not. I recently received an e-mail letting me know that I needed to submit electronically my copy of attendance and of my grade book (I had previously submitted my grades but the department needs a copy). I took care of that today and got a friendly reminder that now that I have taken care of everything I need to do for the summer class, I have to submit my syllabus for the fall semester shortly. Although it should not have, this caught me off guard. Perhaps it is a good thing that I am jumping from one thing to the next. Perhaps, however, it would be more helpful if I had a little more of a break. I am still debating this.

Technology To The Rescue

I pride myself on being able to find non-traditional methods to help make points to students. I enjoy being able to use examples from the movies and television to show them examples of various aspects that apply to public speaking (such as using the emotional appeal in a persuasive speech- or argument). Often times, I have to schlep DVD's and Video Tapes back and forth. Fortunately, things like YouTube often help and make it easier as I can find snippets of things I have used. Recently, I found a new source to be helpful as I can find Free TV Online. Since I have been known to use clips from I Love Lucy and Batman, among others, I can just click on the link to classic TV shows (or shows from a certain decade), and I have exactly what I need.

Technology is wonderful.


I am currently on a break at work and things today have been going really well. It is amazing how talkative people are today, while still remaining all business and giving me quick, concise answers to my questions. Having the day progress like this reminded me that, it is not only about my skills but about the skills and effectiveness of the people on the other end of the conversation. It is kind of like teaching a class.

As an instructor, I can do many things and I have my own style and way of doing things. It is, however, often the students, the personality of the class as a whole, that determines how effective the class will be. Today, it has been the personalities of the individuals I have talked with, next month it will be the class as a whole. Hopefully the class will be just as good as the people I have talked with today.

Satellite TV Could Be A Speech Topic

Having recently completed my summer course, once again I am intrigued by home difficult students find it to come up with topics for speeches. There are so many different topics out there and so many which would work for speeches. For instance, a student who is fascinated by television service could deliver a speech about directtv vs. dish. A speech about satellite television Promos, or satellite television providers would make be interesting and could make a fascinating speech.

So, where could one get information about this? There are many different places. For instance, a website about Satellite TV Promos, a website that would provide information about the best deals and packages would be helpful. Of course, there would need to be other sources used as well, sources that would have information about the advantages and disadvantages of both but a good starting point would be with the aforementioned websites.

This, of course, is only one of many possible topics but I truly think students need to think outside the box and come up with new and interesting topics.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Cretures Of Habit

There is a poster that says, “Everything I needed to know, I learned from my dog,” and then it lists a number of things we can learn from the animal. There are actually a number of similar poster to this effect but, as I was walking my dog earlier today, this was the one that came to mind. I realized, that as he exhibited certain mannerisms, I knew what he was going to do. I knew, just by the way he was acting, when he was going to go to the bathroom, when he was going to teethe, when he was going to bark, etc. While I have always known it, by watching the dog it drove home the point that we are creatures of habit. Our habits are often the same as we look to do certain things.

I have actually tried to use this idea when it comes to Public Speaking. Most individuals tense up when they have to speak. I want to turn them into creatures of habit who don’t fear public speaking but rather, enjoy it and even look forward to it.

One thing I do is, on non-speaking days, each student has to get up in front of the class and respond to the question of the day. The idea is, they get so used to this that it makes it easier when they have to stand up and give a graded speech, they have become creatures of habit when it comes to speaking.

With my summer course, it was a little more difficult as every Thursday they had to speak, starting from the second day of class. They only had a few times, five to be exact, to speak in the non-graded situation. Repetition is important when trying to develop a pattern, a habit. I did not have as much time as I would have liked. I do think it helped and I am glad I still did it. Still, we have to role with the punches life throws, or in this case that the class threw and I simply did it as best I could. No regrets, helpful, but not as effective as I would have liked it to have been.

That actually probably sums up my experience teaching a summer class.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

How To Treat Them

When I was in college, I remember going to a Met game. The Mets were playing the Montreal Expos and the Expos sent John Milner up as a pinch hitter. Sitting a few rows in front of me were a father and son tandem. As Milner was introduced as the pinch hitter, the father started booing loudly and then turned to his son, with a huge grin on his face and said, “That’s how you treat the opposition”.

As a long time Met fan, I remembered John Milner playing for the Mets (I don’t think the father a few rows in front did), I remembered Milner as someone who always tried his best and gave 100% and, especially considering the team, was not a bad player. I left thinking how unfortunate for that child to be taught to have such little regard for a man with class, a hard worker and a loyal Met player back in the day.

Now, fast forward to the present day (and I am probably getting a little controversial here). While the semester is out, I have taken a job working on the telephones, conducting phone interviews (no sales). It is not my ideal job but it is an honest day’s work (for an honest day’s pay). I’ve done it in the past and I’m still pretty good at it but, honestly, the older I get, the tougher it is to do for eight hours. I also confess, I get more frustrated now than I ever did when people hang up on me. I don’t mind people tell me, “No thank you, I’m not interested,” but I do find hanging up on me just plain rude, and some of them seem to be very gleeful when they do it, I can just hear these people turning to their children and saying, “That’s the way you treat them”.

In this particular case, I find it particularly annoying because the survey is actually about five minutes and after we introduce ourselves and the survey (I timed this at 15 seconds), we ask, “May I continue”. These individuals are given the option of saying, “No”. Sometimes, I get all the way through the introduction and ask, “May I continue,” and instead of the person saying, “No,” or, “I’m not interested,” they still just slam down the phone. I find that particularly aggravating.

The good news is, I am always on the lookout for new material to use for my class. I have a feeling that when I cover persuasive speaking this coming semester, my phone surveying experiences are going to give me new material to work into the class.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


I have recently been beating myself up over a stupid action (or non-action) on my part. There was a job I was interested in and I set up an interview for the position. Now, in fairness, while the job sounded fantastic, the irregular hours, pay and lack of ANY guarantees, gave me pause. Still, I wanted to learn more about the position, go to the interview and see where things went from there.

The interview was scheduled for 11:00 AM. I arrived just a few minutes early and was ready to go. When I got there, I learned that I had the wrong time in my head and it the interview was actually slated for 10:00 AM. I was so sure I had the right time, I went back and checked the e-mail. Guess what? It was for 10:00. I completely blew it. The interviewer was nice enough to still meet with me but, in reality, I knew I blew my chance. To make matters even worse, I could have easily been there at 10:00. When I finished the interview, I left with the feeling that if the shoe was on the other foot, I would not hire me for the position.

I then started thinking if this was any different than students who need extra time for assignments, have some kind of sob story for me or have poor attendance. In part, it isn't, but only in part. I think one thing that makes the situation different for me is, I did not deliberately do this AND I acknowledge my stupidity and that the consequences I suffer are my own fault.

I actually had a student years ago who missed the final exam. She came up to me afterward and apologized. She explained that she needed to get a friend to an important meeting and he had no other way of getting there. She said she hoped I would be kind enough to let her take a makeup exam but she understood if I didn't since she consciously made this decision and knew there would be consequences.

Truth is, a student like that gets a lot further with me than one who always looks to blame things on other people. She recognized what she did and, in effect, asked for leniency (which by the way I granted). Unfortunately, I am unable to be so kind in granting leniency to myself.

Well, the consolation is, you can bet, I won't let something like this happen to me again.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Sandwich Approach

As a member of Toastmaster, a Public Speaking organization, I have “stolen” some ideas from their model and implemented them into my classroom. One thing I use is the sandwich approach. What is the sandwich approach?

When I grade a speech, I give the student a critique of the speech. The sandwich approach says first you tell a speaker something positive about a speech. No matter how good, or how bad a speech, there is always something positive that can be said. Next, you offer a suggestion for improvement. No matter how good, or how bad a speech, there is always something that can be improved. To state otherwise implies it is possible for a speaker to give a “perfect” speech. While speech can be excellent, engaging, exciting and do exactly what it is supposed to, it is impossible (at least in my mind) for a speech to be perfect. By making a suggestion, you are helping to make the individual a better speaker. Then, you always finish with a positive comment.

By using this approach, first it helps the speaker know what s/he did well. That is important as it allows a speaker to strengthen the positives. It also makes a speaker feel good about having spoken and makes them more willing to hear a suggestion. The suggestion helps the speaker improve on a weakness and finishing with a positive should leave a speaker feeling good about having spoken, and speaking is not easy for anyone to do publically.

Since I grade the speeches, I am a little more limited in how I do this, but I manage. My evaluation forms have three parts. The first part is called, “Comments”. This is a three paragraph part that follows the sandwich approach formula. The second part is called “Organization”. This part focus on the introduction, body and conclusion. This includes the research that was done and the information that was covered and researched. The last part is called “Delivery” and it focuses on how the speech was presented including gestures, vocal variety and vocal pauses. The second and third parts of the critique do not necessarily use the sandwich approach, however, I always try to make the last comment in the delivery section a positive comment. This way, not only is the opening section in sandwich form, the entire critique is, in the sense that the first thing the individual reads is a positive comment under comments, then there are comments made both about things done well and things that can use improvement but the last thing the speaker reads is another positive.

I have seen individuals take a critique, look at the grade, show disappointment but not read the comments that explain why I gave them that grade. One speaker even told me, “I never read the comments”. So, why do this? I recently learned the answer.

Since the summer is slow, I took a part time job working on the phones conducting phone surveys (not selling anything). I’ve don’t this before but this is the first time in quite some time and it is a new company for me. We get feedback, e-mailed to us, on the surveys we complete, if there are changes, or problems that have to be corrected. I have gotten a few back and, some of the changes are minimal. For instance, I capitalize the letter “Q” before the question number if I am recording a comment. The “Q” is supposed to be lowercase.

First, this is something that someone could simply tell me and I would make the change. Second, nowhere on the critique does it say ANYTHING positive about the work that was done. Lastly, not only does it not say anything positive but under the overall “Quality Assurance” section, it says “Needs Improvement,” for simply needing to change something to lowercase. After getting a few of these back from the first day I worked there, I simply started tuning out. I made the change but these “Evaluations” mean nothing to me as it is a simple, stupid little thing and there was no praise what so ever.

This taught me that, while many may not read the comments, for the few who do, for the people who are like me, it makes all the difference in the world and is important. I will continue to evaluate using my method.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Carol Burnett Said It Best

I’m so glad we had this time together,
Just to have a laugh or sing a song
Seems we just get started and before you know it
Comes the time we have to say ‘So Long’.

Some of you might remember this signoff song that Carol Burnett sang at the end of The Carol Burnett Show. Interesting that I had this song running through my head this past Thursday. That was the last day of the summer class I was teaching. Since it was just a five week, it seemed like we had just got started and now it was time to say ‘so long’.

The truth is, the course was not as difficult of exhausting as I thought it would be. Sure, every Thursday was for speeches. It was a lot of things crammed into one day, into one session (as we had to do more than just speeches on Thursday), into five weeks but I managed.

More importantly, the course seemed to work for the students. I asked the students for feedback at the end of the semester. I let them know this was the first time I was teaching a summer class and I wanted and needed their feedback to see if I needed to make any changes. There were minor suggestions and the students seemed to disagree with each other. What they all seemed to agree on was the five weeks moved quicker than they thought it would and that they enjoyed the class (always nice to hear).

I still like it better when it is a 15 week course, but all things considered, it went well and, if they are going to offer it and pay someone to teach it, I am happy to be the one teaching the course. And, the early returns seem to indicate they will be offering two sessions of Public Speaking next summer and they want me to teach one of those sections.