Category Archives: Teaching

Registering Students/Preparing Syllabi

Today I have been registering students. I still can’t understand why they haven’t created a system that will allow them to register online or at least over the phone. I only had to register a few but each one took 30 to 45 minutes because most of the classes are filled at this point.

I also prepared syllabi for tomorrow. No need to create it way in advance this time. I just changed the dates and added some new rules. Since many of the students at this university have behavioral issues, I have put in a few extra statements so I, nor my good students, have to deal with their nonsense. One of the rules is if I have to ask them to leave my classroom (kick out) twice for inappropriate behavior then I will withdraw them from the course. If I have to stop the class to address inappropriate behavior three times, then they will be withdrawn from the course.

I didn’t know about this rule until after the semester started last time so I didn’t have it in my syllabus. I know about it this semester and even cleared it with the chair. The chair told me to make sure I spelled out what I meant by disruptive behavior, etc…

No problem.

In retrospect, I only had one class that really got on my nerves and it had about four ring leaders (which is a lot for a class) and four flunkies who were minupulated by them. They drove me ‘nuts’ and I do not want to spend my nights complaining about them to my wife….hence the new rules. That class affected my entire attitude about this position. When it was coupled with the low expectations, performance and the apathetic attitudes of the other classes it became to much too handle. 

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Rarin’ to Go/Preparing for the Future

I thoroughly enjoyed my holiday break. My wife and I visited both of our families in Jacksonville, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. This is a first time in a long time that both of us have been in a professional career at the same time, so we really enjoyed traveling this year and not worrying about the cost.

I finished my Masters degree shortly after my wife graduated with her B.S. and then I worked a year before going for my Ph.D. She sacrificed a lot to stay in that city, with very little opportunity for her line of work, while I worked on my Ph.D. Near the end of my program she lost her position and was drastically underemployed for almost a year until we moved to our current location.

Over the break, I had plenty of time to gather perspective on my entire semester here at the college and I am ready to go. I realized that even though I am underpaid (not for the type of college, but for the degree and salaries at state or private universities) I am still working in the profession that I want to be in. I have addressed the issue of pay by continuing to apply to universities that will allow me to obtain the salary I want. My wife, who worked for five or six years as an accountant before becoming a teacher this year, is now studying for her CPA exam and will re-enter the field once the school year is over. By doing this we will both drastically increase our wages as well as find employment more suitable to our tastes.

I have never stopped looking for different universities and over the holidays numerous positions opened up. I applied to about 4 universities and have about 4 more applications that I am sending out this week. Luckily, I have the qualifications that most of them are requesting so I am very optimistic.

Both of us realized that the move here was a positive step us, even if it was far from our ideal. Now we are strong enough to make decisions based on what’s best for us and not ones based on survival. This semester and next few months will be used to prepare us to move forward…..

(A little heavy, but I had to get it off my chest….)

Being a Jerk Because I Can!

Sometimes I wonder if I exhibiting the behavior of a professional or Grade A jerk.

Example: I handed out take home exams to a set of my classes last Tuesday. I informed them that they could not turn it in early and that they had to turn it in on the day of the exam. I did this so I would not have people dropping by my office at all times of the day, sliding it under the door, trying to turn it in early in class, etc. I have to keep track of these tests and the simplest way for me to do it is by setting a firm date and collect it all at once. I also told them they could not email it to me and it had turned in face to face.

So, today I am returning to my office after going to the restroom down the hall and as I approach I notice my door is wide open. I usually close it when I step out or at least leave it partially cracked. As I am wondering why my door is open as I step into the doorway I notice a student standing in the corner of my office. My first thought is did he enter a closed office.

Anyway.

He then asks me can he turn in his test right now because he won’t be able to come to class this Thursday because he has to “be somewhere.” I told him no he would not be able to and that I am only accepting them on Thursday at the time of his class. I then offer him the option of allowing someone else to turn it in for him but I can’t be held accountable for someone else turning in his work…. He said okay and left.

The entire time I was saying no I was wondering if I was being a jerk. However at the same time, he misses class often and once told me he overslept as an excuse for missing class. He even missed the class when the test was handed out and tried to have someone else pick it up.

Now that I have written this out I realize that I wasn’t quite being a jerk. I was probably reflexively reacting to his past behavior….. and he did invite himself into my empty office unannounced.

“Ya’ll are BullSh$tting, Let Me In!”

In class today I had a group of students giving their last round of presentations. When students are giving presentations I have a rule that if you come late, you cannot enter class until you hear the applause. So about 20 minutes into the presentation I hear a loud, “Ya’ll are BullSh$tting, Let me In!”

It was so loud I thought the person who said it was in the room. The group presenting stopped and looked around.

I asked the class, “Who said that?”

Everyone shook their heads.  I told the girl nearest the door to open it up. When she opened the door she asked the two standing outside (a male and female), “He wants to know who said that?” The guy, who obviously said it muttered, “I didn’t say anything.” I just told him, “—–, See me after class.” When I left the class (we also had professor evaluations today/more on that later) I said, “Come, walk with me.”

As we walked down the hall, I said, “I know what you said. It was so loud that I thought it was inside the room.” He immediately became apologetic and stated that he didn’t think that we could hear it and that he said it for the benefit of the girl that was standing out there with him. I said okay, but let him know he wouldn’t be allowed to return to class today and that he could return next week only if he apologizes to the class first. He apologized to me again and said he would apologize to the class on Monday…..

I am torn on whether or not I should have interrupted the presentation, but at the same time he went too far…

Also: As I was walking down the hall later a student stopped me and said, “Yeah, that was really loud.”

The Final Exam Train is Coming Early

I am arranging for three of my classes to take their final exam during their last class period. I am giving the other three classes a take home exam that they can turn in on their last day of class. I am streamlining the courses so I can be done about a week and a half early. Some of my classes have their final exam date scheduled on the last possible day. So to avoid having to grade until the last minute I am having them do it early.

I am trying to save myself from burnout….

Second Day Back and I’m Pissed…

Well, this semester is almost over. I am frazzled and worn out. I fought my emotions Sunday night to avoid going into a depression over returning to work.  That’s right, I am officially calling this position work.  I have always looked at my academic career and exploits as enjoyable and fun, even when I had a tremendous amount of work to do. However, now, I feel the strain.

My wife and I had a long talk about both our experiences in teaching. I have had the benefit of teaching at a quality university so I know that what I am experiencing here is not the norm but an aberration. This is her first teaching assignment as she changed careers from being an accountant. She is also teaching middle schoolers math (6th, 7th and 8th graders). She teaches remedial students so they also have many other problems that they bring to the classroom.

So as you can imagine we are both dissatisfied and are seeking a remedy. As a naive college student and then young man in graduate school I was heavy into community service and trying to make a difference. However, I was burned too many times by the very people that I tried to help.  As a professor I want to work with people who are motivated, inspired and are willing to do what it takes to succeed in life. I am not witnessing that from the students I teach and I don’t think the college is interested in attracting those types of students. I find that I am in the very situation I wanted to avoid.

One thing we have learned from this experience is that in our future endeavors we will not open ourselves up for the possibility for anything below our standards any more. I applied for this job and even though many things were misrepresented it is ultimately my fault. I knew that out of all of the skills I had acquired in my graduate career, the subject that I am teaching now, I like the least and it doesn’t challenge me. I have been looking elsewhere and I am applying only to places that have the salary requirements, job description and standards for students that are in line with my standards. We are also only considering areas where we want to live.

We refuse to accept anything less.

Breaking out of the Grading Tunnel

I now have a frim grasp on the grading that has consumed me for the past few weeks. I admit that I was bummed out by the lack of emphasis my students placed on their exams, although there were some shining diamonds in the rough. However, I can’t fail everyone so I decided to let my students obtain 20 extra points, yes the grades were that bad, if they typed up a written explanation detailing why they didn’t perform well. The catch, is that they have to visit me during office hours and provide the reason(s) face to face.

I struggled with myself to understand why they were doing so poorly and tried to see if I was doing something wrong and vice versa. I had given out similar versions of the same tests to other students for over four years while working on my Ph.D. and the breakdown usually occured in this manner in a class of 25:

3 A’s, 7 B’s, 10 C’s, 3 D’s and 2 Fs.

However, for the majority of my students, at this college, F’s are the norm… 

So I created the 20 points scheme. What is distressing about this is that it has been over a week since I offered it and only 14 students, out of nearly 200 students, have come to my office. The offer is good for only two weeks and I let my class know that I leave immediately after office hours so don’t wait until the last day to stop by.

However, I did have one student who wrote in his explanation “I see that you are a professor that cares about your students, or else you wouldn’t give us this chance. I am grateful that I have you as a professor and that you do keep our futures and possibilities in sight even, when we ourselves lose sight of it.”

That made my day….. 🙂