May 17, 2013, 3:28 pm
As an office-less adjunct, I have traditionally shied away from one-on-one workshops about writing with my students. It takes a huge amount of time to do, especially since I and my students are generally on the campus only at night. I know the value of such personal feedback, though, so in the last two semesters I have experimented with ways to make it work.
So now we lose one week of whole-class instruction to make way for individual time with the final paper, a purple pen, and me. Instead of our usual 2 hours 40 minutes of class time, meeting with everyone who chooses to (about two-thirds) takes about four hours per class.
I’ve got to say, this last round of workshops was highly gratifying. I saw such improvement in my writers. Not perfect papers by any means, but evidence of students ready for English 101 in the fall. They’ll be well equipped for the next step in their education…
May 14, 2013, 2:50 pm
When I was a fourth grader, wearing my kelly-green Girl Scout uniform, I got to lead the pledge of allegiance for a naturalization ceremony. I was a shy kid, in front of what seemed to be a huge room of people in an imposing building downtown. Yet I don’t remember being scared at all. I was proud to be a part of something that seemed important.
I’ve given up wearing a sash with badges of my skills, though perhaps it is a look I could bring back into fashion. I hadn’t thought of my brush with citizenship in a lot of years, until a few weeks ago.
A student in my intro-to-composition class came up to talk to me, saying she’d have to miss the next session. The reason? She was getting naturalized, becoming a U.S. citizen after a process that had taken years. She had her appointment paper to prove it and excitedly showed it to me. The ceremony was to be held in the state capital, more…
April 25, 2013, 4:06 pm
Ms. Mentor recently wrote about offering a class reward if, for a whole semester, no one asked a question whose answer could be found in the syllabus. A community-college accounting professor told me that she gives a giant candy bar to those few students who receive 100-percent test scores. I thought both of these ideas were fun and motivational.
I have two sons—one driven by a strong internal compass of right and wrong. He’s still young, but he doesn’t need many external rewards or punishments. His brother is the complete opposite, needing both carrots and sticks to get anything done.
Given the conundrums of extra credit, what other kinds of motivation have you used with students? I am more of a negative-reinforcement giver and think that I would do well to try to change a bit. Simply saying that an assignment will be worth more points if it’s turned in by a certain date, rather…
April 19, 2013, 2:30 pm
“Consider offering extra credit for students who attend,” suggests e-mail after e-mail from various entities on campus. Senders are touting art exhibitions, philosophy debates, librarian outreach in the community, guest speakers, forums, and who knows what else.
These are great activities that would enrich my students if they attended. I hope they will do things outside of class to be part of the larger community. However, this message of extra credit is in direct opposition to the syllabus and standards that I have been told I must teach from.
For developmental English courses, how students are graded is spelled out very strictly at my college. I am only supposed to give credit for tests and writing assignments, with those category weights being dictated by the department. I dislike being managed so much but accept it as part of the job—particularly as an adjunct faculty member….
April 12, 2013, 2:21 pm
I attended my grandfather’s funeral recently. He was a professor for more than 40 years, teaching tax law and other things that seem horribly boring to me. I was gratified that, in addition to family remembrances, a colleague from the university also spoke. Students were a huge part of my grandfather’s life, so much so that going out to eat with him was often difficult since we would run into people he knew everywhere.
The overall consensus from students was that my grandfather was exceedingly hard and exceedingly good at preparing them for whatever would come next—further training or a career. The rigor, while daunting, was understood and respected.
My young son, sitting next to me at the service, asked me if grandpa had taught me to be a teacher. At first I said no, but the question stuck with me. My grandfather was an attorney and businessman, in addition to being a professor….
April 8, 2013, 2:54 pm
In a recent post I discussed whether it’s OK to advise students not to take a class from a specific professor who is a bad teacher. Many commenters asked how I knew that someone was good or bad in a classroom—a valid question since student opinions are based on a variety of factors.
Like Isaac Sweeney, who has elected to take a MOOC section of a course he teaches, I have actually been a student in the class of the professor whom I keep hearing about from students. I took advantage of a tuition-grant program at my college, which allows adjuncts to take four credits free each semester they are teaching.
Professor X was not a good teacher. This is coming from me, someone who has succeeded in her educational pursuits and can pretty much do her own thing to figure stuff out. The professor didn’t know I was a colleague, so I don’t think that had any bearing on how the class was run.
March 22, 2013, 1:38 pm
A colleague is putting together a handbook for part-time faculty at our college. The current booklet we are given covers legal matters and requirements, but offers little in the way of helpful advice. The e-mail request for ideas for the new handbook has been sitting in my inbox for weeks as I’ve tried to think about what information new people need.
My biggest request? Tell me and other part-timers who to go to for help. The organizational structure at my institution is confusing at best. If I need a copy of a textbook, where do I go? What about a problem with a student? Getting my room unlocked? These little details of daily class life become stressful when you can’t find the resources you need. Having to constantly ask questions also adds to the feeling many adjuncts have of being a second-class citizen.
Having a contact person is invaluable for part-time faculty. That could be …
March 15, 2013, 2:57 pm
Last week I ran into several former students, a rare occurrence for me. It is always fun to see that they are still taking classes and pushing onward—the road to a degree is a long one when you start out in developmental courses. There was a downside to the pleasant reunions though: Uniformly, I heard complaints about a specific professor.
There are myriad complaints students can have, some valid and some just part of life. Issues with too much homework, boredom, or a monotone voice are all things I can be sympathetic to but not much more. I usually remind students that they won’t click with every instructor and that they can be successful as long as they work hard.
Before students even leave my English 100 course, I try to prepare them for 101 professors. Some are more adept at working with non-native English speakers or first-generation college students. I try not to give…
February 14, 2013, 1:31 pm
Allison Vaillancourt has written great posts here about manners and interpersonal relationships in the workplace. I’d like to chime in with a few simple things that would go a long way toward making contingent faculty members feel less like second-class citizens. Really, though, these are tips for all of us that shouldn’t have to be spelled out. Unfortunately, these come from personal experience.
First, answer e-mails. Just because I’m not at all of your staff meetings, it would be nice if you, as my supervisor, would acknowledge and respond to my efforts at communication the first time. Not after the third e-mail. Not after another person has acted as an intermediary. I’m not bugging you all the time, and I get in touch only when I need to. Have the courtesy of giving me a few minutes of your time.
The second tip concerns parents. I stay home with my children during the day and…
February 8, 2013, 12:26 pm
In any given semester, 60 to 90 percent of my students are women. Gender imbalance in higher education is well documented and is more pronounced among Hispanic students, who attend my college in large numbers, so my percentages don’t come as any surprise. As the mother of sons and an avid reader of books and studies about men in modern society, I worry about the “failure to launch” phenomenon.
I’m thinking about this now because I noticed something recently: Every student I have ever nominated for our college’s student-of-the-month award has been female. Every impressive student I have had has been a woman. In contrast to my undergraduate education classes, which warned against a bias in favor of males, I fear I might lean the other way.
Men and women pass my class, and I think I do a good job involving everyone in discussion. I’m kind of neurotic about equal participation in class…