A new “routine”…


Last week didn’t “count” — well, it did but it didn’t…  I say that because I spent almsot all of Friday in my pajamas…

That can’t be my new “routine” during my sabbatical… really, I won’t get it done.

I gave myself last week because, dang it, I deserve it… plus, Max was with us and we had more interesting things to do than have me work — like, watch most of “The Office” (him) and drink coffee while reading semi-trashy novels (me).  Now, Max is on the way back to his other home and starting school — and I’m thinking about being productive.

The trouble is, I’m not used to NOT having a schedule — at leas not while school is in session.  Sure, I adjusted to teaching online over the summer, but it was SUMMER… now it’s Fall and I need to figure out how I work best.

It helps that Andy is in school again, so I have some kind of schedule — if only by proxy.  The thing is, I’ve never had this kind of unstructured time to do research… and it’s a little daunting.

Like anything, I’ll probably get it done… by “it” I mean my dissertation project of developing two new courses…

I have a plan for the first part — namely, to develop the Ethical Theory section I’ll use in both classes… and I’m participating in a faculty group on Tuesday to get some ideas for my new classes…

But, still — the time between NOW and May (when summer classes start) is pretty daunting — wish me luck.


Know your online teaching habits..

I’m teaching about 75% of my load online this semester… and so far, it’s been good.

I think the reason it’s been working for me is that I taught several semesters’ worth of “hybrid” classes, so I’m comfortable with the online learning system my college uses.  More important than that, I know my online teaching habits.

Let’s face it, we don’t like to change… and we generally don’t change things, we only fight against our current habits.

I know the general arc I want my students to take, so the question is how to meet their needs while not making myself crazy.

I know I’m a procrastinator when it comes to grading discussions — I’ve finally figured out a way to avoid having to grade them all — thanks to a brilliant colleague… for now, I tell my students that late responses will get no grades and then I plan to grade in kind of a binge every couple of weeks.

I also don’t want to answer the same question many times — so I set up a discussion area for general class questions and let the students answer one another.  So far, so good – that, and demanding that they include their class information before I’ll answer a question has greatly reduced my e-mail load.

I’ve found that when I “participate” in a class discussion online the rest of the discussion stops — so, I started writing my philosophy class blog and link it to my courses via a feed… they get to see what I’m thinking about their topics and I don’t have to write the same thing in every section of my courses.  Win win – plus, they can go back and see what I’ve said from previous semesters… not bad, eh?

I also want them to work together, and for me not to have to write individual comments on every single paper, so I have them do a couple of group papers and give those papers intense comments.  That way students are really reading and assessing each other’s work before it gets to me — and I can give more detailed comments to 7 papers rather than 40.  At the end of the class they turn in an individual paper and I’ve found so far that the individual papers are significantly better in courses that have the group paper than those that don’t.

My class isn’t the most entertaining or interactive class possible, but I think it serves the needs of my students without making me crazy — I suppose their midterm answers will tell me more, eh?


Teaching hybrid classes…

I just wrote a post about teaching hybrid classes on my philosophy class blog…

Since more than a few of y’all teach at the college level, you might enjoy it…. so here it is.

Intercultural Education…











I had an interesting experience today…

It was an exchange with a student I’ll call A.

A is in my logic class, she’s smart, articulate and hard working… and doing fairly well in logic.

A didn’t do well on the last quiz, so she’ll have to take the final — about half of my students end up taking the final and it’s no big deal…. except to A.

Me:  Well, you’ll have to take the final.

A:  What happens if I take the C final?

Me:  your grade is limited to a C, no matter what your percentage is.

A:  I want to take the B final, then… because I want a B.

Me:  There is no B final, there’s an A/B final that has problems from the last two sections of the course.

A:  I don’t like the last section, but I like the one before it.. I want to take a final on that one.

Me:  That final doesn’t exist.

A:  But, I want to take that final.  Is there any way I can do it.

Me:  no

A:  really, I don’t like using the last set of rules, so I think I’ll take the B final.

Me:  no

A: why

Me:  because there is no such thing…

A:  but I don’t understand the last set of rules.

Me:  then you can take the C final.

A:  but I want a B, let me take that final…

lather, rinse and repeat for a while —

Other students were watching in amazement as she thought she could negotiate a new final out of me… and laughing.

Advice for College Students…

… now is the cranky time for your professors.

About now the following things are happening behind the scene at your campus…

  • All kinds of ishy forms are being required of your professors.  We don’t like to do them.  We think they’re a waste of our time and brainpower and we hate struggling with the ridiculous questions they ask us.  Also, the formatting of the electric forms sucks and we spend a lot of time messing around with that.
  • Committee work is getting ugly.  The committees have to get things done by the end of Fall semester and the end of the calendar year.  This means more time working on stuff we never wanted to do in the first place.
  • Administrators are busy with all kinds of things as are staff folks, so they don’t have time to answer our questions.
  • Grading is piling up and we’re looking at grading finals.  At this point in the year, we see a huge set of stuff to read and evaluate and the optimism and energy of the beginning of the school year has worn off.
  • Students who haven’t been doing their work come out of the woodwork with excuse after excuse.  Some of them are real reasons and others are pure BS, but we don’t have the resources to tell one from another.
  • Our colleagues are getting cranky and picking fights.  They try to stand on the principle of academic freedom to avoid doing what they need to do in the first place.  These aren’t issues about their legitimate control of what they teach or research, but they pull that old line out like it’s going to work — when it shouldn’t.
  • The holidays are coming up, but we don’t generally get anything like a holiday bonus, so we’re trying to figure out how to afford Christmas….. and probably making a decision about whether or not to travel to see relatives.
  • Reports are due — on many levels… this makes us cranky in and of itself.
  • Political games are going on behind the scenes about funding for programs and hiring decisions for next year.  We feel like we need to fight to maintain what we fought to maintain this time last year.
  • The economy sucks — it’s likely that their spouse is unemployed or underemployed, adding to the holiday stress.
  • The schedules for next Spring, Summer and Fall are all landing on their desks and this means they have to talk to their cranky colleagues and make guesses about what to offer in the next year.
  • Due to budget concerns, administration is probably telling them they need to either increase the class size for next year OR telling them they need to get more students to enroll in their courses to avoid having them canceled.

So, be kind to them.  Smile, tell them they’re a good teacher and that you’re appreciating their class.  If you see a former professor in the hall, stop them to say hi and let them know they did a good job when you were in their class.  Generally, treat them like you’d treat a parent who is overworked, exhausted and stressed — because we are.  Now is not the time to complain, lie or cheat — really, the last two don’t go over well at any time, but they’ll be dealt with more harshly now than they would at any other time.

Generally, if you hang on a couple of weeks, we’ll see Thanksgiving break on the horizon and we’ll lighten up — until then smile, sit down, shut up and do your reading…. and for goodness sake, stay off of your phone and facebook during class!

Too Late for Labor Day…

… but funny anyway…

For my class…



… because you insisted…

If you need it explained, ask a classmate who looks like they have experience — I’m not explaining any more.. :).