Teaching


To supplement my summer income, I’m also helping out with placement tests at the community college where I worked during the academic year. The job was entails administering placement tests, as well as talking to the new students about college.

I didn’t expect this job to be so interesting. Administering the tests, not so much, but talking to them- I learn a lot. The questions are basically designed to help the students start thinking about what being in college is like and to receive subtle guidance from the interviewer if they seem to have incorrect ideas. It also gives an opportunity to the students to ask questions and just in general, feel welcome.

The students I talked to all were warm and excited to start school. None of them, thankfully, thought college would be easy. They all seemed interested in being good students and had good ideas how to succeed. I hope they keep that in mind.

I hope to always keep a pulse at this school; there are tough days, but overall, the work is satisfying.

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I’m proud of my students; most of them actually appear to have taken to heart my advice on studying. Most students passed their finals with Bs or As. Not bad at all, considering some of them were not A or B students in this class. It was a pleasant surprise to say the least and a great way to end the school year. I don’t think I can emphasize enough how much I dislike giving a student a failing grade, even when that is what s/he earned.

Even though I’m iffy about teaching next year, I’m already thinking about what to do. Thinking about the advice another professor at the school gave me (don’t do more work than the students do), I’m considering not assigning homework formally. As most people know, the odd numbered problems have some kind of answer. My students typically don’t do homework (this is par for the course), and when they realize it’s a part of their grades, they do a rush job that is more about credit than understanding. I’m not anti-grades, but I’m more pro-learning than anything. My reasoning for considering this is that the students who want to learn and grasp the material will, they can check answers without consulting with me, the homework thing won’t hurt those who are super busy and may turn it in late, and it creates less work for me to grade something poorly done. I’ll still give quizzes, so they won’t totally be devoid of feedback. However, I am strongly learning towards this model.

Has anyone ever done a quiz/exam/attendance only for grades? I’m torn, but I also come from a world where homework saved my behind and I genuinely worked hard on it. The student population I work with is different (homework ended up hurting everyone’s grade, even those who did well on exams), so I have to figure out something that works for them.

You know it’s the end of the year when the tutoring center has people show up and suddenly, you get to tutor everything. I tutored for about 2 hours today. I did physics, calc, and English.

Since final grades are due Friday, I have a lot of work ahead of me. My math students are taking their final now as I type this entry. My physics students take their final tomorrow and Wednesday. I’m more or less set up to just grade the final and then have the final grades done. There is some leeway, but on a whole, I feel most students have performed consistently throughout the semester. I don’t look forward to the grading; I used to not mind grading so much, but there is always so much to be done.

Although I enjoy teaching, I’m looking forward to the summer. It looks like I have employment (I have to do one last interview/talk with some people this week, but my new advisor basically told me that the job is mine). The pay isn’t amazing, but it is indeed enough to get through the summer. I’m also looking at other small ways to supplement my income.

In terms of next year with the school, I hope to teach one or two classes. Since I’ll be a full-time student, I can’t swing a lot. However, I want to stay actively involved with everyone here. I enjoy the environment a lot, and I’d like to become a better teacher. I’m not sure if I could ever teach full-time (I’m hoping to do more education research), but I think that part of me will always like teaching. Besides helping guide people in their education, I like that teaching helps keep things fresh in my brain.

We’re in our last week of classes; next week is finals.

It’s hard to believe that we’re almost finished. In some ways, this is scary, since I kind of have a summer job. I haven’t accepted it, but without any prospects, it looks like I will be. The pay isn’t great, but some income is better than none. I’m still looking at ways to supplement my income, so hopefully I find something soon. On one hand, I’ll have somewhat financial security come August/September, but I still have to weather May, June, July.

While I did have an overall enjoyable semester, I look forward to summer break. Partially because getting up at 6 AM to ensure I arrive at school by 8 AM to teach is draining. I’m not a morning person, and waking up so early on dark, dreary days is difficult. I look forward to a bit of a later start.

In terms of next semester and teaching, because my classes are night classes, I will try to teach one or maybe two classes here. Besides the extra income and keeping a strong connection, I genuinely enjoy my job. The pay isn’t the greatest (this is adjunct work), but I’m lucky to wake up (even if it’s dead early) and work with people I genuinely like and respect. My coworkers are really interesting people that I like to socialize with on the office level. My students are challenging, but there are moments when teaching does feel worthwhile.

If I don’t post much this week, you’ll know why. I’m up to my nose in grading. Final grades are due about 2 days after I give my last final!

I’ve seen that question bringing people to my blog. Well, it really depends on how you do it.

If you enter the conversation condescending and belligerent, it honestly annoys me. I don’t care for arrogance in general or people who are hostile. While I maintain professionalism, they aren’t pleasant conversations for either side. I think generally that it’s incredibly disrespectful to tell someone who has more experience/knowledge in the subject how things should be graded. I really recommend entering a grade dispute conversation calmly and respectfully.

If you enter the conversation with respect, I hope you also enter with a valid point. People who are petty really do bother me, because the issue appears to be based not on merit. Merit goes a long way with me, because it means you actually thought about why you’re arguing what you’re arguing and that it’s beyond wanting a better grade.

Timeliness also plays a huge role for how I feel about grade discussions. The responsibility is on the student to know his/her grade (if the professor isn’t returning work regularly, that’s a different issue). You should have a relative idea of how you’re doing in a class by that work. If you’re failing everything, you shouldn’t expect or demand to pass.  If you start talking about the unfairness of your overall grade at the end of the semester, I generally find that desperate and without merit. I hand out a syllabus, which is my contract/grading policy for students. Every last point is calculated and a general discussion of how the class is formatted is included. An argument about the overall grade being unfair seems even more invalid to me when people in the class do receive good grades.

So there you have it. There are obviously exceptions, but pretty much all grade disputes that I’ve had to deal with have been people who really do not have a leg to stand on. Again, as a final piece of advice, I really emphasize the idea of being respectful. Even if you have perfectly valid reasons for not respecting someone, you still have to demonstrate some kind of respect; you’re more likely to at least be heard and maintain a positive standing in that person’s eyes.

My current job has no need for additional adjuncts during the summer, so I’m off to find another job. While I’m not surprised (I’m the lowest ranked person in the office, I believe), I am disappointed. I like teaching, and I hate searching for employment. The economy is still rough, which means that jobs are scarce. In some ways, this job search is more difficult than my previous one, because I don’t want anything permanent and won’t take a permanent job knowing that I’ll quit in a few months. In my opinion, you shouldn’t burn bridges with any company. You never know who knows whom.

I have some applications out, but I haven’t heard anything back. I haven’t been waiting that long, but waiting is difficult. While I’m only going to be temporarily unemployed, it is bothersome, because I can always use the money and more importantly, I can start planning on excursions and/or dance stuff. I’d like to finally treat myself to a good, decent length vacation, but without a job, I’d rather not spend the money.

I had only one incidence of cheating this semester, thank goodness. However, I’m still interested in the subject. Without trying to be a goody-goody, I don’t think I’ve ever cheated on anything in my life.

I read this article today discussing cheating. The author is absolutely correct that there isn’t much of a policy at many schools; it’s frustrating to be a lone fighter in anything. You end up being the bad guy, regardless of whether you did the right thing.

Although I agree cheating really shows through on the exams, I don’t agree with taking a casual attitude towards it. I know personally that homework can save your grade and that some people understand things but don’t do well on the exam. And then, what about classes without exams, such as English classes? I’m not for an immediate failure for small infractions (I’ve been told that foreign students often don’t understand what plagiarism is), but I think something should be done.

In many ways, the policy where I teach makes the most sense. Your cheating activities are documented in an office so the dean knows where to go with the offenses. The policy is pretty cut and dry. Zero on the first offense, failing the class for the second, getting kicked out on the third, regardless of the year it happens. I think it’s great. Of course, it means that professors have to be pro-active (not sure how that can happen), but at least it exists and many of the professors here need to be pro-active towards catching cheaters.

I hope universities and colleges take cheating more seriously than they have, but I’m doubtful. Cheating isn’t anything new, it’s just getting easier.

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