And you thought being a student was hard...

Before my time as a Communication professor at Ivy Tech, I spent many years doing corporate and organizational training. When I decided to become an instructor, I thought it couldn't be much different from what I did for companies. Boy, I couldn't be more wrong! Although I'd never tell my students, I learn more from them than they will ever learn from me!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Why Isn't Napping 101 Offered?

I can't believe the Fall semester is here. I just got done complaining about Summer session, which was the semester from hell, I must say. I haven't had time to recover! I'm not ready! We have new textbooks, so I need new lecture notes! I want to teach Napping 101!

Okay, the beginning of semester whine is out of my system. Seriously, though, summer semester did me in, and with such a short break (10 days!) between semesters, I just don't feel ready. It didn't help that my plague rat, I mean, oldest son, brought home a stomach bug the day before classes started. I at least made it until Monday night, and as I have Tuesdays off, was able to moan in my bed without guilt, but I would have had to cancel classes on Tuesday if I had them. I was that sick.

So, the semester is off to a shaky start, but I like my classes so far, and I love the new text book. I'll be spending all of Labor Day weekend getting caught up on everything for the semester, but then I think it will be smooth sailing.

Okay, don't laugh so hard.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Difference in Students

Someone asked me about a previous post where I said that I love teaching summer session, as the students are so much better, if there really, truly was a difference in students based on the semester. Ask anyone who has taught for a couple of years (or longer) and I think they will agree. Here is the general break-down:

Fall Semester Students: A little bipolar. There's a newness, a freshness to Fall that can't be replicated any other time of the year. Most (although obviously not all) had the summer off. They have fresh new notebooks, pencils, backpacks, and attitudes. Nothing but positive feelings and optimism for a successful semester. After about a month, reality has set in and here is where we see a student's "true" student personality. This point in time is a big drop out point for new freshmen. College is a lot harder than they had realized. The students who are left divide into two categories: first are your hard-core students. These are your suck ups, your perfectionists, you high work ethics, and those who have been monetarily threatened by the school, government or parents. They follow the rules, get things done on time, if not ahead of time, ask lots of questions for clarification, and are mostly A and B students. Second are your "other" students. They are still in your class for other reasons than getting something out of it - like they need to pass to stay on their parents' insurance, they have to be enrolled full-time to get student loan money, it's a required course and it's their last semester, or for other reasons even I can't fathom. These students are all over the board grade-wise, but most if not all of your Ds and Fs will be from this group.

Spring Semester Students: There are far fewer new students, so you pretty much know from the get-go which category everyone falls in: hard-core or other. The one catch: no one is feeling particularly new and shiny and optimistic. Even your most dedicated students are feeling cranky, uninspired and burned out before we even get to Spring Break. In general, I do notice that the end of semester is a bit easier in the spring than the fall - warmer weather, longer days, and the promise of summer break seems to help. Overall, though, this is probably the most level semester of the three.

Summer Semester Students: Although some take summer courses because they think it will be easier (only half the amount of time must mean half the amount of work!), but most students have been advised that summer sessions are more intense. Those who were ill-informed drop within the first week, two at the most. The rest of the students fall into that hardcore category. They are working on getting ahead in their education and are willing to do the extra work the summer session requires. This is the easiest group to teach. Most of my summer classes consist of A and B students. Because I know, for the majority, I'm going to get a good crop of students, they also have a tendency to be my guinea pigs for new assignments, papers, and projects. We have such a good rapport that they aren't afraid to tell me if something doesn't work.

Obviously this formula doesn't apply to every class every semester. Some classes are better, some classes are worse, regardless of the semester. This is a just a generalized pattern. It happens often enough, however, that I plan my schedules accordingly. I always wait a little longer to put semester-long groups together in the fall than I do spring or summer, as it takes a little while to weed out those who aren't going to make it. In spring, I schedule extra "break" time with assignments that revolve around movies or TV shows we watch in class. It helps to break up the monotony of my voice lecturing, especially when they're too burned out for much discussion. And, as mentioned, I use summer to try out new things.

It may be more correlation than causation, but I'm willing to work with it either way!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My Poor Nerves!

Okay, I admit it. I'm a worrier. My mom is the queen of all worriers, and I think I've picked up a few of her worrying traits. Case in point: this summer session.

We're three weeks into the semester. I'm prepping my f2f IC students for their group projects due at the end of the semester. I have been filming little snippets of info and posting it on youtube for my online Public Speaking students (which, by the way, has had a tremendous impact on the quality of the speeches) and I'm completely caught up on grading, sometimes even a little ahead by grading students' work as it comes in before it is due.

In other words, this semester is running smoothly, and it's driving me crazy!

I have a lot on my plate this summer, and so I spent an enormous amount of time ensuring I was prepared for it, purposefully scheduling a little time every day to work instead of large blocks of time several times a week. Besides the normal beginning of semester issues (late registration, no shows who aren't no shows, technical issues in the classroom, etc.), these first three weeks have been Zen-like and peaceful.

I can't take it any more.

I feel like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. I'm waiting for Blackboard to crash and delete everything. I'm waiting for a student to get uppidty and cause problems in a class. I'm waiting to fall so far behind in grading that I'm paying crazy money to baby-sitters for a week to get caught up. By this point every semester (whether an 8-week or 16-week course), things have begun to unravel. All of my careful planning has been shot all to hell. Real life would be getting in the way. Those experiences, however, have taught me to have back-up plans, hard copies of everything, and a good coffee maker for late-night grading jail sentences.

All of this hard work, and I think I've spooked myself.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

It's Been Too Long

You know that it's been a rough semester when you go this long between blogs. I think I'm just now ready to sit down and blog about teaching again. When you work that hard and every day seems to be consumed with papers and tests and grading and whiny students, blogging about it all just seems to be like too much like work!

I'm currently in the second week of the summer session. I had to really organize this summer, as I got screwed into an overload (don't even get me started) and have to plan and run the theatre summer camp. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise to be this busy - I've never been better at my job. I've streamlined everything, I've enforced grading time, even when I have nothing to grade, and I am more proactive at reaching out to my students.

There are some changes happening at school. Lots of initiatives that are making waves in all decisions. For the most part, I think they are all good, but like any change, there will be some growing pains. I have some decisions I need to make myself. Not too much on it for now, but in a later post, I will pro/con the issues. The longer I'm with my school, the more I love it and the more I hate it. I guess whenever your career involves something of passion, and teaching truly is a passion, then a love/hate relationship is to be expected.

I've been lucky this summer in that my classes really seem to be enjoying the classes. I know a lot of instructors who hate to teach summers, but I love it. These are (usually) the students who are trying to get ahead, not wanting to wait that extra semester to graduate. They are motivated. Plus, they are usually only taking 2 classes, so their attention isn't as divided. Already this semester, my students have made me laugh out loud on a regular basis. You know, despite everything that has happened, I really think it's going to be a great summer!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Where is my syllabus for my life?

Whew! Things have gotten crazy this semester! After I got back from a fabulous girls only Spring Break, everyone and everything needed my undivided attention.

So you can see why it took a little while to get back to my blogs!

Besides catching up on grading (which, I swear, next semester there will be one test with one multiple choice answer that will determine their whole grade!), I started two 8-week courses, have had meetings galore in Indy, loads of family things, and now I'm at the CSCA (Central States Communication Association) conference in Cincinnati. It's sad that it took a conference for me to be able to take a moment to myself and blog!

I've been making a lot of noises at my school about changes that need to be made. However, I'm one of those people that not only makes noises, but offers solutions and is willing to do the work it takes to get it done. That's starting to bite me on the ass big time now. I'm over-committed and over-whelmed. In less than four week, though, it will all be over and I can relax - until June!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Dear God, I Need Spring Break!

It has been a rough couple of weeks. After the blitz of trying to get everything together for applying to the ISU PhD program, I had hoped to be able to relax a little.


I had a conference presentation proposal to type up and submit (which meant doing some research first!), get everything together for a passport, do some committee work, plan my vacation (Fort Lauderdale, baby!), catch up on grading, oh, and see my family.

I just need to get through today and tomorrow, then I am Spring Break bound. I'm not actually leaving for Florida until Wednesday, but that's okay. Until then, not only can I pack, but I can get all grading caught up and sent off, prep the two 8-week courses I will be picking up the week after Spring Break, and get my house and family ready for me to be gone for a week. That's right, they are not coming with me to Florida. My girlfriend and I are going, sans husbands and children, to lay in the sun and have NO responsibilities of any kind.

As I have warned all of my students that I will be MIA until the Thursday after Spring Break (I only have class and office hours on Thursday and Friday this semester, and I'm taking advantage of it!), I am getting bombarded with last minute questions. I do online tests, even for my f2f classes, and they are due before class the week after we get back, and there's always someone who is panicked. I did tell them that if something with BB happened, I would be checking in at least once a day to reset tests or fix any major problems, but I would not respond to emails or questions that could wait until we got back. Doesn't seem to be lessening the questions or panic, though.

Do they not understand that Spring Break is just as much for Faculty (if not more so!) as it is for students?!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Need to Study - Would Rather Blog!

And this is why I decided to take the GRE sooner rather than later. I always work myself up into a frenzy, stressing about how I'm going to do. I've taken a couple of practice tests, and I always test in the mid- to upper- 600s in verbal and 700s in math. I know a score in the 1300s should get me into ISU's PhD programs, especially as I already have an MA and got a 4.0, and Ivy Tech has a deal with ISU.

But. Still.

I guess I'm a worrier at heart. I know I'm a perfectionist. This time tomorrow, I'll be testing away, glad it's finally over. Glad to have this part over and done with.

So I can stress about the next part - getting admitted! ;)