Friday, May 23, 2008

I don't want to be "Human"

I am an avid reader of and for the last week or so they have had posts regarding being "human" in your grading and accepting late assignments. My only response to this idea is "screw that". If my students cannot act like the honest civilized adults they want to be treated as then why should I cut them any slack? It doesn't help them in the long run, it only enables their bad behavior.

Some of the things they have discussed lately were being understanding of adults who have jobs, families, etc. and give them extra time if they need it. My view point? You shouldn't bite off more than you can chew. It isn't fair to give Jill extra time because of other commitments she has chosen to take on if I don't give the same extra time to Jane who turns her work in on time.

But onlineadjuncter, some students will do really well if you give them extra time. Really? Will they? What happens down the road when they don't file their taxes on time? What happens when they can't meet deadlines at work? I am not helping them by giving them extra time, instead I would be a irresponsibility dealer giving them another fix of help me because I can't help myself.

What will I do? I will give them suggestions on time management. This will help them long term if they want to have so many balls in the air they can't see the sun shining down on their special little heads.

I know others will tell me I am being inflexible. Let me tell you why this is. I had a student who came to me asking me for extra time on assignments and extensions on her test dates because her mother was dying of cancer and she was taking care of her. Seems like a valid excuse right? WRONG. One phone call to her previous professors informed me that she had told them the same story. I also learned that she had used the cancer story for two consecutive previous semesters and told each professor that her mother had died. Needless to say she was shocked when her professors showed up to her meeting asking how the funerals in August and December went.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Extra Credit Nazi

I feel like pointing at all my students and yelling "NO EXTRA CREDIT FOR YOU!" For the love of god students if you read the assignments, put forth minimal effort, and turn in your assignments on time you should be able to pull a strong "C" in my class. Yet without fail every term at least one student who has been slacking off thinks they can come to me and I will give them extra credit.

I have a theory on this, I think that public school teachers, under the strain of NCLB now frequently give out extra credit in order to keep the grades up. Following this logic these snowflakes, who are already so egocentric that they are only capable of seeing things from their point of view, come to college where it is a whole different ball game. Unfortunately they don't know the rules, and when the rules are explained to them they don't seem to think they can apply to them.

How do I deal with this? I tell them a) I do not offer extra credit, they need to show they are capable of doing with work for the grade with the assignments I clearly outlined in the syllabus and b) the reason I do not offer extra credit to them is because I would have to offer it to everyone in the class. If they do not understand why I do not do that I refer them to reason "A". :) Some of the students say I am being bitchy, I say I am showing them tough love.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Begging for Grades

I don't think I would be surprised to see some students parked outside my house holding "Will Work for Grades" sign. It never suprises me how much effort students will put into raising their grade instead of putting effort in when they should, on the assignment.

Case in point - student emails me because they did not turn their final paper in. I tell them that they did not turn the paper in and thus they receive no grade for the assignment (duh). Two weeks later I receive a longer email again asking again to accept the assignment. Would it not have been easier to take the time to write the actual paper than pandering for points?

This reminds me of the special education students I work with whose bad behavior results in them not having privileges (games with friends etc.) Instead of not fighting with peers, arguing with teachers, being a brat, etc. so that they have the privilege to play with their friends, they act like little heathens and then spend time arguing with me about why their bad behavior is okay.

The similarities make me shudder.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Making Progress

So I may have as many as three new prospects as far as being an adjunct at different universities (thanks IPG, your list helped a lot!) After seeing my application they asked for my CV and my transcripts. I am hopeful to hear back from them after they receive them.

One university is an online university that is licenced and is in the process of trying to become accredited. If anyone has any thoughts on the pros and cons of working for a non accredited university I would love to hear it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


I work in special education as well as working as an online adjunct. Lately I have observed many parallels between my two populations of students.

1. Spec. Ed. – Students are emotionally impaired and unable to accept responsibility for their behavior. It is what is being done to them not a result of what they are doing. E.g. it is okay for me to throw a brick through his window because he was a jerk to me and deserved it. The judge is being a jerk for putting me on probation.

College Students - Come up with excuses for why they don't do their work. It is not their fault that they are so busy and I should cut them a break. E.g. Even though I had the syllabus which outlines all assignments and due dates I had an emergency vacation and didn't have internet access. You should still accept my late work even though it directly contradicts the late assignment policy.

2. Spec. Ed. - Students have documented learning disabilities and need altered assignments, extra assistance, and extended hands on teaching to learn and apply most concepts. E.g. We will cover the concept of fractions in math, ecosystems in science, or how to accept no in an appropriate manner for 1-4 weeks so that students have a firm understanding of the topic.

College Students – I will provide handouts, worksheets, lectures, and guidance on what plagiarism is and how to avoid it, yet every semester some student will plagiarize an entire paper and then claim “they didn’t know what plagiarism is.”

3. Spec. Ed. – Student have emotional impairments and often have trouble controlling their emotions, especially anger. Students will swear at their teachers and at times become physically aggressive.

College Students – Online students often forget the appropriate “netiquette” and will send emails telling me that my policies are dumb, argue with me after I have explained why their grade will not be raised, and yelled at me telling me why I am a bad teacher because I did not give them what they want.

Obviously when I work with special education students my approach is very different, and when teaching online I cannot stand in front of a student who is being inappropriate, look them in the eye, and tell them “Your behavior is inappropriate. When you can (enter desired behavior) I will talk to you again. Until then you need to sit quietly in your desk and not disrupt the rest of the class.” Although I think I would enjoy the opportunity to do so!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Student Reviews

I just got my student reviews for my last class that I taught. My reviews have improved, I am not sure if it is because I have lightened up on them or because my teaching has improved. I would like to think that it is the latter.

One response that irked me was a student who wrote about how the class was not helpful and beneath them, and regarding my teaching they expected me to be more "experienced" and were nervous taking classes from someone "just out of college". More experienced than what? I have had my undergraduate degree for five years, my graduate for over one year, and have been working in my field for five years. At what point am I considered "experienced"?

I know I have to take this with a grain of salt as many online students are returning to college and are sometimes 10 -20 years older than me, however I think regardless there needs to be a level of respect given to your teachers regardless of age/race/gender. I don't want to sound whiny, like I am stomping my feet, :) as I understand it is hard for some people to learn from someone so much younger than them. However I have the degree in what they are studying, they will get more out of the experience if they don't discount me. Is there anything I can do to overcome this?

Friday, May 9, 2008

To Administrate or Not to Administrate, that is the question.

As I discussed before I interviewed for an administrative position at a local university. The people were personable, and it has the potential to be a great job; however afterwords I was left with a nagging feeling that they were bat shit crazy.

The position I interviewed for was a Director position, yet they asked if I was willing to live in the dorms so that if students had questions they would have someone to talk to. Call me crazy but isn't this what RA's are for if a student has a question after hours? Obviously I told them "No, I am a home owner." They asked if I would be willing to stay overnight in the case of emergencies. I have a nagging suspicion this question came up due to the fact that someone got into the dorms and stabbed two students a few weeks ago. If I get a second interview the question of what constitutes and emergency will be asked.

Here is my quandary. As a teacher I expect that I will have to do some work "after hours", as an adjunct I realize that sometimes I will need to suck it up and grade papers past the hours I am getting paid for. However it seems that the "working for nothing" phenomenon is invading all aspects of our society. Be on call 24 hours in case a student has a question about dorm life, when they can wait until normal business hours? Sure, not a problem! Live on campus so I have no semblance of a personal life? You betcha! Work 16 hour days when I am only getting paid for 8? Why would I say no to that? When did employers expectations become so unreasonable, and why are some people willing to bend over and take it? I personally have some serious reservations about this position and have some heavy duty questions if I receive a second interview. Does anyone have any comments, observations, or suggestions?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Teacher Gets Schooled

I am sure like me many of you have schools question the grades you give, point out mistakes, etc. Like my students I am a fallible person with weaknesses. I admit mine is grammar. I don't always have a firm grasp on the small technicalities involved in writing, however I like to think that my writing makes sense and I am getting my point across. (Regarding my Blog it is fortunate for me that this is not something I am graded on as it is written in a couple of minutes so readers will have to forgive my grammar errors!) So when a student comes to me wanting to discuss their grade I am usually willing to talk to them and hear their side of the story.

When grading papers and essays if my students are following basis rules of grammar and punctuation I am not terriabley picky. I find this acceptable as I do not teach English, and will leave this to those that do as they have a better grasp on the topic that I do.

One phenominon that I have experienced recently is a student whose paper was "okay". Their writing was reasonably proficient, I could read it (unlike some students, see Rocket Scientist Post), and while they hit on most of the required topics they did miss some important points in their arguement. The result of this student's work was a "C". As to be expected this student came to me stating they didn't think that the grade was fair based on the ruberic and the comments I left on the paper. This was one of my first classes, and I told the student that if they could provide me with written support of why they met the ruberic guidelines and were able to show where they provided the support I commented was missing in the paper I would look at their grade again.

I niavely thought this was the last that I would hear from this student. Needless to say I was suprised when I was handed a two page essay from them outlining what I had requested from the student. It had not occured to me that my student would spend so much time coming up with a two page arguement in support of their eight page paper! As I read their argument I was both pleasantly suprised at the level of thought put into their arguement, thought that had been missing from the orignial paper, and the improvement in the support for their stance. While I was schooled in how a student would rather put in effort after the fact than in the original assignment, I believe that it was an important learning experience for the student. Was I right or wrong to allow the student to argue their grade? Is this a good learning tool that I should impliment again when a student comes to argue their grade or is it better left in the gutter of academic mistakes?

We can't all be rocket scientists

Every once in awhile you come across "the" student. This student makes you both grit your teeth and sad at the same. This student is a testament that not everyone can be successful in online education, or even traditional higher education. Here is a snippet of one such student.


Assignment: How have you applied what you have learned? (1-2 paragraphs) - I'am thinking about to deal with my stress but it is really hard to do that when I'am trying to do something i get really streed out when i can do not do something right but I will sit down and think about how I will done it before I try to do again then i go back to it later and I will ask someone to show me how to it.

Assignment: How does your first experience with online education align with your expectations? (1-2 paragraphs) - My feelings would be better doing it online would be a little bit easier.But it is like there is know one is around me at all it is not like if u was in class with people.Because when u are in class with someone if u need help u can turn to someone and ask if they can help u out but when u do ur work online u can ask someone for help but u have to email and ask them and then u have to wait for them to get back with u about it and if they can not help u have to find someone else that maybe can help u out and then u have to wa it for them to get back to u. But if u was in a classroom u do not have to go thought that at all.

While having this student I could see that I had made a small amount of progress regarding their writing, however I was not teaching a writing course so this was a small victory as they were barely grasping the concept of the class. The last assignment was telling in the sense that they expected online education to be easier, and as I tell all of my students, there is an implicit difference between more flexible and easier. A online class should not be easier than a traditional class or it will not carry the same academic merit with employers when you get your degree! In this student's case the 10/80 rule (10% of the students take up 80% of your time) held true. My efforts to coach them on grammar, proper "Internet edicate", etc. were all rebuffed and/or ignored. I will share the outcome of this in a later posting.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Best to Date:

The best excuse for missing an assignment or class to date is submitted by my friend who teaches as an adjunct at an east coast university.

"I missed class because I drank a bottle of dish soap and it made my stomach hurt."

The idea that this is the generation that will take care of me in my old age makes me quiver with fear.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Search Continues

Now that summer is coming quickly upon us and the prospect of having no income for two months is nipping at my heels I have redoubled the efforts I have been making all year to find more universities to work for. As many of you know job hunting is another full time job as you sort through who has openings, who wants transcripts, who wants applications filled out, and who just wants CV's. Those who accept electronic submissions of my CV and an electronic copy of my transcripts are my favorite submission. I typically don't apply to places that want official copies of my transcripts with the application as these cost me money. I am more than willing to give you official copies upon employment, but you do not need them before hand.

I have recently, within the last month, received referrals from colleagues to their universities, however I have not heard anything as of yet, however as the wheels of academia move at a glacial pace this is to be expected. I have been surprised that as of late I have actually received replies from universities. Normally I did not receive any reply, now I am receiving the "nothing available now but we will keep you on file." I guess you can look at that as some sort of progress in the sense that I now merit a response? :)

As one reader (I am happy that someone is reading my blog!) has commented I am working way to hard. I have to concur. I have even started applying to local universities to work in the dreaded administration. Part of me detests the idea of becoming "the man" however I am also aware that I need some stable income and the positions I am interviewing for will look shiny on my resume. I have one phone interview later this week, I am unsure what I think of this position as I don't have much respect for the establishment itself (it has a reputation in my town as both a glorified community college and a sinking ship), however with the right elements it could be an enjoyable job. Some of you are probably incredulous at this point thinking how could I even consider working for someplace I have little respect for? Be assured I am aware of the hypocrisy of this situation, however I am also aware that I have student loans to pay, a mortgage, a car payment, and right now need three jobs to make a living wage. Pairing this with the limited job openings in my particular area of the country I am more than willing to eat a big serving of hypocrisy soup for a couple of years if it will help me move onto greener pastures! I will keep everyone updated if I will be eating gourmet soup or in the soup kitchen this summer.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Attack of the "I don't like my grade"er

It is the end of the marking period and once again students who do not like their grades are coming at me en mass to complain about how I should have told them they didn't complete an assignment, or they think they should have a higher grade on this assignment, or why didn't they get credit for an assignment that was not turned in? *Sigh*

Granted I found a few clerical errors on my part, it is bound to happen when I have 60-80 students in an online classroom and no faces to put to the endless list of names. I understand it is frustrating to them, but their snotty "your a sucky professor because I don't think I am going to get my way" attitude makes me want to reach through the monitor and choke them. I want to start signing all my email communications:

Best Regards,
Your Professor
Remember, you catch more flies with honey than the shit you are dealing out right now!

One of the little snots actually told me that my communication through the class was "unacceptable". This is coming from the student who didn't turn in their final project nor did they ask me any questions or respond to most of my suggestions on their work throughout the entire quarter. I want to tell them "Sweetie, my communication style isn't what is holding you back, however I can tell you that your entitled attitude you serve out is going to be one hurdle that keeps tripping you up if you don't change it."

I don't know why it affects me every time, I know that the new generation feels no sense of responsibility towards their own destiny and that their emotionally stunted development means that it is what is being done to them instead of what they are doing, however whenever it comes and smacks me in the face it makes my blood pressure rise. Of course this means that I need to change how I view it, as I have the insight to know that I cannot change their behavior, only my reaction to it. However that is something that I shall have to tackle next term.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Cracking the whip

I was watching the local news recently and one of the stories being discussed was the friction between full time faculty and adjunct faculty. The adjunct faculty thought they were underpaid for the work they did, while the full time faculty and administration's stance was that adjuncting was not meant to be "full time work". Well when many universities use mainly adjuncts to teach their students I beg to differ, but that was not what really got my goat.

In this segment they were discussing the pay for adjuncts which has not rose to meet the rate of inflation for years. They also discussed how the pay was a mere $3000 per class. That almost made me choke. $3000 per class? I get a fraction of that!

This is where I began to break it down, most three credit classes meet for one hour a day, three days a week. That is 3 hours of work. Most f2f prof's have one hour of office time. That is 4 hours per week. Let's assume that the other 4 hours is for grading and prep. That would be 8 hours.

I get paid less that $1500 for eight hours of work per week per class. I "go to class" five days a week, am available 24 hours by email to answer questions. In addition to the hours needed to grade the discussion assignments I also grade papers and quizzes. I am sure that I work more than 8 hours a week, so why I am I getting paid less than half of the face to face adjuncts when our work loads appear to even out?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Share My Pain

This is the first post of what I hope will be an entertaining blog about my trials and tribulations (and even some triumphs) in regards to my adventures in the world of adjuncting in online education.

A little about me, I am a lowly paid adjuncter currently working for one major university while I desperately troll with my net to pull more universities into my boat. In addition I have a private practice (with not as many clients as I would like) and a job in public education that doesn't quite pay the bills. When I put all of these jobs together I manage to scrape by while beating what I am sure is a stress wrinkles and an ulcer back under the surface of my consciousness. *lol*

I am not entirely sure what I will discuss, the usual gripes, snowflakes, lazy students, plagiarizers and liars. If you have something you would like to share I am open to hearing about it, after all as we all know misery loves company!