The Teaching Life

Adjunct Teaching: The Revolving Door

My first hint that my adjunct office buddy had departed came the week before fall semester when he wasn’t at the back-to-school faculty conference. We were among the handful of adjuncts who were regulars at these things—eager to gain some teaching tips and inspiration while enjoying some camaraderie with other folks on campus.             By the end of the first week of classes, it was clear he wasn’t around. I missed him. We’d exchanged ideas about our teaching, laughed a lot, and talked about our lives. He was generous and thoughtful, even designing the flyer for my book signing and assisting me with my Power Point for my adjunct conference keynote presentation this past spring. Jeff with novelist Elaine Munsch and me at my book signing at Barnes and Noble in February. As an older adjunct who was also a novelist, I wasn’t looking for a fulltime gig, but I knew Jeff was eager to join the ranks of the university’s fulltimers. And he’d more than shown his investment in the campus, offering workshops to fellow faculty, joining a faculty learning community, and dedicating great chunks of time to his class preparation.             But after a few years, it became clear that no fulltime job was forthcoming. And when I called Jeff, he told me financial realities had finally caught up with him. In October, he’ll begin a fulltime job at a call center for a mega health care company in our area.             I know he’ll do [...]

By |2018-08-26T10:56:23-04:00August 26th, 2018|The Teaching Life|0 Comments

End-of-Summer Musings

I admit it. I’m having grandchild withdrawal! I spent a wonderful two weeks hosting our Colorado family and three grandkids and then was off for two and a half weeks visiting our NYC grandkids, including our latest precious addition. Edie Lou arrived on Sunday, July 22, weighing nearly nine pounds! She joins big brother Milo. I loved every second of holding Edie and inhaling her baby scent and playing with Milo who’s at that wonderful imaginative stage. Of course, I did have to have several visits with his alter ego, “Dr. Wasserman,” who insisted on giving me shots and kept having to take phone calls during appointments. Milo holding Edie Lou Milo baking a birthday cake with his grandfather             Now it’s full swing into the semester, and I’m hitting the ground running as fast as I can. The beginnings of semesters always leave me feeling a bit crazed—so much to do and so little time.             But I do have to say that teaching is my favorite way to “pay it forward.” This past week, I got an e-mail from a student I had a few semesters ago in a college English Composition class. She had confided to me that she was writing a novel and asked me if I’d be willing to look at it. I did and offered her feedback on what I thought she could work on to make it stronger, as well as lots of encouragement. Now working on her fourth [...]

By |2018-08-18T13:35:08-04:00August 18th, 2018|The Teaching Life|0 Comments

Feeling Thankful

I’ve been having one of those weeks where I felt like yelling out, “Bah, Humbug!” every five minutes. I’d broken out in some horrible itchy rash that hadn’t responded to the steroid meds the doctor assured me would kick in immediately. Not only do I look like crap, but I feel like total crap! Meantime, I’m off to visit my family for a week. I adore my family, but visiting my 96 year old mom doesn’t qualify as much of a pick-me-up. Deep into progressive dementia, she hung up on me yesterday because I was not in Boston and therefore was “of no use to her” in escaping from her aide whom she believed was imprisoning her.   Sometimes, though, a meaningful gesture of thanks can totally turn things around. This morning, I got the loveliest email from a student I’ve been blessed to have for two semesters. A brilliant young man who’s shooting for a career in medicine, he confessed to me that the flirtation with drugs he’d alluded to in a memoir he wrote last year was much more serious. In fact, his addiction had gone on for two years. When he went into recovery, he moved away from his old friends and said he felt terrible about himself and had lost his self-confidence. He told me that my positive energy was a big morale boost for him. He thanked me for the care I give to students and  said: “Choosing you as a professor really helped change [...]

By |2018-05-09T16:51:18-04:00May 9th, 2018|The Teaching Life|0 Comments

Keynoting It!

  Last week was spring break, and I holed up for days getting ready for a keynote presentation I’m doing this coming Saturday for an adjunct scholars’ conference at Indiana University Southeast. My topic is: “Building Strong Student-Teacher Relationships and a Positive Classroom Climate.” I’m actually somewhat of an accidental keynote speaker. I submitted this topic as a workshop idea, and the folks at the Institute for Learning Excellence liked it so much they asked me to be the keynote speaker. I’m always nervous when I have to give a speech. As Jerry Seinfeld once pointed out, most of us are so anxious about public speaking that we’d rather be in the coffin at a funeral than delivering the eulogy. But I’m also really excited because I’m genuinely passionate about this subject, and the research is compelling that student-teacher relationships make an enormous difference in student motivation and persistence in college.  With three master’s degrees and a varied background, my college teaching career has been eclectic, to say the least! I’ve taught dance, sociology, public speaking, interpersonal communication, and now writing. The reporter from the campus news outlet assigned to cover the conference asked me an interesting question—what I’d learned about teaching across so many different disciplines. I wanted to share my response with you, so here goes: What I’ve found is that teaching is a calling, an art, and a skill that is transferable from discipline to discipline. It has mattered less what I am teaching and more how [...]

By |2018-04-04T13:42:02-04:00April 4th, 2018|The Teaching Life|0 Comments

Wrestling Coach Wisdom

  My 8th grade grandson and his dad The other night, I attended a ceremony honoring a neighboring city’s eighth grade student wrestlers, including my grandson. The veteran high school coach was the guest speaker and made a big pitch to the students to enroll in the local high school and continue wrestling. He trotted out seniors from his team who’d excelled not only in wrestling but in the classroom. Their team, he said, was number two academically in the state and had won a number of regional and state wrestling competitions as well. He was a passionate guy and ended his talk by stating, “I may not be the greatest coach in the world, but nobody will care about your kids as much as I do.” In fact, I’m pretty sure he must be a really good coach. And an important part of what makes him so effective is how much he invests in building strong relationships with students. In my own teaching life, I’ve certainly found this to be true. How do I know? Students actually tell me it makes a difference. One wrote about my teaching this fall: “I’ve never met another professor who cares so strongly for all of the students in a class…  Without her positive attitude and approach to her critiques of papers, I don’t think I would be writing as well as I could.” Interestingly, now that I’m doing research for a keynote presentation on the significance of STR (Student-Teacher Relationships) [...]

By |2018-02-11T18:11:46-04:00February 11th, 2018|The Teaching Life|0 Comments

End-of-Semester Blues

            It’s the last week of the semester, and my college students stare at me bleary-eyed. Loaded down with upcoming exams and final projects, sleep is definitely high on their wish list for the holiday break. “I just want it to be over,” one of my students told me. “I am so freakin’ tired!”             Me too. Facing the last blast of papers and projects coming in and final grades to submit, I’m more than ready to push the pause button on school. Not only am I eager to spend time with my family and savor the holidays, but I also can hardly wait to have a block of time to focus on my own writing.             Still, I have to admit that I always have mixed feelings about the ends of semesters. The truth is I invariably get attached to my students, and the thought of not seeing and working with many of them anymore makes me sad.             Maybe it’s because I teach English composition and we do a lot of sharing of our work in class, but my students start to get to know each other and I get to know them—and pretty soon, we’re a community. I know that long after this semester is over, I will still think about the student athlete who spent his eighth grade year homeless and dreams of getting his mom a nice house one day. And I’ll wonder about the biracial young woman who sits next to him and wants [...]

By |2017-12-06T10:10:46-04:00December 6th, 2017|The Teaching Life|0 Comments