Sunday, May 16, 2010

The End (hopefully) of My Sabbatical

The spring semester has husband has graduated. I have two weeks before I begin to panic with the summer sessions. I found out last Friday that I will have more graduate students to teach statistics to in about eight weeks than I originally planned on teaching. I also have undergraduate students I'll be teaching, but that's for the introduction to social welfare/social work course and it's 10-weeks long. That gives me a bit more breathing space. 

So where was I? I was teaching. I'm an adjunct professor and teach for two separate universities. Thank the Powers-That-Be for the Internet. It means I can stay home for the most part while doing what I love. Teaching online  is rewarding. It also means more work than the usual brick-n-mortar type of teaching. My in-house (or live face to face) classes and online classes must turn their work into me via email so grading takes longer now than the paper grading ever did. One homework paper can take me up to an hour to grade. Research papers (10-35 pages each) can take four. Multiply that by 80 students and then by 16 weeks for each class. Last semester I taught four classes. 

Two of my classes are strictly online courses. That means the students come into the class's web page  through the university's website. They can go a weekly folder and download the PowerPoint presentations, their homework assignments, and additional notes. They can work on their assignments at their leisure and then turn in their work on the due date. They take their exams online as well. I collect their homework, grade them, and return all of it to the students by Internet. I also answer their questions, calm their fears, and offer a shoulder when they are having life issues, again via the Internet.

One of my classes is an interactive virtual classroom. The students and I meet online through a wonderful program called "Elluminate." We meet at a designated time, in a designated virtual classroom. The students can interact with me through type-chat or voice (if they have microphones). They can hear me as I give lectures, see PowerPoint presentations and/or notes at the same time, and follow me as I take them to various websites like the university library. I LIKE using this method to teach because it allows for interaction between the students and me. If there's confusion, I can straighten it out right there or clarify terms/concepts; whereas the pure online course doesn't give either the students or the instructor that ability. I usually end up calling the student to clarify terms, concepts or ideas for them.

Another class I teach is live and in-house. Sometimes it will also contain interactive television. In this type of class, I physically go to the university to a designated hall at a set time.  If I have students that are hooked up through modern technology, it means they are also able to see me from different areas of the state while I teach the live students in front of me--like a regular classroom. It takes a lot of energy but it really helps those students in both comprehension of course material and earning their degree. And I'm allowed to bounce all over the room and expend energy and enthusiasm to all my students--those that are being beamed into me and those that are sitting in front of me. 

Since I teach classes online as well as in-house, I also offer my undergraduate students "office hours/chat sessions"  via the Internet. This way they can contact me without using up their cell phone minutes trying to reach me because I'm on the phone with another student. Since most of my students work or are going to school full time, I offer office hours/chat sessions twice a day for two days a week. I also offer three review sessions before "class" and on Saturday mornings for my graduate students. This translates into "I'm on the friggin' computer all day and night long!" lol And this doesn't count the grading, lesson planning, or answering the phone and emails. 

What happened early this semester was my "down-south" purely online statistics students did not pass their first real homework assignment. More than half the class failed that assignment. Now I can do what some educators do and blame the students;or I can take a look at my teaching methods and see where I need to improve. I've had both types of instructors and hated the former. 

I really like statistics! If that makes me a geeky nerd or a nerdy geek, so be it. I believe that statistics should be FUN, exciting, and challenging, but mostly FUN! Learning stats is power. My students down-south were not having fun--the class was a dreaded chore--and they weren't being challenged. Their attitude was simply--"Do whatcha' gotta do to pass this %*&$@# course!" 

So I changed my method and it meant putting in long hours of prep. I added PowerPoint presentations to weekly notes that explained how to go through the steps. I devised fun extra credit assignments, like word searches and crossword puzzles that helped the students to learn the terms and concepts. I also expanded my office hours to night hours so they could get in touch with me easier.  

It proved to be worth it. My students who weren't doing well suddenly improved their grades. Several told me they were no longer struggling to grasp the course material and actually looked forward to the weekly assignments. I didn't fail any student in this class this semester--something that makes me feel good about what I'm doing. I only had one "C" grade out of the entire class and that student raised their grade from an "F." My students did extremely well.

Nonetheless, higher education always means sacrifices. When I was a student, I sacrificed a lot in the way of family time, prosperity, and creativity to obtain my degrees. This semester, I had to give up my blogging time.  That included reading my favorite blogs as well as writing for mine. 

I've missed you.


PS: D's graduation was a wonderful day! Here's his picture as he was walking up to receive his Master's degree in Natural Resource Management. 


  1. I am so glad you're back! I can't believe all the work you've been doing. How do you manage? And your students must be so grateful for all the extra effort you give so they can succeed. And congratulations to D on his accomplishment! We have missed you!

  2. I'm just happy to know you are all right LOL. I always knew teaching was time consuming but you really put a whole new perspective on it. It wore me out. You sound like you are a good, caring teacher that wants her students to really understand the subject. Congratulations to D on getting his Masters. Nice to have you back.

  3. Hi Cathryn, so happy to have you back. This sounds like it was a very challenging time. As for the freaky-geek-nerd: I am so much a "maths-person" and I do love statistics too. Kind of opposite to what we do with the creative beading, right? I am so glad you put so much effort in your teaching. It really pays off. I saw you were in the bead soup party, and was happy to hear from you again soon. Congrats to D - graduations always feel good - happy for you guys.

  4. Hi Friend: Glad you are back. I was sooooooooo happy to see your comment on my post.

    I did my Master's on line through NMSU and had it not been for professors, like you, who were brave and dedicated enough to take the extra time necessary to facilitate the online instrument, I would never had been able to get my Master's. Thank God for the internet.

    I am at a point in my life, where, outside of work, if I have to be somewhere after 5PM and be expected to function, it is not happening.

    Thank the Heavens for wonderful teachers such as yourself. I'm very interested in pursuing teaching on line at some point....

  5. So glad to see you back! I've missed you bunches. You've been one busy, busy lady and I'm sure your students appreciate you and all your efforts. Hope all the kitties are well. Congrats to D too!

  6. Welcome back! I am tired just reading what you've been doing. How on earth do you accomplish all of that and care for the kitties and live a life? Holy cow!!! Your students are very lucky indeed!

  7. It’s wonderful to hear from you. I think we were all concerned when the days turned to weeks and your blog remained silent. It was like going into a house and no one was home. We were worried that perhaps you were stuck at the bottom of a well and Lassie couldn't find anyone home on the farm to get to come to your rescue...or that maybe aliens had abducted you.
    But after reading your latest post I can well understand the reason behind your absence. How you manage to do so much amazes me. I truly believe this world of ours is backwards, we should not be paying athletes and movie stars fortunes to entertain us; we should be paying our professors, our teachers much more for doing a job that is priceless; the job of educating humanity.
    You are truly a dedicated teacher, one who teaches because they want to teach and not just because it's their job. I'm sure you have made a deep impression upon your students and you will be one of those teachers that when they remember you they will smile and think; "Yes, she made a difference in my life. Wish all my teachers could have been like her."