Saturday, May 29, 2010

Coming Up!

Yesterday, I investigated my garden to see how much damage the hail storm did to it. The pepper plants survived. To me, that's worth the few bruises I received from being pelted by hail. I looked closely at the ground because we should have some seeds starting to sprout... 
 And among the storm debris is salad! Wooooohooooo! Those little butterfly winged things are seedlings from the mixed lettuce packet that I planted. I'm excited. This is proof that I can grow things!

Ok--I confess to having some doubts since it's been years since I've done anything like this. Patience is not one of my virtues--it's something I had to learn. And sometimes, I forget my learning. The garden is teaching me to breathe and to be patient a little longer. It's teaching me to listen to the life forces around me. No, I'm not about to start going off into the esoteric. However, I know we have different birds living in our area and the wild yellow roses have a delicate fragrance. The winds sound  different blowing through the trees when they come from different directions. And the ferals watch my every move to see what I'm doing. And now--the garden is giving us a different life force. 

I started teaching my undergraduate students Thursday. Next Tuesday, I add my graduate students to the mix. I have three days off and I'm going to enjoy them. I can tell summer sessions are going to be a bit trying this year. For example, I received this email:

"Hi Professor! 
I'm really excited to be taking your class! I have a question about the weekly check-in requirement. Is this going to be a weekly thing or will this one time work for the whole summer session?"
Right after that email, I received this one:

"Hi CM. I want to do well in your class. I'm looking for the answers to the Syllabus Exercise and don't know where to start. One of my questions about the exercise concerns the due date. I can't find that information anywhere. Please advise."

Right underneath that was my email to the class that had this bit of information: 
"Hi Class,
You will find the syllabus and the course calendar in the folder on the homepage marked "Syllabus and Course Calendar." You will find writing resources, such as structure and APA style under the "Resources" folder. You can find your weekly notes and exercises under each weekly folder, starting with the folder labeled as Week One." 
 Picture that look on my face after reading those. Hopefully, this will be a one time look and not one that lasts the whole summer.  

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Year Ago Today

Last year at this time, we had a monster of a hail storm. I took pictures of the event. The hail looked like snow in places and took several days to melt. The damage it did was tremendous for plants and trees.  
  That's our intersection. Those who have been reading this blog will recognize that intersection from all my snow pictures. 
 I took this to show how deep the hail was--you can see the ruts. 
 I took this two hours after the hail storm passed. If you look at the upper left of the picture, you can see the storm clouds hovering.  
 That was our backyard--several inches deep in hail. 

 Our lilac bush was damaged badly in the storm. Many trees on the block suffered from tremendous damage from this storm. 
  The morning after the storm was cold. Hail littered the yards along with the leaves and branches from trees and bushes.

This afternoon, it grew dark, similar to last year. I finished my email communications with my students, shut down my computer, and waited to see if we would have another hail storm. Shortly after I did that, the sky turned black and I decided to suffer from the heat--and shut all the windows. Then a storm began. 

At first I breathed a sigh of relief because while there was hail, it was smaller than pea-sized and infrequent. I was worried about my garden as we had just planted pepper plants and petunias this week. By the time I finished my sigh, the hail came more frequently and grew to marble sized. I hurried and gathered my supplies of gallon-sized ziplock bags, barbecue skewers and the big umbrella we've never used. I went out the back door. Immediately, I was pelted by the hail, despite the protection of the umbrella.

Now I've been in hail storms  before. There was the summer I worked for the Youth Conservation Corps and was caught out in a hail storm on a mountain top. But I was rescued before it got too bad. Then there was the time I got caught in the parking lot with my son. The car was only seconds away so it wasn't that bad. There was last May when I was photographing the storm. 

But today, I felt each and every hail that battered into me. All I could say was "OUCH! OUCH! OUCH!" over and over again. I wanted to protect the pepper plants so I went into the hail storm voluntarily. Those plants are producing food for me. It's kind of that nurturer syndrome that affects some of us. I have it bad at times. Most of the times I can control it. And I say that, knowing full well I'm lying through my teeth. 

Anyway--I managed to get them covered with only a few leaves shredded. The petunias were a different story. The front yard flowers had to take their chances. 
 The columbine did ok...not as bad as I feared. Of course it wasn't as bad as last year's storm--thankfully! 
 The African Daisy took a shredding as did the Blanket Flower. 
  We lost a few leaves off the trees, but luckily, it wasn't as bad as last year's storm.  I realize that we're not out of May yet--but I'm hoping I don't have to worry about another bad hail storm. Of course, this is New Mexico. You know what they say about our weather:  if you don't like it--stick around a few minutes--it's bound to change!


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

It's Blooming

                                                           Apache Plume's first blooms

                                                                           A close up.... 
                                                The Europa Daisy...Happy yellow!

  Look at these African Daisies--I didn't realize they closed up at night and opened when the sun shines on them!
 The Blanket Flower...clouds showed up overhead just as I shot this so it's not as bright as it is... Looks like we're in for some rain. I hope it's gentle. I planted sunflower and hollyhock seeds yesterday against the fence line in the back yard. 
 I didn't realize when I picked this pot of flowers out it would give a lovely shade of deep lavender. It's called the Soprano Purples ( Osteospermum). It's going to look stunning next to the raspberry colored salvia I planted years ago. 

Tomorrow starts my first official day of teaching the summer sessions. (*deep sighs*) I think  I'm ready for the busy season. I've cut assignments down to the bare minimum without cutting the education. I've reduced my office hours, chat sessions, and review sessions so my students can still get the benefit of me without compromising the quality. I've been brushing up my PowerPoint presentations, creating new ones, and looking over my notes. I've consolidated my graduate student classes into one website so they all can benefit at the same times for review sessions, to drop off assignments, and to gather their notes. Today, I put the finishing touches on my classes. 

I'm ready.  I have the garden to escape to in the mornings before I teach and in the afternoons before evening classes. And I have pretty flowers to soothe my senses.  


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It's All About The Beads!

Yesterday morning, I received surprises in the mail! It was definitely an unbirthday day for me. Ever have one of those? Where you get your birthday and Christmas all wrapped into one day? They don't happen often or even every year--but once in a while, you get a bonus. 

My Bead Soup/Swap partner's bead arrived in the mail. I was all excited because--well--she's sending me beads. Does it get better than that? I have to think about that for a  minute. I'm sure there are things, events, incidents that do actually get better than receiving beads in the mail, but my brain is in lock-down mode at the moment. 

 Anyway--she sent me this gorgeous little bead pouch!   Isn't it cute? It just reminded me of the chocolate-raspberry torte my husband and I shared on our official first date. I've decided I'm keeping it, but I was thinking others like these would be great as give-a-way goody bags for jewelry gifts! 

Oh you are dying to see what was inside? Here you go.  
 Aren't they magnificent? Ok--I'll quit teasing you and show you what was in the pouch. 

Doesn't that just thrill you to no end? Dana actually took a better picture of the goody bag. You can see that on her blog. She also took pictures of what I sent her, if you are interested.  I forgot to do that because I had gardening on the brain--not beading. It seems I have trouble multi-tasking, so I'm grateful Dana took photos! You'll have to visit this blog (and hopefully others) on June 19th to see the delightful treasures Dana sent! I'm going to have so much fun creating with her goodies!
The other unbirthday surprise I received in the mail came from my best friend. She sent me a box full of goodies too! She sent me some broken chains and bits and pieces, thinking I could work with them. She's right--I can and I already have plans for them. 
She also sent a myriad of beads, pendents, and fun vintage bits. This is like heaven! I just love those gold-lined shells. They were part of a necklace/earring set but I'm thinking of something else. 
She also sent me a beader's delight bag full of crystals and spacers! She is just too sweet!  I really enjoyed my unbirthday surprises!



Sunday, May 23, 2010

There and Back Again

Yesterday morning, D gave the final verdict of our old lawn mower. It was kaput, dead, finito, ready to go to that great Lawn Mower Heaven.  In short, we needed a new one. Since the weeds were already up to my knees, I agreed. After a bit of a discussion, we decided to run over to Santa Fe and visit Home Depot. The idea of going to a DIY store that boasted a garden center thrilled me to no end.  
Just this side of Rowe-Pecos area...Home of Greer Garson's ranch and Pecos National Historical Park. 

On our way there, we had to stop so I could grab this picture. We still have snow on our mountains. Nothing like they have in Colorado and other places, but it's still covering our mountain tops in May and that is a very good thing for us water-wise.

D says that my eyes lit up and got huge when we entered the store. He said he's never seen that look on me--not even when presented coffee. I deny that, naturally, but it could be true.  Not necessarily accurate. 

Anyway, we picked up the new mower and several new plants. I also picked up more seeds. Today, I informed my darling husband that we needed to make our garden bigger. There wasn't enough room for the fennel, the corriander, the carrots, the pumpkin or the pea seeds. And naturally, I needed more room for the bell pepper plants and the basil plants. Here's a picture of our garden now.
 Yes, those are straws and barbecue skewers sticking out of the ground. They discourage the ferals from using the garden beds as litter boxes and scattering the seeds I'm trying to grow.  I also use tongue depressor sticks for marking what's been planted where.   
This wonderful surprise greeted me this afternoon. When we first moved into this house, wild roses were growing rampant every where. I've pretty much left most of them alone--I like them. This was just a pretty sight for my eyes.  
 Some of the plants I bought were flowers. I realize that flowers have no other value than aesthetics, but I like them. I put those in the ground this morning while Ava, Topaz, Chile, Merlin, Buddy, and Arby took turns being outside. I looked for flowers that were heat tolerant, drought resistant, and perennial. I have two different yucca plants and an Apache Plume. To the far right is the plumbago I planted nearly years ago--it's been spreading beautifully. This morning I added the blanket flower, African daisy, european daisy and the fire witch. I love the way fire witches smell--and I have not been successful in getting one to grow yet. Hopefully, this one will like this spot in the full sun.   

Finally, before I go take a well deserved nap, here's a composition. 



Saturday, May 22, 2010

Here Come The Meow-Meows

Years ago, I had my two boys--Quinn and Shamrock who were born in the barn at the race tracked where I worked. Confusing? Back in 1986, I worked as a racehorse groom for a trainer in his barn in Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico. My then sister-in-law brought her pregnant Siamese to the barn we lived in. She gave birth to five kittens, two I ended up adopting...Quinn and Shamrock who were named after my all-time favorite race horse--O'Quinn's Shamrock. Because we lived--the cats and I--lived in a barn, I decided they needed to be leash-trained for safety's sake. That thought has stayed with me ever since when it comes to cats.

Some people have told me that cats cannot be trained to a leash, that they aren't like dogs. True that. Cats can be leashed trained easily enough. You just can't walk them like you do dogs, so word to the wise here. 

Early this morning, Ava informed me that she wanted to "GOOUTSIDENOW!" Then Topaz chimed in that she desperately needed outside time. So I readied my second cup of coffee, took our stake out outside and sunk it in the ground. Then came leash up time. First Ava--because she doesn't try to run off. At first anyway. Then Chile because she usually will calm down once she sees Ava. Finally Topaz--who hits the door ready to run, so she better be harnessed quickly. D joined us later and I was able to add Arby to the first group of outdoor time kitties. 

When taking cats outside on a leash, one must be diligent. Ava will try to escape her harness if given a half a chance or gets tangled. Chile will run for the front door if she gets spooked. Loud noises, loud boom-boxes or mufflers, and people are enough to spook cats. And there's always the one dog person who hasn't put their dog on a leash and the dog is running free. So leashing cats doesn't mean you can go back in the house and leave them be--one must be out there with them. Always. 

After the girls (except Ava) spent their time outside, we bring out Merlin and Buddy. Buddy is learning that harness and leash are not bad things. Merlin doesn't care for the harness but puts up with it for a few minutes outside. Buddy actually is adjusting well. 

When I brought Buddy back in, Harley was demanding to go outside. I explained to him he can join me but he has to wear a harness and a leash. We've put him in the harness a few times to let him get used to it but he's a typical cat. He hates things that resemble clothing. So here are his first pictures of leash training. 
 Isn't he handsome in red?
 This isn't so bad...restricting but not confining. I walked over here by myself.
 You've heard of soap on a rope? I give you Cats-on-a-Leash for an alternative. Just don't try to bathe with them. 
 Mom didn't tell me the birds would be CLOSER outside! 

On a side note, I bought a pot of calla lillies to place over Blue's spot. While Buddy and Ava watched from behind and the kittens watched me from the window above, I planted them over Blue. We still miss him.

Everybody is back inside and napping. Going outside is hard work.

Hope your weekend is going as you need it.  

Friday, May 21, 2010

Puttering About...

I'm on a vacation of sorts--a vacation from teaching. It became official on Monday, May 10th. The day before I had warned everyone that I was going to stay in my 'jammies all day long. I wasn't going anywhere. I wasn't doing anything. I wasn't going to cook dinner. The only thing I would do is medicate the cats and feed them. That was it. And I did. I took a couple of naps, played with my beads, watched three movies, and snacked all day on leftovers. It was heavenly.

This past week, I've been puttering. Puttering in my vegetable garden, putting in seeds and pulling weeds. I've been contemplating adding to my flower beds. I've puttered in the kitchen and with my beads--almost forgot to mail out my beading partner's beads for the Bead Swap. To tell you the truth, I had a hard time coming up with a focal, a few coordinating beads, find an interesting clasp, and deciding WHICH SET! I also lost track of the days. Until last Friday when I got this frantic call from my boss.

Now I like my boss. She gives me a lot of leeway in how I teach my graduate students. She's been fully supportive of all the changes I wanted and have made to my teaching methods. She's also great to talk to about issues I've had in the past and she's been like a mentor at times as well. So when she called me last Friday, and explained she NEEDED me--well--how could I say "No"???

Apparently there was a problem on a branch campus with another professor who was going to teach the same class as I do and a room foul-up. The room foul-up was simply this: There were no computers available to students in the room assigned to teach the onsite students. Considering that the course teaches statistics using SPSS and Excel, well--that's a major problem. Both are computer programs--and simply put--a computer is required to run them.  

So my boss asked me to please make room in my online class for these students. Before I knew it, I was also teaching a couple of extra ITV (interactive television) classes for the same course. Before I knew it, I had 35 graduate students this summer. Before I knew it, panic set in. The absolute fight-or-flight mode. And instead of fighting as would be my usual method of dealing with panic--I flew. Right out the door to my garden.  Once there, I puttered about pulling weeds, sitting among them, and contemplating life as a total recluse. But that meant I couldn't have hook up to the Internet and I'd be lost without a way to contact friends and family, including my blogging friends! That also meant no more beads. LOL That was the final kicker--no more beads. Besides, D wouldn't like living without Internet either so that ended the decision to forsake all and become a recluse.

I decided I had to be pro-active instead of reactive. So I called up my rosters at both universities since I'm teaching classes at both again. I have--at this time--25 students at the undergraduate level and 35 at the graduate level. My next decision was how much to cut out of each class to make my workload more manageable and then decide what to cut.  Hard and difficult decisions but I have to cut some of the course work. Sixty students are difficult to manage during a full semester, but during summer sessions?!?!?! Hmmmm....One of the areas I decided to cut back was my chat sessions/office hours/review sessions. That's almost painful for me because I realize how much they help students--but I had to realize that I'm seriously short on time for my students. 

This morning I realized that I've been enjoying my puttering about. I have only six days left before school starts up again.  My teaching friends are bragging how they will get out of school in six days and I envy them. When they have to go back, I'll be getting my other mini vacation. Hopefully, I can putter some more then. Of course, I'll be putting by some of the harvest (hopefully) and that isn't exactly puttering. 

I also realized that puttering about has given me my center back. The garden is my focus that gets me away from the computer and gets me up and moving about. I'll confess to being stiff and sore from all the bending over, squatting down, and hopping over planting beds. Nonetheless, I've been sleeping well and waking refreshed. The garden is where I go with my first cup of coffee in the mornings. It's peaceful. It's my little piece of heaven.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bead Party Number Two!


You might remember the first Internet Bead Party I joined back in February.  I went ahead and joined the second one that happens next month. My partner is Dana JamesShe has some amazing talent and a unique perspective. I have just started visiting her blog and I encourage you to do the same. 

Speaking of beading, despite the tremendous time pressure I was under this last semester, I did get some beading in. I must confess--it was the sort of beading that happens under extreme stress. It was the kind that all beaders will recognize--that frenetic, nearly hyperactive beading that helps relieve stress. One doesn't do this kind of beading unless one is trying to de-stress. One doesn't voluntarily do this type of beading unless one will implode if one doesn't do SOME beading. This can be with any addiction/crafting. Think to yourself how many times you snarled out, "If I don't do some ______________, I'm going to SCREAM!" 

So here you go: Some of my frenetic, frenzied, insanity-moments of beading of trying to off-load some stress. Some of these turned out surprisingly well. 
 The necklace set I made for my mother-in-law for Mother's Day. Yes--those roses are Mary Ellen's from BeetreebyME on Etsy.                       

The necklace set I made for my mother for Mother's Day. And yes--the flowers and the corsage bead came from Mary Ellen as well. 
 The earrings I made for my son's aunt.  I'm still collecting business cards to use as earring cards. A great way to reuse these pretty works of art that I can't bear to throw away. 
 The earrings I made for my aunt, her daughter, and granddaughter for Easter. They didn't want any Easter cookies.  The earrings on the left are made from Terri Stone's beads. 

 This set was made while I was waiting for my last three students to take their online examinations. I wanted something special to wear for my husband's graduation and he loves these burgundy and grey. The focal came from Ivy Koehn has stores on Etsy and eBay

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

It Can Be___________ At Times

The life and times of an adjunct professor can be interesting. Sometimes, it's downright scary. Some days, I get a chuckle or two out of student antics. After three years of teaching college level students, I have a small collection of incidents that are memorable. And folks, I couldn't make these up if I tried!

The first semester I taught statistics to undergrads, I was learning a new way of teaching while my students were trying out their--well let's just call them--their persuasive skills. One student used to call me right before a major exam. He hadn't turned in any work in the three weeks before the exam and he would respond to my emails. Finally. This is a sample of our phone calls that continued throughout the semester.

Student: Hi CM--It's me again. Listen, I know I haven't turned in any work but I've been swamped at work. The company is going through a rough time and the boss is making us work 12-hour days. So can I get a bit of a break and just take the exam without doing all that homework first?

ME: You know my policy. You can't take the exam without turning in the work first. Now we have a week before the exam, so you have time to get your assignments into be---

Student: CM--I know this stuff! I know statistics like I know the back of my hand. Doing the work is like taking backward steps for me. I want to fly forward!

ME: Really? Then the assignments should take you no more than an hour a piece to do them.  You're only down by four so....Can you get them to me by Saturday, noon? That way I'll have time to grade them and get them back to you to study from by Monday's exam.

Student:  Saturday isn't good for me. Because of my long hours at work, it's the only day I get to spend with my precious baby girl. I MISS her so much during the week--but CM--I really know this stuff! I really do. And homework--CM--that's so archaic!

ME: I can give you oral homework--right now. Turn to the first assignment. You will have to read the articles but can you pick out the population, the sample, the---

Student: I don't have time to do this right now, CM. Listen--if I don't do the homework and but do well on the exam, will I still get an "A" in the class? 

ME: Nope--not possible. You're good at statistics--so if you checked the syllabus, then you would realize the assignments count for 60% of your overall grade--the exams are just 40%. Get your work into me.

Then there was this email from one student: "Hi CM--This is Laura. Of course you know that because you opened up my email. *Smiley Face* Listen, I'm feeling a lot of pressure from all my classes right now because for some dumb reason, all my professors scheduled homework right before finals week! *Frowny Face* To make matters worse, every one of them scheduled final exams during finals week! So I was wondering if I don't do the last two assignments and don't take the final exam, will I still get my "A" in your course? *Smiley Face*"

Picture me blinking here or having the complete "deer in the headlights look."

And there was this email: "Hi Professor. It really bothers me when you take off late points on my assignments. Do you realize that by taking off pointages for an assignment being late really, seriously hurts my grade. It lowers my grade from an "A" to a "C." Please stop taking off late points. Sincerely, Your Student.

I really tried to resist responding.  Ok--I resisted for about 30 seconds. "Dear Student. Please quit turning in your assignments late and I'll quit taking off late points. Sincerely, Your Professor

This one was my favorite because it told me that students weren't looking at the rest of the notes I put up for them in their weekly folder. They were just downloading the assignment sheets, but not the PowerPoint presentations or the handouts. 

"Hi. I would really appreciate if you would give us a clear picture of what you want for the assignments. It would make our lives, as YOUR students, a lot easier if we understood what you wanted from us. Please include an example of what you want for answers in the assignment."

My response? "Hello. The examples you are seeking are in the PowerPoint presentations. If you use them, you will understand the assignment." 

The student sent this email back to me: "Oh."  

Since I also teach an undergraduate introductory social welfare class,  my students are required to visit agencies that employ social workers or to interview a social worker to get an idea of what social workers do and write about their experiences. One of the areas we cover in that class is the National Association of Social Workers' (NASW) Code of Ethics. For this particular assignment, the students are to compare the values of the agency and/or the social worker to the NASW Code of Ethics. One student was impressed with this particular agency's take on the NASW core value of self-determination. In her excitement, she wrote:

"This agency fully supports the clients' right to self termination. The agency endorses the right to self termination as freedom of choice."  

I know this particular agency and I can assure you that in no way did this agency ever support suicide, nor does it support the right to "self-terminate." 

Another student wanted to impress me with her vocabulary.

"Mr. Smith* works very hard to make the best precision for his clients. He spends a lot of time wandering over each precision before intercepting a course of action. Once he intercepts a plan, he presence this to the client  and if the client agrees, then they begin to plantation the plan." 

It took me about 15 minutes to realize that Mr. Smith* doesn't make precisions but decisions; doesn't wander over each decision, but ponders over them. He doesn't intercept a course of action or maybe he does. I'm still not sure what was intended. I realized he "presents" the plan to his client and that if it's agreed upon, they begin to implement the plan. 

(*Mr. Smith's and Dr. Jones names  have been changed to protect his/her privacy.) 

One student wanted to know why I asked him to rewrite his paper. Something about how he wrote "Dr. Jones* and I conversated about THE CODE. According to Doc, ThE cOdE was very excellent GuIdELiNeS and is meant to be used in times of TrOuBlEs," just really upsets my sense of academic integrity. 

But I'm not biased or anything like that. 

This student has me going for awhile over the article she read. "I believe that the client was effected by the exceptance of her peers. Due to the exceptance of her peers, the client felt warmly and safe. I believe that affect will last and help the client threw her mane issues." 

And this student was clearly impassioned and simply forgot to proofread her paper. "She has also feeling the bath tub. Luckily nothing was broke just severe bruising which enabled her from carrying groceries up the stairs to her apartment." The student went on to explain how this client had started several small fires in her apartment. "Not only could she have injured herself, but she could have injured her neighbors, innocent by standards living in the apartment complex." 

Each semester is like giving birth. There's the excitement at first because it's new and the pain isn't overwhelming. Then there's the excruciating labor pains that steal your breath away. But as soon as your child is placed in your arms, all that pain fades into a fuzzy memory. At the end of the semester, I usually receive a few emails like this one that helps the long hours fade away:

"Hi CM. I just wanted to tell you that I really had to work hard in your class. Your class was the hardest and most challenging one I had this semester. I feel like I really learned a lot in your class and look forward to you teaching another course in the future because I would take it just for the challenge. Thank you for pushing me into really using my brain. Your Student"   

Monday, May 17, 2010

So What Now?

So now that the spring semester has ended and I still have ten days before the summer sessions start, now what?

We are planting a garden.  I decided earlier this year that I wanted to grow some of my own food for once. It's been ages since I've had that opportunity and I wanted to do this. I figured I had already gotten the hang of preserving food from last summer's green chile. My friend grows a small garden every year and that really helps feed her family throughout the summer. Because she lives in the southern part of our desert state, she can grow certain plants all year round, providing she remembers to cover the plants on those nights when the temperatures are dropping below freeze level. 

So in April when I was neck deep in papers, my darling husband heard the same refrain from me: "We need to dig up the garden plot. I want to plant a garden." He usually heard that as I was returning to my computer to grade more papers. When we had a warm week, D dug up our garden plot.
                                  This was the first garden plot being dug. D expanded it later.  
              He found a ton of rock, old sewer pipe, a variety of broken glass, and more rocks.
  D had this idea of setting up a plot that used the maximum amount of space for gardening and leave
  enough space to work the garden. He staked it out and the added a layer of garden compost/
There is the garden plot, laid out nicely with spaces for me to walk and work while keeping the planting beds pristine.

Yesterday I put in the first seeds. I planted onions, Roma tomatoes, purple basil, eggplant, green bush beans, tarragon, oregano, sweet basil, bell peppers, and Genovese basil. I used muscles I haven't used in a long time. I sat in the dirt, listening the the birds chase off an intruder. I felt the sun on my face and later my back. I smelled the last of the lilacs blooming in the breezes. It was heaven.  

The other bit I've been doing is prepping for the summer sessions.  One of the problems I discovered last semester is that many students do not know how to write at the college level. Even though my instructions clearly state to use third person, too many do not know what third person is. I decided since I had a bit of down time between teaching, I should develop some aids to help my students understand what college level writing is and how it's used. Along with those aids, I'm developing exercises for the students to complete for grades. I'm hoping this will save me time later but also stick with the students throughout their academic careers.

I also discovered that students aren't reading their textbooks. It's hard to reach some students that they need to read their textbooks and notes. I've decided to also develop content quizzes to guarantee that my students read the textbook.  And I'm revising my notes because as of now, I have too many for most of my classes. Some of my notes are old and need serious updating. Some of my PowerPoints are also reaching antiquation, along with some of my lectures. This is spring and it's a great time for cleaning out the unnecessary or unneeded. 

I also decided to revamp my syllabi since I'm doing this major overhaul. Most professors hand out a couple of pages for their class syllabus and that's that. Have I warned you that I'm an OCD/Anal Retentive/Overachieving Nut?  Consider yourself warned now. My syllabi are easily 13 pages long. I include the required materials, ADA statements, student expectations, and my policies on academic dishonesty, assignments, grading, attendance, and the course calendar. Several of my students confessed that they didn't even read the class syllabi last semester. I suspected that's pretty much the case for all my classes and most of my students. So I decided to get them to read the darn thing by making it part of the course grades. :D I'm hoping this will alleviate the need for me to repeat the same questions about why I won't take in late work or why they can't have a second chance on their exams or why I won't bend with a little plagiarism here and there. *shakes my head* That's another story. 

The other thing that's been constant is the care of our cats. We now have one dozen house cats. Yes--I did say TWELVE cats. We didn't plan on it nor did we intend after the kittens to add any more cats to our finally integrated, well balanced household. 

Remember Buddy? He's been in the local newspaper and I've blogged about him? We desperately searched for a permanent home for him. We had two prospects. The first one turned out to be an impulsive whim that flared off like a bright spot and died quickly. The second one had a personal tragedy that forced Buddy's new family into the decision of not adopting him.  We had Buddy inside the house to get him prepared for his new owners and also because he was chasing off our ferals--mainly Swirly, MC, Blanco, and Fiesty. Yep---he was chasing the boys off the property. 

When the second home for Buddy fell through, we soon realized he had another bad mouth problem. His entire mouth was red, swollen, and had to be painful as all get out. Since we are treating Arby for acid reflux,  we are trying Buddy on a variety of medications and treatments. He's actually adjusted to being inside and gets along fairly well with most of the house cats.  We believe that he was chasing off the feral cats because he was in a lot of pain. This also brought up another issue since he has a chronic problem. Most people will not adopt an older cat, let alone one with chronic issues that requires daily treatment. *sighs* So our good intentions backfired and we now have one dozen cats in the house. 

So that's what's happening in our household. 

For Elizabeth--who requested these next photos.

  Quinn's Tulip
 Another one...
 With Daffodils

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.