Category Archives: Teaching

Hello, Session

Today marked the opening of the 2013 Session of the Georgia General Assembly. As I watched the Oath ceremony via web broadcast, it brought back a swarm of memories from my internship in 2007. So, I thought I would share a few of the images from those few months with you.

One of the things I got to do early in my internship was to attend the Inaugural Ball for Governor Sonny Purdue.

One of the things I got to do early in my internship was to attend the Inaugural Ball for Governor Sonny Purdue.

To date, this is still the best dressed I've ever been. This was with my friend Jade Morey, who was in College Republicans with me at the time and now also works at Georgia College.

To date, this is still the best dressed I’ve ever been. This was with my friend Jade Morey, who was in College Republicans with me at the time. Now, she also works with me at Georgia College.

This was my HUGE work station in the committee room for Ways and Means in the House of Representatives.

This was my HUGE work station in the committee room for Ways and Means in the House of Representatives.

In addition to getting to getting to work in the capitol, we were invited to many different receptions. This one was hosted by the University of Georgia. They brought along the mascot (Uga V at that time) for pictures.

In addition to getting to getting to work in the capitol, we were invited to many different receptions. This one was hosted by the University of Georgia. They brought along the mascot (Uga V at that time) for pictures.

This was the group shot of all of the House Interns.

This was the group shot of all of the House Interns.

This was my picture with the governor, taken on Valentine's Day. I forgot until I was already at work it was picture day, or else I would have NOT worn that tie...

This was my picture with the governor, taken on Valentine’s Day. I forgot until I was already at work it was picture day, or else I would have NOT worn that tie…

This was my official headshot, GC colored tie and all.

This was my official headshot, GC colored tie and all.

I can honestly say that my internship was one of my favorite experiences in college. If you’re interested in it, let me know and I will be glad to answer any questions, at least about the program in Georgia. Even though it has been quite a few years, I still get excited at the thought of it.

Academic Resolutions

Matt Might did a post yesterday about resolutions for grad students. While his suggestions are valuable, most of them are targeted at grad students. Which got me thinking, which of these apply to academics in general and which ones would I add?

Update your online identity

Something I try to do at the end of every semester is to go through and update things on my website. It may be as simple as updating the number of courses taught on my CV, or may include a complete makeover. Either way, it ensures that the content is updated and accurate.

If you do not have a professional website, now is the time to create one. There are a multitude of how-to sites to accomplish this [ProfHacker] [College Info Geek]. One of the comments the earlier mentioned blog post makes is “If you can’t be googled, you don’t exist.” This is very true. Every time I hear about a candidate or someone giving a talk, the first thing I do is Google their name. If I find nothing, their credibility automatically goes down in my eyes.  If I find a well coordinated blog, LinkedIn, and professional site, the credibility goes up.

Write

This one may seem intuitive. But, when was the last time you sat down and wrote for the sake of writing? If you are in grad school, you write constantly. How can you make it better? If you are bogged down in a long paper, try writing something on a completely different topic just to get everything flowing again. Write for the joy of writing. The more you write, the better you get at it.

Read

Don’t only read (good luck surviving in the academy without it) but read something different. I read articles from several different fields. It gives a new prospective on my own research and broadens my interest beyond what is typically seen as normal.

Don’t forget to find time for pleasure reading as well. When I finished grad school, I realized I hadn’t read fiction in two years. That’s how I spent most of that summer; I had to re-find my love of reading.

As the new year begins, it is a time to figure out what has worked for you and what needs to be done differently. As the new semester begins, it is a chance to make a mid-year correction to teaching style. Overall, it is a chance for new beginnings. Make the most of it.

 

Merry Christmas, Everyone

With one of the joys of academia, today is my last day of work for the year. It has been a rather amazing one. My center moved it its new location. It grew from from eleven to sixteen people. I got to teach my first full section of Politics and Society at Georgia College (with 80 students). Now, we are in the middle of an office remodel (well, at least new windows) which hopefully will be completed before students return in January. In all, it has been a wonderful year. I feel I am finally getting the hang of this advising thing, and getting better as an instructor as well.

So, as I prepare to leave for the holiday break, I would like to wish everyone a very happy holiday, a merry Christmas, and good new year.

See you in January.

Attendance Matters

As instructors, and as advisors, we teach attendance over and over again. One of my professors even included a bonus question on every assignment, “The number one factor in student success in college is attending class.” This information is nothing new, but sometimes it is good just to see how right you are in a certain area.

I took my three courses where I tracked attendance for the fall (two were at Georgia College, one was at Georgia Military College) and compared the attendance to the final grades. I had to do it as a percentage of total classes because it was different courses, different institutions, and different meeting schedules, but the results are obvious. While there were some students who attended class and didn’t turn in all (or any) of the assignments, the correlation between the two measures are quite striking.

A Semester in Review

Well, Fall Semester has officially drawn to a close. All the assignments are graded, and the grades are ready to be uploaded first thing Monday morning. Now, it’s time to grade myself for the semester.

Advising

The second year was a lot easier than the first. It is a whole lot easier to be able to give an answer with confidence, instead of having to look everything up. I’m still trying to figure out how to best advise different personality types. That’s something I’m going to be working on into the next semester and year.

First Year Academic Seminar

I had customized it a bit from last year, and it went very well. I had three guest speakers, up one from last year. Health Services is a very difficult hour, but it is something they need to hear. Financial Aid answered the most frequent questions I had aside from academics. This was the first time I had Public Safety talk to the students. It turned out to be very timely, as it was that afternoon we experienced a bomb threat and full campus evacuation. I know for certain they will be invited back.

My challenge with the FYAS is balancing the stuff I have to cover (school policies, CORE requirements, etc) with the stuff I believe they need to know (study skills, school history and traditions, professionalism, etc). I had done online modules for history and traditions, academic honesty, and had assignments that dealt with professionalism. I think next year, I am going to expand the history, ethics, and professionalism modules online and revamp some of the assessments. History is fairly straight forward. Ethics and professionalism is something I will have to think through over the break and probably into the summer. But, in the end, just as I expect the Composition I instructors to teach these kids to write, it is my responsibility to ensure they know the consequences of cheating and plagiarism, as well how to communicate with professors.

There will be other redesigns to my assignments as well. I think I am going to change an assignment I had as bonus points to the main final assignment. The responses I saw there were very good, and provided much more feedback than I would have ever expected, much better than the actual final project I have been using. A few other things I had as optional this year will likely be finding their way into requirements next year as well.

Overall, while more people failed than I would have liked, it was a good semester. The averages on each assignment were high, there just were several students who submitted nothing.

Politics and Society

First off, what was I thinking with four papers for a class of 80 students? I love the current event papers, but they simply do not work with a class that size. Instead, I think I will go to two different types of quizzes. Keep the chapter reading quizzes like I have now, and add in current event quizzes every other week or so. The reading quizzes, instead of half being due at midterm, and half on the last day of class, will go back to being due a week after that chapter is covered in lecture. It will mean slightly more work for me, but hopefully the students will stay on top of it more, instead of trying to do 6 weeks worth of quizzes the night they are due.

If I am going to do away with the current event papers, I need to make the main term paper longer. Right now, it is five pages. With the prompts given, it could easily be 12-15, but this is a freshman course. So, I will most likely change it to an 8 page requirement. Now if I could just convince them that cover and reference pages do not count towards that limit…

The exams will have to be more difficult as well. I admit it; I’m used to writing exams for a junior college, not a university. Not only is the class at a different level, It’s also the difference between 8 weeks and 15 weeks, with is a HUGE difference when it comes to the amount of material which can be covered. I have to come up with a way to incorporate more critical thinking into the exams as well.

Overall, the grade distribution for this class was VERY high. Hopefully, with these adjustments, it will even out a bit.

Introduction to American Government

This class has actually been over since before Thanksgiving. It is basically the same class I have been teaching since the fall of 2010, so it is fairly well ironed out. The trick is going to be making the adjustments to Politics and Society without “messing up” this course.

This was the largest class I’ve had at GMC though. Normally, I have between 8-10 students; this class was 25. It made it very difficult to connect the way I normally do with the students. Also, the institution dropped the institution wide attendance policy. While it was nice to be able to excuse absences for students who had an actual reason for missing, it was seen as a license to miss for some of the students, and their grades reflected it. The message that attendance does affect outcome MUST be communicated to students effectively.

A really unusual class

It is always fun when you walk into your classroom, and you realize that sitting in your class that period are the University President, the Vice President for External Relations and University Advancement, the Associate Vice President for Strategic Communications, the Director of Alumni & Parent Relations, several other professors (some quite noted in their field), and a member of the United States House of
Representatives. I knew several of them were going to be there, but it was quite overwhelming at the overall turnout.

Rep. Paul Broun was the guest speaker for my class yesterday. While I wish I could take credit for it, it was actually Gregg Kaufman, the campus Coordinator for the American Democracy Project.  I did manage to get a few pictures during the course of the Townhall style meeting. There was a panel of students who asked questions, and then the audience had a chance to submit questions as well.

Constitution Day, and a guest

There are days in history which speak their own importance. No one questions July 4th as a national holiday in the United States, nor should they. But what about September 17th? Is this day any less important? The Declaration of Independence was vital to the creation of this country, and yes, set forth some basic principles of governance. But, the Declaration is not the document that has governed the United States since that humid summer day in 1776.

But the principles set forth in the Declaration were just that: Principles. The United States as we know it did not come into existence until overly a decade later. On September 17th, 1787 the Constitutional Convention approved the document which we now call the United States Constitution. While the government would not be officially established under this document until March of 1789 following ratification, this is the day we celebrate the document itself.

This document was not without controversy, both during the convention (which had been called to amend the Articles of Confederation, not replace them) and during ratification. But, in the end, the Constitution was ratified based on a compromise which included the addition of a Bill of Rights.

Today, we celebrate the constitution. We celebrate the separation of powers. We celebrate the checks and the balances. We celebrate the republican form of government. But most of all, we celebrate “An empire in many respects the most interesting in the world.”[1] Hamilton goes on to write:

It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.[2]

Georgia College marked today by taking over my class (literally, I teach in the Auditorium) for a guest speaker. Dr. Bruce Stinebrickner was outstanding. I’ve heard many Constitution Day lectures, but this one was out of the park. Instead of doing as is typical and focusing on the Bill of Rights, he walked through a few features which made the body of the document unique. The three branches of government with full separation of powers only exist in one other country. With most other democracies, if you control parliament, you control the executive by default. Then he went on to who involved the public is in the nomination process. Most nominees are selected by the party insiders, not by the general population.

So, from this “reflection and choice” we have a document which has governed the United States for over two centuries with only 27 formal amendments. Political discussions aside, it is my firm belief, that this document has indeed been a prevention to the “general misfortune of mankind.”

Dr. Stinebrickner addresses three classes, and quite a few visitors, in the packed house at the Arts & Science Auditorium. Yes, that is the room where I teach twice a week.

And this was the view from the VIP section. Or, the section for the most junior part-time faculty member who was running the sound and assisting with the smart board. This space is also commonly referred to as the Green Room.


[1] Federalist 1, para 1.

[2] Ibid.

My first citation!

And they did it wrong, go figure.

The actual paper had two additional authors, Clifton Wilkinson and Emily Norris. It was presented at the 2008 Georgia Public Administration Academic Conference at North Georgia College & State University on March 7, 2008. It was okay for an undergrad paper, but painful by my current standards, so I will not be posting it. I’m fairly certain the book authors didn’t actually read it either. If they had, they would have seen the extra names on the first page.

Music Monday, and Happy New Year!

No, I have not taken leave of my senses. At least no more than normal. It is not the beginning of the calendar year, or the fiscal year. But, by the time this posts, it will be the start of the new academic year at Georgia College. This year is going exciting. A new class of freshmen have already moved into the residence halls. By the time this week is out, I will have lectured to new classes of Politics and Society, and what is technically five sections of First Year Academic Seminar (three of them are combined).

I look forward to meeting, and learning from my new students. Yes, I learn from them as much as they learn from me. So, from now until May, I will work on an exchange of information. I hope to impart to my students the skills and knowledge they need to be good students, good citizens, and good human beings. From them, I hope to learn about each student and what motivates them. And how I can help them better in their journey.

This is supposed to be a Music Monday post. I honestly had a difficult time selecting a song. “New Day Dawning” seemed appropriate, but I used it a few weeks ago. So, in honor of my undecided majors, I present “Every Major’s Terrible.”

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4L_YLRGMAhU?rel=0]