Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cheating - How to Not Take It Personally

I caught 3 cheaters this semester and I had to remind myself not to take it personally. Let's face it, cheaters typically aren't trying 'one up' their professors by cheating. They are usually just looking for the easy way out of doing the work, trying to get more favorable odds for doing well on an assignment, or chronic procrastinators who feel like the don't have time to do the assignment without cheating. Nevertheless, when most professors catch someone cheating they see it as a sign of personal disrespect or harm done to them. Instead, you probably need to take a step back - take a deep breath - and remember that the cheated has not just metaphorically 'flipped you the bird.'

This isn't to say cheating shouldn't be taken seriously. It should be. However, it is serious not because of what it has DONE to the professor, it is serious because of the harm it can do to those classmates who didn't cheat and might get a lower grade because of it. It also harms the cheater himself/herself since they are not getting the full benefit of the education they are paying for.

Cheaters can not be ignored, they must be dealt with, they must face the serious consequences of their actions, but not so you can retaliate for them hurting you. It must be dealt with so that those who do the hard work on acquiring an education benefit from that work more than those who attempt to avoid the work.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Some Standards Please

An open letter to my fellow faculty members:

I am sick of students complaining that I am holding a class the day before a holiday, because YOU cancelled class.

I am sick of students wanting to know why my final isn’t ‘voluntary’ because YOU made your final ‘voluntary’.

I am sick of students complaining that there is too much reading for my class because YOU don’t assign much reading.

I am sick of students not doing the reading for my class because YOU didn’t hold them accountable for what you assigned.

I am sick of students complaining about their papers being graded for grammar because YOU don’t require high standards.

I am sick of students coming by my office with questions about your classes because YOU never manage to make it to office hours.

I am sick of students dropping my course when they learn about the 12-15 page research paper because YOU never assign anything longer than 3-5 pages.

I am sick of students not knowing how to write an essay exam because YOU only give multiple choice and short answer questions.

I am sick of students begging to watch a film in my class because YOU always show movies.

I am sick of students shopping around for the easiest courses because YOU give out all As.

I am sick of students texting in class and surfing the internet on their laptops because YOU don’t require them to put their phones/computers away before lecture starts.

I am sick of students thinking plagiarizing and cheating is no big deal, because YOU can’t be bothered to report them to the Provost.

I am sick of students not knowing what a scholarly source is because YOU never assign research papers.

Is it too much to expect a little help from my fellow faculty in maintaining some high standards for students?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Semester's Over

The semester is over and now it is time to clean up. I'm giving myself a week for clean-up tasks (putting away old notes, clearing out emails, returning overdue library books, etc.). So far things aren't going super fast. But I do have some excuses: Yesterday, I wasn't finished with grading drama until 11:00 a.m. and it was faculty/staff appreciation lunch. Then today I had to sit in on a Promotion and Tenure workshop from 10:30-2.

Nevertheless, things are starting to slowly get put away. So far I've managed to:

1. Put final exams in a drawer to be shredded 6 months from now.
2. Pulled out the final of a kid who wants to know why he got a C on the final.
3. Made new folders for info on department web page/department report that I still need to write.
4. Sent out some departmental emails of things we need to clear up before summer is in full swing.
5. Lots more to do tomorrow.

Friday, January 07, 2011

AHA Memories

I'm not at the AHA Conference this year - woot! Ur... not that going to the AHA conference is painful - but it usually is. I'm sort of at the meeting in spirit, however, since I had to write a report to be presented at the board meeting of one of my organizations. Hopefully, there won't be big questions about it.

I am glad that HNN does great little updates about what is going on at the meeting. It's nice to see what I am/not missing. Unfortunately, the news on day one sounds particularly painful with a horrible market awaiting those people who are job hunting. It does give me high hopes that we'll be successful in our search and maybe get someone so good that we can make a pitch to the administration to turn it into a tenure track job.

The other thing that not being at the AHA Conference allows me to do is reflect back on some of my (least) favorite conference memories:

1. Skipping sessions one day to try and get into the debates being held in about Clinton's impeachment. (I was unsuccessful.)
2. Being 15 minutes late to my first EVER job interview at the AHA. :(
3. Being on a panel with some great but oblivious guys while being 8.5 months pregnant.
4. Running into that jerk from grad school and having him admit that he was a jerk in grad school.
5. Hanging out at a bar with my advisor from grad school and another of her former students and gossiping about department politics while slowly getting drunk.
6. Hanging out with old grad school friends to watch our ph.d. institution get trounced in a bowl game.
7. Attending an anti-war sing-a-long hosted by the peace history society.

I'm still trying to decide whether to apply to present a paper at the conference in 2012. Chicago in the winter really isn't much fun, but it is close to my old stomping grounds so there is a chance of running into lots of former friends.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

You Want Me to Chair the Search Committee - Seriously?!

For the first time in WAY TOO long, my department gets to conduct a search. I was very psyched about it at first. After all what better indication of my accomplishments as chair than attaining this 'plum' for the department. My joy, unfortunately, quickly faded. Just as I was getting ready to ask one of my senior colleagues to run the search, the Dean informed me that I should be the chair of the committee. *Sigh*

So, like any good academic, I started my preparations for this new task by doing research about what makes a good search and what pitfalls I should avoid. I talked to the Dean, talked to the last person in our department who chaired a search, talked to the Human Resources staff, and talked to the department secretary. That got me through writing and posting the ad. Now, however, I face a big list of deadlines that have to be set, schedules that have to be worked around, and a host of other details to take care of. Luckily, the Chronicle has a few articles that might help.

1. Attention Search Committees
2. The Slip Ups of Search Committees
3. How to Conduct a Successful Search
4. How to Conduct a Successful Search II

All this information has at least given some things to think about, including two things I never considered before. 1. Having some sort of committee-wide 'grading rubric' for candidates (3 points if you are from a top 20 institution, 2 if you are from a top 50, 1 if you are in the top 100). I'm not sure about this, but I'm at least going to look into it more. And 2. Wiki Jobs for History. Very cool for candidates and not so bad for me. I can at least see where in the process other institutions are and how our position/search stacks up against others being conducted this year.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Semester Goals

In an effort to live a more balanced and well-ordered life this semester I set some goals for myself. I'll try and do a update on Fridays to see how well I'm living up to these goals.

1. Get an hour of research done a day. I've set aside an hour a day to focus on my research/writing. I've also recruited a research buddy who is going to check in with me each day so that we can encourage each other to focus on our writing.
2. Work out for at least 30 minutes every day. I've recruited two work out partners. One for Tuesday/Thursday and one for Monday/Wednesday/Friday.
3. Leave the house by 7:40 each morning. If I can drop the kids off early enough, I can get to school by 8 and start gettign work done.
4. Get to bed by midnight each night. If I don't I won't be able to get up early enough to leave the house by 7:40.
5. Clean up the kitchen before I got to bed. Otherwise, I'll be depressed when I get up in the morning.
6. Put away lecture notes immediately after class finishes. Otherwise I'll have a pile to deal with later.
7. Update attendance same day that class is held. Otherwise, I'll have a pile to deal with later.
8. Answer or delete all email before leaving for the day.
9. Add any 'tasks' that come through email to TASK LIST then delete email by end of the day.
10. Immediately add meetings, etc. to calendar. So that if I 'forget' a meeting, it will be on purpose.
11. Devote at least one hour a day to grading whenever there is work to be graded. Maybe this way I won't always feel guilty and desperate. Besides most of my post-midnight evenings have occured because of trying to complete my grading.

How did I do this first week of school at meeting my goals??

1. Research: Mostly Fail. I only got in 1.5 of my 5 hours of research.
2. Work-out: WIN!
3. Leave House on Time: WIN!
4. In bed by midnight: Mostly win. I think one night it was about 12:30.
5. Clean Kitchen: FAIL - there is still a pan in the sink from dinner Monday.
6. Put away notes: WIN!
7. Attendance: Mostly win. Still have to enter two classes from today.
8. Email: Mostly win.
9. Task Lists: FAIL - I need to add a new tasks program to my iphone for this to work.
10. Meetings: WIN!
11. Grading: N/A :)

I'm giving myself 7 out of 10 for this week or a C-.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Circles Versus Rows

A new fall semester begins and so does the debate of whether circles or rows is the default position for desks in the classroom. The row adherents argue that rows are the standard position so if you want to use circles you must have your students move their desks back into rows before they leave the room.

The circle fans argue that circles provide a better educational environment. They also argue that no one sets the room up in circles for their students, so they shouldn't be forced to move them back to rows when they leave.

The row contingent has just now fired back with a NEW arguement for rows. They claim that it is easier for the cleaning staff to clean if the classroom is in rows. Therefore, circle faculty, even if they don't care about their fellow pro-row faculty, should put the classroom into rows when they finish class since it is more curteous toward the staff.

I'm in the middle of the row/circle debate - literally. The person who teaches before me is a circle fan. The person who teaches after me is a row fan. Being flexible, I can teach to a circle or a row. However, I'm going to get glared at by my row colleague for the circle even though I didn't have a hand in creating the circle. It also doesn't seem FAIR to require my students to re-establish the room into rows when we did not 'circle-ize it' to begin with.

It almost makes me long for the days when desks were bolted down to the floor.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

History T-Shirts

I love clever people who come up with history inspired t-shirts.

1. Lincoln Shot First!

2. Ben Franklin and the Dead Presidents

3. History is Very Serious!

4. Historical Preenactment Society

Monday, December 14, 2009

Finals Done

Turned my grades in only 2 hours late today! Woot!! Some special angel must have been watching over me because the registrar's office didn't turn off the electronic grade entry portal the way they typically do if you are late. So I didn't even have to make the walk of shame from my office to the administrative building to submit them.

I do, however, already have my first grade email from a student. She was making an A in the class before the final and ended up with an A-. She got A's in all her other courses even her HARDEST course. How in the world did she end up with an A- in mine - she asks. I'm quite certain she'll turn up in January demanding to see her final... I wonder if I should write comments on it now to save myself the trouble next semester?? I probably won't because I don't want to touch anything resembling student papers until mid-January.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Paranoid?! Who me?

We are in our current dean's third year. For the last two years he has hosted a December event at his home the day grades are turned in. It's usually a pretty nice spread with decent food and nice wine, etc. There hasn't been anything said about it this year, however, so I asked him at the school meeting if there was going to be party this December.

He got a little flustered, explained that because of the economic situation, etc. there would be no party.

Okay, fine. Seems reasonable. I saw him in the hall about 5 minutes later with a group of people and gave a off-handed apology since I'd put him on the spot. He just kind of smiled, but didn't say anything.

So now I'm worried that I really DID offend him. And right before we find out about raises, too! Ugh. One of my colleagues, with whom I discussed my fear, said I should write an apology email making it clear that I only asked because I really LOVED his parties. That seems overly creepy to me. It's time like this that I wish there was a clip system for faculty members like there is at my son's school. His 'clip' gets moved every time he does something bad, until he eventually ends up in the Principal's office. A ton of probably unnecessary stress could be relieved if I could just go look and see if the dean has moved my clip.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Negotiations with the Dean

I'm finding my first year as department chair to be a mixed bag. Some things have been fun - like getting to meet all the new history majors. Other parts are not so fun, especially dealing with my Dean. He's a decent guy, but his first response to whatever I ask is to be contrary. I understand sometimes being contrary is necessary - but it is annoying to have it as the default position.

Of course now that I KNOW he likes to go against everything I ask for, I'm just going to reverse the way I ask for things.

Instead of asking: "Hey can so-and-so get a course off in the fall to finish his book?", I'll say: "So-and-so wants a course off in the fall to finish his book, but I don't think he deserves it. What do you think?"

Instead of asking: "Could so-and-so get some extra travel money to present a paper overseas?" I'll say: "I don't think so-and-so should get extra money for his overseas conference. What do you think?"

Instead of saying: "Hey, it's not fair that history has a smaller budget per faculty member than all other departments!" I'll ask: "Hey isn't it great that history has been able to prosper so well with just an inequitable budget? I bet if you cut it, we could ever do better next year!"

Okay... maybe the last one wouldn't work.

Friday, September 18, 2009

It is really only the end of week four?

My return from sabbatical has been both refreshing and draining. I am enjoying being back in front of the classroom. There is really nothing better for one's ego than having a class of 30 students writing down every word that comes out of your mouth. At the same time, however, I don't have the stamina I had before sabbatical. By the time my last class of the day is finished I am ready to crawl back to my office and collapse.

Of course it doesn't help that I've taken over as department chair this year AND am on the executive committee of our faculty governing system. I thought I would be flush with power inherent in my new positions, instead I'm just overworked.

I would be looking forward to the weekend if it didn't contain the first REAL batch of grading for me to accomplish.

Friday, July 10, 2009

You Can't Cover Everything

There is a story in Education Week about the committee that is determining the history standards to be taught in Texas over the next 10 years. A couple of the committee members have recommended that less time be devoted to discussing historical figures like Chavez and Marshall. They suggest that historically these men aren't as important as founding fathers like Benjamin Franklin.

My initial response is to jump on a soap box and talk about the relevance of Marshall and Chavez to not only African American and Latino history, but to more general political history of the 1960s and 1970s. But if I take a step back and look at my own syllabus, well I need to be a bit more forgiving. Because let's face it, you can't cover everything. I think I mention Marshall during one paragraph of one lecture when I talk about the Civil Rights Movement and Chavez never comes up at all. Is this because I don't think they are important? Absolutely not. I do think they are important - but I'd rather talk more about the movements they led/worked in - then about the individuals. Indeed, I think Ben Franklin only gets a paragraph or two, as well, in spite of the fact that I spend several days talking about the American Revolution.

In part, I think my approach is inspired by what I expect teaching history to demonstrate. What I want to show is NOT hey look at these great men and what they were able to do, but rather hey look at these fundamental changes that occurred in our political and social system and the role that activists played in accomplishing them.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Another Famous History Major

Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, was an undergraduate history major at Princeton.

A New York Times' story had this to say about Sotomayor's undergraduate education.

She was the history major and Puerto Rican student activist at Princeton who spent her first year at that bastion of the Ivy League “too intimidated to ask questions.”

…In 1976, she wrote her senior thesis at Princeton on Luis Muñoz Marín, the first democratically elected governor of Puerto Rico, and dedicated it in part “to the people of my island — for the rich history that is mine.”