It’s been a while since I have blogged, partly because I wasn’t sure how much I could say while I was a part-time administrator during the Spring 2014 semester. Now that the semester has ended (as has my ¼ time appointment, at least for now) and summer school has begun, here are some general observations:
(1) The semester after a sabbatical is a bit strange. It’s not just getting back into the routine of teaching classes; it’s more like taking an extended nap for a few months and then waking up in a classroom full of students who are eager to learn. I will admit, though, that I enjoyed going into the secretary’s office at the beginning of the semester and telling her that I wanted my advisees back (they had been split among the other three history faculty members while I was on sabbatical).
(2) Technology can be both wonderful and infuriating. This semester, I filmed all of the lectures for the HST 2202 (United States History since 1877) class that was taught on campus. The purpose was twofold: Students who were enrolled in the online section of the same course would see the same information I was teaching on campus, and students who missed class for a variety of reasons (athletic trips, illness, reserve duty, etc.) could watch the lectures and “catch up” on what they missed. Most of the time, the lectures were filmed with my cell phone on a tripod, and the video quality was quite good—as was the audio most of the semester. However, once the weather warmed up, the fan in the classroom ran all the time—and thus the cell phone picked up the fan noise in addition to me talking (previously, the heater shut off when class began and came back on when class ended—it must have been on a timer). Fortunately, by that point the instructional designer had installed a camera in the classroom, so the last couple of weeks we filmed with both the cell phone and the “real” camera (with me wearing a microphone). Of course, that didn’t go without its own glitches…some of which I discussed in a presentation on using technology in the classroom after the semester ended.
(3) Being an administrator can be both fun and exasperating. I would have loved to do more than I did, but for various reasons I was limited in what I could accomplish. I did complete all of my assigned tasks (coordinate Faculty Work-in-Progress Speaker Series, assist with Showcase of Student Scholarship, explore restoration of post-baccalaureate certification). For the former, I handled all of the promotions for the talks, which attracted between five to ten people at the presentations. Another faculty member handled the arrangements for the Showcase, but I did compile a list of suggestions for next year’s event to get more participation (including promoting it during the fall semester, not just during the spring). And, for the latter, I got to use my skills as an historian to investigate how and why post-baccalaureate certification was eliminated before researching how to reinstate it. It turns out that it was an administrative decision, one that obviously was made in error (or maybe it’s just coincidental that enrollments dropped about 50% in the education programs after its elimination). So now the post-baccalaureate certification has returned, and it’s just a matter of time before new students are enrolled in the program. But I did enjoy the experience, and I am planning on continuing in the position this fall.
(4) I miss observing student teachers. We had two this academic year, one each semester. Of course, I didn’t supervise one while I was on sabbatical in the fall, and my administrative responsibilities prevented me from supervising in the spring. I have received permission to supervise one of the three student teachers we’ll have in the fall, and I’m looking forward to doing it again. There is something about seeing the students who I have taught succeed in the classroom.
(5) Students still amaze me. One in particular in the capstone course decided that she (a) didn’t need to do a rough draft of her research paper and instead turned in a topical outline, with the explanation that she had a lot of work for other classes and didn’t have time to do it; (b) would turn in a research paper that was half of the minimum required length, poorly cited (as in the citations were severely lacking and in the wrong format), and then question why it received a failing grade; and (c) thought it was more important to leave the last class meeting—during which I would discuss information that was on the final exam—after the first twenty minutes because she had an organization meeting to attend. Then there was the one who argued with me (via email and in person) about how unreasonable it was of me to expect him to follow directions and not plagiarize on a take-home exam, with the explanation that since it was an online course he should be allowed to copy information from the Internet for his exam answers. Finally, there was the student who left a phone message after the final exam was due on May 9 in which she stated that she had been unable to get in touch with me but needed me to sign her late withdrawal slip (the last day to withdraw from the course was March 28). Apparently she didn’t realize that if she had come to class at all after spring break, she could have easily found me to sign her form.
(6) I learn so much from grading exams and research papers. I assign take-home exams for several reasons, most significantly that it’s a lot easier to read typewritten than handwritten work and that it relieves students from the stress of writing their responses within a fixed time frame (and makes it easier for accommodating students who have special learning needs). The drawback, of course, is that spell check is not always the students’ friend when writing their exams:
L. Frank Baum: Wrote the “Wizard of Oz”. This was a parabola on populism with the characters and scenes representing different people and events in the time.
The assignation of president James Garfield led to the placement of the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act. Garfield did not believe in the spoiler system and was assonated by a angry office seeker. Because of this vise president Chester Author was able to pass the civil service reform act.
In a few cases, their responses led to me wondering if the students were attending the same class I was teaching:
Roosevelt Corollary- Corollary spent time in the west and he announced conservation of water is of importance under the department of agriculture (hydroelectric power).
Kent State was segregation was not accepted at a University and shots were fired, students were killed, protesting was on, and the governor ordered the national guard to clean up the mess.
Henry Melchior Muhlenberg was a German religious leader who was sent to America around the time of Protestant reform. He went around asking for money, pleading for help and preaching about reform, but his pleas for contribution fell on deaf ears. This was one of the problems with the Protestant Reform.
And, sometimes, the students even provided me with advice when grading their exams:
As a side note, I will allow you, the reader to read on more through the paper to fully understand what I have introduced in this paragraph.
(7) I love my job. I love working with students. I’m doing what I was trained to do, and I’m doing it at a place I really like. Sometimes it gets frustrating, but most of the time I enjoy it. I don’t think I truly appreciated it until after I took a semester off for research (and, as it turned out, other things). My next goal is to figure out a way I can better serve the university and help it deal with the financial constraints that result from being part of public higher education in a state where the governor doesn’t appreciate its value and where the cost of higher education is reaching the point that it’s not affordable to the middle class. Fortunately, I’ll be able to do it again this summer, and I will be continuing to serve as a ¼ time administrator (Faculty Associate/Assistant to the Provost) in the fall. I’m back on committees, serving on the Sabbatical Committee (again) and on the Academic Planning Committee; the latter will see a couple of program changes from me this fall as I modify the Public History concentration (which now has a major!) to match current curricular offerings and develop a Social Studies Education concentration in the B.A. History for students who wish to pursue post-baccalaureate certification as social studies teachers.
That’s it for now…off to review a manuscript, grade discussion posts, prepare a book review, research and write a paper I will be presenting in November, and begin work on the annual report for the history programs. In other words, another day, another scholar…