Save Your Email Correspondence

You Will Never Know When You Will Need It

Recently a mother emailed our college president to complain that an instructor of mine had inappropriately dropped her daughter out of his online class. In her lengthy email to our president, she commented that the instructor also sent a rude email to her daughter. ..... (read more)

Do You Have an Open Door Policy?

If your answer is yes, think again.

No matter how approachable you think you are, there will be some students who don’t see it that way. You won’t know if they have complaints. You may be totally blindsided when they go to the dean to complain. More often than not, when this occurs, I learn that the student has not discussed the issue directly with his instructor. Why is this? There are several reasons: ..... (read more)

Ever Want to Wring a Student’s Neck?

Yes, I know you would never do that.

(I am right about that, aren’t I?)

Note: Don’t miss my recommended instructor mantra at the end of this post!

My first piece of advice … you guessed it … DON’T DO IT! You may want to give yourself a “timeout” until the urge passes. (Actually, you may not want to give yourself a timeout. The neck wringing idea may seem much more appropriate, but take the timeout. 😉 ) ..... (read more)

Students Who Lack Math Skills

They just don’t add up … or do they?

( Updated March 1, 2010, with a 7th recommendation )

Faculty members at two-year colleges and at universities confront a similar situation each and every term. They have students in their classes who lack the prerequisite knowledge or skills required to be successful. In this post, I am going to focus on students who lack basic math skills. (Scroll rapidly down to the bottom of this post if you want to get to my recommendations quickly. ..... (read more)

Helping Your Students Memorize Information


Mnemonic devices are memory aids. If you want to help your students learn, you may want to share some mnemonics tips with them. You probably don’t have a lot of time to teach mnemonics to your students, and some of your students may already know some good techniques. If you want to be sure students memorize something, ask the class if anyone has a tip, a trick if you will, that they use. If you sense that your class is all over this memorization thing, that’s great. But if you think by sharing a tip or two you might see better grades on the next test, go for it! ..... (read more)

Must You Care About Your Students’ Success?

You may not think so, but you really do!

Recently, I was skimming through my copy of The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life by Parker Palmer (see References page), and it reminded me of a character trait, an important one for an instructor, one that either you have or you don’t. Before I go any further let me say that while I recommend this book, it is not for everyone. Palmer takes a spiritual (not to be confused with religious) look at teaching and challenges his readers to look inward to explore who they are as a teacher. I you are thinking of making physics a full-time teaching career, read this book! If you are content with teaching one HVAC course each term, you may not enjoy this book. On the other hand, if you aren’t enjoying the course you are teaching, read the book whether you like it or not. You owe it to yourself. ..... (read more)

Are Students Blaming Their Problems on You?

You should be aware that some of them will.

Try as you may, you will never figure out all of your students. In particular, you won’t know what some of your students are saying behind your back. My advice? Consider some of the most common complaints students make. Assume that sooner or later a student or two will lodge these complaints against you. Then develop proactive strategies for dealing with this. ..... (read more)

The Times They Are a Changin’

You didn’t sign up to be a counselor, or did you?

The current state of the economy, unemployment at double-digit levels, and the winter blahs (a.k.a. seasonal affective disorder or SAD) are all converging on us.  Metaphorically, we are flying over an educational version of the Bermuda Triangle!  This past week I talked to a number of people – students, parents of students, faculty and counselors – and we are all experiencing fallout of these tough times.  First and foremost, we must remember and be sensitive to how these factors affect our students. ..... (read more)

Rules Are Rules

Do I see a pattern here?

There are so many policies and procedures to follow when teaching a college course. Where do you begin? In my opinion, the place to begin is by identifying what is in writing. Does your college have a policy manual or handbook for adjuncts? If it does, chances are that you have skimmed through it, and that was that. Not good enough! Go back to it every time you are confronted with an issue that lies outside the realm of what goes on in the classroom and what applies to all your students. What do I mean by that? Here are some examples of issues you will confront that typically require you to “do it your college’s way.” ..... (read more)

Can You Be Too Kind?

When a student tells you he has a learning disability, you cannot be too kind. Right?

The answer is sometimes. I have the privilege of working with so many kind and caring adjunct faculty. Occasionally, in their attempts to be kind and caring, they are not fair and equitable to other students in their class. It is important that, before accommodating as special request from a student, you ask yourself two questions. ..... (read more)