Wednesday, February 25, 2004

We are studying philosophy of education in social foundations. Students took a quiz to help determine which of five major philosophies they prefer. In the day class, about half the students (there are 39) favored progressivism, and the other half favored essentialism. I think there was one student who preferred existentialism, and one who was about evenly divided in terms of essentialism and progressivism. In the night class (37 students), one student was evenly divided between essentialism and progressivism, two students preferred essentialism, one preferred behaviorism, and all the rest favored progressivism. In the online class (17 students), it is harder to determine, because even though the quiz is available and there is a discussion question about it, not all students choose to address that question. But, so far, the students who are sharing thoughts about educational philosophy seem to favor progressivism.

All of which got me thinking. Sometimes in class I despair about the lack of discussion and participation, and it seems that chalk-and-talk is way too dominant. Then there are classes when the students are so involved that it is not possible to cover all the planned material. It varies from semester to semester, and class to class. The night class is very interactive, The day class is quieter, and I spend a lot of time thinking about how to encourage participation. After the quiz results, I was thinking, the greater number of essentialists than usual in the day class means that for at least half of the class, lecture is preferred much of the time. On the other hand, the strong majority of progressives in the night class means they are probably less satisfied on those days when I "deliver" a lecture. Something to keep in mind.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

I agree with this article, I definitely get less telemarketing calls since I signed up for Do Not Call. I signed up for the New York list when it first came out. That was quite a while ago, and although it took a little while, it was effective. I guess now it has been converted to a Federal registry, I know it was automatic if you were already signed up at the State level.

In terms of spam, I am not sure. I still get too many, but I think the number may have decreased. Whether that is because of the registry, or spam blocking features in email, who knows?

I should sign up for paper junk mail elimination too, although I think that is still cumbersome, not an easy website process like Do Not Call. Hmmm. Something to investigate. Every two weeks we have curbside pickup of paper for recycling, and I can never believe how much of the bin is junk mail, especially annoying credit card offers. Such waste!

Thursday, February 12, 2004

I am teaching right now...actually the students are working in groups on a project so I decided to run up to my office rather than pace the classroom, my other alternative (and usual method).

I often wonder about the dynamics of groups - not just the small-ish ones that are working in my class, but the entire cohort, the night class compared to the day class compared to the online course, compared to last semester's, compared to summer session, compared to last year. My night class this semester is so interactive - if I lecture for two sentences - hands are up, questions asked, comments made...if I ask a question there is a field of hands in the air. If we do a group project, during the reporting out session, we barely cover half the material because there is so much discussion.

Then there are cohorts where row after row of students sit there with blank stares, or closed eyes, or fidgeting, hoping to get out five minutes early. What gives, it is the same instructor, similar curriculum, just the times of day and delivery mode differ, and it is never the same cohort that is engaged (sometimes it is the online class, sometimes it is the day class, sometimes it is the night class). I speculated that course size has something to do with it, but that doesn't seem to account for it either. I conclude that peer influences are very powerful. Several engaged students lead and that translates to a good class -- on the other hand, several bored students drag it down and that makes for a poor one.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Back by popular demand? After an eight month hiatus, there is a new virtual museum over at Gully Brook Press.

When I was updating the pages, I decided to delete the references to a tracking service I added last year. It was more hassle than it was worth, I hated the banners it inserted, and I can't even remember the password - it wasn't something of my choosing. I only removed it on a couple of pages, I will get to the rest eventually. Anyway, in the process, I deleted the background colors. But I may keep it transparent - I so rarely make changes, that this one, although unintentional, is refreshing!
We saw another DVD, "Frida," and cut short the recent loser movie trend. It was interesting, as are most artist-biographies.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Almost forgot! The next movie up was "Confidence." Another loser! It was terrible.
Two weeks ago (a long time in the land of ejournals), I promised over at Sya's to get to this eventually, and finally, I am.

Two writers shared different perspectives on the following question asked by prospective students:

"Should I get a PhD?"

The original comes from an English professor, who believes the response is in three parts; the follow up is from a biology professor. Both agree that the first part of the answer is "probably not."

I say, the answer is completely individual, and you shouldn't let anyone extinguish your dreams. You can consider the source of this perspective; I'm a former academic administrator, currently an adjunct in the education field, and in that role one of my duties (besides a significant teaching load) is advising prospective and new graduate students. Once I finished my bachelor's degree, I knew that someday, I would get a master's degree. Then, after that degree was in hand, my new goal became a doctorate - eventually.

Did I link that up with some sort of economic calculus? Only in the most general way. I do encounter students for whom that is the only consideration, the "I must get an A or my future is ruined because I won't be able to go to the best graduate school, which means I won't get the job I want," type, and I shake my head. (I understand in some places such a calculation is taking place at the nursery school level. Sad.) I think it's great to get an A, if it is a gauge of your level of learning. Otherwise, what is the point?

Now, this is not to say that graduate school - and the dissertation stage of getting a doctorate - is easy, or always pleasant. Sometimes it is awful, mostly it is tiring, and it seems endless. There will be years of missing television programs (not a bad thing, actually), social events (including important ones), and pleasure reading. Holidays arrive, and instead of being enjoyable, they are one more task to get through. Laundry and dishes pile up, and money is often scarce. But you know what? Eventually it becomes a pleasant memory. It takes a while, but it happens.

On the next part of the answer, there was some disagreement. The first professor believes "before you get yourself into a PhD program, go get a job for a year or two." The second professor has mixed feelings, among them the thought that "it takes a long time to get where you're going [in academe], and putting it off for another year or two to work on something else just means you'll be a year or two closer to geezerhood..."

Hmm. I guess I have mixed feelings about this too. It is another personal decision, there is only so much a mentor can tell you. Some people are able to breeze through undergraduate, to graduate, and be done in a remarkably short time. Others don't have that inclination - or that financial support (or desire to shoulder that level of loan burden, or that much delay in the accumulation of material possessions). On the other hand, life is a process, and a journey, not a destination. So what's the hurry? (A geezer or a sprout, who cares?)

I think it is always a good idea to get a job for a while, but unlike the first professor's view, whether that job requires a college degree doesn't matter so much. I think nonprofessional jobs can have important lessons to teach, as well. And I don't think it is necessary to take time off from school to do it. Working while going to school at the same time is valuable. It raises the appreciation for the luxury of just working, or just going to school. It makes me think of something my father said to me when I complained about a fairly good job I had years ago: "it's not a bad way to make a living." I remembered waitressing in a bowling alley, and working as a temp secretary in an insurance company, and a stint at Burger King (yes, I did all three and more), and I knew what he said was true. Juggling translates to the development of wonderful time management and organizational skills. I've done school part-time and full-time, I worked between my bachelor's degree and master's degree, and I worked full-time while in the Ph.D. program, until I was at the dissertation stage. Twenty-two years after I stepped on a college campus as a freshman I walked across a stage and received my doctorate. Was it worth it? Yes.

For the third part of the answer, the first professor admonishes to "remember the laws of supply and demand," while the second professor warns about having to yank up roots while wandering around the country for jobs.

Both of those things are true. Most academics do nationwide job searches, worried about finding a position at all, and land in places they may not have chosen if the market was more open. I have deep roots in upstate New York, and I am not leaving here. That decision - well, I guess it wasn't a decision, because it was never on the table - but that life choice did not stand in the way of me doing what I want. I have never found a shortage of opportunity. You just need to know what is important to you, and how to get it. That long 22 year journey, from 16 year old college freshman to Dr. Gina clarified a lot of things for me. I'm simply not willing to rip up my roots. There is such a thing as "enough money." At the same time, I have not had to resort to working in a job I did not want, or that did not require a doctorate, to stay here. And believe me, I have plenty of material things - actually, much more than I really need.

I love learning. I love teaching, and I really, really like college students. I like to wear many hats, and I like not being too tied down to a position. I did that, as an administrator, and it was enjoyable for a while. Then I got tenure, and shortly afterwards, I resigned! Now I am an adjunct, somewhat, but not completely invisible. And guess what? I love it!

So that was my take, for what it is worth (about three cents).

Monday, February 02, 2004

I am caught up for the moment!

Except for a couple of (very) minor details, the education book is a wrap today. The classes are going OK - I think I will wind up being on campus three days per week, and at home two. And I think every so often, I might be able to do my old schedule of two days on campus, three days at home. It is interesting to see how big classes run - the last time I was in a lecture center was when I was a freshman in college. Even then, I only had two classes that size: biology 100, and an intro. history class. I hated both.

These education classes aren't in the biggest of the big rooms - I think the assiged LC holds 120, and there are about 70 students enrolled. But that is twice as big as my usual class when at its peak size (most semesters I have had about 30). I want it to be a good experience, and I'm hoping that is possible in a class that size.

I'm wondering, what do I do with a caught-up afternoon? Wash dishes? Read the Sandra Dallas book I have chosen as next in line? Watch a DVD (we have now seen Nicholas Nickleby [which was great!] and Sweet Home Alabama [which was awful!]). I think "write a query letter" is the winner. I have a wonderful idea. Stay tuned.