Taking Time Off, Part 1: Why Teachers Should and How to Time It


Dr. Tamara Fudge, Professor in the School of Business and Information Technology, Kaplan University

Sometimes taking time off from teaching seems to be a bigger pain than just teaching every week of the year. I can’t find a sub. The subs never do what I want. The students will be lost without me. I feel guilty taking the time.  I don’t need a break. While these may seem to be valid reasons, they are more likely excuses.

First, there are always going to be other professors who are willing to sub for you. If you provide adequate help, they won’t need to be premier experts in the field. You might be helping someone bolster their resume or make new connections – or pay a bill or two.  Many are also happy to exchange the favor.  Don’t know any names? Ask your chair for names, because he or she already knows who would work out well.  No excuses: you can find a sub.

There are no guarantees a substitute will do everything you expected in exactly the same way you wanted, but careful preparation and communication before you leave for your vacation works wonders. Realize, too, that it’s okay if the sub doesn’t do everything perfectly. No excuses: the subs will get the job done.

Students are more resilient than you think. Remember that terms are short, and they get new teachers and new topics and exercise new critical thinking skills with each new course. School is an adventure, and one of the biggest lessons of all is learning to adapt. No excuses: the students will be fine without you for a short time.

Teaching is a lot like parenting. Think of your vacation time as being like a parent taking a bubble-bath: you’ll be back soon, but you need the time to relax. Upon your return, you will feel better, be less likely to worry and lose your temper, and will have taken some time to refresh and recycle your brain and your body. No excuses: there must be no guilt for the taking time off that your employer already knows you need.

Besides the bubble bath, here are some ideas for teaching break activities:

  • Spend time with family and friends
  • Cook a new meal or bake a new recipe
  • Volunteer at a shelter for the homeless or for animals
  • Spend all day shopping for one small item; walk slowly and enjoy the sights!
  • Surf the ‘net to learn something new
  • Take long walks, get a massage, or go to the gym
  • Read a book or two
  • Stay up to watch a favorite old television show in the wee hours of the morning
  • Go to a concert or listen to music in a different style from your norm
  • Complete some professional development
  • Write a blog entry (okay, now you know what I’m doing on my vacation)

Hopefully your appetite has been whetted for taking your vacation days sometime this year!  Planning can commence.  Consider taking a full week/unit rather than just a few days so your sub deals with a coherent, cohesive piece of the course.  Is there a unit where the grading is a little easier, or the students have fewer difficulties understanding the content?  Which week or days will be the least disruptive to your students? Talk it over with your chair or colleagues if you need another opinion or two about the timing.

Being a student is (usually) temporary, and taking a break unnecessarily delays graduation. But being a teacher is a more permanent condition, and we need that break now and then! This might need to be explained to your class.  My next blog entry will look at ways to prepare both your substitute and your students for your well-deserved time off.

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“14 Habits that Can Cost You Your Job”: Lessons for Students, Teachers, and Course Developers


Dr. Tamara Fudge, Professor in the School of Business and Information Technology, Kaplan University

While trying to avoid work on a Sunday, I came across an article from Forbes titled, “14 Habits that Can Cost You Your Job.”  There are plenty of articles that warn workers about self-imposed problems that can cost a job offer or promotion or even send you to the unemployment line. Instead of the typical “I-knew-that-already” commentary, though, this article has some valuable lessons for students, teachers, and course developers.

You can read the entire article here– and I hope you will – but for this blog entry, here’s a simple list of the issues noted:

  1. Lack of manners
  2. Speaking without thinking
  3. Inefficiency
  4. Temper tantrums
  5. Lone wolf syndrome
  6. Poor grammar
  7. Inattentiveness
  8. Bad body language habits
  9. Social media addiction
  10. Poor email communication
  11. Tardiness
  12. Negativity
  13. Lying (includes plagiarism)
  14. Procrastination

(Smith, 2015)

The author explains that typically it is a combination of factors, repetition of bad behaviors, or a “cumulative effect” that can lead to job termination rather than just “a single bad habit” (Smith, 2015).

In other words, checking your Facebook account one day may not be a problem, but checking it every hour of every day is. One temper tantrum might get you a bad reputation in gossip groups, but if it is not repeated, the outburst might be overlooked in time.  The severity of the “crime” might also be weighed, too; a blatant plagiarism of company materials is worse than one snarky hallway comment to a coworker.

In analyzing the article, four main areas become apparent:

  • Poor time management: Nos. 3, 9, 11, 14
  • Poor writing skills: Nos. 6, 10, 13
  • Dishonesty: No. 13
  • Unprofessional behavior: Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13

So what does this mean for the academic?

The student

School is where you practice for the workplace. Remember to work on time management; it’s not something that ever “goes away,” but is a constant.  Understand that your writing skills are indeed important, even if it’s something you don’t like! Don’t plagiarize, and be honest but polite.  Always exhibit professional behavior in the classroom, email, seminar, and any other connection you have with faculty, staff, and fellow students.

The teacher

Encourage time management; offer tools (such as a course calendar), send email reminders, and help keep your students on track. Insist on good writing, no matter the topics covered by the course. Check for plagiarism, introduce learning moments, give advice and information, and if you have to, report students for plagiarism, so they truly learn the lesson.  Likewise, don’t let poor behavior slide. Encourage the students to always give their positive best.

The course developer

Make sure the workload is doable and distributed logically. No matter the course topic, you can consider including learning activities about time management and why it is important to write well and avoid plagiarism. Write assignments that have some uniqueness that make it harder to plagiarize, such as discussions that ask for analysis and reasoned opinions, assignments built upon from unit to unit, or a requirement for sources written in the last 6-9 months.  Avoid homework that is pulled from textbooks or online sources. Change topics or the format (a paper vs. a presentation, for example) when doing a minor revision of a course. Encourage good work behavior through team projects, live student presentations, and other thoughtful content.

While the Forbes article’s audience may have been employees, we can see a direct impact of these ideas in being a student, teacher, or course developer. The four main areas – time, writing, honesty, and behavior – are crucial in school, where the student prepares for an enhanced workplace.

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References

Smith, J. (2015, August 6). 14 bad habits that can cost you your job. Retrieved from  http://www3.forbes.com/leadership/14-bad-habits-that-can-cost-you-your-job/

Streamlining to Simplicity: Kaplan University Writing Center Fundamentals in 2016


Kyle Harley, Kaplan University Writing Center Tutor

shutterstock_245063656This past month, the Fundamentals Writing program through the Kaplan University Writing Center went through a bit of an overhaul. Prior to our sleek new form, students and professors alike found themselves very confused with the overall program in general: What is this “Fundamentals” program all about? Does my student qualify? And, most importantly, how do I  refer students to receive additional assistance?

Now, to address the elephant in the room, many students and professors alike may scoff at the notion of a Fundamentals program due to the stigma attached to the word “Fundamentals.” “Remediation,” “Basic Writing,” “Developmental Writing,” and the never-ending list of ways to try and spruce up the terms does not take away from the fact that some students  need a bit more assistance than traditional services can initially provide. These particular students have a very difficult time creating even the simplest of sentences, and, at a collegiate level, their ideas, of course, must be clear and legible enough to effectively get their ideas across. Their papers are typically rife with sentence-level errors, misspellings, disoriented meaning and organization, and a general lack of proper writing skills required for this level of education. To assist these students, our Fundamentals program seeks to work with them, individually, once per week independent of Live Tutoring and Paper Review.  Both of these services are suggested to be utilized by the student during the intervals of our meetings, and because we conduct our sessions in the same location as Live Tutoring, students immediately will feel at home once they progress through the program. Much like our Live Tutoring sessions, the student and tutor work through whatever tasks the tutor has identified prior to the session. After any given number of weeks depending on how quickly the student moves forward, we eventually direct students to our other services so that they can take advantage of all the assistance we offer. In this way we not only help students  progress quickly up to collegiate standard, but we further ensure an increase in retention as many of these students continue to use writing center services well after the completion of the program.

Back before our overhaul, our Fundamentals page was, indeed, a bit daunting. The steps required the professor or student to contact a tutor directly, bouncing e-mails back and forth, and just simply wasting far too much time without producing enough quality results. To combat this, we implemented the use of the same JotForm that students currently use to submit papers to our Paper Review service.  Now, students, professors, and even advisors may now, with impossible ease, submit work for consideration into the program.

Streamlining our Fundamentals program has been beneficial in another way.   Because many instructors and advisors alike think that two APA-related issues in a draft requires Fundamentals assistance—this could not be further from the truth—we now also assess any of the work that is submitted to the program. If, by chance, the student’s work rates a bit higher than our typical inclusions into the program, the student still receives an e-mail detailing our Live Tutoring and Paper Review services. This way, regardless of outcome, students will, based on their decision to attend or not, receive some form of assistance from our trained and fantastic team via pre-existing KUWC services. By streamlining this form—and making it far simpler and easier to comprehend—we’ve increased our outreach that much more and provided a simpler solution to assist students in need.

I encourage any Kaplan instructor, advisor, and student alike to submit work for consideration into the program; this way, because of our new, simple outreach, some form of assistance will be extended almost instantaneously.

 

Writing Center Resource Spotlight: Power Paragraphs


By Chrissine Rios, MA, KU Writing Center Tutor

Paragraphs are building blocks.

Paragraphs are building blocks.

A popular analogy compares paragraphs to building blocks. The analogy helps student writers understand that paragraphs are the units or individual points of a unified discussion.

But, to me, blocks do not capture or depict the intricacies and patterns of language that give a composition depth and appeal.

 

Paragraphs are a tapestry.

Paragraphs are a tapestry.

Paragraphs more aptly resemble a tapestry. They embody all the words and sentences, points, and details that attentive writers weave into an original piece.

Both analogies show how paragraphs are pieces of a whole. Whether blocks of a structure or threads in material, paragraphs give writing form, function, and style.

In a recent workshop at the Writing Center, I discussed paragraphs and what makes them coherent and powerful. I specifically identified six features that would help new and experienced writers alike become more attentive to what they are saying and skilled at how.

Click the image to open the Power Paragraphs workshop archive.

Click the image to open the Power Paragraphs workshop archive.

Kaplan University Writing Center workshops in general cover effective strategies, best practices, and skill-building tools for academic writers. And our lively tutors make learning the expectations of college writing fun.

While the live presentations are accessible to KU students only, the Writing Center happily makes archived workshops available to all on Facebook and this blog. With the workshop link (click the picture of the laptop), you can download the pdf version of the PowerPoint presentation that includes the speaker notes and a link to the workshop recording. I hope you enjoy my workshop on “Power Paragraphs.” Please share it!

Skills for Success


By Amy Sexton, Kaplan University Writing Center Tutor

The bulk of instruction, one-on-one tutorial assistance, feedback, and resources in academic support centers may typically center on helping students build course – related skills and content knowledge.  For example, in the Writing Center, we regularly assist students with tasks such as writing thesis statements, developing effective paragraphs, avoiding plagiarism, and researching and citing effectively.  Our resources mainly focus on areas such as the writing process, writing modes, citation, research, and grammar and mechanics.

However, we also look for ways to develop the whole student, and we often find ourselves talking to students about study skills, such as being able to effectively manage their time, read their course materials and outside sources, and engage in critical thinking.  After all, if students do not effectively manage their time, they may find themselves always working against stressful and looming deadlines and not giving their assignments their full attention and focus.  If students are not able to effectively read their course materials and outside research, they will be hard-pressed to write and paraphrase from them.  Similarly, if students do not have basic critical thinking skills, they will not be able to detect flawed rhetorical arguments and logical fallacies in their research.

To help students gain these important skills, Writing Center tutors and Kaplan University Composition faculty have recently composed and presented three workshops that help students acquire the important study skills that they need to be successful in their course work and beyond:

Time Management and Writing – In this workshop Composition faculty member Eric Holmes discusses ways that students can handle the various demands on their time, cope with decision fatigue, and still have ample time to complete the writing required in their courses.  Holmes advises students to utilize the time they are their own “captive audiences”, such as when they are driving or exercising.  He suggests that students look closely at their obligations by creating a matrix to prioritize the tasks and activities that they focus on. Holmes also details “classroom hacks” that can save students time and effort.

Reading Strategies for Optimal Learning – Effective reading skills are crucial to students’ ability to comprehend complex ideas from course materials and research.  This workshop presented by writing tutor Chrissine Rios offers ways that students can improve their reading skills and comprehension, including using metacognitive and schematic strategies, absorbing texts by breaking them into sections and scanning each section, and employing note-taking methods such as double-entry journals and marginal annotations.

Basic Critical Thinking Skills – Before checking out this archived workshop, consider this riddle:

“A man is walking down the street one day when he suddenly recognizes an old friend whom he has not seen in years walking in his direction with a little girl.   They greet each other warmly, and the friend says, ‘I married since I last saw you to someone you have never met, and this is my daughter, Ellen.’  The man says to Ellen, ‘You look just like your mother.’  How did he know that?”  (Moulton, n.d.).

You may know the answer to this question right away, or you may be puzzled.  I have presented this critical thinking workshop several times, and usually, about one-half of the students in attendance know the correct answer right away. And about 50% do not.

The answer to this riddle is that the old friend with the little girl is Ellen’s mother.  The students who are bewildered by this riddle often assume that the man’s friend is male, not female, so they cannot figure out how the man knows that Ellen favors her mother.   In this critical thinking workshop, I talk about assumptions like this and how we should be aware of them.  I also review habits that impede critical thinking, break down the parts of logical arguments, look at common logical fallacies, and give students examples of tools for constructing and supporting effective arguments.

These workshops give us the opportunity to help students realize that skills like time management, effective reading, and critical thinking are important to their success in their course work.  Not coincidentally, these are also skills that will allow students to excel in the workforce.  How do you talk about these skills with students?   Are there other, equally important study skills that you focus on and encourage students to hone?

References

Moulton, J.  (n.d.).   The myth of the neutral ‘man’.  Retrieved from http://studiidegen.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/c5_moulton_the-myth-of-the-neutral-man.pdf

 

2015 in review


Thank you for reading our blog, everyone. The WordPress.com stats helpers prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 14,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Meet the Technology Center Tutors


Compiled by Lisa Gerardy, Writing Center Specialist

Over the past few months, we have introduced you to the tutors in each of our support centers. This month, we are proud to introduce our Technology Center tutors.  Technology tutors meet with students in live tutoring rooms via Adobe Connect.  In addition, they hold monthly workshops related to technology courses. Here are a few of our technology tutors.

Kimberly

Kimberly

 Kimberly Avery

How long have you been tutoring?

Three years

Why do you tutor, or what is your favorite thing about tutoring?

I started tutoring so that I could help students who were struggling learn more than they would get in their classes. It is fun to see that light bulb moment when a student figures something out on his or her own after working with a tutor for so long.

 

Larry Farrer

How long have you been tutoring?

Six years

Why do you tutor, or what is your favorite thing about tutoring?

I tutor to assist in making a difference in the academic success of our students. It allows me help students gain confidence in their subject matter.

 

Ken

Ken

Ken Barr

How long have you been tutoring?

One year

Why do you tutor, or what is your favorite thing about tutoring?

My favorite things about tutoring are helping students learn more about technology and helping students to be successful in their courses.

 

John Brooks

How long have you been tutoring?

One year

Why do you tutor, or what is your favorite thing about tutoring?

I enjoy helping students solve difficult problems. It is that sound in their voice when they have been working on a problem for so long, and you show them exactly how to solve their problem. This alone drives me. I love being a tutor!

 

Imad

Imad

Imad Tabarani

How long have you been tutoring?

Five years

Why do you tutor, or what is your favorite thing about tutoring?

I have street smarts when it come to helping others; I find what they are comfortable with by asking questions about them, so I can get to know them a little . That also helps me break the ice and the online distant barrier, and then I use metaphors that they can relate to so they can understand the issue that they are facing on their level

 

Chantal

Chantal

 Chantal DesHarnais

How long have you been tutoring?

Five years

Why do you tutor, or what is your favorite thing about tutoring?

I love tutoring because I really enjoy working one on one with students and helping them expand their understanding of IT. I’ve always found troubleshooting problems to be enjoyable.  It’s like working on a puzzle; plus I’ve also had extensive experience facilitating student’s IT projects. For me tutoring is an extension of these interests, and being able to help students understand better is a joy to experience!

 

Sherry

Sherry

 Sherry Hopkins

How long have you been tutoring?

Three years

Why do you tutor, or what is your favorite thing about tutoring?

I love being able to help students understand what they are having trouble with. They come in stressed and leave de-stressed.

 

Brian

Brian

 Brian Alley

How long have you been tutoring?

One year

Why do you tutor, or what is your favorite thing about tutoring?

I like to help students reach their goals.