When you do what you do, make sure you do it right

Hello everyone:

As you know, I teach at three different colleges. My students range from first year freshmen to graduate students and everything in between. No matter their year in college, they sometimes share a common problem: they don’t follow the directions.

One thing about college, and about work life, it is important to give your boss what he or she is looking for. It’s kind of like being a wedding planner. If the bride wants pink carnations and the planner delivers orange roses, the bride is not going to be happy. If the groom wants everyone in black tuxedos and they show up wearing purple shorts, things are not going to go well. If the couple wants chicken and steak at the reception and the caterer delivers fish, that is not a good thing.

Likewise, when your professor gives you specific instructions, why do some students decide to “to their own thing?” Before you begin an assignment, read the directions. Then read them again. Do not wait until the night before an assignment is due to do this reading, or nothing will make sense (see a previous blog on this topic). Read through any announcements your instructor has made, to see if things have been clarified (some announcement postings are predicated upon the professor being asked a question repeatedly because things are not clear to your classmates).

As you complete an assignment, check through your document to make sure that you did everything that was required, and then post it.

Have you run into a situation where you did not follow the instructions? What happened?

Best,

Dr. Sheri

When the end of the semester comes and you are so close to the next grade

Hello everyone:

Sometimes you find that you have worked SO hard all term long and here you are at the end with a grade that is SO close to the next higher grade. What do you do?

Well, if you have taken every extra credit opportunity all semester long, you might talk to the professor about his or her willingness to curve your grade. You might offer to do additional extra credit (this does not work in graduate school, by the way, because there is no extra credit after undergraduate classes).

I suggest that you write a very nice, non-threatening email to your professor. Do not kiss up to the professor (absolutely NO Eddie Haskell here). Discuss how much you learned from the course and that you feel it will be helpful in your future academic or professional endeavors.

The result MIGHT be that your professor MIGHT curve your grade…..or not. In any case, be gracious and do not tell the professor off. In the past, I have curved an occasional grade or two, but do not expect me to curve and give you a letter of recommendation if you are mean.

Have you ever been in this situation? How did you handle it?

Best,

Dr. Sheri

Traveling Tips for going from the US to the UK

Hello everyone:

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the United Kingdom. It was awesome but there are some issues that I would have loved to know about before I went. Here they are for your perusal:

Just because you have an electrical adapter, it does not mean that it will work with your appliances. I whipped out my American to UK adapter, only to fry my electric rollers and hair dryer. I was too frightened to use the adapter after that, so we bought two more adapters in England, one for my cellphone and one for my Apple laptop. I also bought some electric rollers in country. I threw my original curlers out once we got back because they were fried enough to not work anymore.

Your hotel may not have any air conditioning, depending on where you go. It was 90 degrees and humid in North Cornwall, which made for some uncomfortable nights. The management loaned us two fans but it was still rather warm for two Americans who are used to turning on the air conditioning at the drop of a hat or at a temperature rising above 70 degrees. Plan the time of year that you travel accordingly.

Hotels usually have hair dryers so you can leave yours at home, but they do not usually have Bibles so take yours if you want to do a Bible study while in country. Where are the Gideons when you need them?

The back roads in England are very narrow. Big cars do not do so well with very narrow roads, but the English are very considerate drivers. One of you will have to stop and wait if you are on a narrow lane and someone else is coming. Take turns. Trucks automatically win. If the pavement says “slow,” it really means “good luck with this one!” The word is usually painted on a road that is really only one lane but is pretending to be two.

The walls of the road (yes, they actually have 10 or 12 foot high walls on country roads) are vine-covered but they are hiding the fact that there is brick or stones underneath those vines. Don’t hit them.

If you get lost or are unsure of directions, the English are very happy to help, so ask them for assistance. Keep in mind that you may not understand what they are saying the first time around. Smile and be polite and ask them to repeat what they said.

Your car may not have a GPS, so you may wish to use your phone’s system to get where you are going because it will use your dialect.

The English love roundabouts. They use them a lot. The Twilight Zone of roundabouts was on our journey; it had five exits, each of which had its own five exit roundabout. We turned around and went somewhere else, in order to avoid it. If you see a sign that says “give way,” it means “yield.”

Some machines, like coin-operated washing machines, will only take new pound coins. The old pounds have a slightly different shape, so know which one you will need before converting all of your money to pounds in order to wash your clothes. Sometimes machines within a launderette (as they are called) will vary as to which coins they will accept, so ask the proprietor or read the signs above the machines.

Pounds are pretty easy to figure out, but the other coins might not be. I just gave up and treated a pound like a dollar (which it wasn’t) in order to have some sense of what I was paying for things. If you buy things in the airport, you can get a discount if you say you are flying outside the European Union. You may have to show your boarding pass to prove where you are going.

I hope you find my suggestions helpful. What tricks of traveling abroad have you used?

Best,

Dr. Sheri

I Can’t Post My Assignment: What Do I Do Now?????

Hello everyone:

Every once in a while, it is difficult or impossible to post an assignment to your online course. What are you to do?

The first thing is to email the professor a copy of your assignment BEFORE the due date, even if it is just a few minutes before the due date. That way, the instructor will know that your assignment is ready on time. Do not email me a blank document, hoping to buy more time. (The student then claims, ten hours later, to have sent me the wrong document and here is the final paper….which he or she just started writing after the original email was sent. Don’t try this; I have seen it before.)

Next, contact the IT department, to see if it is a problem with the course itself (I have known this to happen). Be prepared to capture and send a copy of the screen shot of your email and any response you get to your professor. You are covering your…….well, you know. We will give you the benefit of the doubt, most of the time, and not mark you late if we see that you really are trying to submit the document on time.

Finally, ask us if we can override the system and grade your document from the file exchange, if your course has one. (Again, I have seen this and I have done this.)

The important thing here is DO NOT WAIT. This type of thing does not get better with time and it generally does not fix itself. Do not wait until I am in a grading marathon at the end of a course to “remember” that you never got the grade from the first assignment. If you do, I am likely to grade you lower (not higher) on the assignment because I am ticked off that you waited so long to say something. The key is to jump on this immediately so we can get it taken care of.

Keep in mind that your professor is not an alien from another world who does not care about your grades. We are usually willing to work with you, if you show yourself to be a reasonable, intelligent person who cares about his or her grades. To that end, keep track of your grades and let the instructor know immediately if something seems out of whack.

What has been your experience with posting an assignment? Any horror stories you would care to tell?

Best,

Dr. Sheri

Destination Weddings are not for the Faint of Heart

Hello everyone:

Have you ever been to a destination wedding? I went to one recently and discovered something interesting: the destination is a place that the bride and groom want to go to, but the guests, not so much.

We were in the wilds of New England, where the bride and her family loved to go when she was growing up. The groom was not so enamored of the place, but he was enamored of the bride, so he went.  Folks, my idea of roughing it is the Hilton Garden Inn, not some backwater place with no television, no radio, no phones (cellphone availability was not available and texting only went through every once in a while), and no air conditioning on a humid 95+degree weekend in summer.

Lest you say that I should have forgotten the Internet while I was there, I was under contract to be available to my employers and did not have a choice about doing some work that weekend. I also call my elderly father four times a week and could not get through to him because of the lack of phone service.

Here’s an idea: how about if you share your nuptial vows where is does not take me an entire day and hundreds of dollars to fly into the place and another day to return home? Taking three days out of my life to watch you get married in a half an hour is just a bit much to ask, in my book.

I will confess that, if I had been emotionally close to the bride and groom, I would have been willing to shell out the time and money for what was actually a five-day celebration of their wedding. (I only went to three of the five days.)

What do you think of this topic? Do you find destination weddings as frustrating as I did this past weekend? I would love to hear your tales of woe!

Best,

Dr. Sheri

My college’s website is down. What do I do now??????

Hello everyone:

Yep, it happens. College websites crash, leaving online students in the lurch. You have deadlines and limited time available to do your work, so what do you do now?

Well, do not panic, for one thing. Do all the work you can without the website. Write essays and discussion boards that are due (hopefully, you did not wait until the last minute to look at the instructions) and prepare to copy and paste them into the class page, once the website comes back up.

Unless it is the middle of the night, your instructor probably knows that the website is down because he or she can’t get online either. Because we understand your situation, we are probably going to adjust the due date of an assignment accordingly (this is not a guarantee, so don’t procrastinate on doing the assignment, feeling that you have a few days leeway- your instructor might only give you the number of hours that the website was down and where would that leave you???).

Once the service is restored, write a very nice (and calm) note to your instructor, stating the issues that you faced and asking for an adjusted due date. Students who fly off at the handle are less likely to get the desired extension. Do not pull an Eddie Haskell on the instructor (this is a cultural reference to the television show Leave It To Beaver); we can see right through false sincerity, even on a computer screen.

How have you handled a crashed website in the past? Was the result you attained the one you desired?

Best,

Dr. Sheri

Help Me Help You

Hello everyone:

I was contacted by a student recently; she had a question about an assignment. The challenge was that I teach multiple, different courses and she did not identify which course she was taking. She asked for insight into an upcoming assignment, but did not say which assignment she was talking about.

Another student had a query about a discussion board assignment. She asked me to clarify the assignment, without specifically saying what she didn’t understand.

Folks, please help your instructors help you. When you send us an email, specify what class you are taking with us and what assignment you are talking about and what it is that you don’t understand.

In the first student’s case, I guessed at what the problem was and answered her email. I may not hear from her until tonight, but I don’t answer my email at night so she won’t get her answer until tomorrow afternoon (instead of this afternoon). By the time she figures out what is expected, her assignment may be late.

In the second student’s case, she was online at the same time I was. I answered her email and she was able to turn the email around at once and explain exactly what she didn’t understand. I was able to respond immediately and she had her answer.

Have you found that some of your classes need assignments clarified? Keep in mind that I am not a mind-reader. You need to tell me what you don’t understand so that I can guide you. How do you handle your own interaction with the professor?

Best,

Dr. Sheri

Using in-text citations

Hello everyone:

How often do you think that an article starts on page one of a journal? It doesn’t. [There are all sorts of things that appear first, like the title page and Table of Contents, to name two.]

The surprising thing to me is how often students will cite page one as their go-to page for an in-text citation. Just this past week, I asked two different students to put page numbers with their direct quotes in two different papers and both students cited page one for all of their in-text citations for the entire document.

Did they think I didn’t notice??????? Come on, people. Your laziness or lack of intellectual integrity is showing! This told me that neither student read any further than the abstract, so it was impossible for them to have any depth of understanding of the article that followed.

Maybe you are rushed for time….I understand that, but I will mark you down for this type of thing, and I will make a note in my personal grade book that I will have to keep an eye on you for the rest of the term. That means everything you write for me will receive additional scrutiny.  Be forewarned.

What is the stupidest thing a friend of yours has done academically? I would love to hear that story, to share with my readers.

Best,

Dr. Sheri

But professor, I intend to write a good paper

Hello everyone:

I got a very interesting comment from a student lately. The assignment was to write an outline for the paper that would be the major assignment for the whole semester. I gave an example of the proper format for a sentence outline, using Roman numerals and 1,2,3 and a,b,c. I did not give a specific example of the words to put in the outline, just a sample for formatting purposes.

One student, who is in graduate school, turned in a 3/4 page document with things like the following:

I. Introduction: I will write an introduction that introduces my three main points.

II. This is my first main point, where I will quote from the articles I read.

1. This is sub-point one.

2. This is sup-point two.

3. This is sub-point three. I will have three sub-points for each main point.

III. This is my second main point, where I will cite some additional articles.

IV. This is my third main point, where I will quote some more articles.

V. This is my conclusion, where I will summarize what I said in the paper.

Folks, I am not kidding. After this wonderful excursion into Outline Hades, the student attached a Reference page with 15 articles that were not mentioned once in the outline. When I flunked the assignment, the student emailed me to say that she/he (I know which sex the student was but chose not to share this information) had intentions of writing an excellent paper and that I should have seen that when I read the Reference page. Really? What grade do you think the student deserved on this document?

What examples of student-understanding challenges have you heard about or experienced?

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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