Category: The Day Job

Oct 17, 2020
By Michael Rupured

My First Last Lecture

Monday was the last day for my big class. Meeting twice a week cut the time in half for this one-credit course. Despite being the largest class I’ve ever taught and the first never to meet face-to-face, they are the most fun group of students I’ve ever had. I launch the Zoom fifteen minutes early with my camera off. A Spotify playlist of vintage R&B artists (Aretha, Roberta Flack, M People, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and others) fills the awkward pre-class silence. None of my students were born after 2000 so it’s all new to them. Comments about the music fill the chat box before class starts. I stop the music, turn on my camera and wait for them to …

Sep 20, 2020
By Michael Rupured

Faking a Connection

Even with 45 students in one class, teaching twice a week has always been more or less all-consuming. This semester, I have four times as many students in two different courses. Time flies when you teach four days a week. I’m teaching from home via Zoom. A grad student sets it up so students see me on a big screen and I can see the classroom. Few if any students attend face-to-face classes. Most opt to attend via Zoom. I assume the rest watch the recordings. My goal is always to make every student feel like I know them. It’s an illusion created with individualized feedback on every assignment. Grading takes FOREVER with nearly 200 students, but I can’t do …

Sep 05, 2020
By Michael Rupured

Class without Exams

Two weeks into a most unusual fall semester, my classes are going surprisingly well. Bending over backwards to connect with students I’ll probably never see in person — all 180 of them — is paying off. They love me. Doing away with tests may be a factor. Students are great at memorizing things well enough to pass the test, but whether they actually learn anything is an open question. I’ve never liked tests and for my last semester before retirement, wanted to try something different. Assignments in my class are very applied. Most require students to further explore the concepts discussed in class through structured activities. This semester, I decided to increase the number of assignments from five to ten, …

Aug 27, 2020
By Michael Rupured

Sprinting for the Finish Line

It’s official. After more than thirty years in academia, I’m retiring at the end of the year. The paperwork was signed, sealed, and delivered earlier this month. Now I’m sprinting for the finish line. The original plan was to keep working for at least three more years. I agreed a while back to teach two classes a semester for two years starting this fall. For Fall 2022, I’d cut back to one class and decide if I wanted to keep teaching or retire. I told my boss as long as I was having fun, I’d stay. Lord knows I try, but planning never works for me. Time and time again, something blows any plans I’ve ever made out of the …

Aug 01, 2020
By Michael Rupured
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School Daze

When the fall semester begins in three weeks, I’m teaching two different classes. We’re planning for face-to-face instruction, but preparing to go online if necessary. Figuring out how to make things work either way has me dazed and confused. I’ve come a long way since March when UGA suspended classes for two weeks to enable faculty to switch to online teaching. I tweaked the syllabus and had class as scheduled via Zoom. Students didn’t enjoy 75-minute Zoom lectures any more than I did. A team of UGA experts put together a training for faculty about teaching online. I recently completed the course (mostly) and was impressed. The training was well done, very useful, and a great example of what teaching …

Jun 28, 2020
By Michael Rupured
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Retirement Practice

A colleague has long been my retirement role model. Rather than quitting cold turkey, she transitioned out over three years. She dropped from full-time to 75% the first year, to half-time the next, and to 25% the year before she retired. She said easing in was good practice for life after work. Being home for nearly four months has been good practice too. I’m still full-time, but my work habits have changed. With no set schedule beyond Zoom meetings and doctor appointments, boundaries between work and personal time have blurred. Weekends and weekdays look pretty much the same. I’m up by 5 every morning and out like a light a good hour or two before midnight. Work happens in several …

Jun 06, 2020
By Michael Rupured
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Working from Home

I’m a homebody. Even before COVID-19 restrictions, I rarely left the house other than for work, errands, or doctor appointments. Social distancing hasn’t changed my world all that much. Vision issues have limited my travel for years. The odometer in my 2015 VW has yet to hit 25,000 miles. Going to unfamiliar locations or anywhere at night means finding a ride. Toodles keeps me home too. I can’t see to check her sugar, so managing her diabetes is more art than science. Her behavior is my guide. Disrupting her routine is asking for trouble. Were I to leave her with anyone, I’d worry too much to enjoy the trip . My last overnight trip was more than two years ago. …

May 01, 2020
By Michael Rupured
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My Online Learning Experience

The semester I’ll never forget is just about over. Switching from the classroom to the Internet during a two-week hiatus after spring break was a daunting challenge. Except for maybe graduating seniors, students and faculty alike are happy to see the semester end. Teaching online isn’t all bad. I see the potential. How to make it work is the challenge — especially for crotchety old men like me. A greater command of technology would help. I can do what I need to do, barely. Call me incurious, but exploring the capabilities of devices, software, or apps never crosses my mind. The switch to online teaching forced my hand. I’d used our online interface to post lectures, collect assignments, record grades, …

Mar 18, 2020
By Michael Rupured

Coronagedden

Long before corona arrived, Pandemic, a documentary series on Netflix, scared me so much I quit watching. According to the experts, a pandemic outbreak at some point is inevitable. Now we’re living it. Bad as the Covid19 outbreak is, we got off lucky. Some who get it will die, but the novel corona virus isn’t nearly as lethal as Ebola, HIV (untreated), or smallpox. Many who’ve tested positive have no symptoms at all. I’m not trying to minimize the threat — just saying things could be a lot worse. I took off work starting 3/7 for Spring Break, before things got real. Other than outings early in my stay-cation, I’ve been sheltering in place ever since. Classes were suspended for …

Dec 04, 2019
By Michael Rupured
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Teaching Evaluations

Classes end this week. Finals are next week. Another semester is drawing to a close. How did I do? I’m optimistic, but the summary of my teaching evaluations won’t be available for a few more weeks. Figuring out what to teach, the order of the topics, and how much time to devote to each took two semesters. Aside from a few tweaks here and there, that’s all settled. My goal for this semester — my third teaching the same class — was to be more interactive. Ages ago a couple of county extension agents got real with me about the shortcomings of the programs I developed. They explained the need to add activities, games, and videos to make programs easier …