The Office of Faculty Development

February 2016 Tuesday Tips

2 February 2016:

The most common refrain I hear on campus is: I wish CELT and Faculty Development would invade my life even more! Okay, so maybe no one has ever said this in the 130 year history of the University, but still, if you want even more teaching tips, download the Magna Publications “Teaching Professor Tips App(opens in new window).” You can set it to deliver a tip at a particular time and you can even contribute, best of all it is free! If Magna sounds familiar, they are the same people who offer our 20 minute mentor program that you can still take advantage of this year.

The App may be a good choice for you and it may not. This is actually part of a larger conversation about managing the information streams in your life. Earlier this year a colleague and I calculated the average faculty member receives 3.5 campus wide emails per day. This is on top of college, department, research group, conference, student, peer, and personal email. If you find yourself deleting every email from a discussion group you are a part of, take 20 seconds and unsubscribe or set up a filter to put all the email from your disciplinary list serve into a folder. If your Facebook or twitter feed is full of stuff you hate, take a minute and unfollow/hide those posts. Our lives are full of information, investing a few minutes in making the streams you use the most the most useful for you will be time well spent.

9 February 2016: 

  • Dear Professor, I cannot be in class on Tuesday night because I am rushing a Greek organization and we have an event.
  • Hello teacher, I need to reschedule my presentation on Monday because I will be out of town for an athletic competition.
  • Hi, did we do anything in class on Thursday? I was sick.

It is that time of year when you are probably being inundated with requests to adjust your schedule or help a student make up for lost time. Some of you are reading your email and thinking “Do I have to? Unsurprisingly this issue is complicated, but my office has been doing a little legwork to help faculty deal with attendance issues in higher education.

The first and most important thing to remember is that the vast majority of students who miss class do so because of legitimate reasons and are looking to get a high quality education while balancing other commitments. There are students who are looking to take advantage of your willingness to accommodate, but they are an exception rather than a rule. First, let’s sift through the reasons students miss class and what we can do to accommodate.

Greek Life: Most fraternity/sorority events take place in the evening hours after most classes have concluded, but not always. Even so, many of us teach in the evenings and must resolve requests to miss class. Fraternity and Sorority Affairs Program Coordinator Malcom McLemore was unequivocal when he told me “We do not encourage or imply that missing class for any event is beneficial.” I appreciated his sharp response. Rescheduling class around social events sends an odd message to both Greek life students and other students in the class that is inconsistent with the academic mission of the University.

Athletics: Chico State is the proud sponsor of a great many intercollegiate student athletes and their success is a point of pride for many of us. Sometimes participation requires travel that results in missed classes. In a conversation with Faculty Athletic Representative Jim Morgan I learned a couple things about how the programs negotiate this conflict. First, these problems with intercollegiate schedules are predictable and students are encouraged to find course schedules that line up well with their athletic schedules. Second, as a faculty member you should receive a letter with a roster, and a schedule from the student at the start of the semester. Third, ultimately the decision resides with the faculty member as to what constitutes a sensible accommodation.

Health: We all get sick and most of us are quite accommodating when students have physical or mental health issues that prevent them from coming to class. Health Center Director Deborah Stewart mentioned a few things in our conversation that faculty members should keep in mind. First, a sick student is often also a stressed student who is worried about missing class time. Second, if the Health Center is unable to see a patient they may still issue a note recording the “student reported being sick” but this is not necessarily validation of illness. Whether accommodations are made ultimately resides with the faculty member. One thing to keep in mind if you take a hard line on attendance, do you really want a classroom full of sick students?

Students also miss class for other reasons from bereavement to forgetfulness. It is impossible to have course policies that govern all these areas, but I would encourage you to insert language into your syllabus about sensible accommodations.

16 February 2016:

When we think of “Department Politics” we often dwell on who got the better office or their preferred teaching schedule. However, this time of year the term can take on a different meaning in relation to national political issues. Recent flare ups at Liberty University and Georgetown have brought this issue into focus. Chico State is a public institution so our free speech rights are more robust than they would be at private colleges and universities. However, not all questions are legal ones. How do you feel about discussions of Presidential proposals for health care in a nursing class? About your officemate with the Marco Rubio bumper sticker on the door? Or your colleague who also volunteers for Bernie Sanders going door-to-door?

A situation at St. John’s earlier this month led to a threat of violence over social media. This was not the fault of the faculty member, but it does highlight the volatility and passion that are sometimes a part of election season. As faculty we need to recognize that the activities of our students and our peers are constitutionally protected. We also need to realize that we have a responsibility to create learning environments for all of our students, not just the ones we agree with.

23 February 2016:

On Monday I did something uncharacteristic and came to work unprepared. I was caught up on emails and had not missed any deadlines, but I had the wrong socks. I bike to work whenever I can and keep clean clothes in my office to change into. However, on Friday I took home all my dress socks and forget to pack in more. Alone, I was left to face the horror of wearing white athletic socks with blue dress pants and brown shoes. It was not quite on the level of Harry Potter staring down Voldemort, but it was close.

My clever wife suggested I buy some socks at the bookstore and my day was saved, but the episode gave me a moment to reflect on the things I do to stay prepared on campus (most of which I have borrowed from others) that have saved me classroom embarrassment more than once.

Here is my checklist:

  1. A neutral change of clothes. This way if something tears or stains you can swap out things that will work with most of what you are wearing.
  2. Shout wipes. These are essential and help salvage clothes with stains until they can be washed and keep clothes clean on campus. They even get Flamin-Hot Frito dust out of white dress shirts…or at least that is what I have heard.
  3. Something nutritious to eat. I like high-protein granola bars for the occasional forgotten lunch or late night. You really need to have something in your desk or backpack.
  4. A toothbrush. This was a more recent addition to my stash but a welcome one for anyone I work with who does not want to smell my coffee breath all day.

What are your must-have supplies for campus? Let us know so we can add them to the in-construction Tuesday Tip repository.

Soon to be on your list will be an audio device so you can listen to an exciting podcast. Check out this collaborative podcast on “Adulting(opens in new window)” I put together with some campus partners. We will be doing a new podcast on life at Chico State every two weeks. Stay tuned for an upcoming episode on Greek Life, or better yet, subscribe so you never miss a podcast!