Eating Your Way to an F


Last week a student took a test with a basket full of fried chicken fingers on his desk. You know the sound that greasy paper makes? Crunchy and wet all at the same time.

“Are you really going to eat that while taking the test?” I asked.

“Don’t worry, I can manage it,” he replied.

Hmmm, I thought. I wasn’t worried about your eating skills. In fact, I had always hoped all my students had mastered the art of eating before entering college. I was more concerned the rest of the class would be distracted by the food choice — a choice that is loud and likely to cause to uncontrollable cravings. Just what you want when taking a test.

In my opinion, greasy chicken fingers in a paper-lined basket are as bad as the dreaded bag of chips.  The sound of a chip bag being opened in a quiet classroom is akin to finger nails on a chalkboard. Worse, I find the offending chip-eating student will then try to chomp each chip slowly, as if that lessens the sound. It doesn’t. It only prolongs the madness.

As a compromise, I asked my students to recommend low auditory, low olfactory foods for in-class snacking. This easy recipe for blueberry muffins was suggested by Nicholas Esser. Nick, a self-proclaimed foodie, highly recommends these easy to chew muffins as a quiet, in-class eating option. I recommend bringing one for your teacher too.

Teaching Tiny

I have a class this semester with only thirteen students. I don’t like small classes and when I saw the size of this one, I tried to get the class canceled. Much to my dismay, the class ran.


Here’s the thing about ‘teaching tiny’. There’s no hiding and that includes me! If I’m having a bad day, there’s very little room for diversion. It’s like acting in an Off-Off-Off Broadway show, on an off night. One mistake and thirteen people will have a front row view of my flub.


Same goes for my students. If no one raises their hand, there’s 1 chance in 13 that a student will be called on. And that’s if I only ask one question! Suddenly hiding in a hundred student lecture hall is looking pretty good.


I asked my thirteen students, individually because I could, how they felt about a small class. Most said they liked the intimacy and for this group, I’d have to agree. We’re only a few weeks into the semester, and we’ve already checked out one student’s tattoos. We chatted about religion (in a marketing class), and we’re getting pretty good at showing up on time.


That last point is important. One day, ten students were late, leaving three students to carry the load. Now that’s taking this small thing a bit too far.


The Late Teacher

Late teachers come in three varieties ranging from disoriented to disconnected. Here’s my take on teachers who can’t tell time.



Professor Rat’s Nest


This teacher looks like they crawled out of a clothes dryer before the fluff cycle beeped.  With a pencil or two stuck in their hair and piles of crumpled, coffee stained papers, you wonder how they got through college.  If you really want to freak this professor out, encourage your fellow students to change seats every class. Don’t worry – since Prof. Rat’s Nest comes late, you’ll have plenty of time to execute this strategy.


Professor Paparazzi


This teacher thinks they might be famous. They are soooo busy living their pseudo-celebrity life, they couldn’t possibly be expected to arrive on time. Any you, the lowly student, should feel honored they’ve shown up at all. Here’s a quick way to deflate Professor Paparazzi’s ego. Pick a day and have the entire class show up exactly 30 minutes late.


Professor Dude


This teacher thinks it’s the first day of class every day of the semester.  They tend to saunter aimlessly across campus as if the college had rearranged the buildings over the summer. If you are walking faster than a toddler, you often pass them on the way to their own class.  Professor Dude is likely to peek into the class first to see if they recognize anyone, and then Professor Dude will check the door number more than once. My suggestion – about halfway through the semester, change the door number and act surprised when they poke their head in.


Death By A Dumpster Contest – Win A Free Signed Copy of Drawing Conclusions

body with bag with beat with gun3

Welcome to Death By A Dumpster Contest

If you like solving puzzles and enjoy a creative challenge, here’s a mystery blog for you. To celebrate the launch of my mystery book series featuring CeCe Prentice, a Dumpster-diving Freegan,  I’m giving away the first book in the series, Drawing Conclusions, free to the winner of the Death By A Dumpster mystery game. A new game scenario will be posted every month leading up to the February launch. Each month I will select a new winner!

Here’s how it works. I’ve created a scenario based on the picture above. You solve the crime in a short paragraph and I will select a winner. There is no right answer. The winner will be chosen based on their creativity and plausible logic.  Check in on the first of the month for a new scenario and another chance to win a signed copy of Drawing Conclusions FREE!

Death By A Dumpster Contest

The body of a 40 year-old male is found dead in a Dumpster behind a bakery. The victim is clutching a pastry gun. A light white powder is covering his face and a bloody egg beater is discovered beneath the body.

Inside the bakery, the head pastry chef is drunk. A 20-year old female apprentice has fainted and a batch of red velvet cupcakes has burnt to a crisp.

You tell me — what happened?

To post your response, go to the blog comments and login. Register for the site and leave a valid email address. Winner selected by October 1, 2014.






Doodling Is Dead, Texting Is In

college boredom

I have a new policy this semester. Texting is allowed. In fact, it’s encouraged. Maybe I should be more specific. I’m begging you to text in class because it solves the age-old problem of whispering to your neighbor. There’s nothing more distracting to a teacher and a class than two students gabbing it up in the back row. But now, thanks to modern technology, you can relieve your boredom without disturbing the rest of the class.


It’s a win-win.


Under this new policy, students are required to exchange cell numbers with their friends in class. When the urge to chat arises, think fingers not mouth.


Does it bother me that you’re texting? As entertaining as I may think I am in class, I’m going to bet that most students need a few minutes of down time. I used to be a master doodler when I needed a break, a silent activity designed to give the brain a rest. I never got in trouble for it. Maybe texting serves the same purpose.


Bored in class, what are your tricks?

Are Summer Courses Easier?


As a teacher, I certainly wouldn’t want to imply that corners are cut during a summer course. However, maybe I can help put things into perspective by considering what can reasonably be accomplished in a five week span.

Here are FIVE things I CAN’T do in five weeks.

  1. Train for a marathon.
  2. Learn a second language.
  3. Write my memoirs
  4. Find a new home and move
  5. Plan my future

Here are FIVE things I CAN do in five weeks.

  1. Watch all seasons of Breaking Bad in a Netflix marathon
  2. Learn Pig Latin
  3. Find my diary from 6th grade and the tiny key that goes with it.
  4. Clean my apartment
  5. Take a summer class

Don’t even get me started on three week winter sessions.


Dear Virtual Student,



I’d like to congratulate you on being a number, that meaningless array of digits your school has provided to ensure you don’t stand out in a crowd. Most likely, we’ll never meet in person and I’ll never hear the sound of your voice. Sure, we’ll exchange some emails concerning course requirements. You’ll be polite and I will return your concise questions with my own professional responses. Years from now, I’m certain you’ll never mention me as your favorite teacher and I’ll never remember that day we didn’t meet.


Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m loving our virtual relationship and here’s why. I’d much rather grade a student based on what they produced than be swayed by how they performed.


A physical classroom setting is a platform for theatrics where a vocal student can easily outmaneuver an introverted peer. By now you must be thinking –“That’s not fair. How much you talk in class shouldn’t make a difference.” Really? If your syllabus includes participation, then that’s exactly what it means.


Luckily, stage presence is not a factor on-line. In a virtual classroom, you are what you submit. I’m not impressed you’re wearing a suit. I’ll never know if you have a sweaty handshake and I’ll never know if you’re lounging in your pajamas and drinking a beer while taking an online quiz.  All I care about is whether or not you answered the question.


So make it good. And I mean really good because that’s all you’ve got.



Comments about your experience with online teachers are welcome here!




An “F” in Fashion

I had a nice conversation recently with a student about the image of women in advertising. It’s a great classroom topic that stimulates much discussion about the influences of advertising on our lives. From an academic standpoint, the topic is flexible enough to cover in a history, marketing, psychology, art or sociology class.  Personally, I like to wake-up my 9am Advertising class by showing image after image of half-naked women in pop-culture ads. This ensures everyone is shocked into consciousness and slightly uncomfortable. I employ this technique at the end of the semester when students have just about had it with me.

As many times as I’ve taught a lesson on the portrayal of women in advertising, it always gets me thinking.  Am I influenced by what students wear – female and male? Do my interactions with a student change with their changing attire? Am I more generous with my grading based on a student’s ratio of fabric to exposed skin or jeans to exposed boxers?

I’d like to think I’m fairly immune at this point as I’ve seen a closet full of fashion disasters in my classroom. Students have worn everything from pajamas, costumes, shorts and a tank top in 30 degree weather, baggie pants hanging mid-thigh and tube skirts no wider than a Band-Aid.

Here’s my take on classroom dressing. If you feel awkward, I feel awkward. If you are constantly tugging something up or down, I notice and so do the other students. A suggestion to consider – college might be a good time to test the concept of presenting yourself professionally to those who are evaluating you on your brains.  I’m not asking you to wear a suit. I just don’t want to be able to read the fine print on your hidden tattoo.

shutterstock_151294550   Now a question for students – do you judge teachers by what they wear?

Millennial ‘Speak’ Strikes Again

If it weren’t for Millennials and their ‘all about me’ conversations, I’d have nothing to post on this blog. Just when I thought I’d run out of millennial material, I had an exchange with a recent college grad that left me scratching my head.



Recently, I offered a small, freelance opportunity on a college job board. The job entailed reading a large document for major content errors. I figured the project would take 7-10 hours and I offered $100 for the project or $15 to $10 an hour depending on reading pace. It’s not a ton of money, but none of the resumes I received showed any expertise in content editing, hence the low rate. None-the-less, I offered the job to a student who, at the least, had some interesting, although unrelated internships.


The student turned the job down which is fine. Not every job is a perfect fit.  It was the wording of their decision that left me speechless.


“A $100 does not seem worthwhile to me. Had I been a fan of yours, I might have reconsidered. It’s up to you to convince me otherwise.”


My first thought was that if I had fans, I wouldn’t be posting a low-paying job on a college job board. Had I been famous, people would be begging me to sweep the floors in my office for free. Here’s the deal. Neither of us are famous, but we have made a connection and that connection is the first step to networking. (Think LinkedIn) Maybe this is not the right job, but in six months another opportunity that pays more, may arise.


If you are lucky enough in this economy to turn down a job offer down, I recommend doing it in a way that leaves the lines of communication open. Hey, you never know. One day, we might both be famous.


I Love A Good Bribe

The tiny box was pink and crammed thick with airy tissue paper. A present? For me? You shouldn’t have. Correction. You can’t. That’s because I suspect this exchange, occurring a week before final exams, isn’t quite Kosher.

You give me a present and I give you an…….. “A”!

It’s a simple formula. Of course, I could make it even easier by creating an Amazon wish list. That way, we wouldn’t have to include the whole class in this awkward exchange. Then again, the public display of gifting is part of the game. You know I’m weak and I don’t want to offend, and the wrapping, it’s just so damn tempting!

Fact: I have succumbed each time a student offers me a present, which by my count, now totals a whopping six gifts over 28 semesters or 14 years. I have received two scarves, a small handmade purse, cookies, candy and dry erase markers. Apparently, I have a chicken neck that begs to be covered, a low sugar count and faint handwriting.

What has saved me from the moral abyss of accepting gifts is that all six students were already in the “A” range. Unless they had slept through their final exam, their grade was a foregone conclusion. This is an important point because cookies last about three seconds in my presence and can’t be returned half-eaten.

This brings me to my non-A, non-gifting students. I have had students cry, plead and curse when they realize they have not earned an A or a B or a C or alas a D. But, I have never been bribed and I hope to keep it this way. As evidence, I present my Amazon wish list which continues to grow, not shrink.

Comments on my moral meter are welcome.shutterstock_156736121