It’s Over, Seriously

Tomorrow is Christmas. Presents have been purchased, wrapped and properly labeled.  Two batches of holiday cookies, neatly sealed in red & green tins are piled on my kitchen counter.  This year, I’m ahead of the game. I’ve even avoided my annual pre-xmas head cold.

So why am I losing it?

Because I’ve got a handful of students who don’t understand that school has actually ended. In a 24-hour, electronic world, the emails just keep coming.


Email: “I can’t get in touch with you. You’re not in your office.”


Unmailed Response:“I’m in my pajamas wrapping gifts.”



Email:“I’m just trying to hand in my assignment like you asked.”


Unmailed Response:  “From November? It’s almost January.”



Email:“Thank you for the extension”


Unmailed Response:“Huh?”



Email:“I missed the final.”


Unmailed Response:  “It missed you too.”


Diary of a Late Paper


Gee, he’s still working on me. And he’s typing so fast, he kweeps mking misthtakes. I can’t take it. I’ll look horrible in a “D”.  The last time I went straight to print without spellcheck, I ended up crammed into an expensive plastic folder in a showy, but useless attempt to cover up my flaws.


Okay, he’s slowing down.  Wait, what is he saying? How do you spell bibliography?  For God’s sake kid, spell check it! It’s free.


No! Not the margins. Please, not the margins. You’re squeezing too hard.  Sure, I’ll be ten-pages, but inside I’m suffering.


I’ve always been a word man. Numbers were never my thing. But if I had to guess, I think this class started 20 minutes ago.


Oh, there it is.  It’s a little glitchy, but I think I’m being Saved. 


Draft! You saved me as draft? You x!#$%^& piece of X$%67!


I hope you catch a virus the Geek Squad can’t cure because at this moment you are no better than a floppy disk. Go ahead, hit print. I dare you.


Well, there it is. I’m a cover sheet. I’m flying solo. No backup, no page-count. I heard about the cover sheet scam when I was in the big box from a bunch of foam packing peanuts. I thought those guys were nuts. I guess the joke is on me.


I’m flat on my back, staring up into a pair of smudged glasses. Focus, I think. Keep that title centered. It’s all you’ve got. My edges begin to curl as I catch the end of the cover sheet scam.

            “My printer broke. Can I email you the rest later?”

I peer off into a corner of white space and spot a row of single cover sheets making their way to the podium. Forget it kid. But just remember, I wasn’t so bad as a draft.


What’s With The Professor That ……?????

That’s the answer I got when I asked college students to complete the sentence above.  Apparently teaching with the rhythm of an auctioneer in a livestock pit just doesn’t cut it in the classroom.


I remember a math teacher from high school whose chalk fired across the board like a machine gun. She could write so fast, chalk dust would
explode like it had been shot out of an exhaust pipe at NASCAR. The worst part were her feet, which couldn’t keep up with her rapid laps back and forth across the board.  She insisted on wearing these goofy sandals that her allowed her cro-magnum toes to slide over the sole.  Looking back, the pads of her feet probably acted as rubber stops in case she skidded and flew out the window.

So why do professors talk too fast?


I’ll be honest. Not every topic in a course interests me. I tend to blow through content that puts me to sleep. I usually preface it by
telling students – “Sorry to do this to you, but the faster we get it over with the better.  As I write this, I realize I may need to work on my delivery as well as my passion for my subject area.


Other possible causes of auctioneer style teaching? I’ve seen teachers jabber ineffectually when they’re nervous. It’s the first day jitters – and we’ve all been there. I’ve also seen teachers talk quickly when they don’t fully understand the material. This strategy leaves little room for students to challenge while you hide behind your Marshall Mathers speed rap.


But the real issue I’d like to bring forward (slowly), has to do with basic teaching philosophies.


Are we teaching or telling?


When you tell, you become an automated assembly line of generic fact distribution. When you teach, you include others. More voices,
more interpretations, more time.

I think we know which one students prefer. 

Here’s to slow jammin’ a lesson.


Have You Ever Seen A Student Laugh During a Test?

Students take on all sorts of strange body positions during exams.

Some hunch over their desk like a bomb is about to drop. Some turn their leg on like the Energizer bunny. I call those students the knee shakers and I know for a fact that it drives the students around them crazy.  I’ve also seen chronic face rubbers, hair chewers and spaced out daydreamers.

The one test taking posture I find the strangest is:


 the chuckler’ – that’s the student who giggles during the exam.


The chuckler struck again just last week and based on the class grades, it wasn’t a particularly funny test.


So what gives?

What’s so amusing about my tests?

I went over the last test to see what triggered the chuckler.  I thought maybe the test had a typo that resulted in a side-splitting misspelling like:


 “Booze the best answer’ or ‘Nun of the above’.


But then I realized academic lingo isn’t even funny when misspelled. Does anything actually rhyme with Final or Mid Term?


Then, I thought maybe the pattern of bubble answers resulted in a connect the dots diagram I wouldn’t want my grandmother to see.  I went back and drew the lines in – totally G rated.


I’m fresh out ideas.  So if you’re a test chuckler or know of chronic test chuckler, please voice your sober opinion here.

When Does An 89.44 Become A 90?


How do I justify the extra .56 points?

By adding up the 7 Signs of Civility:

Show Up

On Time


Say Hello


Honor Due Dates

Say Goodbye


How does a 60.44 become a 59? You get the idea.


Wanted: A Trick To Remember Students’ Names

I give up trying to remember students’ names. I’m not old. My eyesight is fine. My brain, however, has hit full facial capacity. I used to
be good at it. Within the first two weeks of class, I could master over 100 students’ names. Fast forward 30 semesters and now I’ve got a mental backlog of names and faces that I can’t delete and no room for new ones. At this point, I’m tapped out and unless a student gives me a reason to match a name with a face, I’m done.

Lame, you say? Lazy, indifferent? Call it what it want. But before you pass judgement,  take a look at the picture below.

These two students (Mike and Luke, in no particular order) insist they are not related but admit that their similarities are a bit spooky. They must have been drawn to the other because they’ve consistently sat side by side since the first day of class. They often wear identical clothing. They score within a point of each other on tests. And, they smile pleasantly at exactly the same time in my lectures. Put your finger over their eyes  – it’s the same grin.

Now, test yourself. Throw their pictures into a deck with thousands of other 19 year old faces. Every four months, rotate in new photos. Complete this task 2x a year for 10 straight years. Then, set the cards up like Concentration and start flipping and matching. 

What? You’re stuck? Go faster! Oh yeah, and pretend you’re teaching at the same time you’re matching.

The downside to my memory overload is that Mike/Luke are truly good students and deserve to be remembered. In fact, I wish I had a class of full of Mike/Luke’s.

Then, I’d only have two names to remember.



Interview Stories from Hell


Students ask and I answer. In this case, the request was for interview tips which I’d love to do but hundreds of other bloggers have already addressed this sufficiently. Instead I’ve chosen a selection of awkward, uncomfortable, embarrassing and hopefully cringing stories about interviewing for a job solicited from readers of The AirBubble blog.


For all you recent college grads, hope these stories help. 



“On my way to an interview, a bubble bee flew in my car. I freaked and abandoned ship. The car, not fully in parked when I ditched, drove into an intersection where it collided with another car. When I got to the interview, I told the human resources lady the story. She didn’t recommend me for the job because I couldn’t handle stress. She was wrong. I got the job because the hiring manager realized I showed up for the interview despite the accident.”


“I sat down in the interview chair. The guy interviewing me started to ask questions and then swiveled his chair 180 degrees. He conducted the rest of the interview with his back to me. Nice attempt to throw me off my game. Got the job anyway.”


“I’d make it through the morning interviews and the VP asked me to stay for lunch. I ordered ravioli with red sauce. Slippery little sucker slid off the plate on to my white interview shirt. Took the afternoon interviews covered in red sauce. Held my head up high and got the job.”


“While interviewing a guy in a midtown Manhattan office building, the Rodney King riots broke out in CA.  New Yorkers panicked and businesses started to evacuate. There was a mad rush out of the city. We dragged the interviewee with us and continued the interview on packed subway of frightened, fleeing New Yorkers. He got the job.”


The moral of these stories – don’t let them see you sweat.

Regardless of the situation, handle it with grace. Whether the interviewer creates the discomfort or it occurs naturally, show them how professional you can be under pressure. And never order ravioli with red sauce!


Share your interview mishaps in the comments section.

Hey Prof? Should I Shave Before My Interview?

Just in – an early morning email from a student, asking if he should shave before his interview. In case I was on the fence, he included a pre-shave-selfie. I voted for the shave. He agreed and the beard ended up in the sink.  I’m ignoring the fact that this conversation probably occurred while he was in the bathroom.


I’d like nothing more than to provide airtight advice in this blog such as – always shave before an interview. But then I got to thinking.  Is there ever a reason not to shave before an interview?




7.         You’re bald


6.         Your shaven face causes children to scatter


5.         The job entails driving at high speeds away from a bank


 4.        It matches your Abe Lincoln stovepipe hat


 3.        It covers up your Mike Tyson tattoo


 2.        The ad said, “bearded lady wanted”


 1.        You’re Santa!




Thanks to two more of my students (below) who agreed to show off their beards for a shave or not shave vote. Let us know what you think. Should these beards be front and center during an interview??

Need a Teacher Recommendation? – A 10 Step Strategy

I realize it’s difficult to approach a teacher and ask for a recommendation. I’ve outlined 10 easy steps to build a relationship with teachers. Try the steps, in order and see what happens.

1. Your Name is Your Brand

Get on your teacher’s radar with your name. Within the first week of school, make a point of talking to each of your teachers after class. This should take no more than a minute. Do not approach a teacher at the beginning of class – you’ll just annoy them. Wait until the end and and ask a specific question that’s easy to for them to answer.

“Hi Professor, my name is Tom Smith and I have a quick question about the syllabus”

The key here is not to appear frazzled or confused. Be confident. Make sure your hands are free and lead with a handshake. Teachers have hundreds of names to remember. Make your name one of the first 10.

2. Get To Class Early

Most teachers are a minute or two early. If you’re regularly at a desk before the teacher, your face will start to stick out of the crowd – simply because there are fewer faces to compete with. Especially in a large class, a teacher will start to recognize the early birds.

Leave your phone off, lift your head and smile. The only reason you’re there early is to catch the teacher’s attention.

If you arrive late regularly, you also get noticed – for the wrong reasons.

3. Sit In The Front Row

Do not doubt this strategy, just move up.

4. Say Something Smart

The key to this strategy is quality over quantity. Arrive to class prepared, read ahead, make notes and say something worth remembering.

Teachers like students who participate. Teachers love students who are prepared for class and participate. A smart student with meaningful, well-timed comments trumps the chatty student whose hand is always in the up position.

5. Safe Stalking

Find a reason to visit your teacher’s office — more than once a term. The worst thing you can do is show up at a teacher’s office with no previous contact and ask for a recommendation. You might as well cold call them at dinner.

6. Safe Stalking Part II

Remember, this is a multi-month strategy. You now need to follow-up with teachers you stalked last semester. Make a point to visit past teachers. This step is easy and enjoyable because you’ve successfully laid the groundwork in earlier steps.

7. Connect Virtually

Teachers love an audience so give them one. Follow your teachers on Twitter and reach out to them on LinkedIn. Stay away from Facebook –  no good can come of this.

8. Do a Background Check

Find out the schools your teachers attended, companies they worked for and programs they participated in. If you’re lucky, your teacher may be an alumnus of a school or program that interests you.

Your goal here is to make a connection with a professor in hopes of scoring an alumni recommendation.

9. Let Your Grades Do The Talking

If you’ve earned a B+ or better in a class, a teacher would be hard-pressed to deny you a recommendation. Target the teachers where you have achieved success. When you make your request, remind your teacher of your current grade.

“I have an A- in your class and I really enjoy the material. I’d like to ask you for a recommendation.”

10. Author Your Own Story

I’ve saved the best for last. When you approach a teacher for a recommendation, hand them a single page document outlining your achievements.

“I’ve prepared a professional statement so you’ll be familiar with my academic background.”

Congratulations! The last hurdle has been cleared. By handing a teacher your one page summary, you’ve taken the last burden off the teacher. They know you, they like you and they are thrilled you’ve done half the work for them.