Move Over Honey Boo Boo – Here Comes The Student With No Filter





 

I secretly love when students innocently admit outrageous stuff to me that falls so far into the ‘Too Much Information” category that my jaw hits the podium.  As in –-“No, I didn’t get engaged. I only wear this ring so guys don’t hit on me when I’m stripping.” (True story).

 

What I love even more is when students then seek my advice on these insanely personal topics.  As in –“So you think it looks like a real diamond?” (Again, true story and yes, it did look real.) It’s these sidebar conversations that leave me somewhat speechless, yet yearning for more. Over the years, I’ve mentally collected some of my favorites which I’m posting here. 

 

My TOP 5 “Too Much
Information” Winners

 

#5 TMI

 

“I stole my mother’s credit card and booked a trip to Mexico. Do think she’ll be mad at me when I get back?”

 

#4 TMI

 

“After class I’m going with a friend to pick up her friend from jail. Then we are driving to Florida to party for the weekend. Do you think this is a bad idea?”

 

#3 TMI

 

“We were our way back from a party this weekend when we got a flat. We stole a set of better tires off a parked car and replaced all four with
our tires. We also left them our spare. Do you think what we did was illegal?”

 

#2 TMI

 

“I’m in the county detention center.  Would it be a problem to bring the final exam to me? I’ll tell you all about it when you get here. Okay?”

 

#1 TMI

 

“I got involved in a pyramid scheme. Now I owe some guys some money. Do you think this will be a problem for me?”

 

Admit it – this is some good stuff but I’m not sure it’s normal for a teacher to look forward to these student admissions.  Is it possible I’m living vicariously through my students’ reality television lives because I’ve got nothing going on in my own life?

 

Bingo! Truth be told, my summers are so endlessly boring that I’ve been forced to fill in with Honey Boo Boo until I can get back to my
students’ true-life dilemmas. Why? Because it makes me feel like I’m needed. On some level, I think students tell teachers personal things because they are looking for some level headed advice which I am more than happy to provide — and, I did in all the scenarios above. Case in point — “I really love your ring but maybe you should come by my office and we’ll explore internship opportunities instead.”

Here’s to the Fall 2013 semester. I can’t wait.

 

 

 

 

Dear NY Times, Stop Stealing My Material

This is the second time in the last few months the New York
Times has used my blog as a source of information without proper citation. I
have zero evidence to support this claim so I’ll have to quietly pat myself on
the back as I once again insist — “It was my scoop first!”

 

I’m referring to Sunday July 20th’s Business Day
cover page – “Unusual Programs Link Student Loans to Future Earning” – a
balanced piece on education companies that invest in the future earnings of
students.

 

If you are a college student or the parent of a college
student, this new model of funding education and entrepreneurial efforts is
worth investigating. So for the betterment of all (and despite my lingering
bitterness toward the NY Times), I’m providing the links here and hope you’ll
forward to friends.

 

And don’t forget about the post that started it all
“Teachers Take the Stand in Your Defense, 7/13, by Deirdre Verne). 

 

Pave.com

smartn.me

NY Times – Program Links Loans to Future Earnings

 

If you’ve had experience with these companies, please post
here.

 

White Teacher Guilt & The Zimmerman/Martin Case



The nice thing about blogging is you work for yourself. Since I’m not planning on firing my sole employee (me), I’m going to say exactly what I think about the Zimmerman case.

Juror B37 is a racist and she doesn’t know it. That’s the problem with racism. It’s inextricably ingrained in our day-to-day existence. So much so that we forget to doubt our interpretation of the world to the point where we actually believe what we are saying is reality – and that that reality is the same for all of us.

My biggest fear is that 50 years from now an anthropologist will do a study on racism in schools and discover my grades were correlated with the race of my students.  And I,
unwittingly, a super white teacher, will have no idea my actions were colored by my singular view of the universe.  Or conversely, maybe all these years I’ve been over compensating by inflating grades based on race, gender, age etc.  Either way, I’d be guilty of something.

It occurred to me, in this vast world of ‘all-things-computerized’, do we need to wait for an anthropologist to study the impact of racism on grades? Can’t schools churn out reports designed to spot race-skewed grading – like yesterday? You know you’ve circled the bubbles below about a million times at your school.

Let’s play this scenario out. If grades are positively correlated with career success and negatively correlated with race, we’ve got a socio-economic crisis on our hands.

If you feel race has had an impact (positive or negative) on your final grade, please comment here.  If you feel that I’ve unfairly graded you because of your race, stop by my office. I’m probably there right now with a wad of tissues drowning in my white teacher guilt and praying I’m not Juror B37.

Can I Get A Witness? – Teachers takes the stand in your defense.





 

Hold still and look straight at me while I stamp a dollar sign on your forehead. Perfect – you are worth it! At least that’s what companies like Pave.com and Smartn.me believe. These sites have a new twist on funding education where you (the student) can be bought like a share of Facebook.

 

Investors take a chance on you and plow cash into your education in return for a percent of your future income. That’s right – complete strangers take a risk on your career trajectory, funding your education and taking piece of your income when it starts to trickle in.

 

I like this scenario but I wonder what role the teacher assumes in this model. If I invested in a student, I’d want to dig into their student behavior. I guess that would make me (the teacher), your star witness.

 

I take the stand in your defense.

 

“Professor Verne, does Alex attend classes regularly?”

 

“I just love Alex. What a wonderful student.”

 

“A yes or no will do. Does Alex attend classes regularly?”

 “Yes…you could say that.”

 

 “But would you say that?”

 

“I’d say Alex attends as regularly as the rest of the class.”

 

“What’s the average rate of attendance during a semester.”

 

 “Well, it is college. Attendance is somewhat voluntary.”

 

 “So 70% attendance is average?”

 

  “That sounds about right.”

 

  “And Alex is at the average?”

 

  “More or less.”

 

 “How much less?”

“Just a tad.”

“So can we agree that Alexandra attends class about 60% of the time?

“Wait, I have an Alexandra in my class? I thought you said his name was Alex. Isn’t he the one with the baseball cap?”

 

 

Sorry – I was nervous. They twisted my words and then the dog ate my notes.

 

Got a comment on the potential of your future vs. the cost of the investment? Are you worth it? Post a dollar number here. I’m worth …….

 

Confessions of a Cynical Professor – 10 Things Teachers Say… and what I’m really thinking.

In graduate school a highly respected professor called me in his office. His face was strained and although I was more than passing his class, I figured this was not going to end well.

 
“You are the most cynical student I have ever had in class,” he said.
 
“Thanks!”  I replied as I skipped out of his office.  And I really meant it. 
 
I am cynical. I ask a lot of questions and I cast doubt as generously as a pixie spreading fairy dust. Over the years, I’ve learned to contain some of that doubt in my air bubble. But as we all know, the bubble has a tendency to burst – and this time it’s exploding on my peers, my fellow teachers.
 
This post is for all the positive, optimistic teachers who have unwittingly provided a backdrop for my cynical commentary. Truth be told, your rosy eyed views keep me in check.
 
10 THINGS TEACHERS SAY AND WHAT I’M REALLY THINKING
 
Teacher      “I’ve never had a student I didn’t love.”
AirBubble  “Consider taking half your pill dosage.”
 
Teacher       “I change all my tests every semester.”
AirBubble   “Of course you do. We all do.”
 
Teacher       “My students are my children.”
AirBubble   “The registrar will happily forward their tuition bills to your home address.”
 
Teacher       “Every student has potential.”
AirBubble   “Absolutely! Grades should be replaced by Barney stickers.”
 
Teacher       “100% of my students rate me as ‘very favorable’.”
AirBubble   “You’re amazing. Can I touch you?”
 
Teacher       “Teaching keeps me young.”
AirBubble    “#thatsnotwhattheythink
 
Teacher       “Why are they texting in class?”
AirBubble   “We’re boring.”
 
Teacher        “They think Wikipedia is a valid source.”
AirBubble    “I hope my blog becomes so popular it will merit a Wikipedia entry.”
 
Teacher        “I am soooo busy.”
AirBubble    “You realize you get to decide how many assignments and the due dates?”
 
Teacher        “My students inspire me.”
AirBubble    “Can I have the other half of your pill?”
 
Lesson Learned – if you are a cynical student you’ll probably grow up to be a cynical adult. Try and have a sense of humor at your own expense. I find it lightens the load.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

I’ve Got Cheatin’ on my Mind




I’m following up on a recent comment that mentioned how a student got caught cheating in a History class.

Could there be anything more satisfying to both a teacher and students than calling out a cheater during an exam? The whole class freezes. A stunned silence envelopes the room. “We knew it,” the class cheers under their breath as the guilty party is hauled away.

This scenario has never happened in my classroom. That’s right – I’ve never stopped a student from taking an exam even if the student is cheating. Considering that my only job function during an exam is to proctor  – i.e. prevent cheating, it appears that I’ve failed miserably in my duties.

So what’s going on in my air bubble that I would allow such behavior? Just so you know, I’m mentally losing it when I see a student cheating. There’s a lot of bad words floating around in the bubble. I’m seething inside but I’ve got the self-control of former Olympian and Kardashian punching bag, Bruce Jenner (how is that guy not losing it every episode?).

My goal during an exam is to create a quiet, distraction free environment enabling the class to maximize their performance. Upending a classroom for one unethical student doesn’t seem fair because I know I can handle the cheating after the test.

If I cause a commotion during the test, it will allow ‘marginal cheaters’ to take advantage of the situation. Case in point – when one person sneezes during an exam, why does the entire class have to lift their heads and say ‘bless you’?  This sudden outpouring of peer concern has always seemed more like an opportunity to sneak a peek.

Here is how I handle cheating. During the course of the semester, I watch body language and I keep a mental tally of how students position themselves during exams. (If you never move a muscle during a test, I love you! You’re off my radar in a about 3 seconds.)

I try to keep a tab on body shifters – restless students. If I say  ‘eyes on your own paper’, I’m narrowing in on a particular student.

Instead of talking to the cheating student, I’ll often ask the surrounding students to cover their paper. I’ve even passed notes to better students that say – “someone is looking at your test answers, please cover”.

After every test, I compare test answers based on where students sit. I also look at large variations in test scores over the course of the semester. Let’s just say, cheating can be covered amply in the calculation of a final grade. Since I’ve never had a student dispute a final grade, I’m guessing they know that I know.

Have I ever let one slip away? Yes, but the guy minding the pearly gates has my back.

A Summer Movie Assignment – See The Internship





 

Please see the highly rated, star-studded feature film, The Internship. See it simply because it validates the conversation we’ve been having on my low rated, star-free blog.  Will Ferrell’s career killer neck tattoo is not to be missed. It’s also a topic covered thoroughly on
the AirBubble blog (Mystery Markings 4/25/13).

 

In between genuine bouts of laughter watching Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson bul**** their way into a Google internship, you’ll learn about making your own opportunities, building a skill set and being nice to people. We all know I got my hand slapped when I wasn’t so nice to students (Rate My Professors Reality, 6/10/13)

 

Here’s what I learned from the movie. Don’t bring your 13 year-old son because the pole dancing bar scene never ends.  On the upside, I learned that Google employees call themselves “Googlers”.  I’d like to take this opportunity to build community by calling my AirBubble blog readers “Bubblers.”

 

So for all you Bubblers out there, please post a comment about the movie. I’m so confident you’ll enjoy The Internship, I’ll stop calling you Bubblers if more than 20 people post a comment about the movie.

Career Cake – A Tip for College Job Seekers




How about a nice thick slice of Career Cake? Before you dig in, consider this tip for first time job seekers.

 

Start
Reading Job Postings On An Empty Stomach

 

 

When you’re hungry enough, you’ll follow this rule. Make it a habit to read job postings regularly in your preferred industry with a focus on the skill sets required. 

 

Companies pay for job ads – often, by the word. As a result, the hiring manager has carefully chosen the exact words to attract the candidates with the right skills.

 

Your job is to identify the common skill set in your area of interest before you start applying. Then, acquire those skills and highlight the skills on your resume. You may be highly intelligent, extraordinarily charming and an all-around good person but if you don’t possess the skill set in the job posting, you won’t be of interest to the company.

 

In most cases, you’ll be shocked by how many skills you don’t have causing an immediate loss of appetite. Makes you wonder what we’re serving in college. Here’s a skill set for an Advertising job I pulled off Monster.com that even made me reach for the TUMS.

 

“Ability to analyze post
click tracking solutions for acquisition measurement using current agency 3rd
party ad servers.”

 

I’m nauseous already, and I have a job. Anyway, don’t panic. And don’t scream, “Let them eat cake!” – but do get creative.

 

If the ad says, “Ability to reconcile quarterly budgets”

You say (havingworked at McDonald’s), “Reconciled cash register receipts at close of business
day.”

 

At the least, it shows you have some experience with money thus making it easier for the company to train you for financially oriented jobs.

 

A final note – remember the kid with the runny nose and the thick glasses you avoided in grade school. Remember how he could build an entire Lego universe with moving parts? He’s probably an engineer in Silicon Valley with enough money for contact lenses and regular allergy shots.  That kid had skills. Find your version of a Lego set and start working the skill set that will get your resume noticed. And then find that kid on LinkedIn and see if he knows of a job opening at his company.

This blog is targeted to college students – if you like the advice I’m giving, share with your friends. If you’d like more advice on careers, just ask.

 

Rate My Professors Reality




“Stay Away!”

This is my favorite Rate My Professors comment. What? Do I smell? Am I so disfigured a mere glimpse of my human form causes blindness?

At the end of every semester I like to check my comments just to confirm I am not the teacher from the black lagoon. Although the general consensus would confirm that in fact, I’m not a hunched ogre with a pen that bleeds real blood, I did experience a hiccup during the 2005 school year.

The source of the problem came to me pretty quickly. This is about the time I started teaching on-line classes and what a heady and intoxicating experience it was.  Roll back the clock to 2005 and imagine – class face time was being abolished, students were transformed into anonymous numbers and I had been granted a new super power – the unbridled use of the electronic NO.

            “Prof, I’m contacting you at 11:59pm to ask for an extension.”

            “NO”

            “Prof, my computer crashed.”

            “NO”

            “Prof, my grandmother died”

            “NO”

            “I hate you. You’re the worst teacher ever.”

            “NO”

            “This is great,” I yell to my husband as I sit in my home office in my pajamas. “I keep typing ‘NO” and they just go away.” Apparently, they don’t go away. They go directly to Ratemyprofessors.com and tell others to Stay Away!

One student in 2005 commented. “Learned nothing.” I beg to differ. You learned how to use Ratemyprofessors.com.Here’s the deal. In a large in-person class, we may barely interact on a personal level but I still know you. I recognize you even when you stare through me as we pass on campus. This makes it incredibly hard and emotionally draining to say no to your face despite the fact that we both know the excuse is half-baked. Hence my propensity to just say yes.

            Do I still use my “NO” super powers on-line? I do, but I’m getting really good at couching it in a short paragraph that avoids the “N” and the “O” next to each other. One highlight from my teaching experience,  once an on-line student materialized at my office door to ask for an extension in-person. Hallelujah! I have no idea what the student asked for – I was just so happy the image wasn’t an avatar, I said “YES”.

            If you’d like to comment on the on-line classroom experience vs a traditional experience, type away!

Graduation Gowner and The Meaning of a Diploma




           13 graduations ceremonies x 4 hours each x 1 graduation gown

Holy cow, I’ve been wearing this gown for 52 hours and it’s never been washed. This is what I’m pondering two hours into my 13th graduation ceremony. I can’t help it. I’m bored and I’ve read the list of
graduates so many times I’ve committed every name to memory – even the names I can’t pronounce.  Since I’m fairly resourceful, I invent a game of finding students whose first and last names begin with the same letter. Just as I make my way to the “L’s” – as in Lin Li,  I get a tap on the shoulder.

“What do you do if you have to go to the bathroom?”  It’s one of my students sporting a perfectly clean graduation gown.

 “I usually go to the bathroom but I’m weird that way,” I answer.

That response stayed in my head but I felt my AirBubble about to burst.

           

“You should go to the bathroom,” I advise solemnly and he does. This exchange got me thinking which is good because I’d already mastered my name matching game and I
needed another diversion.

“What does a diploma mean?” I ask myself as the row of graduates behind me stands to make way for my student.  Then, I quickly run
another mental calculation.

1000 graduates x 1000 Poland Spring Water bottles

By my rough estimate at least 50% of the graduates have the same question as my
student.  So what does a diploma mean? It means you no longer have to ask permission to use the facilities.

            Hats off to the Class of 2013!