Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Advice for Adjunct Faculty: The Teaching Demo

Make Sure You're a Good Fit
At some point during the hiring process, a school will usually schedule a teaching demonstration with a potential faculty candidate.  This teaching demonstration is a great way for the school to find out if the candidate will be a good fit for the school.  That's the tricky part for the faculty candidate, however.  What makes for a "good fit" for one school may not make a "good fit" for another.

The faculty candidate's best bet is to ask the right questions about the teaching demonstration and the school's teaching philosophy ahead of time.

Learning Objectives or Outcomes

Is there a particular learning objective or outcome you'd like me to cover?

The way an objective or outcome is worded can tell you a lot about the school and help guide your teaching demonstration.  For example, broad and general objectives indicate you have a lot of freedom within the classroom when it comes to meeting the broad and general outcome.  There are a lot of ways to get students to "understand basic principles of writing."  However, a detailed objective that covers a very specific action or subtopic may indicate less freedom and a more "lockstep" approach within the classroom.  Instead of having freedom to help students "understand basic principles of writing," you may be asked to help students "complete an annotated bibliography in APA format."

If given a broad outcome, be sure to narrow it down on your own and somehow show within the lesson how the lesson meets the outcome.  If given the more specific objective, be sure to stay within its parameters. Just remember that you want students to be able to do something at the end of the lesson, not just know something.  That may require a step-by-step lesson or a real-time example.  It will certainly require some sort of quick assessment to make sure students are meeting the objective or outcome.  Make sure to plan a complete lesson to meet the given time restraints.

Teaching Philosophy

Do your students in my particular discipline area respond best to curriculum-centered or more learner-centered classes?

In general, a learner-centered approach means the faculty is empowered to reasonably do whatever it takes to make sure the learners understand the material being covered and have proficiency in the basic skills detailed in the learning outcomes or objectives.  Schools that take this approach are often very hands-on, workshop, lab, and project-based.

In general, a curriculum-centered school wants students to understand the material being covered and have proficiency in the basic skills detailed in the learning outcomes or objectives,  but they are also very serious about deadlines and timetables.  These schools are often more lecture-based and there is an expectation that students have the will and ability to self-supplement knowledge on their own if there is something they do not understand.

Class Format

If hired, which class format will I be teaching most often: lectures, discussions, labs, or workshops, or a combination of these?

Because "learner-centered" and "curriculum-centered" are general terms and not terms always used consistently, please be sure sure to also ask for clarity about what type of course format your students might prefer or you might be assigned.


If preparing a lecture, please be sure to add more to the lecture than what is in a particular textbook. Use any visual aids (PowerPoint slides if the classroom is equipped) to add to the information you are delivering instead of repeating it.  Use charts, graphs, and images on slides with appropriate citations. This will help you avoid reading the slides and thus better bring your lecture to life.  (No one wants death by PowerPoint).


Plan a short short lecture, then expect students to contribute to a discussion about the topic.  This is kind of like teaching and assessing and mediating all at the same time.  It's hard, so if you've never done it, try to practice. Be sure to prepare open-ended questions to spark conversation, and create an open but respectful atmosphere for more meaningful conversation.


We think of labs when we think of chemistry classes. A lab is an action-based lesson. However, students must still receive information (knowledge about the topic, the lab, the goals, safety) before the lab begins.  At the end of the lab, they should also get a summary or run-down of what happened in the form of assessment and feedback.  Although you may not be able to complete a lab during a demonstration, you may be able to show a short video or explain a series of images in a slideshow.


A workshop is when a teacher gives students a set of instructions, then allows students to practice a technique or work on a project or assignment during class time.  The teacher is there to assist and guide.  It's a lot like a lab, but we say "workshop" in discipline areas where you'd just be working in a classroom, not a "lab."


The teaching demonstration is an integral part of the interview process for new faculty.  The demonstration is the faculty candidate's opportunity to show how he or she can "fit in" with the other faculty members, the school, and with the expectations of a given student body.  However, all situations can and will be a little different. Candidates should ask a few questions before the demonstration so they know how to prepare effectively.

Want to read more about pedagogy and teaching?  Try

Teaching Advice for New Adjunct Faculty
Flipped Classroom: Before Making Videos
Motivate the WIIFM Student with a Learning Audit Assignment

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

An Example of Satire: "Stallmate in House"

Be a Sweetie and Wipe the Seatie

What's Satire?

Oxford Dictionaries defines satire as follows: "The use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues."

The satirist journalist's purpose or goal, then, is to help heal the wrongs in society by pointing them out.  By bringing awareness to an issue, sometimes with absurdity, satirists can help folks find places where agreement can happen; more specifically, places where people can agree change needs to happen.

Take a look at the following bit of satire.  Do you believe it adheres to the given definition?  What about fulfilling the purpose of pointing to a place where there may be some wrongs that need healing? Where are those places?  What needs to change?

Stallmate in House: Republicans and Democrats Cannot Agree on New "If You Tinkle When You Sprinkle, Be a Sweetie and Wipe the Seatie" Bill

Louisa Hilke was only 12 years old the first time she fell victim to sprinkle in a public restroom. Jackie Spinoza was only 6.  It was her first day in the first grade.  Now are both well into their 40's, but the experience left them shaken and determined to end public restroom sprinkle.

"There's just no reason for sprinkle in public restrooms," Hilke states firmly as she sips on an espresso during our interview.  "Why should we have to worry about our pants getting wet or try to do that weird squaty-thing over the bowl?  It's just not right."

Nodding at Spinoza, Hilke continues, "A few years ago I met Jackie, and we agreed on this issue. Firmly.  So, we started a petition, and our politicians noticed."

"Finally," Spinoza adds.

Finally, indeed.

Hilke and Spinoza were not the first to act.  The first petition was signed by 678 women in 1790 in Philadelphia.  The second was left on the doorstep to New York City Hall in 1830.  It had been signed by 1290 women.  A third was submitted to Governor Schwarzenegger in 2009.  It had been signed by 45,000 women and men.   Hilke and Spinoza's petition is the fourth.

After the petition was signed, liked, and commented on by 67,000 social media users, the two women phoned their representative, and he said they were right and there should be a law. He then wrote out a draft and introduced it to a congressional committee.  According to an expert we found sitting on the steps outside Capitol Hill, who identified himself as "Just Bill," most bills never even get into committee, so this bill should consider itself lucky.

However, here is where the story turns: Democrats and Republicans cannot agree on key points of the bill, referred to as the "If You Sprinkle When You Tinkle, Be a Sweetie and Wipe the Seatie" bill.
An anonymous representative claims the bill would simply cost taxpayers too much money.  A second states it would cost business owners too much money.  Another believes the bill doesn't go far enough to punish wrong-doers.  Still a fourth anonymous representative asks rhetorically when interviewed, "If the executive branch isn't going to bother to enforce the sprinkle laws we have already passed, what makes these guys think he'll bother to enforce new laws?"  When each is asked why he wants to remain anonymous, each exhibits signs of slight discomfort.

What do Hilke and Spinoza think of these issues?  "If it's meant to be, it's meant to be," says Hilke, speaking again for both women.  "I mean, I exercise and all, but my legs get all shaky when I do that squaty-thing, and if I get some sort of disease from sprinkle, which is no laughing matter, I'll sue somebody -  law or not."

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.
Originally published Jan 31, 2013 by Amy Lynn Hess.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

How to Use Beautiful Buttons

Homemade Porcelain Buttons

Maybe you've seen them at yard sales, online, or in your favorite craft store; beautiful, handmade buttons. Here are suggestions about how to use them.

Although handmade ceramic, wooden, shell, bone, or metal buttons look beautiful on garments, there are so many more ways to include them in your daily look or household style. In fact, according to Diana Hefti, who writes thoroughly about buttons on the Buttons Group page for the World Collectors web site, buttons were first used during the Bronze Age, although at the time they were merely for decoration. Buttons were not even used as clothing fasteners until pins went out of style in the 1200's.

From fashion to art to interior decorating, there is a use for every button you collect - and the opportunity to collect is limitless.

Using Buttons for Jewelry & Accessories

As our prehistoric ancestors knew, buttons make beautiful jewelry. Findings, such as brooch backs, necklace and bracelet clasps, and earring and ring findings, can be purchased at most craft stores, either in-store or online. With a button the right size and color, the potential for making jewelry is limitless. With "O" rings, buttons can also be used between beads and as the main focal point for necklaces and bracelets.

As for accessories, buttons can be sewed to or pinned to hair ties, headbands, barrettes, belts, scarves, purses and backpacks, and even used as shoe clips to liven up a pair of pumps or ballet flats.

Buttons as Crafts & Household Decor

Some of the most original uses for buttons are also the most artistic. For example, buttons can be used in a collage, diorama, or even as a part of a larger collection for display. Entomological display cases can be filled with butterfly buttons instead of real butterflies, or buttons can be arranged by color to create new and original mosaic artwork.

Buttons can also be used to create original lampshades, trivets, candle holders, mirrors and photo frames, message centers, mobiles, wind chimes, or even to fill a lovely vase or jar. Small buttons can also be used to decorate handmade cards and within the pages of special albums or scrapbooks. Because they are lightweight, they can either be stitched to items or glued to items with most household or craft glues.

Upcycle Clothing and Linens Using Buttons

With a few well-chosen buttons, items from thrift stores or clothing swaps can also be up-cycled, with little to no skills in sewing. Have you ever had a blazer or sweater in your closet that stayed unworn, season after season? Why not give it a new look by adding new buttons that say a little something about your personal style and personality? Not only can this trick be used to up-cycle those blazers and sweaters that sit in your closet, but also shirts, vests, skirts, dresses, and items that don't even necessarily need button fasteners. This includes pillowcases, tablecloths, placemats, napkins, towels, throws, and chair covers.

As said, buttons have been around for a long time. Not only can they be used for keeping your clothes on, "Buttons can be enjoyed as a bit of history, or a piece of art, or both" (Hefti, n.d.).


Hefti, D. (n.d.) Buttons. Retrieved Sept. 15, 2012 from http://www.worldcollectorsnet.com/ features /buttons

Want to read more about arts and crafts? Try

Which Weaving Lom is Best for Beginners?
Lion Brand Yarn Ergonomic Crochet Hook Set
Make a Celtic Tatting Shuttle

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The "Reading Log" College English Composition Assignment

Keeping a journal of critical and personal reactions to literature can help a student study his or her own way of thinking.  

In order to facilitate thoughtful journal entries, faculty members can create journal prompts and hold students to a set of low-stakes standards.  The following are three literary journal prompts and accompanying responses. In my courses, I call these "Reading Logs."

Literary Theory and Interpretation: "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker 

Please tell me what "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker means to you.  Practice your theoretical interpretation skills.  Is there a moral lesson to be learned?  Is this story about culture or socioeconomics?  Is this a story related to the tenets of feminism?  Is it about family or personal psychology?  Pick only one approach to discuss. Check your syllabus for a due date, and be sure to check your response using the following checklist:

Quick Reading Log Checklist

1. Did you meet the 150 minimum word count and place it in parenthesis next to your
2. original title, centered, and in title case at the top of the post?
3. Are all quotations in quotation marks and cited in-text in MLA or APA style?
4. Did you run your post through Grammarly and correct all errors?
5. Did you underline your original thesis or topic sentence
6. and use moments or lines from the reading to support that main idea?

Here is an example that utilizes the moral approach.  Notice the response points out the choices made by the author, not just the characters:

Living History (240)

At the end of “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker (1973, p. 109), Dee and Maggie’s mother must decide which daughter will keep her heirloom quilts.  Each daughter represents conflicting values, and the mother must decide which value to uphold.  Walker uses that construct to help teach the reader a life lesson.  In the end, Walker teaches us that living artifacts are to be valued beyond archival novelties when she chooses to write the mother giving the quilts to Maggie.

On the one hand, the quilts have been promised to Maggie, who will put the quilts to use and give the objects the dignity of being used for what they were made to do.  On the other hand, her daughter Dee wants to preserve her personal heritage by preserving the quilts.   However, Walker nicely sets up earlier in the story that Dee is less concerned with her true heritage (not knowing the name of the relative who made the dasher, for example), and more concerned with the appearance of appreciation. While Maggie “lives” the family’s history, Dee looks at it as though a stranger.  The mother must decide whether or not she wants the items to be living artifacts put to use by Maggie, or dead, “museum” artifacts preserved by the stranger, Dee.  In the end, Walker teaches us that living artifacts are to be valued beyond archival novelties when she chooses to write the mother giving the quilts to Maggie.

Argumentation and Outside Research: "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien

Check your syllabus for the due date!  Following is a sample entry that cites outside research in APA format.  Notice the first sentence; this is the thesis statement.  It makes an argument about the story. The rest of this short essay supports the thesis statement with evidence from the story, reasoned argument, and outside research.  Again, be sure to check your response using the Quick Reading Log Checklist.

Distant Time and Place (360)

In the short story “The Things They Carried”  by Tim O'Brien (1986, p. 150), O’Brien crosses his reality with fictional elements to create a story that can touch any reader.  Though a very “close” memory for those who were a part of the time, and even “closer” for those who were a part of the place, the story evokes only memories of memories and depictions of descriptions for those of us who were not in Vietnam or part of the conflict at home.  The question, then, for a writer like O’Brien is how to make the memory real for readers separated from the setting by both time and place.  O’Brien does a fantastic job solving that problem.  Because the story is based on memory, he uses an episodic structure that evokes the feeling of memory.  Because he was there, he has been able to reconstruct for us an experience shaped as a story.  He tells us Vietnam can never seem real because it no longer exists as it did.  The truth is that it is now a distant place from a distant time.  It is a memory.

When Jill Taft-Kaufman wrote and directed a stage adaptation of the complete novel The Things They Carried (the novel) for the stage, she knew the actors involved in the production were too young to have been in Vietnam.  However, she invited fathers, uncles, and friends who had been soldiers during that time and asked them to speak to the cast and crew (Taft-Kaufman, 2000, p. 28).  Some of the veterans volunteered, while others had to be asked several times to speak (p. 29).  Hearing the true stories of the veterans helped the students become more knowledgeable about the truth of their memories, because no matter the length of the true stories, the students still had not been there.  As the student cast was reminded by a veteran named Frank at a rehearsal for the play, “One could control stories, not the vicissitudes of war” (p. 31).  


Taft-Kaufman, J. (2000). How to tell a true war story: The dramaturgy and staging of narrative theatre. Theatre Topics, 10(1), 17-38.

Poetry Form and Function: "Harlem" by Langston Hughes

For short stories, we were pointing out a line and explaining its importance to the meaning of the story, or we were utilizing a literary approach to find meaning and theme.  For poems, let's add another layer.  Please point out something the poet has done within the poem (name or describe the technique) that helps you come to a conclusion about the meaning of the poem.  Then, cite an example of that technique within the text of the poem.  Be sure to clearly state your interpretation of the poem.   In this way you will be stating how the form of the poem contributes to its function, or meaning.

Please notice how  the following example refers to specific lines and line numbers within the poem to support the writer's ideas. This post discusses the juxtaposition of concrete imagery.  Take notice of the phrase in the thesis, “Hughes uses . . . .”

Choices and Reactions (194)

Langston Hughes’s poem, “Harlem” (1951, p. 634), makes me remember a lesson my grandmother taught me as a child: The choices we make in life (or behaviors we exhibit) sometimes cause reactions we may or may not expect (like a swat on the behind).  In this poem, Hughes uses a juxtaposition of concrete imagery to discuss a dreamer’s choice to defer an action, a dream.

Of course, the lesson’s delivery in “Harlem” is much more mature a discussion than my example. Hughes depicts reactions in very visceral ways, some pleasant, and other repugnant.  For example, some “dreams deferred” (p. 634, line 1) become “sores” (p. 634, line 4), and others become a “sweet” (p. 634, line 8).  It makes me wonder if the difference in reactions stems from the dreamer’s personality, the dreamer’s particular dream, or simply the dreamer’s choices: to pursue or not to pursue.  In the definition of “defer,” I find my answer: It’s the dreamer’s choice to not act, or to ignore, his or her dream.   This poem uses concrete imagery to issue a warning to all dreamers to beware dreams that are not pursued, and therefore beware dreamers too, who choose to ignore dreams.


An effective approach for students studying literature is for those students to keep a literary journal. This "Reading Log" will not only document students' required reading for the course, but it offers students a place to record impressions of, responses to, and reflections on assigned short stories and poems at the conclusion of each reading. Furthermore, this type of journal provides students with a place to complete low-stakes writing, experimentation with critical approaches, and analysis and provides students with a reservoir of ideas to use for class discussion throughout the course.  

Want to read more about pedagogy and composition? Try

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.