Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Hannukah party - final exams and grading way too many papers......

Last evening I attended an annual Hanukkah party at the home of my colleagues Ron and Naomi - it is always a wonderful event and not just because Ron makes the best latkes I have ever tasted. It is a gathering of good friends - many of whom work here at Saint Michael's College and some of whom are their neighbors. It is a luxury at this time of year to be able to gather socially with friends and colleagues and while we attemptto keep the conversation away from our students and/or our teaching, it is inevitable that we talk about the semester. For me the highlight (in addition to the latkes :)) was the shared reading of a children's story by most of us gathered there - after the lighting of the candles on their menorah by Ron and a couple of the children who were there, we all gathered in the living room for the reading of a children's story and as Naomi so wisely pointed out - "most children's stories are really for adults" Ron and Naomi's son Ari is our assistant men's basketball coach and someone I admire and respect greatly. I have also known him for most of his life and to see what a wonderful young man he has become is also one of those "perks" of working at SMC.

This IS exam week and while students all stress over our exams they often don't realize that we want them to do as well as they want to do themselves. Grading is perhaps the one thing that most of us don't like - while it is a necessary evil it is always difficult to gradestudents on what they have learned over the course of a semester. Perhaps I am jaded as I no longer have underclass students in any of my classes since I teach all upper-level courses but having watched my students grow and mature over a semester it is hard to place a letter grade on their accomplishments. With 16 students out in the community for my Practicum course, I am getting their site supervisors' evaluations and am pleased to see that my evaluations or these young people is reinforced by the comments and observations of their site supervisors. I asked my Theories class to provide me with a final paper in which they spell out the five most important things that they have learned over this semester about the field of counseling. Those papers are amazing as their insights into their own growth is very rewarding after a difficult and intense semester together. The final papers for Sports Psychology have also been submitted and now I am going to be reading their journal entries - I was NOT aware until three of them approached me that my assignment to "submit journal responses to all of the articles I post in eCollege" meant that they had to complete 32 responses - hummmm somehow I had simply lost track of the reality that I had, over the course of this semester, posted 32 different articles which pertained to the connection between sports and psychology. I quickly apologized and told them that they only needed to do 10. They were very grateful and those (few) who had already done many more were even more grateful when I told them that THEY would all get extra credit if they had already completed more than the NOW required 10. Being flexible in this age of technology is essential. :)

On Friday as I was driving from my home to campus I drove past the back of the Burlington Airport and watched as the soldiers of our Vermont National Guard filed out of the hanger into a waiting 747 which was to take them to Indiana for some final training prior to their deployment to Afghanistan. 1,500 Vermont men and women will NOT be home for the holidays with their families - they will either already be in Afghanistan or on their way - so once again, I ask that we all please keep all of our soldiers and their families and all of our veterans and their families in our thoughts and prayers at this time of year.

Take good care - enjoy Christmas or Hanukkah and be well - my posts to this blog will most likely resume in January


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The joy of teaching......

While there are many "joys" of teaching, re-connecting with former students AND hearing good things about current students constitute one of the great joys of my teaching. On Thanksgiving morning I went kayaking at Indianbrook Reservoir in nearby Essex and as I was putting my kayak in I heard "I know you" and there was Katie Spinner and her husband, Mom and Dad and brother PLUS two dogs. I haven't seen her in a couple of years and remember writing her a letter of recommendation for graduate school. She and her husband are now living in New Hampshire where she is a school counselor - it was so good to see her again and her family. On Monday I received an email from Vinnie D'Angelo who graduated in 1985 - he was going to be in Burlington on business and wondered if we could get together for dinner. It was a spur of the moment thing but Vinnie is a wonderful person and he and his wife Mary and their kids live in New Jersey so I don't get to see him very often. I ended up going to the Burlington Airport and picking Vinnie and a business colleague up and we all went to Winooski for dinner at Papa Frank's - a favorite dining place when Vinnie was here 25 years ago. It was good to catch up with him and he mentioned that his sister Ann who is also an SMC alum had been in NJ for their Thanksgiving. Vinnie was the President of our Student Association and then Ann was Vice-President (Pat Gallivan was President when Ann was VP) and since I am still the faculty advisor for our current Student Association it was fun to make some comparisons. Last night I missed a call from Brian Ritchie who was also in the area on business and we usually get together for dinner when he comes to town but last night I wasn't able to due to prior commitments. Three other members of the Class of '85 were recently on campus making a YouTube video to promote their 25th Reunion which is this coming summer - Dennis, Deidre and Pam created quite a stir and made an amazing video as they made their way around campus re-connecting with many of us - I suspect that the video alone will encourage many of their classmates to return here for their reunion this summer.

My classes are going well as we wind down the semester. Practicum students have to provide their supervisors (I have 16 senior psychology majors out in the local community for 8 - 10 hours a week) with an evaluation form which I will use to help me in determining their grade for this semester. This is a two semester course and these students are in class with me for 2.5 hours once a week. I received the following email yesterday from one of the supervisors of two of my students:

"My name is Kristen Flanders and I am a special educator at the JFK elementary alternative program. I have two of your students, Tatyana Maklina and Crystal Bissett. While completing their evaluations, I wanted to send you a note just expressing how wonderful they have been. I have been very impressed with both interns, they go above and beyond tasks that are asked of them. I will submit their evaluations to the interns this week but I just wanted to let you know that it has been a great experience and beneficial to my students having them!" - now, neither Tanya nor Crystal know about this email (yet) but it is this type of unsolicited praise for our students that makes it all worthwhile. All of my students are working hard at establishing themselves in their intern sites which range from this elementary school to an in-patient drug/alcohol treatment program - it truly IS a joy to work with these students.

I also reminded all of my students to remember that while they were home having a Thanksgiving celebration with their families they were also most likely going to bring some "germs" back with them and so advised them to continue to take the precautions we have been talking about all semester - we still have some students coming down with H1N1 and I am glad that we have all been asked by our Vice President for Acacemic Affairs Karen Talentino to keep this in mind when we calculate grades when attendance is a factor. I spoke with a young woman who attends another college in NH and she has had the flu twice this semester and has received NO support nor assistance from her college about this issue - in addition to being sick for an extended length of time she also has had to "justify" her classroom absences - I told her what we do at SMC and she was saddened that her college doesn't do the same.

As the President spoke last night about the upcoming increase in our military presence in Afghanistan I was struck by the number of comments I have received from readers of this blog about my endings of each blog where I ask for YOUR thoughts and prayers for our soldiers - I WILL continue asking for that - please keep them ALL in your thoughts and prayers...................

take care and be well