Sunday, August 17, 2008

New Blog

Our department’s new blog is now located at this URL: It will also be linked from the “Staff Only” section of our dept. web site.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Have You Contributed Yet?

This blog is being retired. A new blog for our dept. is being created in time for the new school year. The new blog will continue to seek dept.-related stories, questions, and comments. By you. Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Part-Time Faculty Loads

Did you know that the new contract between PFF and the District has revised the language regarding part-time faculty loads?

The old contract has this article (on p. 4 of this linked file):

4.1.9 A part-time faculty member’s assignment may include day, evening and/or weekend work, and work at more than one (1) location. The assignment is determined by the Dean, or first level educational administrator to whom the faculty member reports, in consultation with the Department Chair and with reasonable input by the faculty member. There shall be no rule or arbitrary practice that prevents any part-time faculty from receiving an average of a sixty percent (60%) load. In no instance will a part-time faculty member be allowed to exceed sixty percent (60%) of a full-time teaching load during a single academic year.
The new contact, on the other hand, has Article 4.1.11, which is on p. 3 and p. 4 of this linked file. The revised language contains these critical changes:

  1. No load can exceed 67% in any single semester.
  2. Any single-semester load exceeding 60% requires a one-year temporary contract.
  3. A load exceeding 60% in a single semester must load-average to be no more than 60% for the academic year.
  4. Over 3 academic years, only 2 semesters can exceed 60%.
As dept. chair, I have been instructed to examine part-time faculty loads that fall into these categories and make adjustments now.

The implementation of our new contract in this regard may cause problems for both the impacted faculty and the departments that have adjunct faculty who regularly teach above 60% one semester and below 60% the next to average out at 60% for the year.

One thing that remains unclear to me is whether or not the newly passed AB 591 state legislation would necessitate a renegotiation of Article 4.1.11 of our new contract. The new state law redefines a part-time community college instructor as teaching no more than 67%, as opposed to the existing 60% threshold.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Collocations: Important But Neglected?

In my opinion and experience, even when grammar is mastered by an ESL learner, expression continues to be a challenge. How can an ESL learner express his or her ideas in a more idiomatic way? What words go with what other words in American English?

Our curriculum typically gives more attention to teaching grammar and the four language skills than to teaching collocates. What then would be an effective way to raise student awareness of English "word friends," besides correcting them one instance at a time? For example, most Spanish-speaking students use "put attention in...," translating directly from their native tongue. Is there a good way to impress upon them that saying "pay attention to" is more idiomatic than "put attention in"?

Concordance programs are basically searching tools to run through a text data base and show the KWIC (key word in context). Here's one such concordancer online: So if you have your students type "put attention" in the "keyword(s)" box and then select a corpus, say "Brown's one million words" before hitting the yellow "Get concordance" button, they will see that there is no such combination. Repeat the same for "pay attention" as keywords, and they will see at least a couple examples pop up.

A better way to have the students discover the collocates would be for them to just input "attention" as the keyword and then try to find out what verb most typically goes with "attention" in English.

There are other ways to use concordances to teach English. This article, though written to advertise an $85, good concordancer called MonoConc, provides a couple suggestions.

Another free online concordance program with three English corpora--two American and one British--is here at

I know in our dept., Lynne Henson, Gary Sosa, and Tracy Fung have been using concordancers in their teaching. I would like to hear them and other colleagues share their specific methods.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

San Marcos PM Teachers Held Event

The afternoon and evening teachers of San Marcos met for their annual summer potluck from 2 to 6 p.m. today at Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort, thanks to a generous arrangement by Angela, who owns a timeshare at the resort.

All but three colleagues in the two General ESL Programs were able to make it. Several brought their family members. As always, the event provided the colleagues with an opportunity to get to know each other better. With the relaxing atmosphere, the scenic location this time, and the delicious dishes everyone brought to share, a good time was had by all.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Call for Presenters

This year's San Diego Regional CATESOL Conference will be at SDSU on Sat. Oct. 18. The conference theme is "Literacy for Life." If you would like to share ideas, lessons, research, and materials for developing literacy skills, please consider presenting them at the conference. Go to to read more details and to submit a proposal online. The deadline for submission is Sept. 8. Summer may actually be an ideal time to get your presentation proposal ready.