Thursday, March 12, 2015

Feeling MUCH better

Hi Readers,

Things are going much better these days. Though Hub did not get either or the jobs he applied for that would have brought us together, he has gotten into the application process, which provides hope.


Last semester's hellish course is going well. I am doing it on my terms, and the students are responding positively. Our interactions are productive and they trust me. Their grades are definitely improving, and I don't go into lecture afraid of them. 

I had a period of anger, depression, hopelessness, helplessness and overall stress... on my way to my "Spring Fall Apart" - a yearly short mental health crisis as I get worn down from the school year.  And then over about 24 hours, I realized that I had a spiritual problem, not really a workload problem (which exacerbates it). I asked myself and God, what am I afraid of? What exactly is is going on in my heart that wears me down so much? I made some half-formed realizations about being afraid of the students, not trusting in myself and God, nothing ever being good enough, being afraid of my colleagues' opinions about me, feeling let down by myself, etc. Somehow, somehow, over about a week, God just released it from me (if I could have done it myself, I would have long ago).


http://hdwallpapers-desktop.com/Random-Wallpapers/imagepages/image45.htm

 
I have regained my confidence, and feel OK about my work. Other things that helped: my sabbatical work is now published and I feel more legitimate as a scientist. Moreover, I submitted a manuscript from my very own lab last week. This kids are so much easier to take care of this year, too. They dress themselves.

Now, I don't have heavy service obligations, nor am I running my lab right now, but I'm going to keep the faith that God will "equip me in every good thing" to keep going (Hebrews).




Friday, January 23, 2015

SQUEE! Hub gets an interview!

I reported that Hub interviewed for a position here in town. He also responded to a request sent to his PI from a colleague at another institution looking for someone exactly like Hub, did PI know anyone who would be willing to apply?

Hub got a skype interview at application #2, a university much closer to the grandparents! I will call it the Four Hour Drive U (4HDU). 4HDU is in a medium-small sized city, bigger than our current city. The schools are good, the nature is beautiful and close. It is quite far away from any major urban centers, unfortunately, but the cost of living is good.


I feel ready for a change. I do like my institution, and majorly good things have been happening, for example, a stunning renovation that makes my workplace 400% better. However,  I recall several spring semester "fall-aparts" indicating that I am working and living above my capacity. I would be happy staying here, but I am amenable to change

A preliminary search on the internet showed nothing for me at 4HDU. It is a relatively large state R01 institution, but does not have any posted openings a professor, instructor, or research associate in my area.

We have decided NOT to make it a non-negotiable dual hire. I was not included in the cover letter. The university's website addresses spousal hires by linking to major employers in the area (giving me the impression they don't have a strong policy).

I have read:
https://chroniclevitae.com/news/224-the-professor-is-in-how-to-score-that-elusive-spousal-hire
http://chronicle.com/article/The-Intricacies-of-Spousal/65456/
https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2014/06/04/essay-what-its-be-spousal-hire-faculty-job
http://theprofessorisin.com/2014/01/03/a-successful-spousal-hire-a-guest-post/
http://academic-jungle.blogspot.com/2010/05/spousal-hiring-reason-you-don-have.html

What other resources of suggestions do you have?


The critical thing here is that one of you gets an offer, and you’re going to damage the chances of that happening if you disclose the spouse prematurely. I know that some disagree with this, but I stick to it. While discrimination based on personal circumstances is not supposed to happen in searches, the fact is, it does happen, and there are occasionally search committees that will reject a candidate early in the game to avoid the hassle of dealing with a spouse. - See more at: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/224-the-professor-is-in-how-to-score-that-elusive-spousal-hire#sthash.rSaHi0uj.dpuf

The critical thing here is that one of you gets an offer, and you’re going to damage the chances of that happening if you disclose the spouse prematurely. I know that some disagree with this, but I stick to it. While discrimination based on personal circumstances is not supposed to happen in searches, the fact is, it does happen, and there are occasionally search committees that will reject a candidate early in the game to avoid the hassle of dealing with a spouse. - See more at: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/224-the-professor-is-in-how-to-score-that-elusive-spousal-hire#sthash.rSaHi0uj.dpuf
The critical thing here is that one of you gets an offer, and you’re going to damage the chances of that happening if you disclose the spouse prematurely. I know that some disagree with this, but I stick to it. While discrimination based on personal circumstances is not supposed to happen in searches, the fact is, it does happen, and there are occasionally search committees that will reject a candidate early in the game to avoid the hassle of dealing with a spouse. - See more at: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/224-the-professor-is-in-how-to-score-that-elusive-spousal-hire#sthash.rSaHi0uj.dpuf

Friday, January 16, 2015

Getting crushed by the popular girl, er, prof.

Well, that was a hellish semester.

There was an evening lab, a semester of entirely new labs, construction in the building, taking over a course for an extremely popular professor and getting lambasted in comparison, widespread cheating in my grad level course, and tumbling from one missed deadline to the next.

The worst was the popular colleague. This feels like junior high, all those social comparison anxieties...




 Popular Prof is young, energetic and extremely capable. She implements all the most recent pedagogical techniques. Her courses are full of blooms taxonomy, metacognition, flipping, case studies, portfolios, POGILs, concept mapping, learning styles assessments, etc. It's extremely complicated and I have no idea how she grades all the components of it let alone prepares her 12-page syllabi explaining all the tasks the the students do. Its all well thought out in advance. Her lectures are clear and kind-sounding, and it just all comes across as so understandable. I also don't understand how she covers all the details in these lectures.

Other colleagues think she's the bees knees, and to top it all off, she just got a sizable research grant.

Oh, junior high insecurity, I so thought I was over you!

When I returned from sabbatical, I felt ready to make a change in my traditional methods. I lecture, and use the books' powerpoints, but I also do a lot of think-pair-share and tons of demos in courses. I have frequent low-stakes quizzes and a few activities. I don't know how to use the clickers, am not entirely convinced that the POGILs really work (weak students blow them off and just text during group time). I sought her advice, and she generously gave it to me (she's not a mean girl), and I tried to implement some of her methods, but they felt awkward and wrong for me.

This was a bit comforting at the time:

http://johnstahlwert.com/2014/10/why-you-need-to-keep-being-you-at-work/

But, then the students we shared LAMBASTED, SCOURED, PILLORIED me on course evaluations, worse even than my first year teaching. They specifically cited my "incompetence" in comparison to Popular Prof.  Reading the course evals caused about 20 hours of darkness, and I am still questioning my career choice. However, I am bouncing back from the darkness, and I can recover mostly, as my evals have been good for years in that exact class. Some of the damage has been done, however, as my chair wants to meet with me regarding my "morale". Apparently comments I made here and there were noticed by the chair, so apparently I set off some red flag (see here for our institutional culture).  

I want to change my classroom style to become more student-centric. I want to learn from Popular Prof's successes, but now I am so overloaded that I don't have the capacity to make a change: no time, no energy, no resources, not intelligent enough to learn new software...on the fly...in short time. I will have to dedicate a summer to it. I will probably need to go to a conference or something to get me going, cause I'm not managing to do it by myself. That will be a nightmare of child care. Oh, well. Stop the whinin', PUI Prof. Just get it done, like the adult you are.

Any baby steps you can suggest?

Oh, PS, my sabbatical work final revision was just sent in today. It should be in press soon. :)

 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

He did it! Hub applied for a job here in town.

Hub applied for a job at the big school here in town. It's hard to tell how competitive he is for the position. I'm impressed by his CV, but they may want another sub-specialty.

He had recently given a talk there, which apparently went very well.

When asking for a letter of reference, Hub's PI suddenly became very apologetic as he realized he had not properly mentored hub for the next stage in his career. He had not assured Hub a stream of publications, primarily because they have one big project which has taken years and years to get ready. There are lots of abstracts but no official publication. The project will probably go *CNS, though.

Send us your good luck wishes. Our two body solution could be nigh. Or not.

*CNS = Cell, Nature, Science. High impact journals.

Good advocate, you!

My response to a student who couldn't finish an online lab because some links were broken. I graded her harshly, but then she reminded me we talked about it the next day.

I corrected your lab. It's not visible, but I simply made yours worth 10 points instead of 15, since you had fewer points to answer. In this case you have 804/1017 = 79.0%, which is a C+. Previously you had a 78.7%, which is a C+. Thanks for holding me to the highest standards. You will do well advocating for yourself in other aspects of life, too.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Adjusting to weaker students

In order to survive, my institution is expanding enrollment across all tiers (Tier 1: strongest students, Tier 5: weakest students). Tier 1 students are very expensive since we have to compete for them with scholarship dollars, so the expansion seems to target the lower tiers. So, in essence, we are getting more students, and more weak students.

Having weaker students is especially time consuming for faculty for unexpected reasons. No, they don't really take more time in direct instruction, because often the ones that need to show to office hours aren't coming. It's the ancillary issues, such as
  • answering more e-mails regarding learning software issues "Prof, I can't get this to upload right"
  • spending more time clarifying instructions "I don't understand what we are supposed to do"
  • providing an unprecedented level of support for studying 
    • from learning objectives: "Be able to describe the molecular mechanisms of such and such"
    • to question by question instructions "Be able to answer questions 4, 5, 6B and 6C"
Not only time but psychological factors are counted in
  • Have thick skin when blamed for student's poor grades in the course
  • Have thick skin when faced with pervasive disengagement despite herculean efforts to be student-centered
  • Have the wisdom to not let the "it's because our students are weaker" become a self-fulfilling prophesy 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Submitted a grant today

Hi All,
I was asked to be a Co-PI on an IUSE grant, which we submitted today. I let some teaching go to complete do my part on it. I hope we get it.
http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=504976