Friday, September 11, 2009

Priorities %^@$#%$!

Very typical day here, yesterday was the same. Very strong conflicts in my time between teaching and research and family.

If you want to teach 12-13 SH, the only way you can do research is to 1) stay all night in the lab 2) rely very heavily on undergraduate researchers to be very competent, dedicated, and to learn stuff the first time you show them and display great judgment in situations that differ from the one time you showed them.

I choose 2, to varying degrees of success.

Here's a great example. The research we do, like everything that relies on living things, requires a schedule and one step depends on timing from the last step. We have a schedule, and unfortunately that involves one student doing surgery on a certain day, collecting data on a different day. There are three students and we set up a schedule so each gets a shot at doing surgery and collecting data through the week.

Student 1 does surgery on Monday and collects data on Thursday.
Student 2 does surgery on Thursday and collects data on Tuesday.
Student 3 gets out of surgery but has to do treatments on Friday afternoon, and collects data on Wednesday afternoon.

On Thursday I teach a lab from 9:30-11:30, have a meeting 12:00-1:00, teach more labs from 1:00- 5:00. Student 1 is flying solo collecting data on Thursdays. Data collection is not trivial, there are a multitude of things that can go wrong. Luckily, student 1 is highly competent, but nonetheless is a rookie in the lab. Student 1 works to his/her limits of knowledge and interrupts my class as necessary for help suggestions. I cannot go to the lab and help student 1. I can only give one sentence suggestions as to what to troubleshoot before returning to my teaching. Though student 1 does not interrupt while I am addressing the class, but only while I am circulating, the interruptions are disruptive to the labs, and most importantly, I feel as though I am doing neither job well.

Student 2 is also a rookie, and is competent, but is quite early in his/ her college career, so student 2 is not completely facile with things such as pH-ing solutions. Thursday night student 2 needed to do his/her first solo surgery, but was not confident enough to do it completely in my absence. So student 2 asked me to stay until 5:30 pm when s/he got out of his/her classes and a mandatory meeting to be present while s/he tried the surgery. S/he was late coming out of the meeting, so I set him on the prep, went to the daycare and picked up da Boy, brought da Boy into the lab while student 2 did surgery. I was blowing up gloves to make balloons to entertain da Boy while student 2 missed his/her target, and needed to start over again. I went home, got a babysitter, and returned to the lab to help student 2 with the second surgery. That was highly unusual. I will NOT do that often, but it seemed like a critical one-time investment.

Today, Student 2 needed me for some simple stuff, but there were students in my office for office hours. Again, the interruptions were quite disruptive and I was frustrated with my inability to do either job completely.

I could write on this at length (note I haven't even mentioned student 3), but will conclude this one for now. Pop in the comments so I know you are reading! :)

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