Friday, October 30, 2009

Why not visit the City?

I and a co-teacher took our gen ed. class on a field trip to Big City. Big City has some totally rockin' museums. This is the same city that Hub works in the suburbs of. The class chartered a bus, we gave the students itineraries, and set them loose.

I asked Hub to join me for lunch, but he ultimately decided not to. Even though Big City has a good light rail, it would have taken Hub 40 minutes in and 40 minutes back to get to the heart of Big City plus lunch would have taken a big chunk of his work day. Besides, we'd see each other at home in Little City That Tries at Least that evening.

I do admit that I would have liked to meet him. But more importantly as my co-teacher and I gal-evented around Big City, I wondered why our family didn't avail itself more often of Big City. I mean for God's sake, we kinda live there.

Hub really likes to come home on weekends. And I admit his apartment is not a great place for Boy and I to stay. So we spend weekends doing home work and meeting our weekend obligations. I want order in my environment imposed. Especially when I have help to do so. That's why we stay home and don't explore Big City more often.

As far as weekends ANYWHERE, Since Hub commutes, the last thing he wants to do is travel more for a fun weekend away. He lives away. He wants a fun weekend home. I don't want the hassle of preparing (by myself) for a trip for myself and a small child. And I'm just so tired all the time. I can't imagine that I would gain energy from going to an unfamiliar place and trying to manage a 1 year old.

Don't get me wrong, we aren't homebodies. We traveled all over the US when we were dating and lived overseas for three years. We explored foreign lands with a thirst for culture, language, culinary interests, and novelty.

But not now. Not with this lifestyle. I'd like to get it back. Have we lost our wanderlust forever? I hope not.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Call on my cell during lecture

I was lecturing today when the phone I wear around my neck rang.

I hang a phone around my neck because of one very scary day in which the day care couldn't get ahold of me (all day meetings, phone off) to tell me that day care had closed for an emergency and could I come get my child immediately? Since the hub is two hours away, I am the ONLY ONE that can take care of the Boy. I had no clue they were trying to contact me until the panicky moment when I arrived to pick up Boy and there were no cars in the parking lot, and the door to the daycare was locked. My heart was racing as tears welled up in my eyes!!!

That story ends with me heading toward my office to check my office voice mail to try to find my baby. On the way, I stopped by a neighbors' just in case, since they were on the emergency contact list, and there THERE HE WAS!! The moment I saw him, I sobbed. Then I really had to apologize to my neighbor...

OKAY. Since that day, I have gotten a phone on Verizon whose peerless coverage is the only one that can penetrate our building at work. The phone is always on and I hang it around my neck. Only the day care and the Hub have this number. I call it the Babyphone.

Babyphone rang right in the middle of lecture. I explained to the class that I had to check to see if my baby was bleeding or seizing. The day care said Boy was out of food. Ok, I'll be by in an hour.

I constantly bust the students for texting and I answer my phone in the middle of lecture!!

So here's the kicker: right after lecture (and staving of the despondency of a student), I hop in my car, race to the grocery store, grab stuff off the shelf without reading the label (so unlike me) and show up at the day care. There's plenty of food in Boy's cubby. For a flash I was angry, but I let it go, since I had just done something like that myself recently.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Grading Hell

The registrar actually called me today at HOME to get my midterm grades in. I was grading a test that took entirely too long to grade. I seriously underestimated how long it would take to grade a 6 page paper test for 60 students with 2/3 multiple choice. Moreover, Boy was whacked out for some reason, and I kept him home from the day care this morning. I went to the administration building for a meeting with the Dean (more about that later), and someone from the registrar's office LITERALLY chased me down the hall to tell me I was the LAST faculty to get my grades in and they are waiting for me to finish before the send the grades out. Gawd, I'm so embarrassed!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sucked in

I am such a sucker!!! I should be grading!!!
But I must defend my Fluevogs. Bow to the superiority of my choice, all.

Turning Grades In

We have to turn midterm grades into the Registrar's office for first-year students and students that are on academic probation. And then, we have to turn in grades for everyone at the end of each term. Since I solo teach one of the largest classes of first-years in the university, plus other normal classes, that's a whole lot of grade turning in.

The grades must be turned in on a certain deadline, to which I aspire every time, and fail to reach quite regularly.

If you include midterm grades since I've been here...
3 years * 2 semesters * 2 half semesters
1 midterm
= 13 grade turn-ins
* approx 40 students (averaging small and large classes)
520 individual grades entered.

Well, I have been right on time for about %15 of those.
= 442 late grades


I strive for better. Let's see if I can continue to improve.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


I met with the "threatening e-mail student" together in a "mediation" in the Dean of Student Life's office today. More about that soon.

Ok, that is just entirely too much drama these last two weeks. Did I also mention that the Boy reportedly took his first steps at day care? I haven't seen it at home yet, but not all the drama is bad.

Give me my boring life back (but the Boy can keep up his tricks)!!!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Dean called

The Dean (Undergraduate Division) called me to say the he wanted to be clear that I had his support in this matter. He also said that the Dean of Student Life will be contacting me and that this student has a previous pattern of similar behavior. Of course my thought at first was, "well then hasta la vista, abusive person". But apparently its more complicated than that. Can't wait to hear from the Dean of Student Life.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Threatening e-mails scare me.

One of the e-mails I referred to in the last post has led to a rapidly escalating situation. A student has sent me some nasty e-mails in a threatening tone. The threats were not physical, but I am still frightened.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Take it to the Dean

Wrapping up a nice weekend and I opened my e-mail.

In it are two e-mails, one with the subject line saying "I don't appreciate being falsely accused of plagiarism!!!" And goes on to rant about how student worked on it all by himself, is insulted, and will prove me wrong, despite the fact that it is creepily similar to a web page I found, and unlike student's writing style.

I told Student in very respectful terms to take it to the Dean.

The other was of a student who has had academic integrity issues who just didn't show for a test and made some excuses about the flu and no internet at home to contact me (hello? telephone?). Student states WHEN they will make it up.

I told student in pretty respectful terms nope- no makeup, and if you don't like it take it to the Dean.

Now we'll find out if the Dean is in my corner or not.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Happy Birthday, Boy

My Boy turns 1 today. I took him out of his crib this morning, told him Happy Birthday, how happy we were to have him, and just bawled and bawled tears of joy.

I am baking a bazillion cupcakes. More than half of the party RSVPds have called off due to illness, but that's OK because our house isn't that big. We still have a long list of things to do before the party- for example, we must have balloons. We haven't even bought him our present yet.

And we're hoping for a huge mess of the cupcake. HUGE.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Medical Trouble

Hub called while on his way to work saying he was having pain. Scary pain. He went to an emergency care hospital, and they transferred and admitted him to huge suburban hospital. They may have done this as a precaution because scary pain in the past has resulted in terrible things for Hub. So, I picked boy up from day care, didn't pack enough gear to take care of a baby, and hurriedly drove the 2 hours to see him.

Big suburban hospital had signs posted that visiting hours were curtailed and no one under 18 was allowed on the floors. I ignored them (what was my other option??). We waited while test after test came back negative. Let me tell you, a hospital room is a bad place for a squirly crawling Boy whose sole purpose in life is to pull tubes and cords out of walls (and IVs out of arms).

Boy and I spent the night in the very un-babyproofed apartment of Hub. We returned to the hospital as early as possible the next AM. And we waited and waited and waited on the final test. And waited for the results of that final test. And waited. And the final test came back. All clear. Well, scary pain has no explanation, but now its gone, and its not a recurrence of the terrible thing (thanks Lord!).

The two hour span between when I hear and when I can get to Hub is really problematic, and frightening. The reverse is also true. If anything happened to me and Boy needed taken care of, at LEAST here is where we have the Peeps. We have at least two sets of friends that are on the daycare emergency call list and they are only blocks from home. That doesn't mean that they will be able to help. But its part of the reason we call "Small City that Tries at Least" home and not Big Suburban area. Still, the thought of being hit by a Mac truck while on my bike with the trailer and the cops not knowing what to do with the baby for 2-3 hours weighs on my mind.

Because of the big adventure, I missed three lectures in one day... all my classes were canceled. Now I have to scramble to make up the material somehow, and that's tough. Well, at least THAT'S my biggest worry right now!

Monday, October 12, 2009

How not to have class discussion

Here are some principles that were reinforced to me recently that will lead to class discussion FAIL.

0. Have too big of a class for discussion anyway, and hold it in a big lecture hall.
1. Not require the reading assignment be done and not remind the students discussion is coming up.
2. Not set an expectation among the peers that the reading assignment be done in advance.
3. Let the one person who has done the reading assignment carry the entire discussion.
4. Allow entire groups in which no one has read to just "check out" (including texting because the discussion must not apply to them).
5. When the few who have read share, use it as a chance to explain to those who haven't read what the heck is going on.

What a drag. Next time we do this, draconian measures will be implemented. There will be a quiz at the beginning of class given over the reading. It will be short and no one will be allowed to take it late. Then maybe people will come prepared. Grrrr.

We have tried having the group members rate each others' efforts. They feel so guilty for their own failings that they can't judge anyone else harshly. So everyone gives everyone else As even though there were half assed efforts across the board.

I'm so glad I teach in science where really squishy measures aren't usually the assessment norm.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Flu 2; Our House 0

Annnnd the Hub is down with the flu. Please, please don't get the Boy!

Hub is a great man. But man, what a wimp when sick. *whine whine moan moan*. I am feeling much better however. Given that I had no fever, only vomited once, and only had very mild diarrhea, it is possible I got a blunted version of the seasonal flu, since I did have the seasonal flu vaccine. Hub, however, did not have the vaccine, and his flu is taking a very similar course. If you listen to him, its much worse, but he didn't even throw up- I'm the one who gets the whining rights!!

Either way, we're both getting better. But he WON'T drive the 2 hours back to his apartment until he's sure there's no diarrhea in the near future. Smart.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Think I have the swine flu.

8a swim, was exhausted, did half my normal length. 10:30 class, very very tired with a developing headache. Told them office hours were iffy. 11:30 lunch still had appetite. 12:30p definitely not feeling good, luckily guest lecturer. 1:30 went home. slept until 4:30 when I woke up and threw up. No fever. Nauseated, headache, and fatigue until 9:30p. Watched the Bridge, a documentary about people jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.

Since I had the seasonal flu vaccine several weeks ago, I think I have the H1N1 flu.

My aunt says that I need to treat it with an oinkment.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dumbing Down Material

My response to Professor in Training: The Great Education Debate

My courses are tough and I am a very popular teacher. How does that correlate? Because students know when they've accomplished a "big thing" and they gain CONFIDENCE from COMPETENCE. No one should cheat them out of that!

I try to 1. convey my enthusiasm about the subject matter. 2. Hold a high standard for my students. 3. Support struggling students as much as they are willing to meet me. 4. Teach to all learning styles: I can make a lot of material stick by making sure there are analogies, demos, and an affective component or narrative. 5. Treat every single student with respect.

Remember that even weak students can take something away from your class, and develop skills and gain knowledge they can be proud of later.

When I was hired it was with a mandate to weed out weak students. Well, I don't have to do that directly, but simply teaching to the B+ (un-inflated) students takes care of that for me.

Students that are some combination of underprepared or undermotivated simply don't pass. Now students who are sharp as a tack and do some semblance of work can pass. No work, can't. Students who are underprepared but work their butts off pass. Keep Butt? Don't.

And I sleep very soundly at night flunking those students that are both underprepared and undermotivated, because everyone (esp. the students) knows that a good grade in my class really means something.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

To Wack or not to Wack? School spirit

Spirit Week is the prelude to the "big" homecoming game. Each day students and professors are to wear clothes along that day's theme: colors, PJs, Formal, "Wacky". I decided to play along with "Wacky Day", and wore a God-awful collection of wild clothes. I didn't think of the ramifications of such beyond the university community until I dropped Boy off to day care, and was looked at strangely by the people who watch my child during the day.

When I arrived to work, several colleagues had also dressed up. We joked about how each of us, leaving the house, had a strong fear that they had gotten the day wrong and would be wearing these clothes for no good reason. Though my get-up was entirely obnoxious, several other professors along the corridor had me beat. It was hilarious.

Two things I find interesting here. One is my willingness to do such a thing. Here's the perfect opportunity to not go along with the silliness, to be professional and leave that crap to the undergraduates. I also have a relatively strong resistance to blindly doing what I'm told. So I was surprised to find myself draped in such, um, finery. Moreover, it was interesting to see which of the faculty dressed up and those that did not. I will subdivide them into two categories: those that participate in spirit week, let's call them "Enthusiastic Profs" - EPs for short - and those that care nothing for it, we shall call these people "bah humbuggers" (BHs). The ratio of EPs to BHs was approximately 1:3. Which is surprisingly high. I could have predicted several of my colleagues would fit into the EP category, and a few I would have predicted as BHs. But many of the ones that did dress up were a surprise to me. New Prof found the middle of the road. Smart move. Last year, Young Temporary Prof wore something VERY VERY slinky, which probably wasn't a smart move.

The second thing I find interesting? The ratio of Wackily dressed profs to like-dressed students was 1:100. Clearly there are more EPs than ESs.

I wonder if there is a difference in these two ratios among institution type. In grad school (big urban med school), I had NOTHING to do with the undergrad division, despite them having a decent D1 football team. I certainly don't recall ANYONE taking part in school spirit-type stuff. Yes people would go to games, but it didn't intrude into work time. The local professional football team, well that's completely different(and highly pathological, but I digress).

Do professors at R1 institutions invest in school spirit? Much?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

ooh, pick me, pick me!

An addendum to the last post. Another good reason why I am a scientist and not a glorified teacher. I can't read the teaching literature easily!

New prof is doing a good job of asking for advice. However, NP never asks me for advice. Why? I am probably the closest to NPs field and having the same students as NP. Though I don't have time part of me really wants to mentor NP, especially since I am just now finding my way and am excited to share my experience. NP seems to go straight to the department chair as a defacto mentor. Is it political? I doubt it.

There has been a lot of blogging about being intentional in choosing a mentor and appreciating the mentoring that you get unintentionally. Choosing a mentor must naturally follow the same rules of homophilia* as other interpersonal interactions.

*looking for people like myself, not in the sexual context.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Something I DON'T like about my job.

Happy, happy, joy, joy. Nearly always.

Perhaps profs at larger institutions are shielded from the requirement to read the primary literature of other fields and suffer through belletristics and jargon. But since even the folks in English are my colleagues here, I cannot sit in my happy comfort zone of people who speak the same language as I do.

Here's a paper I'd better read before my promotion / tenure push, because I will need to discuss something like this for tenure:

Faith Integration and the Irreducible Metaphors of Interdisciplinary Discourse

Which has phrases such as, "Much-probably most-Christian scholarship that discusses academic discourse as such has focused on its fragmentation of its knowledge, its "Balkanization" as it is called sometimes".

Yes, my colleagues and I discuss the Balkanization of academic discourse all the time.

And, "The approach I take here will obviously be subject to my own disciplinary identity as an English professor, yet part of my argument is that no one academic discipline possesses the conceptual machinery to provide a comprehensive and definitive account of such a subject"


Friday, October 2, 2009

Separate abilities?

I teach a large science course, and a large gen. ed. non-science course in which there is a lot of writing (I told you you had to be a generalist at a small PUI)! I often have the same students in the science class that I do in the non-science class. Its interesting: every once in a while, a student will do not-so-hot in science and be a stellar student in the lotsa writing course, and occasionally vice verse. But mostly they track pretty closely together.

It pure personal observation, i.e. anecdotal. I know that the plural of anecdote is not data. But I had a world-view adjustment after teaching my first year. Previous to that year, I bought into that idea that street-smarts were different than book-smarts, or the classic: I'm really good at common sense stuff, just not school. But I slowly began to realize that at least in the setting I see people, many of the competencies that students have are all highly correlated. Students that do poorly on quizzes are also sloppy in the lab. Students that have trouble with the math needed for science often aren't great writers either. Students that do well in our rigorous science courses are good at music, too.

I'm still hashing out my own personal views of intelligence and learning theory. I wish that I could go to a crash-course for such, as long as it was evidence based. Woods Hole for learning and teaching? I simply can't fit in all the reading in a new field, when I am trying to keep up with my own. Or do I have to keep building my ideas from my own biased personal anecdotal observations over the years?

Academic Integrity

The Dean's office called because they had heard that I have an academic integrity violation report to file, and the needed it stat, since that student was up for other violations and they were having a meeting about Student very soon. Could I please hurry up and get the report done?

Well, its a new academic integrity policy. Yes, shocker of shockers, here at Small Religious U, students cheat. A formalized academic integrity policy was a bit overdue. Previously it was handled at the professor level. That means you can cheat your way through school as long as you never reached any one professor's limit. Reports would be send to the Dean's office, but then no one heard what happened after that. I know I haven't yet seen a student kicked out of school for cheating.

Student had taken one of my classes before the formalized policy, and was caught by me cheating. Student has failed at least 2 other classes for cheating. But NOW, we are starting with our new policy. And there are forms to fill out and deadlines to accomplish. In principle, a web form would be nice. But we have a non-fillable PDF, which asks for the student's ID. This requires extra time looking that up. And I have to have the students sign it. If they skulk away from class and / or avoid my requests for a meeting that makes it impossible to get done in a timely manner. All of these things make it quite burdensome to file the AI report. The last thing I need to do is spend my time chasing a cheater down, when I'd much rather be spending my time attending to the needs of, oh, students who actually want to learn and achieve!

I do believe that ideally students who cheat should be given restorative treatment on first pass. They should be confronted- and in Wonderfulworld they will apologize to the professor, realize the error of their ways, and turn from the cheaters path and take the high road to graduation *tinkle, tinkle*. I do believe that can happen.

OTOH, I also believe that for every time someone is caught cheating they've cheated several if many more times than the one they got caught for. Student, for example, was just totally jacking the system so they could stay in Student's social world and be Popular Student on Campus. The fact that they had been caught enough times that two separate profs had flunked Stu, means by my calculations Stu probably successfully cheated their way through at least 12-18 credits.

No restorative treatment for Student in my book. I filled out the bloody form, attached my evidence, let them look up Student's ID number, skipped the signature, and walked it to the Dean's office myself. I'm anxious to hear the results.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hooray for the Dentist

Because she is closed on Fridays.

That means that if Hub wants a dental appt (see my bit about where to keep a doctor), he has to drive back on Wednesday nights instead of Thursday nights. An extra day.

Hub is now telecommuting on Fridays, part of our original deal when he took faraway job. He comes home after work on Thursdays which is after Boy is sleeping. Friday mornings, Hub takes Boy into daycare, freeing me up for a peaceful Friday morning. He also drives back on Monday mornings. So really, he's home 4 nights and three days a week. Apparently I am ungrateful, because I like it even better when he is home early for dental appointments. Here, Honey, more taffy?