Saturday, February 27, 2010

Wow. Party success.

Hub and I threw an elaborate party tonight. It was a HUUUGE success. I'm floating on a cloud.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Lab Set-Up, bane of my existence

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I like lecturing a lot better then teaching labs. Lectures always seem to go pretty smoothly. I may flub up an explanation (be unclear, not tell it wrong) every now and again, but generally I feel pretty confident in lectures, especially in courses in which I know the subject matter well.

I hated teaching labs when I first started, and now I'm ambivalent about it. Small Religious U sells to the students that the profs teach the labs, a huge advantage to them over bigger schools where the grad students teach the labs. I really do agree with that. When in lab, I have a lot more insight to share with the students about their results than me at the beginning of my training. Moreover, after many, many student evaluations, I am convinced that labs are where students really learn well. They really should be my focus and I should start thinking of lectures as support for labs, not vice-versa.

But the set-up! In Pet class, which I've been teaching for a while, I can easily get stuff set up and predict how the experiment will go, but THIS semester, I find myself scrambling a bit for the first section just because I'm not playing with a full deck. Nonetheless, the stuff always works, and the pedagogical value is clear.

But for new lab set-ups, such as in the Advanced sabbatical replacement class, I find it impossible to predict all of the things that are needed and how the traffic flow will go. I always feel like I am scrambling during lab to get more stuff ready or something. It feels like a disorganized mess to me.

Here's an example: I read the lab, gathered everything I thought I would need. I asked for help in making solutions that were toxic, and the do-it-all retiree delivered for me. But I forgot, just simply didn't read far enough, or skimmed over the requirements for one piece of equipment. So I had to run and go get it during class. The students may not have noticed, but I was beating myself up about it.

Additionally, there were two tasks that they needed to do in the same space. In reading the prep for the lab, I really failed to realize that I would have to have them do one task, stop and clean up, then begin on the other task. I would have loved to have figured that out from the prep reading. Then I could have been explicit in the announcement/ instructions. It involved me making announcements and giving instructions on the fly during lab (which often means I repeat it because students' attentions are divided).

In research, I've solved this cognitive "flaw" by making explicit protocols and checklists and carefully following them and modifying as necessary. But until I teach a class sevearal times (and am careful to write everything down immediately after lab), I just don't get that done for teaching labs. I hate it, but haven't been able to change it well.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Please stop calling me that!

I chose to keep my maiden name for professional reasons, thinking maybe I could be Dr. UnmarriedName at work and Mrs. FamilyName at home (nod here to Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde). Well, that was too confusing, so now I'm just Dr. UnmarriedName or simply FirstName. I decided I would not be insulted if someone called me Mrs. FamilyName, especially if they cared in some way for my child/ren.

Everyone at Small Religious U calls their profs by their first name- very informal. I tell my students to please call me by my title: Dr. UnmarriedName. I tell them 1. It wasn't easy to get that title, so its an honor, and 2. In the "real world" you won't call clients / patients / health care professionals by their first names when in a business relationship with them. Since they don't ever get that practice in college (here), I am the one who will model that for them.

I then emphasize that it's not about power and distance, just professionalism.

I still get those few folks who call me Mrs. First Name. Not even Dr. First Name (like Dr. Phil... ) UGH!! I hate that! It's one thing that I'm called Mizzz FirstName at the day care-I tolerate it in that setting- but my marriage title and first name? As their professor?!?! SOOOOO not cool.

Now one of those students wants a recc from me. It's not a consequential recc and I was quite positive as Stu deserved, but I can't help but think that I may have answered the question "is open to new ideas" a little lower because despite repeated discussions, Stu could not call me anything other than Mrs. FirstName.

Monday, February 22, 2010

as expected, not serious

The baby's heart was vigorous and steady. I have an infection that causes bleeding. I have some antibiotics. All is at peace in the world.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Scary, scary and alone

Hub usually comes home Thursday nights late and goes back Monday mornings early. But his project has taken a big turn in which for several weeks he needs to come home Friday night and leave Sunday night. It's Sunday night and he is back in Suburb.

Problem is, I am 13 weeks pregnant and started bleeding this afternoon. It's only a little blood, and we called the CNM on call at the hospital. She didn't seem alarmed, so we took that as our cue. Though hub offered to cancel all his appts tomorrow and stay, I told him to go back, and I would keep checking in with him via text.

I feel OK. I am to make an appt at the OB tomorrow the moment that it opens. OK. I will. The ideal situation would be for my husband to be there with me, but alas we aren't living the ideal life. I keep thinking to myself that at least this is better than being married to someone in the military that is deployed.

We just heard today in church that a friend of our had miscarried, and so that is fresh in our minds. I'm not a worrier, and I really am doing OK mentally, but the thought flashed through my head that I would go to sleep tonight and never wake up. Who will find my baby and take care of him? How long would he have to be uncared for? Shudder. I called a friend to let her know the situation, just in case.

I will keep you apprised.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Data collection deux- PI choices

My student e-mailed me after 4 hours in the lab, saying he had tried several times and wasn't getting anything; that it seems that the samples were bad. He said he'd try again today. Then I got an e-mail saying that he had the flu and wasn't coming in. Drat.

Now I had a choice. I taught early in the AM, and mid AM. Then I was free for about three hours before some student meetings. What should I have done with those three hours?

1. Go into the lab and collect the data myself
2. Prep for next Monday's classes so I'm not scrambling around over the weekend.
3. Go for my normally scheduled swim time
4. Grade the pile of papers which are really late in getting back to the students

Let's look at each of these.

1. Collect data myself. I miss collecting data. I needed to fine-tune the measurement equipment, to make sure my student can just go in there and sit down and collect. The specimens shouldn't have been wasted. BUT if they were as bad as he indicated, it would have been futile. and THIS project is NOWHERE close to finished, so I don't feel pressure to get the data myself.

2. Prep for Monday. One of Monday's classes is the advanced interesting subject for which I am a sabbatical replacement. This is taught at such a high level that the textbook is from graduate school. I know the subject matter well at a lower level, but I feel as though I really have to study hard for this course. Moreover, we are a few days behind, due to weather, so lectures have to be very efficient. The reading I have to do just to understand the graphs for this course is considerable. In my limited capacity (fatigue), I never feel prepped enough for this course. Besides I want to know the material cold and in depth for my own curiosity and professional development. I suppose this sounds really strange to you who teach only a few courses right down your area of expertise, but at a small PUI, were are generalists, and a Ph.D. doesn't guarantee that you know all the stuff for an advanced course cold- at least the first time through!

3. My swim. I really consider exercise to be the one thing that thickens the thin thread that anchors me to sanity. I prioritize it even a bit higher now that I am pregnant, because I consider myself to be preventing pain and complications. In graduate school, I often reminded myself that I couldn't break the "law" of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. My bastardized version says that I can't succeed in my career (self actualization) without feeding myself, making sure I have a safe (maybe not neat, but safe) shelter, practicing hygeine and taking care of my health.

4. Grade the huge stack of papers. These count directly on my teaching evaluations, which count directly and heavily toward tenure. Every semester I've had at least a student or two say it took too long to get papers back. And they are right. BUT I really hate doing it. Ugh. Hard to make myself do it, i.e. its a lack of self-discipline.

Guess what I did?

I went swimming.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

First day of data collection for the semester

I think I am very close to an MPU for one project, but the student whose job it was to get those few more little data points, got no data at all. For a semester.

Now my current student is more interested in a different project. His stuff didn't work for the last student that tried it, so we started from scratch, going nearly all the way back to the beginning. We drove over to the large sister institution to use their fancy schmancy machine to measure our stuff. Now we know about our stuff and are going to try to use it.

For the last couple of weeks, he has been a little AWOL from the lab. He's overwhelmed with school etc, and he's had transportation issues. SO actually today was the first day that we are collecting data. I wish my student would have started on the data collection earlier than 4:30pm, the time I need to leave to get Boy. So there he sits alone in the lab, and I have no idea if he's getting anything. Moreover, undergraduates want to be so independent that they will grind and grind through something that doesn't work without asking for help or even knowing where to start troubleshooting. Ugh.

nota bene: I want to be there for the data collection, but this student does not have the type of personality that makes hours and hours in the lab with him easy or pleasant.

Friday, February 12, 2010

I love CNN

Because it is perfect fodder to show in class to develop my students' critical thinking skills: Can anyone find a flaw here? My students did!

CNN "education"

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Losing Friends- Letting go

Another title to this post:
Singles are from Mars, Parents are from Venus

I have a friend who is breaking up with me. She says I've been neglectful of her. She is single and I am a single Mom. We don't understand each other on so many levels. I'm still sad about getting dumped.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I've outed myself

I had the health-related students I teach play a game yesterday. "I'll tell you about a patient and list the complaints one at a time and you shout out when you think you know what the diagnosis is:"
(on the board)
serious fatigue
changes in appetite
weight gain
pain in the inguinal region especially when standing from a sitting position
joint laxity
and then

Someone in both sections got it after the second symptom, but then were stumped by the fourth. I explained the origin of each symptom, and then said that they know the patient: me.
They all smiled and congratulated me. That made me feel great.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Simultaneous courses

I have mentioned before that I could ask the registrar for a special favor to schedule my classes at a specific time, and it would happen... because its a small school and that affords some flexibility. The downside of that is that students also get some flexibility.

Its not unheard of that our students triple major and still graduate in four years. Part of that is because students are allowed to enroll in conflicting classes. For example, in a course I co-teach, we are scheduled to meet MW from 2:40-4:30. Since its a 3 credit hour course, we actually don't meet the fourth hour often. We meet, for instance, 2:40-3:30 on a Monday then 2:40-4:30 on a Wednesday. There are 2 students enrolled in this class that have another class from 2:40-3:30. So often they can only come for one class period of three. Moreover, that is typically an activity period instead of a lecture.

These are typically seniors who are fulfilling senior-level required courses for their two or more conflicting majors. I'm pretty sure only strong students are allowed to double book. The two examples I'm currently thinking of were in the top of the class's test scores.

Its a minor hassle for us, since the students must take their quizzes and tests at another time than the rest of the class.

I guess the idea is just foreign to me: taking two classes that meet simultaneously. I double majored as an undergrad, but didn't finish in four at my huge state school. But there's a beeeeg difference in the cost of a semester at SRU than at my alma mater, perhaps that makes all the difference in the world.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Wanna job?

Teaching microbiology in San Diego? CCCU college. More info? Comment AND send an e-mail to P U I P r o f AT gmail DOT com without the spaces...
Don't forget: this posting, too.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

What do you do with only 6 good hours in the day?

Just one more whiny post, please?

I'm only good for about 6 hours each day.

Its certainly not enough to get my actual work done, let alone any extras. This fatigue is really shutting me down. Even if I stay at work for more than 5-6 hours, I am completely useless. Mind can't think, body doesn't move well, don't give a damn about anything.

I am terminally behind, and its hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Monday things were so bad and I was so discouraged that I cried through the evening. That was actually funny in that the Boy had never seen me cry before, and he couldn't figure out what was going on with Mommys face and those funny noises. First he stared, then he laughed, then he looked sad.

I still rely on my village a lot, but I quit the supper club, because I can't even manage to make one elaborate meal each weekend. It's like "cutting off my nose to spite my face" as my Mom used to say because now I have to cook 5 small meals, and not one big one. Don't care, will make PB and J. Luckily this week, I've been invited for dinner twice. Let's see if I can actually get those thank you cards written.

Today marks officially the beginning of week 11. That means I am close to ending my first trimester. I can tell everyone next week (more understanding, perhaps?) and the FATIGUE should dissipate shortly thereafter. Can't wait for the second trimester springiness I got last pregnancy. Then it will all be better, and I will return to normal. Please let it be so.

Monday, February 1, 2010


I'm far too tired to elaborate on this, but our IUCUC met today. There are so many federal guidelines that simply don't work for our institution. Here's an example. There are 2 of us working with vertebrates and neither of us is currently on NIH or NSF funding. If were were to go ahead and follow federal guidelines, we are to convene the IUCUC as needed but not less often than twice a year. If the term for all the protocols is three years, frankly, the most we would need to meet would be 2 investigators/3 years = every 1.5 years (or more often if we publish more often). There's no way we would call in the vet and the farmer (community member) for useless meetings. We simply don't have the volume to meet the guidelines.