Friday, April 30, 2010

Buy regalia before tenure?

OK, I said no blogging until I get my final grades in. I have a lot to say about our course management software, but now is not the time. I'm thinking a lot about graduation, tho.

On a Sunday in several weeks, I have been asked to sing in a small group at church (approx 10a). I have been invited to brunch with a very prominent alum who will be the graduation speaker (10:30a), and will also process with the faculty at graduation (12:30p). The only way I can get away with this is because all of these events are within walking distance of each other.

I won't wear regalia to walk in graduation. I know I will stick out like a sore thumb, but the presidents office has given us the option. My excuse is that I am pregnant and it will probably be 90 degrees. But the truth is, I never bought it. I didn't walk in my own graduation (I had started by postdoc overseas by then). I walked once since I've been here and I borrowed the regalia that time. I was only in the audience the other times.

This year, however, the freshmen that "started" with me are graduating, and I feel far more invested this year than in years past. I will know a good 1/3 of the graduating class, and like 80% of those.

So I really want to walk this year, but didn't arrange for regalia in time. That stuff can be damned expensive- like $500- and then the question: do you buy regalia before you get tenure?

Addendum: Thanks Biochem Belle (in comments) for this link:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Out funeral until final grades

I'm leaving town to attend the funeral of my Grandmother. This 5 day foray is in prime grading time for final grades due at the end of next week. Neither can I blog during this time, nor will I be able to modeate comments on a consistent basis. Type atcha when I return...

I wish all my readers happiness and bliss, or whatever your version thereof.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I can be such an ass, sometimes.

I met with my co-instructor the other day in the lunchroom. Three days before, we had a pow-wow about some group presentations which we graded together from the top to the bottom, but ran out of time. I had allowed her to determine the rest of the grades. When I found out that everyone in the class had gotten an A or a B, I must have winced (I have a terrible poker face). Moreover, when my co-instructor says: "Well, these are second semester seniors, now is not the time to weed them out, we just need to graduate them" and "It's OK, they aren't going to graduate school anyway, so it doesn't matter", I must have really frowned.

But I couldn't keep my mouth shut when she said; "Next time's crowd are really good and they are going to want some rigor" I said, "Not if they have two more years of really easy classes (in your department)."

UGH-> I could have kicked myself as soon as I said it.

It was clear that the point was poorly taken, as she became very defensive and the rest of the convo deteriorated quickly.

Later she dropped by my office. We both apologized profusely and expressed how upset the convo had made us both. Now all is right with the world again, but I still have to figure out A) How to broaden my view of education, or B) How to keep my mouth shut and face neutral. Knowing myself, A will be much easier that B. And A will be very hard!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Long Term Goal-Fleuvogs

A little weekend shoe talk to lighten the mood-
OK, I've been pining for these:

But I really can't justify the expense ($245). So Hub suggested that I make them a reward for hitting a goal. I get the shoes as soon as one of the following things happen:
1. I successfully write for a national grant (R15 or such).
2. I get my paper accepted in a peer-reviewed journal (need to do that anyway).
3. Lose all my baby weight after the birth of my second child (end of August).
None of these will happen in a few months, so they are rather longish-term goals. Hopefully I'll get one of them before the shoes go out of style.

Friday, April 16, 2010

And, then there were no more grandmothers...

At exactly this time last semester, I lost my maternal grandmother. I made a flying trip to Homestate to see her. I abandoned my classes, and stuck my colleagues with the responsibility. Read more here and here.

Today I heard that my paternal grandmother passed. Another trip to go to the funeral, and yet another sticking of the colleagues with the responsibility of covering classes for me. I have NO problem leaving my work to be with my family in these situations, but my IOU list is getting pretty long.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Protected Time, Wasted time.

Since I have gotten my energy back, and have felt my shoulders creeping upwards toward my ears, I have re-committed to getting to the pool a couple of times a week. It relieves the tension and staves off the back pain from my pregnancy. I really should consider it absolutely necessary.

Tuesday and Thursday afternoons I don't have classes, and this week I have been strong enough to resist the temptation to stay in my office in front of the computer. I made it to the pool both afternoons. While I would much rather go to the gym outside of traditional working hours, an 8 am class and day care/ Boydinner issues make it simply not possible.

Staying in my office seems like it would be productive, but it also invites drop-bys. As it is, I have enough scheduled meetings that seem like a waste of my time, I'm not going to invite any others.

A time-sucking drop-by happened the other day. I was working on something relatively pressing and my colleague was advising a student who had her heart set on studying something that we simply didn't have a major for (its typically a grad school field). She already had in mind that she would transfer to a school that did offer it as an undergrad major, but was curious _IF_ she stayed what courses she could register for that would transfer to her new school.

So colleague elicited my advice. Its true that I did have a few resources and ideas that he didn't, but it was a unscheduled, undesired suck of my time (~20 minutes). I learned something from the investigation I was recruited for, but it was a poor return on my investment.

I also have at least 4 hours of meetings this week with failing students who are going to beg me to give them extra credit opportunities, because they just now realized (after 15 weeks-- with one left to go) that they are in trouble. If I was truly efficient, I would simply deny their requests to meet. But their opinion of me helps get me tenure, and its my chance to give them a piece of my mind about not getting help sooner.

There's an old joke:

Patient: "Hey Doc, it hurts when I do this"
Doctor: "Well, don't do that, then"

That's me and these time-wasting student meetings. I feel a little trapped, unable to say no, so I bitch about them, and keep making them. I am to be an advisor and mentor and "in relationship" with them. At MINIMUM I must be available to them (that's on the course evals). Since I chose not to have set office hours this semester, I really do have to take requests meetings.

Here's an example:
i just wanted to either discuss my grades
with you on here or set up a time to do
that! let me know what's best for you..
the only major thing i wanted to ask
was if you thought id be able to get a
D for this semester. I know my grade is
low as a result of poor exam scores,
therefore, i am hoping i can at least
pull off a D to pass the class. Just
let me know! i would appreciate it greatly!
But basically I will tell them what they can (but don't want to) figure out for themselves. Its one of two things.

You are borderline. If you pass the final, you pass the class, if you fail the final, you fail the class.
There is no mathematical possibility of you passing. Stick with it, because what you learn now will help you pass next year.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Where to start?

Topics from my life just today that I could expand on soon:

1. Mommy Woo: I go to a support group for mothers-to-be that is decidedly anti-medical. The support and true info is great, but the pseudoscience flying around is going to give me an aneurysm.

2. Stop wasting my time with your desperate attempt to make up for 30 weeks of bad attendance and half-assed work in these last two weeks of class!

3. High drama: Student calls today sobbing -she has to cancel her appointment because she found her aunt dead on the floor this morning.

4. You have got to be kidding me. You are going to do a 10-minute in-depth literature analysis on LOVE???? Who told you that topic was narrow enough?

5. Abysmal student presentations in Squishy Ego-boosting Class.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I wanted you to do better.

I love Grinds. I'll admit it.

My second favorite students are the students that are sharp, work hard, give intelligent answers on exams, participate in class, and are enthusiastic learners. But my favorite students of all are the ones that aren't that bright but love the subject matter enough to really work hard and do well through sheer force of will. Perhaps I have a personal connection with them.

Stu has done poorly on all my tests so far. Stu is in danger of not passing. She shows up, she does her work, but the class is over her head. She came to me too late a few weeks ago to salvage her grade, but has shown up well prepared to all of my office hours since. Its clear to me she's putting the effort in. It also seemed to me she was quite well prepared for our last test, that she understood the material. But she got THE SAME grade this test as all the other tests.

I SO want her effort to be rewarded, so I am probably more disappointed than she is.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Advising 2, aka handholding


I hope you are well. According to my records you are still

my advisee, but I haven't seen you for advising for several semesters in
a row. Have you dropped the Blahscience major? If so, please make sure
your paperwork goes through the Registrar's office. Could you send
me an
e-mail as to what your status is? Thanks!


hey sorry about that im gonna drop the blahscience major to a minor but i
a few questions about my credits and if they count toward blah minor ....
gen class I, and other blahscience class would those go toward my minor ?


Well, if you want to ask those things of me, sign up for advising. If you
can find them out from your Newmajor advisor or the registrar's office,
please do so and get the paperwork done. :)

PUI Prof

On one hand, I love that we have a very personal interaction with our
students. On the other hand I hate it. For example, where I was an
undergrad, no one would miss me if I didn't show to advising (Stu had
a double major and only needed one advisor's sig to register). Moreover,
the students wouldn't have an overeducated secretary/ personal assistant
to remind them to take care of stuff. And of course, back then we would
try to make coherent sentences of our correspondence, but hey,
I'll adjust to that (eventually?).


It's time for spring advising. This is where you make a 30 minute appt with all your advisees (approx 15 for me) to help them choose their Fall classes. So, I just added 7 hours to my week in meetings.

I just started today. The advisees who come in early are well prepared and often just require a quick check of pre-reqs and thoughts of future semesters. Toward the end of advising is when the less organized students come in, sometimes in a panic because they didn't schedule on time, and the registration deadline is apporaching. They often come in and say "what should I take"? and have a blank schedule. This year I will be tougher on them then in past years.

There's so many scheduling conflicts because many things are only offered at one time, and some courses are every-other-year courses. E.g. if you are a junior and you don't get Immunology in this year, you don't get to take it. Period. So students have to plan out several years in advance.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Rocked.

Happy Spring Holiday to each of you.

Our Easter was completely great. The church service was renewing and rousing. Our church- the congregation, not the choir- does a very nice job of Handel's Hallelujah chorus from the Messiah. It's blooming all over the place here. We had a fun dinner with close friends. We went for a mini hike. The day ended with the usual Sunday night cook-a-thon, but it was light-hearted. Calls to family were made, and the Boy provided hilarity in his discovery that there are tasty morsels hidden in those plastic eggs.

Blessings to my readers.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

SRU stinks at this

SRU (Small religious U- a pseudonym) has some very strong programs. I have extolled the virtue of a few in other places in this blog.

But wow, I got another survey for a student research project in the mail today that was abominable. I don't know whether these students are taking Research methods in Psych, Research methods in Soc, some stats class, or what, but this is about the 4th "survey" that had vague, misleading, or impossible to quantify questions. There has got to be at least two leading questions on every survey I get. Moreover, in some the hypothesis is crystal clear (hence the leading questions) and it's a goofy hypothesis. I'm not even including the fact that they are in the faculty boxes, but designed for students.

E.g. "Do you think these measures are a good use of your already expensive tuition?"

Hey Soc?/Psych?/Stats?/ Whomever?, raise the bar!!! Teach them something about conducting scientific surveys . This can't be their first shot at it, since this is almost the end of the semester.

Here's a selection bias for you-- anyone intelligent or well trained enough to realize what crap your students are sending out are going to throw those surveys in the trash. You're left with responses from the faculty "cheerleaders". Unless, of course, that's your target audience...

Friday, April 2, 2010

Where are students supposed to learn this?

Where are students supposed to learn this? I don't know, but I learned in Jr. High. I wish they would arrive at college with this, and a passel of other manners/ professionalism skills:

A student wrote me an e-mail asking for a letter of recommendation. The e-mail, while not in text language, still hadn't been proofread, and Stu had copied and pasted the application questions on the e-mail. Stu did not give me a deadline, though he did ask relatively politely.
Ok, From what I know of this student, I simply cannot write a good recc
letter for him. He wants to be a neurosurgeon but is barely literate, and
he has NEVER showed to an appt we have made on the right day
(let alone on time).

Me to Stu:

I'm sorry, but I need to decline to write you a letter of recommendation
since I haven't had you in class and wouldn't be able to answer many of
those questions. You can get a much better letter of recommendation from
an instructor in whose class you have done well. I would recommend that
you start with one of your professors. You will do much better that way!!

And just FYI for the future, it is most proper to ask for letters of
recommendations face to face, any time that you can. And if it is an
important letter you should always ask the letter writer first if they can

write a favorable recc for you, and if they say yes, THEN ask if they will.
Make sure you give them plenty of advanced warning! I tell that to

all my students who ask for reccs electronically. Apparently its not that
common of knowledge....

Hopefully I have helped!

He writes back that it has to be from his academic advisor. Moreover,
Stu *still* doesn't follow the etiquette I just outlined for him. Crap.
Well, I'll do my best to be honest yet kind.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

An untypical day, flexibility example

Since I've been pregnant this go-around there have been about three or four days in which I simply had an overwhelming irresistible need for a nap. Since today I teach a morning lab, have a lunch meeting (science ed journal club) and nothing else fixed for the rest of the day, I went home at 2:00pm. Not entirely a choice since no work was getting done anyway. I had a refreshing nap. The weather was very nice, so from home I got on my bike and picked Boy up from day care at 4:00, and as we went by, I noticed that the baseball team was playing a home game. We unloaded and watched a few innings. Boy enjoyed the sunshine and novelty, and I enjoyed my current and former students' shock at how quickly he's grown. After the game, we got home, had a nice dinner, bath and a regular bedtime.

While the workload for my job is heavy and scattered (so many balls to keep in the air at once!), the flexibility is quite nice too. I would never have thought about leaving my post-doc in the middle of the day for a nap. Basically, I am obliged to be "at work" for 10 hours per week. Occasionally that ends up being two hours a day which is quite nice. There's a lot more than 10 hours per week of work to do, but I get to pick when that work gets done.

On the other hand, it doesn't matter what, when you have class, that's it, you are expected to show. You had better be bleeding or seizing or have a death in the family not to show to a lecture or a lab. And forget vacations off-season. You are chained to the academic year.

I still think I have a great job, and the flexibility is one of the huge advantages.