Monday, December 17, 2012

Well its about time fergodssake.

I'm just finishing the draft of a manuscript of the work my students did in the lab about four years ago. I could spout to you about lack of time, etc., but the plain fact is that I procrastinated royally because 1. There was little external motivation to do so. Even going up for tenure my colleagues wrote that I was lacking in research publications, while still assuring me that things were looking good, 2. I must have some psychological fear of writing it. Am I afraid to look foolish or incompetent? Probably, and 3. I could not force myself to concentrate until put under the gun of a firm external deadline.

I got an intramural salary grant to write this manuscript this summer, and the report is due soon. I have written the majority of it in a apoplectic session in the past 4 days. In my report I will state that it is finished and out for editing among scientific peers. Good thing is, my husband is a scientific peer. :) He's also a comma curmudgeon, so it goes to him first.

I'm totally beating myself up about the time it took to get this out. Internally motivated much? Able to act professionally and accomplish what needs to be done despite fear much? Going to do well on your sabbatical where your peers have done this many, many times?

My deepest prayer is that by getting over the energy barrier, it will become much easier the next time (oh, yes we have the data for two... boom).

Friday, December 7, 2012

Crap. I may have a real problem.

I wrote that I could hardly handle it the last two years because my daughter didn't sleep well:

and especially

After complaining to the family doc about this every check-up, he finally referred us to a specialist. To the specialist we said, we have a girl who sleeps like some of her relatives that have some serious mental health issues. We think she's fine, but also know enough to realize she has some risk. We want tips on how to parent to make her more resilient, should her biology be unkind to her.

Specialist started asking questions about Girl and they were all yes, yes, yes.
She turns to me and says, "Have you ever had a diagnosis?"
"Me? No, not MY side... I did get medicine once for ADD, but it think my thyroid was off or something". "Hmm. Your daughter is far too young to have a diagnosis, and we wouldn't dream of medicating her, but the sleep problems are a harbinger of SOMETHING neurochemical being off. You need to watch her for AD/HD"

Holy crud. I thought it wasn't from my side, but Her Cuteness may have a focusing problem. From me.

Look back at this post:
In which I describe how I can't perform well in a lab like "successful scientists" because I can't focus.

and this
In which I nearly diagnose myself.

Can't figure out for the life of me why I can't get done what I have to.

Can't make myself write to save my life.

OK, before you get in a huff about Girl, here's our plan: 1. NOT be hypersensitive to ADD signs, just going to let her be 2 years old (and 3 and 4 and 5). 2. Not going to tell her teachers anything to avoid unnecessary labeling. 3. Going to follow the Doc's plan about getting her to sleep. 4. Going to dig in our heels against any kind of medicine until it is very clear she would benefit, and we have exhausted ALL cognitive methods. If, *IF * she *certainly* has a problem.

Now, ME. I have finished developing. I got a Ph.D by using cognitive methods only (though there may have been some unnecessary struggle there). We can discuss cognitive style versus pathology if you'd like. But I can say that I have reached the limits of my capacity. Maybe I will start to take that bottle of meds I've been ignoring for about 3 years. What do you think?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Signs of Adjunct/ Assistant Abuse?

Looking for an alternative hypothesis to
This seems to be a department/ institution that has "Walmart-ized" their workforce (keeping ranks low and using many adjuncts).

Came across a website for a science department of a medium sized university.

1. There were the same number of adjuncts listed as full-time faculty. All adjuncts had masters or lower.
2. Of the full-time faculty, only about a third were listed as associate or higher. Therefore, of the teaching force listed on the website, only 15% are tenured.
3. The website did not post credentials of many of the faculty other than where they got their degrees. Of the Assistant Professors, they didn't seem in their pictures to particularly young.
4. A few Assistant Professors listed the time they had been in the department. Several had been there since before 2000.
5. There were as many Lecturers as Assistant Profs.

Here, I'll start it off. Alternative Hypothesis 1. Everyone gets paid well enough that they don't feel the need to advance in ranks.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Would you "Tiger Mom" to save $9000?

Boy was born two weeks after the cutoff deadline for kindergarten. So next fall he will be 5 minus two weeks, and therefore ineligible to enter kindergarten. The following year, when I return from sabbatical, he will be 6 minus two weeks, and can start school as one of the oldest in his class. We were content with this arrangement until we realized that the cost of putting Boy in daycare in Suburb will be about $9000 for the length of my sabbatical. If we can get him into the public Kindergarten by petition, the cost will be $0. However, as expected, there are certain skills he needs to master before he can be considered for a special waiver. He has a lot of those skills already, but we will need to be a bit more directive in his play for the next 9 months to make sure he has ALL of the skills. So my new role is Homeschooling Preschool Mom (evenings and weekends), a la Tiger Mom Amy Chua. I exaggerate of course. If he's not ready, we won't do it. I have read Malcom Gladwell, too. I know the older kids get more attention in Kindergarten, and end up doing better. He seems to be on track, though, and I think, why not?? Your thoughts?

Thanks for neglecting my e-mail

Because of the guilt associated with not applying to the position near my Dad, I took one last stab to see if it was truly not to be (I put my fleece out). I composed a brief and polite e-mail listing my qualifications, why I want to apply, and asking whether they would consider hiring at a position other than at Assistant Professor. This was spurred by a suggestion by nicoleandmaggie in the comments of the original post.

Well, It's been a week and a half and I have heard nothing. Moreover, I took a closer look at the faculty and their qualifications. I could probably be happy there, but my present institution boasts better faculty credentials. Well, good. That's peace-giving.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Dilemma 2 Redux- Unhelpful advice

Still chicken to apply for two jobs together near my Dad (see here), I came up with the suggestion that Hub ask his "boss" whether he thought Hub was ready to move on. This was meant to be a way to gain entry to the subject of applying. Hub approached his PI who then waxed at length about the future of the project, including Hub at every stage and in the end said "I and Colleague (my sabbatical host) have been really impressed with PUI Prof. We're hoping to expand our program and looking to add new people, especially at the undergraduate level. She could use her sabbatical to really get her foot in the door here."

Semi-wrong non-answer, Boss! Yes, we want to solve the Two-Body Problem. Being together there would do that (insert me whining about life in soulless suburb in a glorified instructor position, still far from family).  I would consider it, especially since it's all about compromise, right?

But that sheds no light on what to do right now. I talk to my Dad every night on the phone, and it is abundantly clear that he would like to have me around, nearly begging for me to come home at Thanksgiving- two weeks after I was there last. UGH. I love him so much, I do want to. But...

Sunday, November 4, 2012

New Dilemma; Need your advice

I mentioned in a recent post that a position may open at my institution that Hub could qualify for, with some caveats. I have heard nothing from the department members in question regarding a search, so that issue has settled down a bit. Moreover, I just got a a letter in my box that I have been approved for a sabbatical next year (it was competitive). HOORAY! We will be together next year, but with some financial consequences.

Here's the new development: my Dad in hometown (very far away) just had a triple bypass. He has recently lost his wife and is alone at home. In fact, I am writing from his kitchen table because I flew here to be with him for a few days. There are sibs around, but I don't like relying on them for his care. I feel he is at a crossroads with his health, where he could start a long-term decline, or could turn around.

There is a position being advertised at Hometown U that would be a lateral move for me. They advertised for an assistant tenure-track prof in my specialty. I'm assuming I could negotiate a higher position. In addition, there is a job at Nearby R01 for which Hub may qualify. Making his application deadline would be heroic, as he has something VERY BIG project-wise right beforehand that he is working on. And for those in the know, yes, Hub did agree without fuss to apply for an assistant prof/PI slot.

The timing is really bad career-wise to apply for those jobs. I would have just gotten my sabbatical, and would have to skip the year. Hub will be finishing a huge project next year, a four-year long project that he headed. Leaving just as it was being published/ brought to market/ going live/ would be very bad for the project. We would both have to ask for letters of reccomendation from our current colleagues, making it obvious we were trying to leave. Thing is, we aren't trying to leave. We would ONLY take these positions if we both got the jobs, and my feeling is that it's a longshot. Moreover, I'm pretty happy in my current position and very happy with the institutional culture, so its hard to imagine a change that would be good, career-wise. Yet, we could be together and near Dad and family in a less desirable, but still acceptable, place. Hub has said he really wants to end up near family.

So do we apply? What do we say to our colleagues? We're going to play the lottery and ask you for a letter of reccommendation for a position we most likely won't get- don't worry, we aren't trying to leave? But if the stars do align, we're leaving? Sorry, sabbatical host, I'm not coming to work in your lab after all. Dear current empoyer, can I take a leave of absence for two years to take another position to be with my Dad for a while, then come back if I don't like it? It all sounds ridiculous. Or is it ridiculous not to apply because the timing is bad, despite being good family-wise, and its a long-shot chance to solve the two body problem.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Happy 400th to tTBP..

OK, I missed it by a few. After 400ish posts with details and that could make me pretty easy to identify, I'm going to temporarily suspend the public nature of the blog. I intend to review which posts are really appropriate for public consumption. During the process, I will add you as a reader if you are interested.

Thank you especially commenters, sharers, helpers, suggesters, friends.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Oh, No, S.O.

No, not significant other.

I check the sex offender registry (SOR) every once in a while. I'm very conflicted about this. I don't feel good about the shaming that the SOR involves, but on the other hand, I want to be savvy and protect my kids from real or imagined harm- a natural response for a mom.

Well, the inevitable ethical dilemma has presented itself. I found someone on there that was convicted of distribution of child pornography not that long ago, and that person is registered as a student here. Moreover, from their major, I know I will have them in class next semester. The class is not that big, so I will have a lot of contact with them. No, there's no mix-up. I am certain that this student is the same person on the SOR.

Now, this isn't a question of protecting my kids any more, although we live very close to campus (!). This is a question of how I treat this person. I have every intention of acting in a professional manner. But then, how do I *think* about this person?
1. Forget about what I saw on the internet. This is a person who deserves a fresh start, has paid their dues, and I must simply expunge their past from my mind in order to treat them fairly.
2. Though this person does deserve a fresh start, I must keep in mind that recidivism is non-zero. I should treat them as fairly as possible, but always keep a bit of vigilance about them.
3. This person has clearly made a turn around- to go to college and better their life. They probably have a fascinating story and may even speak about their past. I should treat them fairly, but try to get to know them a little so that I can learn about them and especially encourage this person. 

What is your opinion? How would you handle the situation?


Monday, October 15, 2012

Dilemma redux

Wow, thanks for your input. All of it is appreciated.

A few more thoughts:

1. I make it seem like Hub would most certainly get the job if he applied. Not guaranteed. Especially if it was clear to his previous students (as an adjunct) that teaching wasn't his passion (they can always tell).
2. If Hub works as an adjunct, the "statement of faith" thing would be moot.
3. The department isn't sure they will fill the slot with someone full time (my thought: WHAT? NEVER GIVE UP FACULTY LINES VOLUNTARILY!)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Hello Dilemma!!!!

Modified from its original form.
There may be a tenure-track position opening up at my institution that Hub is qualified for. Hub has taught at my institution before as an adjunct. He could be home for his family! BUT 1. He really, really dislikes teaching and 2. He can't agree to the statement of faith we are required to sign (I believe, he doesn't). So dilemma, dilemma. Our two-body problem could be easily solved by Hub taking a job he hates and lying on a contractual form. Would you do it?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sheltered student surprise

Something broke in my lab the other day. Something metal. My research students were baffled, until I came in and said, "Oh, let's just fix it". I proceeded to use a match to light a propane-fueled soldering iron. I fixed the thing in about 30 seconds. The students stood agape, and I said, "Yeah,  when I learned to solder in graduate school I thought I was pretty cool stuff". Then one student said, "So THAT'S a match!"

Scaling back

When I first arrived at my new job, a big campaign began to renovate our current facilities, which were built in the mid 60s and have remained the same since. The faculty participated in the architectural design and many fundraisers to raise funds for the "new" 40 some odd million dollar facility. This was not an unrealistic goal in the time before 2008.

Now I have tenure, and despite their absolute best efforts,  the development team has only come up with 6 some odd million dollars, and have finally called it. No new facility. They seemed very disappointed to announce to the faculty their new direction: we will have the architects draw up renovation plans worth 6 million. The faculty encouraged and affirmed the work of development, though many saw the announcement coming from a mile away. Renovation in the next few years will be much nicer than a new facility after I retire.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Roosters Crowing

Our program has some distinctives of which we are proud. But I have never worked elsewhere, and sometimes when I hear these great things being promoted, I worry that we are just a little rooster crowing, and that what we have isn't so different or important in the big picture.

This weekend I went to a SOM  (med school) open house. This is the opportunity for the SOM to crow ITS distinctives to anyone who has traveled to hear the big rooster crow, and who wants to score a little chance to network. I usually take students and do some networking myself.

While on a tour, the second-year student guides were telling us about their very special facility that they thought was to-tal-ly awesome. Well, good for you guys. We've had one of those for 7 years. I asked, "How many of your class had this in their undergraduate institution?" The reply? Two out of 200 nationally selected students.

Well, cock-a-doodle-do!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Advocating for a disabled student

I'm currently using a lot of time advocating for a special needs student that was an advisee of mine. Yes, was. He had his heart set on going to a professional school, and those are the students I advise. It became clear that professional school, at least at the doctoral level, was not going to work out for him, so he needed to change majors in order to graduate in four years. Even though I'm not his official advisor anymore, I am accepting the role of his advocate because he's been with me (intensely) for three years now.

I am not a disabilities specialist by any means, and he has one of those. He also has an advisor in his new major who knows what his new requirements are. But I seem to be the coordinator for all his "advisors" and between him and the registrar's office. My big task now is to help him get all the rest of his courses in two semesters and a summer. Problem is, we have a requirement that he is going to have a helluva time accomplishing. Just for arguments' sake, let's say he has a Spanish disability, and we require Spanish of all graduates. We are working really hard to find a way for him to participate in "Spanish" within his ability. Moreover, the "Spanish" he is enrolled in currently is not working, and there's NO WAY he'll pass. So I spent time today calling profs to see if he could get into their class very late in the semester so he can drop "Spanish" and can maintain his full time status.

 An additional issue is that part of his disabilities are social. He can be an arrogant, aggressive ass sometimes. He completely dominates conversations, so trying to get his needs met and get on to something else requires me to be verbally forceful with him. I don't think he has an Autism spectrum diagnosis, but he can definitely be insensitive to social clues.  He DOES thank me on occasion, and I believe he appreciates my extra work. I respect his tenacity, and despite what I've written I like him quite a bit. I care deeply about his current and future success. Otherwise, I wouldn't spend so much time trying to help him. When he graduates-and he will, dammit- I'll miss him. I'll also wonder where the extra time came from (not spent helping him).

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sunday, August 26, 2012

2 years (at least) more.

I am committed to my institution for this year (Kids ages: Boy 4, Girl, 2). My colleagues have loaded up release time for me, and this year promises to be better, work-load-wise. I go on sabbatical for a year (Boy 5, Girl 3). We will all live together and I will have research bliss. The year after, I am obligated to return for- at minimum- a year of teaching (Boy 6, Girl 4). I cannot go on any Plan B for at least three years.

Hub and I went out on a date, and we talked about the future. Hub can't leave this year: they are very close to his BIG publication. There will be a string of smaller follow up pubs that will follow, probably my sabbatical year. The year after my sabbatical, he could potentially come home. But then again, he has to find something here (or telecommute, GMP). It would be at least ANOTHER year before we could go somewhere else together.

So, I'm going to focus on getting through this year. The kids are older, easier, and I'll have a lighter load at work. We haven't solved the problem, but at least we know when the next break point could be.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Help? How can I fund myself for a sabbatical in an R01?

I'm welcome in a lab in Hub's institution- hallelujah, we can live together and I can get great training, too! But there's no money from the institution. Can anyone tell me about funding sources to come from a PUI to an R01? What is this F33? If you need more details about my subfield, please e-mail.
Note bene: My institution, like many, will pay my full salary for a semester or half my salary for a full year. I'm going for a year. Full stop. I'd like to have additional salary and supplies, if possible.

Sabbatical Interview

Today I had an "interview" with a potential sabbatical host at Hub's Institution. She's one of two in the entire place that I could have worked with, based on research interests.

I was pretty intimidated at first, since I gave a talk here several years ago, and she very aggressive with excellent, in-depth questions. Here's that post part 1 and part 2. Here I am prepping for it and terrified freaking out and wondering how to be convincing while sporting an inferiority complex.

Their lab is up a level of organization from my training (think:  tissue from cell). They also study complex signaling stuff, with multiple players and multiple pathways and multiple drugs to block them. I felt a bit like a low-pass filter while the PI was talking: she would introduce an idea and while I was cogitating on it, she had moved on, but I would catch up for a second, then I would process, etc.

The grad students were quite senior and really, REALLY bright.

I loosened up a bit and began hearing myself making suggestions that the PI hadn't thought of before. I realized that I really have something unique to offer this lab besides free labor. Moreover, there were a couple of times when I made a statement and the PI said, no, no its the opposite, and I stood my ground correctly. I came up with ideas for some experiments, too.

This went better than expected for several reasons: teaching several courses regarding the basics of cell and Sub-field biology has made me FAR more informed about things outside of my own research.  I read all the recent papers from the lab and had questions ready. When I asked the first one, they giggled and said, "The reviewers asked us that, too". The teaching at a liberal arts institution has done something to my brain- I can synthesize many sources much better now. I was able to cite papers by author and date that I hadn't looked at in years, and bring in ideas and comparisons that I would not have been able to do 8 years ago, when I *thought* I was at the top of my research game.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Out of the closet with Plan B

At faculty staff conference, I was pleased to see one of my health care providers had joined the faculty. The CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife) who delivered Girl and who gives me my yearly, you know, exams has decided that she likes teaching better than being on call. So she's come over to the dark side. Ironically, she was the first I decided to share my new plan B with.

I told her that if my Two Body Problem showed no signs of improving that I was going to 1. get my EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) certificate and volunteer with the rescue squad for a while to gain "clinical hours" then I would 2. Go back to school and get a PA (Physician's Assistant). Then I could double my salary, live wherever I wanted (um, WITH my husband), and I could even specialize in the clinical aspect of my current field.

The irony I mentioned before is that if I were to go through with this (and I don't really want to!), my friend the CNM and I would literally change places. She moved from a mid-level health care provider to teaching and I would do the opposite. 

If you are an international reader, A Physician's Assistant is a two-year degree and many PAs have a lot of autonomy, while still working under a physician. Some PAs are responsible for all the general practice in rural or underserved communities. For example, my Dad is eligible for Veteran's Admin. Benefits, and at the VA hospital he is treated solely by a PA. The last time Hub went in for a stress test it was a cardiac PA that read his ECG and not a cardiologist. There are even neurosurgery PAs.

At mid-life, I do not want to get an MD (plus potential problems trying to get residency where Hub worked). Nor do I want the debt. It seems like the PA would offer the most flexibility balanced with a high level of professional autonomy. Your thoughts?

I'm not ready to move on this yet. As a matter of fact, I decided NOT to take an EMT course offered this Fall because it would be too much to handle with family and work, even though my workload is much less this semester (only one course).

Maritally, there's a bit of tension developing since I have a plan B and am starting to follow through with it, and Hub hasn't even considered a plan B. I would start all over at 40-some odd, gain debt, give up tenure, lose a job I feel "called" to do, all for a 5-year contract senior post-doc job of his. Hub feels guilty, and I know I would have to work hard to make sure I didn't resent such a move. Any thoughts on this part?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Game on!

It's here! The school year has officially started with preparations. The last two days we have had Faculty/Staff conference. A very good one, this year with the usual worship, president's address, and breakout sessions. A local actor/ comedian was the keynote, and believe-you-me it made for some of the least dreadful meetings of the year.

I feel good. I feel renewed, mind, body, etc. My kids are regularly letting me sleep 8 hours and nowadays if I'm sleep-deprived its usually my own damn fault. One of the women in my "Mommy Lunch"- a group of women with small kids that meet regularly for lunch, was left by her husband this spring. This has certainly curtailed my whining about Semi-single Motherhood.

Moerover, I have discovered that my sensitivity to caffeine is real. If I have a cup of coffee in the morning, and likely to be anxious and angry. Tea? Pleasant and energized. I LOVE coffee, but I love peace, too. So I gotta cut the coffee out. 

I have a light load this semester, too- something I'm really looking forward to.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Not going at all! (and some Theology)

I wrote last post how Hub, kiddos and I made a speedy trip to my home state to be with the family and support them as my Stepmother ended her long battle with cancer. We arrived on Thursday, and she was extremely weak. On Friday, a new experimental drug (for breast cancer at least) arrived. This drug had given the family some hope when it was prescribed by her Dr. two weeks ago. A coding error had prevented the arrival of the drug, and you can imagine the family's frustration as my Stepmom began a precipitous decline.

Friday she took her first dose, and has had a steady improvement since. She could hardly speak on Thursday. On Friday she was only awake for 3 hours. On Saturday, she was able to stand without help, on Sunday, take herself to the bathroom. By the time we decided to book tickets back home, she was telling her caregivers to leave her alone. It was clear that we were "underfoot". Dad reports that they went shopping (in a wheelchair) this weekend. So an emergency trip that promised to be very difficult had a happy ending: we were able to squeeze in a nice visit with all of our family, and it did not result in a funeral.

My Stepmom is a stubbornly faithful woman, and called this whole thing a "temporary setback" because she has faith that God will heal her. She and her church attribute this "recovery" to their prayers. I may be skeptical as to how often God intervenes to produce "miracles" that can't be explained biomedically, in part because of the implications of why a certain person, who has prayed faithfully, gets a miracle, and another faithful pray-er does not. However, I have come to the realization this week that if
  • God is the creator (I believe this) and
  • God created Humans and imbued them with a sense of wonder and curiosity (I believe this), and
  • God is also Good and created people in his image (I believe the "image" part mostly, "good" part completely), 
  • THEN medical advances that are brought about by Humanity's desire to learn and help other humans are the creations of God. 
Therefore I have no problem telling my parents that I believe that God is healing my Stepmother. Besides, God (through genetics) gave her those receptors and that mutation (through randomness) which would respond to the drug.

My Stepmom will probably die of liver failure caused by her breast cancer metastases. I don't know how long it will take. But her precipitous decline has been halted, and all involved are amazed and treating it as something spectacular. My headline implies that she has been cured... but only time will tell. What I know is that she is stable right now, and I am very happy and thank God directly for it.

Friday, August 3, 2012

not going gracefully

had to travel to the ancestral home unexpectedly. step-mom has been battling cancer for  about 5 years, and things have taken a turn for the worse. she's an unreasonably headstrong woman, refusing  to accept hospice care and denying overtly her very near fate. she's been very demanding and demeaning to my dad. i'm surprisingly at peace and doing my best to be helpful and unobtrusive at the same time. we have the classic step-relationship in which she favors heavily and obviously her own children and grands over us and my brother's family, but i feel prepared to handle it now (ask tomorrow, i might feel differently). for instance, she was only awake for three hours today, and cannot standup without someone to lift her, but her family still plans to have a realitively large birthday party for one of her grandchildren here tomorrow. when my dad was trying (gently) to get her to agree to leave the party and go to her room if she felt tired, she told him to butt out. we went throughthe death ofmy mother 12 years ago, but she was far more accepting of her fate and gracious to her helpers and loved ones. its ok,though as iunderstand someofthepsychology behind it,and besides, in my mind she gets a free pass to be as nasty or a gracious as she wants tobe, right? any helpul thoughts or experiences?
pardon the lack of basic writing etiquette...

Monday, July 30, 2012

Career advice for the Electrician's son

So one of the electricians at our fine institution knocks on my door looking for the Prof next door. I chat with him a bit, and he says, "Did I tell you about my son? He really wants to teach. He graduated and got a job at Prestigious Institution by a Lake, and he wants to give it up and go teach at a community college"
Me, trying to orient: "He has his Bachelors and got a job"?
He: "No, he has his Ph.D., got it from Large Local State U of Some Prestige. He's been working at Prestigious Institution by a Lake for about a year now."
Me: "He needs to finish his post-doc if he wants to get a good job with lots of options. That tenure thing, even at an institution like this one, is a big benefit"
 *by now Prof-next-door has arrived, with a student assistant*
He: "Oh, he's already published, He doesn't need to do any more. He just wants to quit and take a job teaching a few courses at at the local community college."
Me: "Please encourage him to get at least a nice publication from his post-doc before he decides to move on. He needs that to get a stable job like mine or *anything* more research oriented. I have the best of both worlds. I get to teach mostly and do research a little. The students I teach are really good, smart kids and I enjoy my job"
He: "My son is brilliant. He says he's just DONE with research. He tells me that if he quits doing research to teach he can never go back. His advisor from Local State U says that if my son quits he'll drive all the way to Lake and kick his butt."
*all laugh*
He continues: "He even got an article in that one journal that's British. Supposed to be a really good journal."
Me, Prof Next Door, and Student Assistant: "You mean Nature?"
*at this point I had blown off all his father's bragging as a Father's pride, and his son as another good but not excellent scientist facing a bleak job market*
He: "His name is Ricky Electric. You can look it up I suppose."
* I duck into my office. Sure enough. First author Nature paper. Holy Frijoles!*
Me: "Tell him that if he just quits his post doc without a publication, and doesn't set himself up for a tenure track position of some sort, ___I'M___ going to drive to Lake and kick his butt!"
*all laugh and disperse*

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Stages of procrastination

I am a person that needs a deadline to really motivate me and bring my mental "A" game. Teaching in a PUI fits me to a T, becausethere are two or three deadlines daily (lectures, labs) to keep me going. However, this situation is Attention Deficit-ogenic, as I never have to sit and think for a long time, and rarely have to concentrate on one thing for days or weeks.

I'm trying to write a manuscript for submission to a journal that includes my students' data. There has been a very serious period of adjustment to "writing mode". First, I procrastinated for a long time by just "Vegging"- surfing, mostly. I felt very mentally tired and sought escapism. Now it feels like I have that out of my system and have regained energy and focus, but now my energies are being directed toward cleaning out my office. Necessary, but not toward my goal. It also feels like I need to spend a bit of mental energy imagining myself doing the work before I actually start it. I am nearing that phase. Soon, I'll get serious about the writing.

I have belched out a bunch of pages, but they are incoherent. I need now the mental sharpness and long-term focus that will allow me think of an intelligent structure, foresee logical problems to address, and then follow up on addressing them.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fraternizing with the troops

As a professor at a Small Liberal Arts Institution, I am expected to get to know the students well. A few students really take to me and want to be friends. I enjoy this mostly. This week I've had a good week visiting with former students on a friend-like basis.

1. I had lunch with a student who was a very enthusiastic learner in my class and a very nice person. She went overseas to India and has a passion to practice healthcare there. We talked about many things, including this TED talk, which I love and could watch daily:

2. I met with a student for advising who went through a very difficult time while she was in my course. I was kind to her and now she seeks my advice for many things, but mostly professional things. Technically she isn't even attending our school anymore, but she still considers me her advisor and we are on very friendly terms.

3. I had a student who is an EMT in one of my courses. I met with him this morning and he re-certified me for CPR. There was only a few moments of awkwardness as the student became the teacher and vice versa, but by the end, we were laughing and telling funny stories. I REALLY enjoyed this time.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What if I gave you $800 / month?

Hub and I are still working on trimming our budget. I worked a lot this summer, but the money has evaporated into a transmission for our car instead of the new bamboo floor I wanted- and I am very disappointed about that.

What I worked for

What I got

Both of us have become acutely aware of the cost of Hub's apartment in Suburb where he works. It seems as though that $800/ month could really better be used elsewhere.

I know, I know. Without it, he couldn't work or we would be paying much more in gas (and risk) to drive up there. He only stays there 3 nights per week, and it comes up to about $67/ night/ person. For comparison, our home hosts our family for $11/night/person not counting utilities.

 What we could have, plus some

Something like what we got

 Moreover, I could NOT handle raising these kids by myself and working full time, so I have cut back my hours.  My income will go down by 25%. With two kids in full-time daycare ($1100/ month), things are really tight. I have lamented about this financial aspect of the two body problem before:

Expecting more from two Ph.D.'s

Working for nothing

How much I make

Guilt about hiring help, but its necessity (this was with only one kid)

We have cut out all the household help. We just can't afford it, but we have gone on Chore Wars to make sure that the loads are even.

2012-2013 One year of 3/4 time work to go- Boy will turn 4 at the beginning of that year, Girl 2.
2013-2014 One year of sabbatical to go- Boy 5, Girl 3. Have no idea how the finances will look. We will probably lose a bit on renting our house, but save the apartment costs. I don;t know what our rents will be there, or how much compensation I can expect.
2014-2015 The Boy goes into school the year I return and the daycare costs will lighten.
I will be able to return to full time, I assume.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Rejection resilience -sabbatical version

I e-mailed two lab heads to ask if they would host me for a sabbatical. One was a good acquaintance and the other was a cold e-mail. I carefully crafted my introduction and included my CV, and crossed my fingers. Nothing. for a few weeks. The cold e-mail I can understand, but the close acquaintance? *sharp inhale*. This was a little ego- bruising. I re-emailed them both after two weeks to check up and heard back from the acquaintance (wait and see), but not the other.  I will broaden my search.

I saw a friend today and chatted with her about the situation. There's no reason for the ego to be bruised in this situation, but if there was an excuse it was is because my rejection resiliency has softened. This is probably due to three things:

1. I got married and have established friends. The level of rejection in my personal life has gone down to nearly nil. I may not be 100% satisfied with my social situation, but I'm not being rejected.

2. I got tenure. I did my best, both at work and at the dossier. I got it, and now I have a job for life. No more rejection in this way.

3. I haven't sent in a manuscript in several years for review. This is bad, of course, and means I am out of practice of having a tough skin. I'm writing a manuscript now, so I'd better build it back up.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

This Summer's Activities

Thanks for a note asking where I've been. I'm pleased to report that it hasn't been because I am overwhelmed with work. I am not. I'm probably publishing less due to a slow loss of motivation caused by fewer and fewer comments (I have heard this may have more to do with the Google reader than a loss of interest).

In any case, I am doing 5 things this summer. I'm getting paid for 4 of them.

1. I taught a May Term course. It was an interdisciplinary course co-taught with a seasoned vet, and was entirely enjoyable. The students were diverse and engaged. The subject matter was familiar enough but new enough, and I learned a lot. Moreover, the work was nice: we met every day for 2 hours, I took lunch, prepped and graded in the afternoon. No evening work. One thing to focus on at a time. Ideal. (about $800 because I split the teaching)

2. I'm doing "Science Summer Camp" I've done this two years before, and written here and here about it. $1500 for four half-days of work and relatively little prep.

3. I have an independent study student taking a course I offered this spring. $500 for rearranging the course and sitting with him 2 hours a week for 8 weeks. Relatively little weekly prep.

4. Exploring sabbatical options. The proposal is due in September and they are competitive. In a talk with my Dean, she suggested that given this past few years' experiences, that I make getting a sabbatical and spending the full year living together with my husband my absolute top priority.

5. Writing up my research into a manuscript ($1500 scholarship grant). This has been really hard for me to focus on, for some reason. I am watching myself procrastinate daily and scold myself for not being more productive.

I'm also far more mellow about getting my kids to the daycare early in the morning. We explore, we play, we cuddle. It's been so very nice to have the lack of pressure in the AM.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

This might change everything.

My last few posts have been silly posts or exchanges from students. But a major theme of the last year has been how miserable I've been trying to do a more-than-full time job and be a part-time single Mom to two kids in diapers: one of whom wouldn't allow me to get more than three hours of sleep at a time. I had fallen deep into a cycle of self-pity, resentment, anxiety etc., I couldn't seem to feel happy, and believe me, I tried.

Something happened recently that may have shaken me out of that cycle.

I had a few gall bladder pains in the past few months that were relatively infrequent, and not excessively painful. I tolerated them because I knew I would need to have my gall bladder taken out, which is a relatively simple surgery. I was unafraid of the process, so took no swift action. Hub urged me to go to our family practitioner anyway, and "Doc" sent me to get an abdominal ultrasound. During the procedure, I watched the images, trying to learn from the procedure. With the right type of oblique questions, I got the techs to show me that there were no obvious stones. This seemed strange given my pains, but I waited to hear back from the family doc with the radiology report.

Doc's nurse followed up the nest day up by saying they found a lot of abnormalities, and that I needed an appointment with Doc in the next few days. That made me worried, and I tried to get her to tell me what the abnormalities were. She avoided it as much as possible until I firmly stated, "just. read. me. the. radiology. report. please". She assented and I took furious notes. I did what any biomedical Ph.D. would do and looked it up on Pubmed. The search terms brought abstracts with the same term, over and over: ductal cell carcinoma of the pancreas.

Pancreatic cancer.

Months to live. No surgical, chemotherapeutic, or radiological  treatment, only palliative treatments. 94% dead in 5 years. Most within a year. A swift and painful death.

I have 2 BABIES, and my confidence in my husband's ability to manage both grieving and taking care of them is pretty low. I journaled and prayed, begging God to spare my life. Let me raise my kids a little longer, let my husband grow stronger. PLEASE, Lord.

I was a terrified wreck from about 7 pm on a Thursday until seeing Doc on Friday at 1:30 pm.

A friend went with me to the Dr., because Hub was still away at work. In the exam room, I told her what I had read. My friend is a Nursing prof, and when I recited the radiology report to her, her face dropped. Doc walked in as I was weepily explaining to my friend that I wasn't ready to die yet. Though taken aback by the scene he encountered, he gathered the info and laid out some alternative hypotheses that were pretty convincing. He concluded, "If you were my wife, I wouldn't be worried yet", then sent me for an urgent abdominal CT.

By the time Hub got into town, he joined me at the hospital. I was no longer terrified, but still needed that X-ray report. After the CT, Hub and I held hands in the exam room as we waited and waited for the radiologist to read the image and get back to us. A nurse came in and began to clean up saying "all clear". We squeezed each others' hands and walked out of the hospital.

I cried a lot that night, from joy and emotional release.

When I woke up the next day, I prayed, read Scripture, journaled, and had a huge realization. There are two ways to look at what happened:
1.  I was never in danger and that's what I get for trying to self-diagnose. Haha, never do THAT again!
2.  I DID face death (at least psychologically), and was given new life. God DID spare my life, if you will.

I simply choose to view these days the second way. I have been given new life.

I feel transformed! (warning: schmaltzy section) I am grateful for each day. I am thankful for this life, even when girl wakes me in the middle of the night. I have a loving husband who supports me to the maximum of his capacity. I have a community that will care for me when I need it. I have the very rare treat of having a job with an employment guarantee for life, as long as I keep the quality of my work high. Lord, please let my attitude of gratefulness continue as it is right now.

This doesn't change the fact that my burdens are heavy. But I can make myself unhappier than necessary by coveting all of my friends' (seemingly) easier lives. I can dwell on my heavy burden, and fill each day with self-fulfilling prophesies. OR I CAN CHOOSE NOT TO. Thanks for ending the cycle and giving me the choice back, Lord.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mowgli makes meat unsafe.

I learned that the whole controversy about the FDA started in 1909 with a book called The Jungle Book.  This book revealed unsafe and unsanitary conditions in the factory. Then in 1906 a new act was put in effect called the Pure Food and Drugs Act and Meat Inspection Act. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Another "special composition" or 90% of your students hate you.

"Another" refers to this post. This one was a LOT more work, because Stu was a real ass in class, very negative and lazy. Lots of eye rolling, tongue clicking, and sighs. The letter is still sincere, but I did NOT like composing it. I wanted to slap a fast and nasty one off, but I figured if I needed to leave a trail for deans and coaches, it needed to be good and thorough. Hearing back from you all, I'm starting to think that I could be quicker, more to the point, and leave a lot of the encouragement out, and save myself some headache. FYI, the course is a pre-req for the teaching program. 

Stu writes:

I just looked at my grade and there is NO reason why my grade should have dropped 11 points. I dont understand why you would give me 5 OUT OF 30 points for my paper I mean was it really that bad !!! Most teachers would give me more than that for effort. I asked you for help because i didnt understand it and you basically just blew me off and told me to ask a classmate. Sorry I dont know what im doing with anything in your class but at least i tried. AND you didnt grade the science seminars. AND&&& I went from a 98% average for labs to a 81% because of 2 grades that makes no sense ! The extra credit comes up as F's. I had a C all semester and was 1 point away and then it dropped to a 64. I dont think thats fair at all and im not the only who feels that your gading and teaching is unfair. They just wont speak up they ask me or Bri to speak up for them so just know 90% of your students feel the same way i do.

 I reply:

Hello to you too. It seems as though you are upset, and you need to take a deep breath and reassess the situation. I'll try to help you, and I mean that
respectfully. This could be a situation that gets blown up over e-mail. I want to be clear that I mean everything here with a tone of respect.

1. Did you add the grades up yourself? You'll find the extra credit is adding up just fine, but not displaying on one part of Moodle as EC. That's simply a
limitation of the software, and why I have reminded your class repeatedly (probably every third week) to add it up yourselves.

2. Did you read the graded paper? Go and read it. Here is the summary: The five points I gave you on your paper were a gift, because a VERY LARGE portion of it is word- for word from internet sources. Here's what I didn't do: I didn't report you to the dean as I am supposed to. I didn't e-mail your coach. You had the same problem with another assignment, and for two plagiarized assignments I am *required* to FAIL YOU IN THE COURSE. I didn't do that. I am going to send a copy of this e-mail to your advisor, so that they can evaluate the situation for themselves.

3. I recall that you didn't come to class on the day that I spent 1 hour explaining your assignment. I also remember that you asked later was for me to explain the assignment to you. Like I say to everyone who misses a lecture, or anything else, "please get the notes from a friend or come to my office hours". You didn't make an appointment or come to office hours. I disagree with you that you asked for help on the assignment and I "blew you off".

4. More than a quarter of your grade came down to the final week of work. This is very typical of many college courses. It is completely possible that someone's grade could come down a lot of they do poorly on the final assignments. You got a 53% on your final. You failed your paper because of integrity issues. It's just the math. Could you explain further how that is me being unfair to you?

5. You are right. I haven't graded the seminars yet, and am working on it right now. Your grade was calculated carefully by hand by me and my calculator, and did not include the seminars counting against you. Your grade, according to my calculations (again by hand) is 66 + 245.5 + 171 = 482.5 divided by 737 possible. That is 65.4%. A VERY solid D. To get a C you would have to earn 47.5 more points than you have. There is no way that the seminars would make a difference.

Stu, your efforts this semester were definitely better than last semester. Thanks. I had been proud of you and I was really rooting for you to succeed. I ALSO was happy to think that you were going to get a C. I'm not out to get you or want to see you fail. I have to say, though, that the integrity stuff was really discouraging. Again, I care, and I take it personally when you do stuff like that. I enjoyed having you in class, even when you complained loudly about many things in lab, especially the smelly ones. :)

I think that the biggest problem was that even though you were doing the work, you may have been trying to get by with filling in the blanks but not *really* understanding the material. You got an average of 83% on your quizzes- GREAT GREAT improvement!!! But you still failed all of your exams. I don't know if you got a tutor, but you didn't come to me for help. I agree with you that you may have done enough work to get a C, but you didn't UNDERSTAND the concepts enough to get a C.

Here's my advice, which you don't have to listen to at all: take this class again. Next fall I won't be me teaching it, and that might make a difference for you. Given how much you have improved over these two courses, I feel confident that you'll be more ready to succeed because you have been able to take your intellectual work ethic up a notch. Moreover, I think you'll be a better teacher for it. I want my kids to have teachers that really love to learn and spread their enthusiasm for learning to their students (my kids). If you conquer this class, you will have a lot more confidence in yourself and your ability to learn difficult things. That will make you a great

What else can I do to help you?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Animals dissapointed in your college performance

I'm really likin' this

Probably not your wisest move...

Edited version:

Hi PUIProf first name only misspelled,

Could you pretty please be easy on me in the grading of the last parts of my work. I really want to get into a selective program, and I am borderline with an overall GPA of 2.7. I really, really need a C in your class, so please consider that and grade my stuff easy. Thanks and have a great summer!

What I wanted to say:

1. I'm sure that I have made some boneheaded moves
 in my life like this, so I can understand where you are coming from.

2. I know its a small school, but not that kind of "small"

3. Do you realize that I am seriously considering forwarding this e-mail to your advisor?

4. You did not make the maximum effort. You were late, you texted, you came unprepared, you copied your labs from your friends. You disrupted my lecture by chattering in the back with your friends. The only reason you are this close is because my Work Study/ TA is a more gentle grader than I am.

5. If you do get into [selective program], there's a possibility you might take care of my kids some day, so I guard the rigor of that process.

What I did say:

So glad to hear you got a better grade (70ish) on the MC portion of the
final exam! You earned it and you should be proud of it.

As far as the outstanding grades go, the other students (that have now had
me for I and II) will probably tell you that I am VERY concerned with
fairness and equity. So I can't, in my heart of hearts, grade your work
any differently than anyone else's. Moreover, if I do grade your work
fairly, and you do well, then you would be far more proud of yourself and
gain more confidence than if I had given you a special break that no one
else had gotten.

I'm happy to hear that you availed yourself of the tutor, and were able to
rally your studying for this course. I only had the privilege of seeing
you once during my office hours, so that was a helpful resource you did not
avail yourself of. I also recall that you sat in the very back during
lectures. These mean to me that **even though you felt like  you were
putting forth the maximum effort, I believe you have even more capacity
than YOU think you do!** It's too bad that it has come down to so close at
the very last.

I can really empathize that these final grades seem to determine a lot for
you, but your overall GPA is borderline, so that means my class isn't the
only one determining your future. An analogy would be that one play by one
person never wins or loses a game. Are you asking all of your professors
for special treatment?

Stu, in my view what you are asking me to do is unethical, and I simply
can't do it. I try my best to keep your work anonymous as I grade it, so
if I am successful, then I couldn't pull it off anyway. So I will try to
grade the rest of your work the same way I do everyone else's, and let the
numbers determine your grade.

I really care that you succeed, but YOU have to do it all by yourself.
Best wishes!


Tips for New Faculty (4)

If you use an electronic testbank to make paper exams, be very careful about copying and pasting. Most HTML or even Word-based test banks are formatted in tables, and when you edit, it isn't WYSIWYG. You may spend a lot of time formatting your exams (or asking your office staff to). Not a good use of your time.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tips for New Faculty (3)

Time spent getting to know your LMS (learning management system) is well spent. You really DON'T want to be figuring out how your LMS aggregates grades during finals week. For example, We use Moodle. I have also used Blackboard and some others. Moodle has many choices for how it can add your grades: weighted average, non-weighted average, sum... etc. None of these are intuitive (really!). If you pick the wrong one, the students freak out because their grade appears lower than it should.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tips for New Faculty (2)

If you MUST make a multiple choice exam that doesn't have a scantron or bubble sheet associated with it, force the students to write their answers on a line to the left of the question. If you allow them to only circle the answer it slows down the hand grading process immensely.

Tips for New Faculty (1)

A random installation of things I would tell myself when I was new:

Don't agree to have an unscheduled study session with students too early before the exam. Unless it is within 1-2 days of the exam, they will not be prepared with questions, and it won't be a very productive use of your or their time.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Wanna see a video of me?

 How's this for an interesting service assignment? I was asked to be in the dunk tank for the annual Spring Fling. It was fun. And VERY cold. (And there was a line when I arrived, waiting for me...)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Chair talk-No changes, feel heard, tho.

Chair came in my office and said, we need to talk. I have to note that my chair is a very gentle, kind, level-headed, reasonable guy. He may be a teeny bit on the conflict- avoidant side, but really a person of integrity that I trust. Here's the jist of our convo:

Me: I'm totally losing it. [Then I summarize the precipitating events as I did to you in this post]. I. SIMPLY. CANNOT. IMAGINE. SIX. MORE. YEARS. OF. THIS.

He: [empathizes genuinely].

Me: Last year we sat in my office like this and I said I couldn't take another year like this. 4 weeks ago I told you I was in trouble. And yet, here we are. I don't know what to do. Serious responsibilities are being left neglected, and I'm deeply unhappy.

He: How long has this been a problem, was it like this 4 yea...

Me: No, It's the babies. It's being a single Mom. Before the kids, I was managing just fine because I could work long hours and work at home.

At this moment, a reasonable synapse returned to remind me that the "work load" -though tough- is not actually fatal, its the combination of the tough workload and the single Mom lifestyle my family chose.

Me again, ranting a bit: I also realized that I don't really have a "NO" problem because no one asks me to do things. They assign it to me. [I cite several examples, some small, some huge in which this has been the case]. And its stuff that's important and needs to be done, and in a lot of cases I really am the best/ most qualified person for it. But it adds up, and its too much!

At this moment another reasonable synapse comes back on line, and we both realize that all the assigning has been done by one senior colleague- lets call him Grand Old Colleague.

He: Do you want me to approach Grand Old Colleague?

Me: I think I've made it clear to him that I am distressed. I will talk to him directly at the right moment.

Now G.O.C. is a well-intentioned guy, efficient and successful. Part of his efficiency and success comes from his ability to delegate. And many, many of the tasks that are crushing me are of his delegation. I can't be angry with him, I just needed the realization of what was going on, and put my foot down peacefully and with confidence.

Me, again: I was hoping that you could protect me from some of this stuff!

He, without being defensive: Yeah. There are a few things we have done- have you been getting requests from admissions to meet with prospective students?

Me: Come to think of it, no.

He: Good. We asked them not to call you. But I also have to be fair in my treatment of everyone in the department.

Yes, he had a point. At that point I realized that he wasn't being passive, but concerned with equity. Anything I shed has to be picked up by someone else. And no one is coasting around here.

Me: But the administration has set a precedence of taking individual circumstances into account. I have seen the Provost excuse a young mother from extraneous service obligations so she could concentrate on a big project. I have seen the Dean tell the Intramural Scholarship Committee to cut some slack for a certain faculty member because of health reasons.

He [looks thoughtfully, doesn't respond]


He: Well, as far as your contract, it doesn't make any difference to the department if you get a one-year contract, or if you take the 6 year contract and then break it a year later. But as far as the administration is concerned, it would be much, much harder to get that long term contract back...

Me: What kind of a fool would refuse tenure?

He: [looks out the door toward his office] I have to take that call...

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I told the Dean to send me a one-year contract.

A bit risky politically, Meant more as a cry for help. But I mean it and will follow through. I can't take six more years of this. Would you refuse tenure if it meant you would be miserable for the rest of your life? OK, I'm being melodramatic- my kids won't be this hard to take care of for much longer- but we've all become stretched so thin that work-life balance is a joke.

Update: Mission accomplished. No longer feel ignored. Just talked with chair. Will talk with dean next week.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Flipping out.

Not figurative.

Yesterday was a presentation I had to do in front of the faculty, dean and provost presenting my "integration paper" (a hoop we had to jump through for tenure). I spent a half day (on a holiday) preparing for it. I had a carefully crafted PowerPoint, an activity, and written, rehearsed speech. I even dressed up a little. I figured that my Uni-wide colleagues would never see me teach, but they would see this. So I thought it was important.

I read it animatedly, got no response to my jokes, and light uninterested applause at the end.

Then the two others in my cohort got up. One ummed and ahhed and randomly picked read from a few highlighted paras from her paper. The next cohort-mate came in 10 minutes late, spent 5 minutes trying to log into the computer while everyone waited and admitted that he had completely forgotten about it. He shrugged off his faux pas by saying "Now I have tenure! There's nothing you can do about it!" Then he winged it for about 5 minutes and concluded by saying, "Welp, guess we are out of time".

While this should have made me proud that I had a good showing compared to my peers, I was angry, embarrassed and felt foolish. My cohort-mates are successful in their jobs. I, on the other hand, am struggling and letting balls drop all over the place. AND ENTIRELY MISERABLE. Why? BECAUSE APPARENTLY I DON'T BLOW OFF THE RIGHT STUFF.

This sent me into such a bad state that I lost my struggle to stay afloat. I cried all night last night and cried when I woke up this morning. I called Hub crying to tell him how badly I felt.

I was able to shake it off, came into work and checked my email. In it were the following demands:

You're late with arranging faculty congress elections. You need to get on it now.
Take a survey on the colleague review process (delete)
Take a survey on the promotion review process (delete)
Which video should we show in class? I'm in charge, but you're the actual expert.
Hey Prof, can you add another upload slot on the LMS?
You need to get me a summary paragraph for your summer school class NOW.
Change the deadline on the online quiz.
Order your textbooks today for next fall or your students won't get used copies.
Can you do the work of the work study students tomorrow? They will be on a field trip.
and then
(stopped in hall) How many specimens do we need to order? I have to do it today.
(drop in student) I'm going to drop out of school.

Now if you check my schedule for today, you will see that I have about 1.5 hours free. The problem is-it's the same everyday. It hasn't changed, even since I've been asking for help and telling my chair that I'm not doing well.

So I just flipped on out.

I cried in my office for an hour before class and splashed my face and went in to teach. I made it through my lecture and came back to cry for another hour. I cried to Hub on the phone and explained to him all the things I had been demanded of, and cried some more.

Then Hub called my chair and told him that this was entirely unsustainable, and that I would not renew my contract if things did not get better quicker. He e-mailed my colleague and told her to decide on her own what video to choose. He e-mailed my old best friend in Costa Rica who called today (which caused me to start to cry again, after I had temporarily stopped).

I have gone past my breaking point. I really want to quit- as in walk away right now.

I am angry that no one was listening the whole time I kept saying, that's too much for me, I can't (but its only a little simple thing!). I'm angry that the provost excused another mother of young kids from duty on one of the committees *I* chair becuase she had a big service commitment. I'm angry that when I tell my so-called friends how hard it is for me that they engage in one-ups-man-ship in which they are clearly better off (e.g. this Mom has a live-in au pair: [The cost of pottery class tonight: only 25 minutes with my kids after work, 15 minutes with my husband after class, and now 1.5 more hours of charting left over.])

It was so nice to hear my old, dear best friend remind me that I AM a happy, optimistic, and damned tenacious person. So I know things have reached their limit because now I'm the type of person who will tell strangers my troubles at a bus stop. I'm pathetic, and miserable and very, very close to tearing up this six-year contract.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Just in case you thought I was exaggerating

This is a screen shot of my Google calendar for a TYPICAL week of work. There is a reoccurring event from 5-7 which I have blocked off for picking up and feeding my kids. The rest are honest-to-God contact hours or committee meetings (on weekends church and the gym, and I see a kid-related event Saturday).

This certainly approaches the workload requested by this article. And I can assure you, I am not doing a good enough job with this many contact hours.

This is overloaded according to our typical schedule- by probably 4-5 contact hours.

Next semester I am going 3/4 time, financial consequences be damned.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Foreign Exchange Student Reports.

I may have mentioned that we took on a foreign exchange student. She has been a lovely person, does her chore (dish washing) unfailingly, is available in advance for babysitting, is fun, and loves to play with the kids.

She is however, adventuresome and therefore home very little during waking hours. One week we saw her for 45 seconds, I exaggerate not. That week I really laid down the law that we expect her to be a part of the family, and we wanted to be more than a bed and source of water for her. We came upon a compromise that she would arrange to be home ONE night per week for dinner. Its been that way for about 6 weeks. Everyone seemed happy. Is workin' great from our end...

Since that time, I've been contacted repeatedly and urgently by her supervisor and heads of her program. Even though they say its just routine, requests like insisting that every interaction with them is written and the urgency of me filling out "reports" is weirding me out. Moreover, the "reports" that I must fill out are very pedantic in nature, asking me how I've grown personally from this experience, etc. I'm totally turned off by the program's requirements and am suspicious of what "liability" they are protecting themselves from. Either that, or the whole thing is a goofy, unthinking bureaucracy. And why so urgent that you would insist that I drop what I am doing to fill out your form?

What do you think is going on here? To me it sounds as if everyone has the impression that the situation has failed? Am I over reacting? I asked Stu directly, and she genuinely replied that everything is OK from her end.

Here's a letter:________________________

In communication with Supervisor, I understand that you are having some difficulty in setting up a time to meet together with her and Coordinator. Because I know you are very busy, I thought I might chime in and ask you a few questions to learn more about how things have gone and continue to go from your perspective as you host Studentette.

Based on some of the previous communications we've shared, I recall hearing from both you and Stu at different times and am aware that while there have been some high points in the year there have also been some very difficult times between you and that you've had some pretty intense discussions.

-What more can you share about some of the difficulties you've experienced as you relate to Stu?

-What have been some of the greatest challenges you've experienced this year relating to Stu? Ongoing challenges?

-What are/were your expectations for this hosting situation? Un-met expectations?

-What did you wish you had known going into this experience? How can/could we have done a better job supporting you as Administration and the partner organization?

-What have you learned as result of this experience?

-Are you happy with the current hosting arrangement of having Stu living in your home?

I trust that you know that we value hearing from you, Prof, as we want the best for everyone involved in the program; host, partner organization, Student. Kindly take some time to think about these questions and let us know your thoughts. [I expect this to be returned on Monday.]

ADDED NOTE: Have talked with coordinator. Student FAR UNHAPPIER that she let on, or there is a major drama-amplification process from our home to the program office. In any case, I thought all was good, but alas, apparently not. I really don't like drama, besides the stuff I create in my blog ;)