Saturday, August 30, 2014

Spooling up to a frenetic start

Whoooo, that was a brutal week. I feel so behind already. However, my cadre of  household helpers has been super so far. Burden lightened. Now, how much are we willing to sacrifice for the privilege? We'll meet tonight about the budget.

In other news...
My favorite class has not gone as well as expected. First, at 22 it's MUCH bigger than I am used to (yes, I said that). Second, I can't gauge where my audience is. It's full of master's students, so I cranked it up a notch, but they don't talk back... so I might be blowing them away, intimidating them, or boring them to tears.

For example, I asked, "Did everyone read the first chapter?" Nods and hands.
"Ok, what stuck out to you, what was new and what did you know already?"
*crickets chirping*

Ohh, this is going to have to take a different tack...

Friday, August 22, 2014

I did this crazy thing...

I sent a gift to the faculty that bailed on us at the last minute.

We had a faculty bail out of hir contract last minute, please see yesterday's post. I'll call this person Dr. Bailer. Our department chair would not elaborate on the reasons why he/she left.

Here's where my imagination goes into overdrive, BUT there are bases to my assumptions. If this person suddenly came down with Ebola, Leukemia, or had a stroke, we would be asked to pray for them, they would be given a leave of absence, and we would bring them casseroles. If s/he had suddenly decided, "To hell with your little piss-ant college, I'm bailing!", that scenario would have been communicated to us, and the reaction of those in-the-know would have been much different.

However, no one is talking about what happened. I have had loved ones in my life with debilitating mental illness (but that's for another blog). It's really the only thing we dont. talk. about.  It's hard on family members, there's still a stigma, it discomboblulates workplaces, and it  freaks churches out. It's called the "no casserole" illness.

I was recently inspired by this interview:
I haven't read her book, but I can't wait to do so. In summary, churches really don't know how to treat people with mental illness, especially since some churches (not ours) still consider mental illness a spiritual problem. Most churches don't know how to rally around a family with a mentally ill member. The author argues that we should symbolically "bring casseroles".

My university is tied to its church and reflects its values. My work does "bring casseroles" when it knows what to do. I don't know if anyone knows what to do with Dr. Bailer.

So I made a bold move. I found out Dr. Bailer was going to complete some paperwork in HR soon, so I bought a book of poetry and a blank card. I wrote words of kindness, emphasizing that I did not know anything about why they are leaving. I said I imagined that it may be distressing and that they should feel our department's care and receive our support. The words on the card are better than my summary here. I was kind but as neutral as possible. I left the gift and card with the HR person Dr. Bailer would be meeting with.

This could be a huge flop, taken the wrong way and insulting. On the other hand, it could give hir some comfort. I expect to never know. What I did is probably totally inconceivable in most workplaces. However, I have been supported and helped in tough times by my colleagues, and want to pay it forward. Regular readers will recognize the larger theme of my workplace's special culture. It's one of the things that makes the decision to uproot and find a position closer to my husband difficult. 

How do you feel about your institutional culture? Would you receive compassion at your workplace in the case of physical or mental illness? What type of reaction have you observed to mental illness in your workplace?  What are your thoughts?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Nothing could be worse. our context than what just happened.

A new faculty that we hired told us TODAY, the week before classes begin, that (s)he would not be joining us. Their entire teaching load must now instantly be redistributed and we must scramble for adjuncts. Since we don't live in a booming metropolis swimming with hungry recent science Ph.D.s, we are really stuck.

Anybody wanna teach Chemistry in a cute college town? Send a message.