Thursday, May 26, 2016

And, Exhale

The term is over!  Well, mostly.


I turned in grades, but still have to go fill out assessment forms.


Why didn't I fill out the forms when I did the grades?  Good question.  On Sunday, I got a call from my niece that she was doing a special concert on Thursday, and inviting me.  And a friend was moving, and ended up needing a whole lot more packing help than I'd figured on.  So, I helped my friend, did my grading, turned in my grades, raced across the Midwest to the concert, and then came back.  My niece did really well at her concert.  She's really an adult now, and a good, kind, thoughtful, smart, caring one.


When I got back, there was news from our one year search in interdisciplinary basketweaving.  We'd passed five names along to the interdepartmental director, and they started calling people.  One of the five politely declined the director's interview because they had another job.  The job's been offered, and we're waiting to hear from the person now, I gather.


If they don't accept, then what happens?  I don't know, but I'm guessing it will be my responsibility somehow.


I offered to chair a search in my own department next fall, and the offer was accepted.  The ad has to be done on our end within the month, so that it can be approved on up the line and be ready to go out at the very beginning of the search season.


I need to make a list and check it twice.


So, of course, I've gotten messages from my mom, asking if I'd turned in my grades yet, and if I were taking time to hang out with my niece and sister-in-law across the Midwest.  Apparently, in her mind, I'm an irresponsible person who barely keeps my job and doesn't do anything much all summer.


I dread the stupid assessment forms.  I guess I'd better look up and see what I have to fill out and for what authority (departmental goes one way, program another, GE another, and if we had accrediting in our field to worry about, that would go another yet); each path, and each form in the path has its own unique set of acronyms.


The other thing I found out when I got back is that two thirds of my colleagues are relatively sane.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Job Well Done and a Help Request

I've been blogging about a search I'm on, which I've characterized as interdisciplinary basketweaving.


Looking for Dr. Right - introduces the search
Dr. Desperate - applicants who aren't really qualified, or who don't convince us they are
Finding My Biases in the Job Search - Thinking about some biases I have when I read applications
Schedule This - The difficulty of scheduling interviews at this point in the semester, and calling references.


We've now finished our interviews.


What I wish from job candidates:  imagine if we list an interdisciplinary basketweaving job, and say we're interested in people who can teach basket aesthetics and economics of basketweaving at intro and advanced levels.


Our first question was about the intro to interdisciplinary basketweaving.  An ideal answer would have started by recognizing that we think aesthetics and economics issues are important, and would talk about focusing the class through one or both of those issues, or would talk about some of the important themes or areas to introduce, and include those two areas.


Then we asked a question about the basketweaving aesthetics course.  A really good answer talks about what's important to introduce in basketweaving aesthetics, and how the person introduces those.  A brilliant answer also ties in the economics of aesthetic issues, because the candidate knows from our job ad that we see a relationship between those things as being important and think one person should be able to do both areas.


Then we asked about the economics of basketweaving in our lower division and upper division courses, both required for some majors.  A really good answer explains the differences between the two courses in some way, and then talks about each, and thinks about how the second builds on the first.  A brilliant answer includes something about the economics of aesthetic issues as a theme in one of the courses.




I'm grateful for the people I worked with on the search committee.  They're smart and good colleagues to work with.  We reached a strong consensus at each step along the way, focused on what we'd decided was important and were able to write up a short statement about each of the candidates we ranked for the next level up in the process.


And now it's out of my hands except for one thing:  I'm going to have to write letters to the folks we didn't hire (after we've hired someone).


That's where I need your help.  What graceful, kind, and decent thing can I say having interviewed (or not interviewed) people who've worked hard to get where they've gotten and really need a job, and aren't getting our job?







Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Trans Folks and Privilege

I had a rather random conversation with a retired math prof today.  I don't quite remember how it came up, but the math prof started talking about how unfair she felt it is that a trans person could grow up as a boy, then identify as a woman, and be allowed to apply for, say, a women's scholarship in math (a field where women are historically underrepresented at the university level). 


She worried about her (hypothetical) 9-year old daughter, and what if she identified as male, what would she do.  (I suggested she be supportive and loving of a child whatever their gender identification.  She seemed surprised by that.)


Then she expanded her discussion, to talk about how unfair it would be if a bunch of men decided to identify as women and "take all [the women's] privileges."


I have to admit I was shocked.  I guess I'm pretty insulated, because in most of my conversations about trans-related issues, we're talking about how we can be more supportive and educate ourselves and our students to be caring, respectful, and supportive.


Once I caught my breath, I asked her what women's privileges she thought men would be standing in line to gain?  The wage gap?  lack of paid maternity leave?  and so forth.


I just don't think many men are going to give up their male privilege just for the fun of it.  And if they do, who cares?  Maybe if all men identified as women, the wage gap would actually disappear?  And married folks would share housekeeping and child care equally?


At the end of the conversation, she said she'd think about what I said because she'd never thought about these issues in that way before.



Friday, May 13, 2016

Schedule This!

In addition to the usual end of the semester mix of grading jail, student panics, and tiredness, I've got the special joys of calling references and setting up long-distance interviews with candidates.

The committee laid out times for interviews, and naturally, our schedules don't overlap nicely.  Then I started setting up interviews.  The candidates all were very cooperative, and we managed, but some are quite busy with teaching and stuffs, and they can't drop everything for an interview.

I started calling the references on my list.  I got hold of one person right away, and they were really excited to talk about the candidate, and it was great.  I thought to myself, hey, this is way easier than I thought it would be!  Then I tried the next person on the list, and the number took me to a veterinary school person.  And I looked on line, and the number I found listed there took me somewhere else.  Then I looked on line and called the department office, and they told me that the person wasn't around because classes are already over, and I should email.  So I did.  And that's pretty much how the rest of my calls went.

When I worked as a receptionist, I learned very quickly to answer the phone "Good [morning/afternoon], [Business Name], how may I help you?"  I still do a variation.  My calls to different departments and such trying to get hold of referees has reminded me that answering the phone with something more helpful than "yeah" does matter.  It also helps if the on-line directory has the right phone numbers.  (Fancy Pants U, I'm looking at you about both of those!)

Also, if you're going to set up one of those automatic "out of office" messages, put some words there.  I got return emails that were totally empty.

Fortunately, the references are all enthusiastic about their candidates, got in touch, and I've now talked with all but one, and we have an appointment to talk on Monday.

But holy cow, it takes a lot of time.

***

We made some national news outlets this week, and not in a good way.  We're in the midst of a variety of political moves, led by our tireless union folks, who can't bargain on our behalf, but are doing good organizing work.  Who knows, maybe we'll make the news in a better way next week?

Monday, May 09, 2016

Of All the Skype Accounts, in All the Towns, in All the World . . .

I have a pretty unique name.  Face it, how many parents call their kid "Bardiac"?  But probably on Skype, there are dozens of me.

I'm setting up skype interviews for our interdisciplinary basketweaving search, and holy cow, finding people can be hard!

I've given everyone my skype name, and several have done the contact thing ahead.  Others, I have their exact skype name, and found them.

But just searching a name?  Ugh.


This is one of those mornings where I've gotten a lot done, every one of them necessary and important.  But I haven't gotten to some of the stuff that's less vital right this second.  The thing is, the deadline for grading these papers is approaching, and I really need to get with the program!


I went to my violin teacher's recital yesterday.  Holy smokes.  I feel sort of bad taking up her time with my beginning skills, you know?  (Except she's totally enthusiastic, so that makes me not feel bad.)  The music was amazing.

And I went home and practiced my new scale.  Because that's where I'm at.

Earlier in the weekend, I went to a studio recital of my teacher's studio.  Some of the students were so darned good!  One of the students played a song I recognize from the Suzuki Book 1 CD, so I'm guessing their a beginner, just a bit more advanced than I am.  And you know what?  The student sounded pretty darned good for where their at!  They did a good job!  That gives me hope!

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Finding My Biases in the Job Search

Reading applications makes me think about my own biases.  The nature of bias is that you aren't usually aware, but you can work on thinking about biases, and try not to let unfair biases affect your decision making.  (Fair biases might include being biased, in this search, against someone who didn't study interdisciplinary basketweaving but somehow is applying to the job.)
In reading these applications, I'm finding that I'm biased against certain institutions which sound, well, "flaky" to me.  If someone did their degree at Compass Point State University, I nod.  But if someone did their degree at the United Basketweavers Institute, I tend to feel a bit skeptical.  I might look it up on the web to make sure it's accredited, for example.  Of course, if I were a real Basketweaver, instead of an outsider, I might know that UBI is a superb place to study interdisciplinary basketweaving.  Or, I might know that it's not.  But as it is, I find myself feeling skeptical.
I also tend to be skeptical of people whose degrees are in basketweaving management, rather than interdisciplinary basketweaving or one of the numerous specialties within basketweaving.  I guess someone has to know how to manage basketweaving, but I'm skeptical that that person is ideal for teaching interdisciplinary basketweaving, and theories of interdisciplinary basketweaving, and international interdisciplinary basketweaving.

As a Shakespeare person, I've thought a bit about what Shakespeare people are like.  I think we like to think we're hip and such, but we're less hip than medievalists, for sure.   (Where hip stands for doing the latest cool theoretical thing.)  I think we tend to either like authority, the great chain of being sort of hierarchy, or we fantasize about knocking it down.  At least that's the fantasy until we become the authority, or have a fairly high spot on the hierarchy, and then we're as strongly in favor of hierarchy and authority as any Victorianist or Dryden scholar.  (I think of Victorianists and 18th century scholars as more hierarchical, with Romanticists pretending to be anti-hierarchical, but secretly being super hierarchical.  Obviously, my biases are wrong in many ways.  Except the part about medievalists being cool and hip.)

Shakespeare still has a lot of cultural capital, so being a Shakespeare person, you sort of get that.  But you also get a negative reaction from people who hated Shakespeare in High School or people who think all Shakespeare people must be stuffy and snooty.  (Those same people often think medievalists would be boring and stuffy, but they're wrong, obviously.)

I'm aware of age bias, so I don't look at dates beyond making sure that the applicants are qualified and either have their PhD or are just about there. 

I've now read through all the applications, and have put them into our agreed upon groupings based on their qualifications as demonstrated through their letters and such.  I really appreciate the applicants who've addressed the qualifications we advertised directly. 

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Dr. Desperate

As I posted before, in "Looking for Dr. Right," I'm on a search committee for a one year job.


Let's imagine, for the sake of this post, that the job is in interdisciplinary basketweaving.  We have a fair number of apps from folks with doctorates in interdisciplinary basketweaving.  We have some apps from folks with doctorates in, say, underwater basketweaving, with a grad certificate in interdisciplinary basketweaving.




But we also have apps from a couple people in, let's say, tapestry weaving.  Their letters say that they're expert tapestry weavers, and thus well-qualified for the job in interdisciplinary basketweaving, because weaving is weaving.  Or something.




And it's not that these people aren't smart and good teachers.  But they don't have the credential we're looking for.




The letters give me this sense of desperation, of hoping beyond hope that somehow we'll think they're the perfect person for a job in interdisciplinary basketweaving.  I remember that desperation from my own job search, and it makes the pit of my stomach ache for them.




What I don't think they realize is that even if no one else applied, we wouldn't be allowed to hire them because they aren't qualified according to our search parameters.


The people with a grad certificate in interdisciplinary basketweaving have that, at least, but they're still not really competitive for the job compared to people who actually did their degree in interdisciplinary basketweaving.  We could, conceivably, hire them.







Monday, May 02, 2016

Correlations of Success

In my lower level courses, I tend to have short writing assignments due over the course of the term.  Students have 15-18 opportunities to write these, and need to do 10 of them.

It's not really a predictor, because the semester is almost over, but let's say that there's a serious correlation between people who finish all 10 short assignments and people who do well overall in the courses.

I grade these on a 1-10 scale.  And I usually give a few extra credit opportunities, too.  So, one student in one of my courses has finished all of the short assignments, and done well on them, and done all three extra credit possibilities.  And this student has about 124/100 on that part of the course assignments.  And I have a student who's turned in two of the short assignments for a total of 15 or so.

Turn up every day, turn in the work, pay attention and take notes, and you'll probably do well in my courses.

Miss a lot of classes, don't turn in work, and you probably won't do so well.  I wish I could convince all my students of those correlations. 

The extra credit mostly firms up the grades of those who are already earning good grades.  The students who don't do the regular work usually aren't doing enough extra credit to make much difference if they do any at all.

I'm ready for BS excuses to end.

Speaking of showing up to do the work: my little finger needs a lot more practice!  I have a continual earworm of the piece I'm working on for violin.  It's not the most exciting or beautiful piece, either.  Alas.  (But I am improving on it, slowly.)

Friday, April 29, 2016

Fourth Finger

I had a violin lesson yesterday, and began learning how to use my fourth finger (my pinky, since violinists don't seem to count thumbs for fingering the strings).  It's really hard.  Let me say that again, really, really hard.  I have to try to super stretch my hand, and press just on the one string, and it's hard!

So I'll practice, and it will get more do-able, I hope.  Since other people have done it, and since I've experienced learning difficult things before, I'm pretty confident that I can learn this.  Prior experience in life helps.

Last week, Strings took away the tape for my second finger, so all week I was working on trying to get the second finger position right by listening/looking without the tape there.  Strings wants me to focus on the tactical feel, especially when the finger comes down next to the third finger.

Broken thirds and arpeggios are especially hard without the second finger tape.  And now with the fourth finger in play, and broken thirds and scales being especially valuable to practice for the fourth finger, it's all hard!

And so fun.  Did I mention?

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Going to a Talk in Town

I went to a talk yesterday evening sponsored by a social justice group, and given by a colleague I respect immensely.  The talk was held in a newish space, one attached to a small shop associated with a local arts magazine, and was standing room only, which, in this space, probably means 40-50 people showed up (I counted chairs one one side of the room and used that to start my estimate).

The talk was great, as I expected.

What I really noticed, though, were the folks who set things up, the board of the sponsoring group.  I recognized a few of them, and know one from a lot of interactions around.  The thing is, I wouldn't have guessed she'd be a leader in a social justice group.

Her name is Mildred, and she's an older woman, probably in her 70s, white, always well-dressed in a classy way, who comes to community talks on Shakespeare and such, and who is also friends with another friend of mine, also a retired woman.

The other board members of this group seem also to be mostly women of, shall we say, a certain age.

Of course, these white women have all been active in social justice work for a long time, before the arts magazine started, before my colleague and I were hired here, they've been working, often quietly in the background (as last night), but working nonetheless.

The local arts magazine gets a lot of attention around here, along with related projects.  And mostly, all that attention is about men.  And they make all the right sounds about social justice.

But in the background, those same women come and go, working as they have for years, with little attention and little credit.

I'm feeling humbled by Mildred and the other women who've been working in my community all this time without my really noticing.