Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

It's a question that's come up a couple of times in the past couple months, an advisee or student is trying to decide if college is really the right place for him/her at this point.

What do you say?

How do you help the student figure things out?

Monday, June 28, 2010


I'm waiting on an advisee, who's now just over 10 minutes late.

At some point in my career, I heard there were rules about how long students were supposed to wait if a prof were late for class, depending on the prof's rank. I don't think most students are that aware of rank, much less of rules about waiting.

I'm not sure how long I should wait, but given the student's troubles, I'm willing to give him/her a bit more time before getting cranky.

And I stupidly left my second cup of coffee for the morning behind in the travel cup, sitting forlornly on the counter.


I hate not knowing the rules in situations. For example, there are whole sets of rules in places like colleges and the people who inhabit those places know the rules, or have adopted them without thinking about them. But for those who don't know the rules, they aren't at all obvious.

An easy one is classroom seating. Every student who walks into a classroom has been taught since forever (in movies and TV, even if s/he's homeschooled and not spent much time in a classroom) that students sit down in the seats, and instructors stand at the front. Only instructors are allowed to write on the board or give permission for someone else to write on the board. (Those ever-present announcements are generally put up between classes or late in the evenings when there aren't classes in session.) We don't even recognize these rules as rules because they're become ideological.

Then there's the who enters the office rules, which probably vary by place. I leave my office door open, and there are chairs in there. But I very much expect that no one will go in and sit down without my express permission, even if they have an appointment with me in a few minutes. Students don't usually go in unless they have an appointment, but I have had a few go in and sit down ahead of time if I stepped out. I'm always shocked. It's not like they're rampaging over the place, but it still seems weird to me.


Banks have lots of rules. And today, I'm trying to figure out stuff. I recently signed a new mortgage. And last week, it was supposed to kick in. So now I need to get things lined up so I can make automatic payments and such, and link my credit card, and blah blah. So I called the bank and tried, but after hitting about 22 buttons that are supposed to help the bank system serve me better, I got a message that the bank couldn't help me and I needed to hang up. I think the problem may be that I don't have the new mortgage number yet, and need it to get them to find the new mortgage.

And I need to call again, but I don't want to be on the phone when the student comes.

I have looked at some web sites. I have no idea on the bird of the day over at GrrlScientist.

I wish I knew what the heck was happening. Isn't there a rule for this sort of thing? It's now over an hour. I wrote the student an email.

The thing is, a student in this much trouble is in trouble, and that sort of trouble is likely to get in the way of meetings and such, if that makes sense.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


(Forster's Tern)
I took a long drive to a big marsh yesterday, listening to a book on CD about the Bayeux Tapestry along the way. First, did you know that part of the precipitating stuff that led to the Norman invasion in 1066 was the death of Edward the Confessor? Yes, that Edward the Confessor, the one Malcolm visits in Macbeth. And then the book mentions that one of the resistance fights William had was with Malcolm of Scotland, among others. Yes, that Malcolm.

See, I'd never really gotten the timing even a little, but now I sort of have it.

Another thing this book talked about was a French scholar in the early 19th century who went to England to look at Old French mss and found the ms to the Song of Roland from the 12th century. I don't know if that's so, because I'm not finding anything on the web that cares about that sort of thing in the stuff on the Song. Anyone know?

I guess the thing is, that blows me away. It's like Gawain being lost for so long, or Beowulf. Or, for that matter, the Bayeux Tapestry itself. Unlike Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, which has been more or less around since it was around, and referred to by others and such, these just get lost for a while. Do they influence folks? How?

I'm still reading history. I'm a slower reader now than before my eye surgery, and it sucks. But it's good to be able to read at all.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Doing My Part

Eastern Chipmunk
Male Hairy Woodpecker
Male Brown-Headed Cowbird
I did my part to help the economy today.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I'm in the office, waiting for a student to come talk to me. The student is in academic difficulty, and asked to talk, so here I am, waiting.

I have a couple students in serious academic difficulty. It's hard to know what to do. First, they're really different individuals. Should one be in college? Should one get counseling?

Here's my hope, though. I had an advisee come back after failing out of school. The advisee came by, and we chatted, and we tried to figure out what would help get his/her academics back on track. That meant retaking a few courses, and taking new ones.

That advisee just graduated and is headed upward. S/he was ready when s/he came back, and s/he was a stellar student.

So that's my hope for the student who's coming to see me today.

The thing is, it's hard for me to know, and hard to advise, and harder for the student to hear that time off may actually be really helpful. There's some benefit to taking time, breathing deeply, getting things on a different track.

I hope the student comes soon, or there's not going to be much advising at all.

(Yes, see, I'm not a total jerk. If I have to come to work or to a meeting because an administrator's incompetent, then I want to be paid. If a student needs some advising, and I'll try to make time to see him/her.)

Meanwhile, I should read some Ottoman Empire history.

***edited to add***

Gah. I just realized the student changed the day an email ago, and I didn't read closely enough and thought she was only changing the time. I'm pissed at myself. I've wasted a morning when I could have gone for a ride. And this afternoon, I have to take my car in for its THIRD appointment. (It started with a regular oil change, but then it needed a serpentine belt, so they ordered that and some other thing it needed. And then I took it in and they'd gotten a wrong part somehow. So now once again. This is usually a really good shop, and I like them. But they're remodeling the building, and it seems to be causing difficulties with having parts they'd usually have on hand.) I almost never use the air conditioning (which this is about), but naturally, the last two trips I've taken, I've had another person along, and air would have helped make things more comfortable.)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Studying IRB Stuff

I spent the morning working through an on-line program that's supposed to teach me what I need to know to ethically work with human subjects. I learned some helpful, thought-provoking stuff. But the on-line system I found off-putting and inefficient.

For one thing, it's really hard to tell how long any section is going to take, or how you should take notes until you've gone through the system. And the little tests afterwards, which I needed to complete to demonstrate that I'd completed the section, seemed more tuned to covering the institutional ass rather than helping me grasp concepts and demonstrate my grasp.

But you could take the little test, and then if you did poorly, look at the required answers and then go back to the section and then retake the test. I don't know if you had to spend any time on the section before you could retake the test because I was trying to actually understand the stuff I hadn't gotten the first time around. But someone who just wanted to jump the hoop could have jumped it in about one third the time it took me with exactly the same score.

Still, it's important to think hard about how to do research ethically, and doing the process made me think about a possible complication with my project.

And then I spent some time reading the Belmont Report. For other Shakespeareans out there, this isn't about The Merchant of Venice.

I have to say, while I think my project is both ethical and unlikely to harm anyone, I can see how it would be easy to be so convinced of one's project's value that you could harm folks even though you didn't want to.

And there are some things in our culture that are just so accepted that I think they'd fly through a standard review board. That is, I don't think all the folks on review boards (at least if they're representative of the upper levels of university research types) are necessarily really aware of and committed to anti-racism, feminism, and so forth. (I'm sure some are deeply aware and committed, though.) (I'm thinking, for example, of research that's aimed at enforcing heteronormativity and gender conformity, though of course researchers wouldn't frame it as such.)*

I'm guessing folks who do IRB stuff a lot get way more comfortable with it quickly, but as a lit person, I'm finding it all pretty new and more than a little daunting.

*I just saw a video thing on cnn (which I'm not going to link because I really hate video things) on research aimed at convincing Japanese women to want to have babies. That may be totally what the Japanese government wants (because the population of Japan is not reproducing at replacement rates), but if the video's representative, the research is aimed at enforcing gendered reproductive behaviors. (They're not showing men wanting kids, just women, and they're sure not suggesting that men should be stay at home parents.) (Yes, that's in Japan, and they probably have totally different research rules and laws. But the point is, that same research protocol would probably get right through a US university IRB.) And, of course, there are a lot of people in the US who think that making women (especially white middle-class women) want to reproduce more would be very positive. I'll bet most of those folks aren't committed feminists or anti-racists.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Panic Mode

Summer is half over. EEP!

I've spent several weeks at workshops and such to learn how to do a project on how students learn (there's a whole language for this, but I don't want to alert G00gle.)

I think I've got the beginnings of a really good, useful and well-defined project. It's small, so small in fact that I was worried about its smallness, but the workshop leaders were happy about its smallness. It's smallness makes it a lot more do-able, and that's really important.

For the first time ever, I'm preparing to go before a review board with my stuff to get permission to use human subjects. Since the worst risks of my project seem to be paper cuts, and since it has potential to be really useful on a tiny scale, I'm not too worried. But it's a whole new thing to learn about review board stuff.

I'm basically doing a couple questions to a couple groups of people. Ah, yes, but it's the questions you ask and of whom you ask them. I've never done this sort of thing before. It's not like writing exam questions, though it sort of is. In each case, you want the question to be clear so the respondent can give the best answer possible. But for these questions, there's no "right" answer, only the answer the respondent gives. And that's very different.

Yesterday I drafted my questions and sent them to the other workshop folks for some feedback. (Helpfully, lots of people in the workshop who have done these sorts of questions before.) I also need to do some work on reading up about similar research projects, and see what I can learn from them. Then I'll need to test out the questions on some random but appropriate folks to get some feedback about timing (I don't want them to need more than 10-15 minutes to answer the two questions) and clarity. And then I'll put everything together to go before the review board. And then I'll actually do the project.

And yes, I'm as impatient as the worst student ever in waiting for this feedback. (And if you've done this sort of thing before, and would be willing to give me feedback, please let me know.)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I've got six courses next year, and six different preps. I have a lot of work to do.

Last year, the folks that control our special program for incoming students asked those of us who teach in that program to apply again to teach in that program and to propose a new theme for our course in that program. In my world, I've taught first year writing in the program, a course which lends itself well to that sort of thing. The benefit is that we teach 20 students in the course rather than the standard 28 students in a regular first year writing course. (Yes, 28. Best practices have been tossed out long ago here.)

Anyway, I said I'd like to teach a theme of education and identity. It's mostly a modification of what I've been doing (which is why I'm reading Freire and Perry and such), but it still means putting together new readings and new essay assignments.

Aside: I was thinking the other day about how many of our adjuncts put in with enthusiasm to do new versions of the comp course and to do new stuff, and wondering where they find the energy. They have a bigger teaching load than I and are paid less. And then I realized that while their load is greater, they're usually teaching a lot of the same one or two courses. So designing a new version is a chance to be less bored. I'm constantly designing new versions of courses or teaching preps I haven't taught in five years or more, so I don't have a chance to be bored. (They're also trying desperately to be indespensible, of course.)

I'm also teaching theory for the first time in four or five years, and I need to rework the course so I'm happier with it. Out with Freud, in with ? The theory course is supposed to serve all our English majors, but it doesn't really seem to serve the needs of everyone as well as it might. So I'm reading some suggested linguistics theory to figure out if I can integrate some in there in a useful way. And I've asked our rhetorically minded folks to suggest a few readings. (Unfortunately, one of them is sort of crazy, and suggested something totally unconnected to my request. I wonder sometimes. I also try to stay well out of this person's way, because s/he sort of scares me. If you know me, you can guess what really scares me.)

My third course for fall is my senior seminar on the other in early modern plays and such. I really enjoyed the course last time, but I'm reading and prepping to do a better job. I've started a really interesting book on the history of the Ottoman Empire. Seriously, it's fascinating. But it's also a huge reminder of what a big hole I have in my education about eastern Europe and the Middle East. And it's made me realize that I really, really need to teach Tamburlaine in that class because he intersects historically with a character in Selimus (well, if memory serves, it's Bajazet in Selimus, but memory may not serve). But that means dropping a play. And which play to drop? (Or I could drop Oroonoko, which I used at the end of the course in order to give them something really different.)

So that's fall.

In spring, I'm not teaching first year writing, but am teaching our gateway to the major course. (Both are 5 credit courses, so my three course teaching load isn't quite as luxurious as it looks at first.)

And then I'm teaching Poetry, which is a great course, and not a hard one to prep.

And finally, I'll teach Chaucer again, which is lovely, always, but not exactly smack dab in my early modern field.

I feel a little better having laid everything out like that, a little less panicked.

And next time, maybe later today, I want to talk about the learning research stuff and how it connects to Community College Dean's post yesterday on changing credit hours and such. There's a thread in there about productivity and what that means in education that I need to think more about.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Thoughts on Facebook

I've been on Facebook for several months now. Mostly, I use it to help keep in touch with my relatives. I have a big family in another part of the country, and it's fun to hear a bit what they're doing.

I recently friended one of the younger members of the family who just graduated from high school; since I've been away so very long, I don't know Joe very well. We've seen each other perhaps five times, total, none for long casual visits. I have to say, it's fascinating to see how much he posts to facebook compared to the older members of the family.

It's also fun to see him make comments that from his perspective are wildly radical, and from my cynical perspective aren't. (Not that I'd say that to him; we have to go through stuff, and I hope he's also patient with my bird and flower pictures.)

I need a filter for the "this is something B would care about" vs "this is just Joe rambling."

I think the couple of students who've friended me probably have me on a limited viewing thing, or maybe they just don't post that much, because in comparison, Joe posts tons.


Friending students: A couple of my upper level students sent me friend requests this spring, and I've accepted, and it's fine. But if you remember this post? I explained to the student that I was uncomfortable and didn't think it was appropriate for to comment on someone's looks if you're primarily in a professional relationship. (Student/teacher, teacher/student, etc. I suppose it's different if you're doing makeup on an actress, but that's not it here.)

The student got upset and unfriended me; I was neutral about that. I wouldn't have unfriended the student, but it was okay that s/he did.

And then I noticed that I wasn't seeing the student's frequent comments on a mutual "friend's" page.

About the same time, a friend of mine (different) was getting comments from person X (unrelated to anything else in this long tale) on his/her page, and asked me what I thought of them. But I wasn't seeing them, so we figured out that X had made it so I couldn't see his/her comments or search or whatever.

So in my curiousity about how facebook works, I looked and saw that I couldn't search for the student, either, so I figured out that s/he probably set privacy that way. I felt a little less neutral, but okay.

Time passed. (Are you even still reading?)

Then I was seeing this student's responses to the mutual friend again, and then not to long later, I got a friend request from the student.

The thing is, while I wouldn't have unfriended this student, I don't miss his/her frequent gushy comments at all, and I have no urge to friend him/her again. I don't worry now that one of my colleagues or family members will misinterpret the gushiness, for example. And the friend request came with a gushy message about how once someone's had a class with me, they wouldn't want to be without.

The friend request made me realize that I didn't put any more pictures up from my Peace Corps days and seem to post less personally than I did. It wasn't concious on my part, but I guess my discomfort played out that way. I'm maybe a bit more self-protective (though it's not like I was putting up wild partying pictures anyway).

So I don't know. I feel sort of rude not answering at all, but I haven't answered or anything.

A side note: a while back, I played a lot of Everquest and was in a guild (a voluntary association of people who have access to ways to work together in the game and share a common identifying tag in game). It was mostly a good guild, but there was one member who would get upset about something and click whatever you clicked to leave the guild and post something on the guild boards about how unhappy he was with everything and he was leaving. And then a while later, he'd post a request to rejoin the guild.

After he did this a couple times, there was some doubt among some members about having him rejoin. Yes, he was good friends with some members, but no one needed the drama.

And so I asked him (on his board request for rejoining), "What's changed? What makes you think you'll be happy with the guild this time?"

I think that was helpful because the guild hadn't changed; we weren't going to do things the way he wanted. And he really hadn't changed. He still wanted to do things his way. And we were all tired of the drama.

So, he responded that he was withdrawing his request because, indeed, nothing really had changed, and he probably needed to think about that before rejoining or joining a different guild.

My point is (you're glad there is a point, right?) that I don't know what has changed for this student enough to go from unfriending me and putting privacy stuff in place, to removing the privacy stuff and now doing a friend request. But if nothing's changed, I have no interest in a similar drama.

Somewhere, I read that madness is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results. I don't need madness (because weeding my garden is pretty much all that I can handle).

Saturday, June 19, 2010

More Orioles

Faculty - Student Relations

I heard about another case of a married faculty person having a sexual relationship with a student.

I can't get my head around it. It's like, if I ever met Bill Clinton, I'd want to ask, "Mr. Clinton, was it worth it? You didn't lose your job or anything, but your staffers had to put a whole lot of focus into things other than health care, international relations, women's rights, and so forth. Was it that much more special than if you'd just masturbated by yourself?"

I can't get beyond how unequal the power relationship is, and how unethical that makes it.

But I know the administrators are probably thinking:

1) X is my buddy; I'm sure there was no coercion.

2) I wish I could get some sweet young ass.

3) It's a one time thing; it won't happen again.

4) The student probably pursued X; it's the student's fault.

5) X needed to have sex with that student in order to be happy. How could I question X's happiness?

And my question: what to do? I'm not in the same department or anything, and the administration has very much given a silent nod to these in the past.

But I really do think it's highly unethical. If I'm wrong, then I hope someone will explain why. If I'm not wrong (about it being unethical), then we need to take it seriously, and not just avert our eyes because we can't be bothered or X is our buddy.

One possibility: we're supposed to talk about issues at our college meeting. This seems like an issue we should address.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Public Service Announcement

If you feel the need to interrupt a woman to explain how you as a man aren't sexist, you're probably not convincing your audience as much as you think.

The more you know.

(I'm sure this also works if I as a white woman were to interrupt a person of color to explain how totally non-racist I am: I would not be convincing. I'm sure I have done some things equally egregious. I'm not proud of myself.)

It's not an oppression olympics, folks. There's no competition about which culture or country is most oppressive. Who cares, really? You recognize oppression; you analyze it so you understand how it works, and then you work to end it.

If you start with feminism as a way to analyze gender oppression, that's a starting point. Then you have to work on doing something about gender oppression. And then, you need to use what you've learned to start analyzing other systemic oppression with a purpose to end oppression.

When we start congratulating ourselves about our own superiority in being non-sexist or non-racist or non-oppressive, then we're taking a couple big steps back in our work.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Project Explosion

I'm off tomorrow morning to another faculty development thing where I'll learn more about doing SotL projects. We've all got projects in the early stages of development. I thought I had a pretty good sense of my project, and then it exploded on me, so I narrowed it down. And this past week it exploded on me again.

When I hit my first project explosion while prepping my dissertation, I was terrified. Now, though, it's part of the way I expect my projects to develop. I guess that's a good sign. I hope so, anyway.

We're supposed to take our laptops if we have them. My laptop is about 9 years old. I ruined the battery long ago, and since it's heavy, I usually use it on my lap in my sunroom, so who cares. It also doesn't have wireless because I don't have a wireless router in my house, so why bother. I've done a cursory search for my flash drive, but can't find it. I'm counting on there being electrical outlets and flash drives about at the faculty development thingy. If not, oh well.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

In the Garden

This looks like the first ever pinecone for one of the four white pines I've planted since I moved in. (I planted two in the first year, and two more a few years later, so the first ones are significantly further along.) I wonder if there's a lower age or size below that white pines have to go beyond before they're reproductively mature? Do they produce pollen before they'll produce cones? (I'm wondering if the other tree could have pollinated this one, or if it could pollinate itself? Or if there are other pines close enough.) It all makes me want to study some more botany!

I bought myself a weed whacker sort of thing today, expecting to whack myself a path down to the lower yard (there are spiny things in the way). But apparently the battery needs to charge for at least 8 hours (and it came with two batteries), so today the first one has been charging, and the other will get to charge overnight.

Keep your fingers crossed that I don't whack my own ankles while I'm at it.

Look! I found some information on white pines! From reading up, I'm going to guess the first pines I planted were about 10-15 years old when I planted them, and are now 15-20 years old.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Did you folks see the article on faculty burnout in The Chronicle of Higher Education today? Timely, eh? (Here's a link to the article: "Faculty Burnout Has Both External and Internal Sources.")

The article's an interview of Janie Crosmer by Audrey Williams June. Here's a short excerpt:
Q. What are the key things that contribute to faculty burnout?

A. Lack of time, poorly prepared students, cumbersome bureaucratic rules, high self expectations, unclear institutional expectations, and low salary. Research shows that the sources of stress have remained unchanged for 25 years. We know about the problem, but we're not doing anything about it.
And then it goes on to suggest that we faculty folks should build better community:
Q. What one thing do you think would do the most to help reduce faculty burnout?

A. If departments would adopt collectivistic values. It's sometimes hard for professors to feel like they're in a community, a community where they can share the workload. If one faculty member is really busy working on getting a grant, for instance, maybe a colleague could step up and teach their classes. If faculty members didn't feel like they had to do it all, that they had someone within their community to turn to, I think that would help.
Here's the problem: You see the causes she cites? Do you see anywhere in those causes a lack of community or colleagiality? No. I don't either. That conclusion has nothing to do with the findings she's discussed earlier. This is BAD scholarship or bad interviewing or something.

It's also sort of obvious (reading over notes: "sort of obvious" has to be the stupidest thing I've written in at least 15 minutes.) that the author hasn't actually worked long in academics. Who exactly is going to step in and pick up my upper level whatever class? One of the adjuncts who's got an MA but never actually taken a whatever class? And I've got a PhD, but I sure as heck am not going to whiz on in and pick up a colleague's class on modern film movements.

I'm pretty down about my state and all levels of our administration right now. I looked at the small claims court information, and it would cost me more to file than I'd see even if I won. So, one up for the administration, one down for me.

It's not like I'm going to do anything about it, either. I mean, I've fantasized about selling my property and moving, but for what there? (Though the idea of not turning in my letter of resignation until the day the contract period begins is juicy, I have to admit.) But, though it would cause a moment of glee for someone thinking about the MLA JIL, in reality, my department would just shrug and hire an adjunct for an extra section to teach my comp class and let the other classes go. We're already short four lines (if I recall correctly), so missing me wouldn't be more than a blip on the schedule radar. It would cause a bit of hassle to my chair, who's a decent enough person and tries hard to make things work for our department folks. Higher up, tt's not like the university is really all that worried about students in the humanities anyway. Yes, a few colleagues would miss me, but mostly my biking and dining buddies.

And the other, well, I can't see myself (or any of my colleagues) taking it out on anyone else. I mean, if I could kick the administrator in the 'nads and not get punished or thrown in jail, I probably still wouldn't, because I'm a Peace Corps Volunteer type, and not someone who advocates or threatens violence. And I'm sure as heck not going to take it out on a colleague or student, because being unethical and a jerk isn't how I want to be.

So I'm sitting here, thinking about Dorothy Parker's "Resume," and being all bummed. I have 24 minutes to rush out and buy a bottle of bourbon, but I know it wouldn't help, and I'd feel crappy in the morning. But I do have sugar. Thank dog for sugar. It's slow, but sure to work. Alas, it probably works in slow and excruciatingly painful ways that have to do with diabetes, gangrene, lost toes and such.

Back in the heady days of the early tech boom, one of my college pals was making a good salary, a really good salary. But he complained about the difficulty of never having time and working long, long hours. And he acknowledged that he really couldn't leave because of the golden handcuffs. I don't feel like mine are golden, but even brass is pretty much enough to hold me here.

I shouldn't feel as defeated and helpless as I do about all this, given that I have the proverbial good education and a job and I'm white and middle-class with all the advantages those bring. And yet, there it is. I'm sitting here feeling defeated and wishing I were just not.

Followup Re: Not Being Paid for Work

Remember when I blogged about asking to be paid for my labor? (here),

Today I got an official memo from a big wig:

June 10, 2010

TO: [me] English Department
FROM: [higher up guy]
[his title]
RE: Payment for Committee Work Outside of Contract Period

[My first name],

It has come to my attention that you have inquired about financial compensation for your participation in a meeting of the [Name of Committee] that took place on Wednesday, May 26, 2010.

I appreciate and understand your interest in being compensated for your service. However, the modern academy, with all of its unique features, freedoms, and drawbacks, is built on the premise that its members, while primarily employed during the academic year, are engaged in meaningful professional enrichment throughout the entire year and, in fact, their entire lives. This should not be a blank check for the abuse of dedicated professionals, but rather a recognition of the unique, variable, and often nonstandard “work hours” and “workloads” of the professorate. Just as each individual’s weekly work schedule cannot be effectively constrained to be conducted only according to the traditional work day, the institution’s work schedule cannot always be effectively isolated to the standard contract period. Unfortunately, in this particular case, the important work of the [Name of Committee] extended beyond the end of the contract period.

Again, I appreciate and understand your position and fully respect your freedom to recuse yourself from work expectations outside of the official contract period. While I am unable to retroactively compensate you for the May 26th meeting, I am able to work with the [Name of Committee] following the Faculty and Academic Staff Handbook to find a suitable replacement if the occasion presents itself and if you were interested in my doing so.

I wish I could be more helpful.

Thank you.

[cc list including dean and deanling]

I can't quite believe this is legal. Guess I'll be looking at the faculty handbook.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Once Around

Vertical pic of the Red-Bellied Woodpecker.

I've now made it all the way around the house weeding (with one shameful small patch still to go), and planted four small plants. I've decided to wait a bit on some transplanting, until fall, when I have to split a bunch of irises. I hadn't weeded as well at the end of last fall as I should have, which made things more difficult now. But now I've pulled a heck of a lot of stuff up. And I feel good.

My bike's chain looks lovely right now. I washed the bike (and chain). And then I lubed the chain. Have you ever noticed how you think you've gotten the chain pretty clean, and then you lube it and run it backwards a few times, and suddenly it's full of gunk again? I'm guessing there's a lot of gunk on the inside, and the lube brings it out through some sort of capillary action? Anyway, this time I washed the chain again, and it's a lot less gunky after I lubed it this time.

I'm reading Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed. I must confess that I've read about Freire a bit, but never actually read his work. So now I am. I bet I'm not the only one who read about him rather than reading him?

The powers that be have decided that all our special first year courses need to have a theme, so I decided to modify mine and make the theme "identity and education" or something. So I'm looking for things for my first year students to read. I'll gladly take ideas, please!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

In Which I'm a Stereotypically Bad Student

The faculty development thing I went to last week was in some ways a prelude to another faculty development thing next week.

So last Friday, at the very end before the final end of the session lunch, during our third session of the day, the facilitators gave us an assignment to do for next Monoday. They showed us an example, and talked about it. There were three things, I remember that. But what exactly those three things are, I have little idea.

Anyone who's taught for more than a few weeks has realized that if you give students a verbal assignment, it better be 1) simple, 2) due quickly, and 3) repeated a couple times, written on the board, and then repeated again.

Like any other stereotypically bad student, I didn't take notes on Friday. I was tired. I thought I'd remember (because yes, I'm that stupid). I know better. Really, I do. I know that I'm not going to remember something a week away unless it's really, really memorable. So I know I should take notes. But, I was also tired and I just didn't write it down.

Of course, our facilitators being experienced teachers might also have thought to give us something written. Maybe they're trying to make a point, or maybe they're figuring we're all experienced teachers so we'll remember, for sure!

I think I'll email someone else and see if s/he wrote it down. At least I can get that part of studentness right.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Yard Weirdness

Any ideas what that might be? It's in my yard, a few delicate looking plants. I weeded around them, because they're lovely. But if they're really Weedus horribilus, then I'll pull them.

Earlier today, I saw a Bluejay sitting on the railing, beak a bit open, scrunched down, wing half open.

And a bit later, I saw this little Downy Woodpecker doing basically the same thing. (The photo quality is lousy because it's taken at behind a double-paned glass.)

Then it started preening vigorously, and spread a bit again. My best guess is that it's a post-bath warming/preening in a spot where they can see a lot around? (But the deck bit wasn't wet or even damp after, and the bird water I have out wasn't splashed around.

ps. Welcome back, Blogger!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

I saw one of these a couple years ago elsewhere, but this morning I heard a different call and then saw one at the suet feeder in my yard for the first time. So I set up my camera on the tripod and hoped for another visit. (I figure, once a bird has found food, it will come back for more if it liked it enough. That's part of feeding for me.)

I like the shot where he's looking at the camera, making sure I'm not a threat. But here's a more typical shot of the back. If you click on the picture so it's big, you can see that his eye's sort of red. Cool!

If you ask me, it looks more like it should be a slightly pinkish bellied with a red head woodpecker.

A lot of the birds seem to like the suet if they can reach it. Here's a male Baltimore Oriole getting some.

Now I'm going to put the camera back up and try doing more vertical shots.

Back and Mulling

I'm back, and took a day of total relaxation (enforced by a visit from my puppy therapist), and now it's time for me to work on processing what I learned.

One of the hardest things about this is overcoming the feeling that I'm a pretty good teacher. I think I am. But I know I'm not perfect. But exposing the soft underbelly of my difficulties as a teacher, even to myself, is hard. Over the years, I've gotten very protective of that soft underbelly.

And I'll be at these meetings, and I'll think, yes, I do that, yes, I do this. And I'll think I'm ahead of the game. Except I really think most of the people I work with do that and this well, too. So mostly I need to listen to the details: do I do that carefully, with forethought? Or is it rote? Do I do this as fully as I might?

And the other thing? I haven't heard of doing the other thing!

It's hard for me to move from the big goals things (students will think critically) to the real goals (students will learn to read verse; students will read and think about X plays and be able to analyze passages; students will understand genre, etc).

I have a week to do a bunch of reading and preparation for another learning about teaching session. (No, I wasn't assigned these sessions because I was naughty. See, I'm being defensive again.)

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

On Not Being Defensive

It's very difficult.

I'm learning stuff, but it's not easy to do this sort of stuff. And it's sometimes frustrating.

So, for your discussion pleasure: how much responsibility do students have for their learning, and how much responsibility do faculty have for student learning?