Tuesday, December 29, 2020

So Much Has Happened...

 since I last posted.

We made it through finals.  One of my students says they're going to go through the process to grieve their grade.  I think the grade I put in is the grade they earned.  

Most of the other students did pretty darned well.  In their final reflection, a number talked about working harder on my class than on other classes, and learning really valuable skills about critical reading and research.  So that was good.

The person I talked about hiring here and here has quit for another job.  I don't know whether this has to do with me being a poor manager and not doing a good job bringing the person on board, or the person being a job-hopper, or what.  

But it means trying to hire again for that position, which is a huge additional task.

In the meantime, Covid continues apace and more.  The Northwoods' hospital is supposedly overbooked and in difficulty.  And the numbers of people who just won't wear masks is frustrating.

And the numbers of people who insisted on traveling or getting together with large groups for Thanksgiving and Christmas is even more frustrating.  I GET that it's hard.  Really.  But if we can all hold on for six months, things will get so much better, and fewer people will be sick, or die, or have long term problems.

Thanksgiving for me:  called with family, not zoom, but you get the idea.  That was nice.  A friend invited me to pick up a lovely dinner and bring it home.  So I did.  It was a lovely dinner.  And a bit lonely.

Christmas for me: called with family, not zoom, but you get the idea.  That was nice.  A friend invited me to pick up a lovely dinner and bring it home.  So I did.  I was a lovely dinner.  And a bit lonely.

I did a fair bit of Christmas prep for my Mom from afar: first, I sent a package with some things she needed and some reindeer antler hats for her and a friend.  Then I sent a package with a flannel Christmas tree thing, treats, and a note.  Then I sent another package with cute ornaments in various "people" shapes (elf, Santa, snowman, gingerbread man, etc) with pictures of family members in the face area (I got the ornaments, and family members sent me pictures, which a local place printed in the right size).  I think that was helpful for her.  I hope so.

Before Christmas, I started taking a walk about once a week with the dinner friend's six year old kid.  We walk to a local coffee shop, get hot cocoa or cider, and then walk to the park area where there are big rocks and such to play on, and play with our imaginations for a while, drink our drinks, and walk back.  It's little enough to do to give a friend a break from homeschooling and such.

About two weeks before Christmas, I got one of the ornament things, and asked the kid if they wanted to give his parents a present.  They did, of course.  They're at that age when giving a present is important, too.  So we took a picture, and I said I'd get it printed and put it in the package.  And then they drew a picture to go with it.

And then the next time we went to get cider, I gave them the wrapped package and they put it under their tree.  They were excited.

On Christmas Eve, my friend called to tell me that the first thing when they were going to open presents under the tree, the kid had wanted them to open their present, and was so proud of it.  And, of course, my friends loved it, too.

I got the kid some legos, and arranged with their Mom to do a scavenger hunt.  So I wrapped five gifts with clues and put a little sticker on each about where it should be hidden (so they'd be in the right order), and the kid got to do a scavenger hunt for their present on Christmas, which I'm told they enjoyed a lot.  (I'd left the gifts wrapped in the back of my car while we went on our walk for cider, and their Mom took them out and took care of the rest.)  The Mom really wanted to make this a good Christmas for the kid, even though they wouldn't be with family, and I think this added a little.

So now, things to do:

Hire a new person.

Year Evaluations for everyone but me (the Dean does mine)

Assessment stuffs, both our programs and the GE program

Scheduling stuffs (I need to schedule our non tenure track folks for fall)

Budget work

Prep my spring course and get it all on line and ready, as much as possible.  My spring course is too big to fit all together in a room, so I have to do what they consider a "hi-flex" thing: one third of the students in class each day, the rest on line.  What a flustercluck!

Evals for our non tenure track folks with our writing program and personnel committee chair.

Write letters for two tenure track folks' reappointment.

Work on a scholarship thing.  This is actually the BEST news lately.  A generous donor asked us what we'd do with a couple thousand dollars, and we said we'd love to give scholarships to a cohort of underrepresented students entering, thinking of English majors/minors.  And now we have to find students!  But it's all very late in the game, so...

And yet.... I feel absolutely no energy to do this stuff.  I really need to just power through.  Wish me luck.

Wednesday, December 02, 2020


 I got copied on some emails today sent out by an administrative aide telling colleagues in my department that they need to do X before the year is out or else.

I get these sorts of emails fairly often.  We're supposed to do time sheets, pretty much like any other job, saying when we took sick leave and such.  But some people don't do them or skip some, or whatever, and so I got a bunch of copied emails telling people to get caught up or else.

I can sure understand missing a month.  It happens.  But not doing them for an entire year?  That's not just a mistake.  That's on purpose.

And we have a departmental email that goes out at the beginning of the month as a reminder, and then a week later as another reminder.  

This time, it was trying to get people caught up on "training" stuffs we're all supposed to do before the beginning of the academic year.  There's one on email and other security, and one on not sexually harassing students, and so forth.  Yes, they're useless.  And yes, someone is making way too much money supplying these mandated training things to large employers.  For each, it's about 90 minutes of stupid irritation.

But just do it and it's done.  (I did three for the coming year over Thanksgiving break.  Two one day, and one the next, and now I'm done for the year.  Yay me.)

I'm sure pretty much every largish employer or government agency has these for employees to do.  And mostly, I'm sympathetic to the goal: don't think you're going to get millions of dollars if you send your bank info to that Nigerian prince.  And don't sexually harass people.  And try to treat people with respect and decency.  All of those are worthy things, even if the training module thingies are dreadful. 

What I've decided to do is send one follow up email about whatever, reminding the person of the consequences (you lose some benefit that's nice, usually).

Today, I got a polite email back, thanking me for the nudge.  Okay.  Nice.  At least it was nice.  But seriously, I shouldn't have to nudge someone who's been here for nearly 10 or more years.

I think the biggest shock for me as chair is the constant reminder that my fellow faculty members haven't bothered to "read the syllabus" or "do the reading" or "do the homework" or whatever that we all complain that students don't do.  

And for exactly the same reasons: we're overwhelmed, and the things we're supposed to do don't seem as important as other things, and so on.