Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Moving Plans Are In

Our move is all set (I think). Our labs and homes are going to be packed last week of July. We'll drive down, and arrive days before our start date of Aug. 1. It's going to be hectic and overwhelming, but both sets of parents are helping out.

The daycare is arranged, as is the rental house. Our current house is not yet sold, and that is the #1 frustration.

Grants are being transferred. New grants are being submitted through the new university. My graduate student is defending his thesis proposal next week so that he can pseudo-transfer (hard to explain, but we've got it worked out).

In 3 or 4 weeks, I'll be home.

Friday, June 25, 2010

We're Great Parents. Really.

Is it bad that the clerk at the liquor store knows your kid really well?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Teaching Another Generation of Students

I speculate here that students nowadays learn very differently from when I was a student ten years ago.

When I was an undergraduate, my expectation from an course was to sit in a classroom, to take notes from the blackboard, and maybe do a project or a demo (rarely) in class. The internet was established but still new, and the idea of getting homework solutions from a class website was not an entitlement - but a privilege. Growing up, my generation learned uni-directionally - from TV, books, newspaper, and teachers that lectured to us. There was not an opportunity to "comment" or "post" or to interact with our learning tools. Talking back to a teacher was unusual.

My first two years of teaching has been based on my experiences from ten years ago. I prepare notes, I present the notes, the students write them down. The notes are based on our textbook, and I do not stray from the textbook. Rarely, we have a demo from YouTube or a printout from a website. My current teaching model is uni-directional. Students do not speak up in class very much nor do the inquire. This is very much like how I learned, and ten years ago - this may have been satisfactory. But now it is not, and I must change how I teach.

Society now receives and processes information in an interactive pathway. We can now "comment" on news stories online, we can "Twitter" to CNN on how we feel about the story, and we are entitled to see our personal responses posted on a website. The generation of students I am now teaching appear to desire more interaction in the classroom, and this is where I have failed. Our brains are now wired to seek information, and to post our opinions.

I plan to change my teaching style for the next course. I want to improve and change the same way in which technology does. I don't want to be that old professor using 20-year old transparencies! There are a number of ways to add activities and interactions to a course that look promising. What I ask is what you like to do in your courses? What worked? What didn't work?

What My Teaching Evaluations Tell Me

My teaching evaluations from Spring 2010 show scores lower than Spring 2009. My initial reaction was hurt, but then I read the comments from the students. "She followed the book too closely." "She did too many examples in class." "Her class was too easy."

What!? Keep in mind these are Ivy League students, I speculate here that they have different expectations for their classes than what I am used to. But then, I also think that the students learn differently now than 10 years ago (to be discussed in future post).

At the midterm, I asked students to write down how they would like to improve the class. The overwhelming majority requested more examples. So I gave them more examples. Now, I'm getting dinged for it on my evaluations!! I am at a loss here.

And the class was too easy? But on the 2nd and 3rd exam, the class average was low low low! So perplexed.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Conference what conference?

This blog is going to degrade to SCREAMING and YELLING until the move.

We (my lab and I) are going to a conference on Sunday. I asked my student if he had made his poster yet. He said, "Oh - when is that conference?" I said, "This Sunday." And the look of panic on his face spreads. "Did you register?" I say. Yep, he registered.

Now I'm wondering if he registered for the right conference... WTF!!! How can you not know you're going to a conference?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Pulling Out My Hair!

Eeeek. This month just won't end. I've got two dumb proposals, a manuscript, a prospectus, three articles to review, two conferences - and then... finally a move to Home State. How much Miller Lite does it take to grease the wheels here and make things go? Have given up on taming how I eat this month, and rediscovered vegan cake.

And will somebody buy our dumbass house already?

Please...send...booze...fruity girly booze. And no, my shirt stays on. Unless you buy my DUMBASS house!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Grant Writing + Moving = Idiocy

I'm trying to write two proposals this summer - both are due during my moving week. So I'm trying to get them done now, but I have NO motivation. With the move coming up, I'm more focused on selling our house, securing daycare, finishing manuscripts, and assisting students than writing two boring grants. Because funding rates are low, I am feeling like time spent writing grants is futile. However, nothing ventured is nothing gained. I am forcing myself to go into work, forcing myself to write. It sux, but it's moving along.

Some ask me which university I'm applying through because I won't yet be an employee at new U. And the answer is that I'm applying through my new U because the budgets all have to be run through there. It's pretty common to submit grants at your future institution prior to starting your job. But it's also a pain in the ass because you're working with people that you've never met face to face.

Anyways... Friday Friday Friday!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Normal is Good

Dr. says that blood work is normal and that the X-rays came back normal! My finger has something going on, but we'll have to wait and see. I'll get more X-rays in the next year to see what is up with the hands.

I'm breathing a sigh of relief, thanking God that I have at least another year of peace with my body until I go through the work up all over again. My mind just gets out of control when I think about this too much. Must concentrate on grants. I'd rather be rejected on a grant than get bad news from the Doc.

Monday, June 14, 2010

I'm Afraid of My Hands

I see my rheumatologist tomorrow to get the X-rays, and I'm scared. I keep looking at my hands.

My left index finger is looking deformed, but maybe that's my imagination cuz I'm been staring at m'damn hands too much. I'm scared that he may tell me that the damage has begun, that I have to go on something scary like Enbrel, that I can't live my life. Yes, I'm overdramatic, but I'm so scared and just writing it out here so that my husband doesn't have to hear me for the umpteenth time.

But then - even if my finger looks deformed - it doesn't hurt, and I can bend it. So keep on the bright side, or at least try to.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Science Killed My Proposal

I just got the reviews from my rejected proposal. Apparently, basing a proposal on a recently published article in Science is grounds for rejection!

This recent article shows interesting behavior for a material. I propose, "Hey, let's do something different to that material and make it even better."

The reviewer writes that the article in Science is all wrong, and systematically debunks the article. The reviewer concludes that since my proposal is based on that article, then my proposal should be all wrong, too. Sigh.

I can't resubmit for the next round because it based on a "wrong" Science article, which is far more frustrating. You would think that if something were published in a Big Name Journal, that it would have some credibility.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Focus on This

A great article on distractions and our ability to focus on tasks is in the NY Times. This is a probably I am constantly battling.

To balance work, family, and my ridiculous commute, I must be highly efficient in how I use my time. Each task will be completed effectively and efficiently if I dedicate 100% of my attention to that task. But... emails filter in, and so do instant messages. And I feel the immediate need to answer all of them, which pulls me away from the task at hand. If I don't watch myself, a whole morning can go by and I won't be able to tell you what I did.

The article follows a technophile family. The family is so absorbed in their gadgets that they hardly talk to each other. It has infiltrated their ability to work, too. I realize this is an extreme case, but the story struck me because this behavior is familiar to me.

If I am to do this job from 8-5 (and a little more at night), then I must treat that time as sacred. Surfing the internet is just throwing away time that could be spent doing hobbies (cooking, gardening) or hanging out with the family. With moderate success, I check my email a few times a day (morning, lunch, afternoon, evening). I limit internet to news sites and literature search engines. I have specific goals for the day, and I complete them. It's rigid and boring, but I have time outside work to enjoy life.

Other faculty will work 14 hours a day, and I just can't fathom how they handle it. Surely they aren't really working during all of that time?! Perhaps they are actively working 9 hours, and being distracted for 5? In graduate school, I found that the people who worked all the time were also playing video games in the lab... Just a thought. I'll try to get off the internet now. It's a bit distracting.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

3 Hrs in My Lovely Car

There was a big wreck on the hwy on my way into work and on my way home. I spent 3 hrs in my car just to perform work that I could have easily done at home. Why do I bother coming in? I could have spent those 3 hrs playing Chronotrigger. Hmmph.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Behind Closed Doors

The administrative asst. at my new university flubbed up and sent the faculty meeting notes to Mr. JP and I. We read notes on the faculty discussion on how our interviews went and whether they should hire us or not. It is surreal to read about myself in this way, especially since the outcome is know - we were hired. Mr. JP received generally positive comments. Comments on myself were generally positive, but some thought that I wasn't well-prepared. Sigh. OK, so maybe I wasn't well prepared, there's some truth to that. I didn't look up the shared facilities. I didn't have a list of faculty that I wanted to collaborate with. My talk was not rehearsed. I hope that you future faculty candidates will be better prepared than I!

Another separate time Mr. JP saw his personal file at his old university, and found that comments on his hiring process were accidentally left in the folder. The comments, now, are funny to read. "How will this guy get funding?" Answer: He later got 4 young investigator awards, isn't that enough? "His research area is boring." Answer: If we hired everyone who did 'popular' scientific research, then we'd have a bunch of faculty with no funding. And, his research is "boring" enough to get a job elsewhere after 5 years...

So I'll be better prepared. 5% of me is wondering if this is an internal bias against women because we are perceived as being harried as we balance work and family. Gasp! Because men don't have that problem, too. But I admit that for this interview, I could have been better prepared.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Juvenile Arthritis

CNN has a nice segment on Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. The message is to keep moving to slow the damage!

I get the results from my annual X-rays soon. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Making Friends for Afar

Because Mr. JP live 45 minutes away from our respective universities, it has been very difficult to cultivate friendships with colleagues. No one wants to drive 45+ minutes one way to come have dinner or watch a movie. And we don't want to drive that far either to hang out with them - especially because everything seems to conflict with Sparky's naptime. Needless to say, the last two years here have been a little lonely. No family is nearby, and our friendships with colleagues are not deep. (On top of that there are practically zero women in my School so I'm especially isolated). Moving away from all of this makes me realize that there are not very many people to say goodbye to. I wonder how we would manage life had we stayed.

At our new university, we'll be sickeningly close to our colleagues - maybe even living on the same street! I get to work with and live near my close friend from graduate school. The young faculty seem very sociable, and I thrive when I can hang out with people every weekend. The new U. has many women faculty my age. I am looking forward to making new friendships, and I can't wait to move!