Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I have various and sundry items in the posterior receptacle.

Or, as one of my students so helpfully noted, "they had junk in the trunk."

Yessiree, it's that time of year! Fall student evaluations have been processed and handed back to the instructors. There's always a gem or five in the batch. My first semester teaching, unstable problem student said I was "the most miserable person alive." Yes, the evaluations are completely anonymous, and typed by a third party so teachers can't identify handwriting, handed back after grades are in, the whole shebang. But, only unstable problem student (who ended the semester by standing in my office doorway screaming at me) would say something like that. The other gems from that semester were the pair who said I should "get a personality and stop talking like Ben Stein." I'm sorry, precious little snowflakes, that I failed to make cell division and osmosis *sparkle and gleam* to your stringent standards.

Anyway, this semester on the whole I was pleased with the feedback I received. A fair number of my students thought that I was enthusiastic, well-prepared, and approachable. In each of my four sections the students who began the course as 'having no interest in the subject at all,' had at least upgraded to 'have a minor interest in the subject.' I attribute this to Super David Attenborough, who was in several of the YouTube videos I showed the class. "Yes, mitosis may not be exciting, but you haven't seen strangler figs! Rapid cell division and growth, yeah baby yeah!'

But of course, when dealing with young adults of variable maturity, there must be one gem, one precious, glittering emerald, one pinnacle of character who must say, when asked if the course or instructor could be improved:

"They had junk in the trunk."

Pronoun issues aside, I must point out that if these evals were not anonymous, we'd undoubtedly discover this person had handily earned a D or F.

Mostly it's funny, but the part that makes me mad, (aside from them not paying homage to my glorious rack:)), is that a comment like that, reducing me to my fabulous ass, would never show up on the evals of my male colleuagues.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Here we go, always with the too much of the information

I may have just created negative consequence for myself. For the past 2 summers, I have taught a summer intensive as part of an enrichment program for high school students. It's only a month long and classes are in the am, so it fits in well with other activities. Until this summer, possibly. For reasons unknown this morning I was trying to figure out my summer employment. I'd like to request a teaching assistantship in my department for this summer. I have seniority and am trying to finish up my thesis, which are usually the requirements to get this position. Unfortunately, the term which I would request overlaps with the last week of the high school program. I talked to my boss who oversees the labs and TA's to find out the requirements. Turns out, with the sections on the schedule right now, I would have one morning class so no, I could not do both.

Thing is, I could have just asked about the scheduling and teaching load, and have all the information I need. But, me being me, I had to go and explain and explicitly state that I would be trying to do both. I have a pretty good rapport with my boss and don't entirely think this would go against me. And it might not. But then she asked if I had to pick, which one would I pick, and when I honestly answered that it depended on money...

then I remembered, too late, that that could be used against me. A lot of people request a summer TA and they might not want to give one to someone who is enetertaining other options. And I think employers don't like to think of their employees working other jobs because of the possibility of shoddy work. At least I knew enough to point out that I wanted to teach at high school program because I already have all the lesson plans and it would be easy. I know I could easily handle both; the overlap is only for a week.

Another grad student in the department lost funding last fall for being too honest. She told the chair that she was interviewing for outside jobs, and he used that as a reason- "due to your job prospects"- to give her TA to a new incoming student. Is this the same kind of thing? I guess one difference is that this is so far in advance. It's not even time to request TA's yet, so I can still request a TA and make it clear that that it is my preference. And, there's a chance they will add sections, which would make it possible for me to do both because I maybe wouldn't have that one am class to teach on the lab side. And, the other grad student in mention had also dropped some balls the previous year, so there might have been another logic at hand.

Still, I could have avoided all the worry if I had just answered "Oh, of course I would rather work here..." Which, actually is true.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Back to it

I can tell it's almost time to face my work again by the condition of my teeth. I have been grinding at night and clenching during the day. It hurts to pass any food or liquid over the right side of my mouth, and my unstable tooth near the front is a little loose again. (Yeah, I'm almost 30 and I have a loose tooth. It's the result of an accident about 4 years ago during my Peace Corps service. The impressive part is that it hasn't fallen out yet.)

Tangent: It is very hard to get used to in-laws.

One of my committee members asked how my research is going by saying, "I haven't heard anything since the meeting...gosh, that was a long time ago." Crap. I don't think she was saying it in a pointed way, because she is not an asshole. More of a "oh yeah, that was a long time ago," than a "that was a long time ago and why the hell don't you have your shit together?" Still, I spent some time stressing over the second possibility, that my committee all thinks I am a massive failure and waste of time and will never, ever, pass me on this degree. Clearly, if that is what I am thinking then that is the reality, yes? More tooth-grinding. The unstable tooth is now wiggly when I swallow. I chatted with her a bit about my field seasons last spring and fall, and my intention to pull together some graphs for the committee before the spring field season. (See sidebar on Dec-Jan to-do list. Note that that task is not crossed off because I spent my break watching 'The Office' on Netflix on-demand.) She was quick to add that we don't need to have another committee meeting - I guess no one enjoys those- but that we should just meet over it individually. I've mostly calmed down but am still spending 5 15 50 minutes here and there thinking about my not-having-shit-together-ed-ness.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

WTF?!? Wednesday

Welcome to a new feature here at MTPS. I'm trying to focus a little less on negativity in 2008, but I'm also mindful that sometimes you need to get pissed off to get things done. One of my grad colleagues reminded me of this last summer. I was whining to him about how I just don't like my project anymore, was losing the battle against lazy, and was generally uninspired. And I had split ends and new acne, on which he didn't have much comment. But for the other stuff...he told me a story about almost losing a key-Friday-Night-Lights-football game in high school. His coach told them to play with hate in their hearts, not so much for the other team but for their own lackluster performance. They went on to win the game, and he gave me the same advice. Don't wait for inspiration, just get pissed enough to get shit done.
So WTF Wednesday will spotlight issues which are important to me, and which might be important to you to. Our inaugural story:

Calif. sues EPA over greenhouse gas rules By SAMANTHA YOUNG, Associated Press Writer
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - California sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday for denying its first-in-the-nation greenhouse gas limits on cars, trucks and SUVs, challenging the Bush administration's conclusion that states have no business setting emission standards.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't federal non-interference one of the core tenets of the Republican Party? This is hardly surprising, given this administrations' approach to our tiny blue dot. Equally predictable yet disappointing is that neither my birth state nor my current state are among those who have or plan to enact stringent statewide standards. The only justification for the EPA's decision would be to discourage states from enacting legislation which would set lax emissions standards. However, the proposed California legislation actually bests the federal guide.


Proposed Action: Write letters to representatives of implicated states (and resident state) expressing support for emissions legislation, as well as for challenging an EPA decision which is to the detriment of our global community. Spread the word.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


We must be better than what we have become.
Narrated by Carl Sagan; found on Getting Things Done in Academia.