A new “routine”…


Last week didn’t “count” — well, it did but it didn’t…  I say that because I spent almsot all of Friday in my pajamas…

That can’t be my new “routine” during my sabbatical… really, I won’t get it done.

I gave myself last week because, dang it, I deserve it… plus, Max was with us and we had more interesting things to do than have me work — like, watch most of “The Office” (him) and drink coffee while reading semi-trashy novels (me).  Now, Max is on the way back to his other home and starting school — and I’m thinking about being productive.

The trouble is, I’m not used to NOT having a schedule — at leas not while school is in session.  Sure, I adjusted to teaching online over the summer, but it was SUMMER… now it’s Fall and I need to figure out how I work best.

It helps that Andy is in school again, so I have some kind of schedule — if only by proxy.  The thing is, I’ve never had this kind of unstructured time to do research… and it’s a little daunting.

Like anything, I’ll probably get it done… by “it” I mean my dissertation project of developing two new courses…

I have a plan for the first part — namely, to develop the Ethical Theory section I’ll use in both classes… and I’m participating in a faculty group on Tuesday to get some ideas for my new classes…

But, still — the time between NOW and May (when summer classes start) is pretty daunting — wish me luck.


Happy First Day of School!


Today is the first day of school for Century folks… and the first Fall semester since 1993 that I haven’t had classes to teach and/or attend.

A few tips for students…

  • It’s on the syllabus — really, just read it.
  • Plan to actually go to that class, all the time.
  • Do your reading — really, it will make class more interesting.
  • Ask when you have questions.
  • Go to office hours — especially if it’s a huge class (I went to the U of MN and Nebraska… I know huge classes)
  • Enjoy your time as a student, it turns out that the “real world” is overrated.

Tips for new Professors/GTAs etc..

  • Don’t bore them the first day by reading the syllabus — tell them there will be a quiz on it.
  • Enjoy teaching — if you let them, your smarties will shine and you’ll enjoy having them in class.
  • If this is your first ever semester teaching, relax and know that it gets easier.
  • Don’t plan on anything too thought-intensive for the first week. Getting back in the swing of things isn’t easy.

Now — I’m going back to bed, because I’m on Sabbatical!!!!


Advice for College Students…

… now is the cranky time for your professors.

About now the following things are happening behind the scene at your campus…

  • All kinds of ishy forms are being required of your professors.  We don’t like to do them.  We think they’re a waste of our time and brainpower and we hate struggling with the ridiculous questions they ask us.  Also, the formatting of the electric forms sucks and we spend a lot of time messing around with that.
  • Committee work is getting ugly.  The committees have to get things done by the end of Fall semester and the end of the calendar year.  This means more time working on stuff we never wanted to do in the first place.
  • Administrators are busy with all kinds of things as are staff folks, so they don’t have time to answer our questions.
  • Grading is piling up and we’re looking at grading finals.  At this point in the year, we see a huge set of stuff to read and evaluate and the optimism and energy of the beginning of the school year has worn off.
  • Students who haven’t been doing their work come out of the woodwork with excuse after excuse.  Some of them are real reasons and others are pure BS, but we don’t have the resources to tell one from another.
  • Our colleagues are getting cranky and picking fights.  They try to stand on the principle of academic freedom to avoid doing what they need to do in the first place.  These aren’t issues about their legitimate control of what they teach or research, but they pull that old line out like it’s going to work — when it shouldn’t.
  • The holidays are coming up, but we don’t generally get anything like a holiday bonus, so we’re trying to figure out how to afford Christmas….. and probably making a decision about whether or not to travel to see relatives.
  • Reports are due — on many levels… this makes us cranky in and of itself.
  • Political games are going on behind the scenes about funding for programs and hiring decisions for next year.  We feel like we need to fight to maintain what we fought to maintain this time last year.
  • The economy sucks — it’s likely that their spouse is unemployed or underemployed, adding to the holiday stress.
  • The schedules for next Spring, Summer and Fall are all landing on their desks and this means they have to talk to their cranky colleagues and make guesses about what to offer in the next year.
  • Due to budget concerns, administration is probably telling them they need to either increase the class size for next year OR telling them they need to get more students to enroll in their courses to avoid having them canceled.

So, be kind to them.  Smile, tell them they’re a good teacher and that you’re appreciating their class.  If you see a former professor in the hall, stop them to say hi and let them know they did a good job when you were in their class.  Generally, treat them like you’d treat a parent who is overworked, exhausted and stressed — because we are.  Now is not the time to complain, lie or cheat — really, the last two don’t go over well at any time, but they’ll be dealt with more harshly now than they would at any other time.

Generally, if you hang on a couple of weeks, we’ll see Thanksgiving break on the horizon and we’ll lighten up — until then smile, sit down, shut up and do your reading…. and for goodness sake, stay off of your phone and facebook during class!

Adjunct faculty, making it work

I’m thinking about one adjunct humanities faculty member…

We’re in a system that is actually fairly good for part-time faculty.  They get equal pay for teaching — and proportionate health benefits to a full-time load.  What they don’t have is job security.

One of my faculty members is building job security slowly but surely.  She teaches in a unique sub-set of humanities.  She’s developed four new courses, none of which others in the department can or care to teach.

She works Saturday and Thursday nights — and online.

I just wrote an e-mail asking if she’d be open to adding another section.  She gave an immediate positive response, noting that her online sections always fill up quickly.

I love her — although I never see her.  Not seeing her makes me sad, but she’s busy being a full-time mom AND teaching 3 (now maybe 4) sections per semester.  She doesn’t have time to hang out in the copy room — she’s getting things done and doing them well.

For my class…



… because you insisted…

If you need it explained, ask a classmate who looks like they have experience — I’m not explaining any more.. :).

C students…

… sometimes make good… Not that ‘ol GW Bush was good…

A while ago I found an old high school report card.  I took Humanities with the lovely Ms. M — a brilliant teacher, a critical thinker and a very nice person.  I was shocked to see I got a C in Humanities I.

I’m sure I deserved that C — Ms. M was always fair — and demanding at the same time.  When I was a freshman in college, I took Humanities courses and Ms. M’s classes were a fantastic foundation— so I must have learned something.

What’s funny about it now is that I’ve been the chair of Century’s Humanities Division for four years — and I have a Ph.D. in a humanities discipline…

Turns out that I was a late bloomer… hmmm…

Paternalism or a good idea?

There’s an idea floating around out there to dispurse student loan / grant money every two weeks…

In some ways it seems to make sense — students aren’t as likely to blow their living expense money at the beginning of the semester and then have to drop out to pay the bills.

On the other hand, it seems as if the “paycheck” wouldn’t be all that wonderful anyway — and coming every two weeks it might not be enough in two weeks to cover rent — and the students would have to get a job anyway.

Andy’s take on it is that they don’t pay it back for you, so you should be able to choose how you manage your money.  I tend to agree — for the most part.  What should happen is that students should have more access to meaningful work-study jobs — thus, they’d get both a paycheck AND student aid…