Sunday, November 15, 2009

Time between blog posts is directly proportional to amount of chaos in life

I'm over half way through my first semester teaching a four class load with three preps. I'm still writing my dissertation. I have a two year old who is dealing with institutionalized care for the first time ever, with the complete assault that is on his immune system.

School is going well. I'm hearing good feedback through unofficial back channels. My students are almost all performing well and trying to master some difficult concepts. As Angry Professor says, trying to teach statistics to social science majors tends to color your outlook somewhat. It's been interesting teaching a teaching university rather than a research university. The demands on my time are very different, and the role I am expected to play as mentor is one for which I have never received official training, either in my graduate program or professionally. There is an expectation of an open door policy here outside of official office hours, so if I'm in my office, I'm available. And I'm supposed to be in my office every day. Students here have been taught that professors are always available and willing to talk. They stop in to chat about all sorts of questions. That's completely different from the attitude I had about my professors. I was never in their offices without a specific question, and I left as soon as it was answered.

The nice side effect of this is that I am finding out how much I enjoy collaborating with students. In all of the classes I teach I get to help students think about how they think, and watching them grappling with big normative questions and coming up with new and interesting ways of looking at the world for them to go and explore.

That said, there has been a definite learning curve. I've changed my texts for all three classes next semester, and am going to be dramatically reorganizing two of them. That's what I get to do over the winter break. I've been smart enough to keep a text file for each class entitled "What to Change for Next Semester" so I won't have to go back and wrack my memory trying to remember all the good ideas I've had.

All of this has been exacerbated by a sick little boy. He got the stomach flu last week and didn't eat for five days. And then it turned into an ear infection. He's on two separate types of antibiotics trying to get it to clear up. You know it's bad when I can track his improvement by counting the number of q-tips I am using to clean out the discharge so I can get the eardrops in far enough that they will do any good. (Note: we've topped out at four - both ends.) We've already dealt with pink eye. I'm hoping that once he is exposed to everything that his immune system will cut him a break next semester and he won't spend so much time feeling crappy.

And even with all this, I'm still making slow progress on my dissertation. I keep telling myself that over Thanksgiving break I'll get a lot of it done. That never really worked as an undergraduate. I wonder if it will work now.


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