Friday random bullets

  • I’ve struggled a bit this term with finding time every day for research. I find it relatively easy to do early in the week, but the end of the week (W-F) tends to run away from me. This morning I squeezed in about an hour of good, quality research. Since then, I’ve been about twice as productive as I usually am when I skip research. Note to self: make time for research every day!
  • I’ve been using a standing desk for a few weeks now. I have a temporary one rigged up using this Ikea hack. I need to saw a bit off of the bottom of the shelf brackets to get the keyboard tray to a better height, but so far, I’m loving it! It does, however, influence my choice of shoes—I am less likely to pick the shoes that are mostly-but-not-completely comfortable and more likely to pick, say, flats everyday. I sense a visit to a tailor in my near future to get some pants re-hemmed….
  • The new prep is going well so far. I’m glad I had the trial run of the material during our summer program. I was most worried about (a) the writing component of the course and (b) running a mostly-discussion class. (I’m used to incorporating all sorts of active learning activities in my courses, but pure discussion plays a small role in those.) I still need to grade their first essays, but I’m trying to be very transparent with my expectations (publishing my rubric with the assignment, specifically spelling out criteria, etc). We’ll see if that helped on the first paper. As for discussion, I’ve done a couple of pure-discussion classes, but for now am mainly sticking to small group discussions/activities, and that’s working well so far. As a bonus, the participation rate in the whole-class discussions seems to be increasing, maybe because students are gaining confidence in the small group discussions?
  • On a related note, we had our “clients” (the Librarians) visit our class on Wednesday, or rather we visited them, to discuss our term-long project: reenvisioning the Library’s home page. I am always appreciative when staff take time out of their very busy schedules to visit my classes, and the discussion was fabulous. The students came prepared and eager, with great insights, and of course our librarians rock, so it was a great, great class session.
  • Today is the last day of drop-add. I’ve signed a bunch of drop-add forms today for my advisees. I’m guessing there are other deadlines today or soon too, because I’ve also signed a bunch of forms as chair (adding the major, graduating early, etc). I think I am the most popular person in the department today. 🙂
  • I’ve had a number of exhausting discussions lately around diversity and privilege. Necessary, for sure, but exhausting. Exhausting because of the slow pace of change and the level of awareness. It’s caused me to reflect a lot more on my responsibilities in my role as chair, as a woman in computer science, and as a professor in leading these discussions. This may be a longer post at a later point, when I have better-formed ideas.
  • The exhausting part may also be due to the return of my insomnia, the bane of my existence last winter. It’s not nearly as bad as it was then, but dude, I’m tired and just want to sleep—is that so wrong?

And on that sleepy note, I’m off to class. Have a great weekend everyone!


Academic year theme

Chalkboard. Image source:

Image credit: Krzysztof Pacholak on Flickr.

Unlike most colleges and universities in the US, we haven’t started our academic year yet. That changes today, our first day of classes for Fall term.

Last week the first years arrived, visible by their tendencies to travel in packs, and the meetings started in earnest (although I’ve been in meetings for the past 3 weeks, so my year started even earlier). Students trickled back on campus, last-minute problems arose (of course), and I began my normal full-fledged panicking about the first day of classes and the state of my syllabuses (syllabi?). Today the craziness begins for real: we hit the accelerator pedal and don’t let up for the next 10+ weeks.

It’s been a tradition around these parts for me, and other academics, to set a theme for the year. September is an academic’s “new year”, and I don’t care much for new year’s resolutions (although I have made them in the past), but I do like the idea of having a guiding principle, if you will, for the year ahead.

In the past, I’ve tended to set high standards for myself in my choice of theme, much like I do in the rest of my life. I seem to conveniently forget each and every year just how insane life during the academic year gets. I set these lofty ideals for myself (I’ll get 8 hours of sleep every night! I’ll bake bread for my family! I’ll read a research article every week! I’ll achieve work-life balance and be happy happy happy!)…and then everything falls apart around week 3 of the term and remains in a state of chaos and I enter a phase of self-loathing since I can’t keep it all together.

This year, I know going in that my life is going to be complete chaos. This term alone, I have 2 classes, one of which is a brand-new prep and a brand-new class. I’m revamping my grant application, which is due in early December, and need to do some more proof-of-concept experiments there to address some of the shortcomings pointed out by the last set of reviewers. I’d like to get another article out by the end of the year, since I just got an article rejection. I’m department chair, we’re hiring, and we have a lot of new people. I have a conference, an external department review, and a big service meeting, 2 of which require travel, in the next couple of months. And as my kids get older, their lives get more complicated, and I have to manage getting them where they need to be.

So in this year’s theme, I’m attempting to recognize all of this and, for once in my life, cut myself some slack. My theme is good enough. I want to do my best this year, but my best doesn’t mean perfect. And let’s be honest, I don’t have to do an A+ job at every single thing all of the time. I want to be more mindful of when I’ve done enough in an area and move on. Because at the end of the day, I don’t want to be a ball of stress and I don’t want to be harping on all the things I didn’t do and all the ways I failed (myself).

Do you have a theme this year? If so, what is it?