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Happy 2014: Woman Working Edition

31 Dec

It’s hard to believe 2013 is nearly over. It’s been a busy year and it’s gone by incredibly fast. For once I didn’t make any major moves and didn’t start a new job. Instead this was my first full year spent settling into my tenure track job. I have some more detailed posts planned about my academic goals and scheduling/juggling techniques, but for now I’ll just take a bit of stock of the last year, and where I’d like to go in 2014.

2013 in Review:

  • After the dust settled from my first semester at my new school, I realized how much I really, truly love my job. I love the school where I work. I love my colleagues. I love that I have the room and support to take charge of my research and decide what I want to do next. Something like only 13% of people like going to work— I’m among those lucky 13%. I get to teach what I want and research what I want. What more could I ask for?
  • I’ve become much more comfortable in the classroom. I’m better with the students who try to pull one over on me– I have a better radar for them. And I am better at recognizing the students who are truly working hard and encouraging their growth. I remember that first class I taught by myself at the school where I had my VAP (I didn’t come out of grad school with much teaching experience) and I can’t believe how fresh-faced and visibly nervous I must have been! How far I’ve come since then!
  • I’m honing in more and more on my own teaching style. I do more assignments and activities that empower students to learn on their own. I do less lecturing. I’m honest in the classroom about what they need to learn, and why, and what standpoint I come from. I listen to my students more and try to incorporate what they know into the classroom. After spending some time getting to know my students (first generation, poor, mostly non-white students), I know that they know a heck of a lot more in a practical sense about what I’m teaching (racism, inequality, poverty) and I work to draw out that knowledge. I’m a work in progress, but I feel that I am making some headway.
  • I’ve become more liberal, more progressive, more radical (if that was even possible), and more passionate about addressing injustice. As a result, I’ve become less tolerant of beliefs that people hold out of ignorance that actually cause harm to others. Someone wants to vote conservative? Sure, go for it, but I won’t respect the fact that they’re voting for candidates who support policies that perpetuate inequality and  that literally cost people their lives. Yes, I am still committed to a dialogue and believe that people can change, but I’m no longer tolerating crap like “love the sinner, hate the sin” or “people should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”

cc8c9b8952a333a65c6b062fdc19f8e72014 Goals:

  • Since I love my work so much, this coming year I want to focus on accomplishing even more. I want to throw myself into my career. How much of a luxury is that? I’ll go into more specifics in other posts, but I want to start working on a book, and launch an exciting new research project. In short, I want to focus on doing what I need to do for tenure, AND what I want to do as a scholar. I want to work towards what I want my career to look like.
  • To do this, I want to put new habits in place to better help me reach my goals. No more triaging during the semester– constantly running behind and trying to figure out which ignored emails and tasks need to be addressed during whatever short amount of time I have on hand.
  • I want to assign fewer written assignments, make them more focused on specific learning goals, and due much earlier in the semester. I want to spend less time grading, especially at the end of the semester, and make the grading I do worth more in terms of improving students’ work.
  • Continue my goal of “less is more” in the classroom. I want to make sure I assign only what is important to read, and avoid information overload in class. Specific, learning-focused tasks, communicated well with students, go a longer way for learning than assigning tons of reading and cramming a lot into a class.
  • Read more fiction. I don’t think I’ve regular read fiction since grad school and this makes me sad. My brain misses it. I have stacks of books to read next to my bed, but I fall asleep as soon as I get into it at night. I need to make fiction reading a priority.
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Ok, I set up a schedule. Can I actually stick to it?

23 Aug

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Inspired by one of my favorite blogs, Get A Life PhD, I decided to actually make a schedule for the semester. It’s not that I’ve never had a schedule before– I’ve always blocked out my teaching, meetings, and office hours for the semester. I do this in Apple’s ical, and then it’s accessible on my computer, iphone, and ipad. So what’s different about this schedule? Well, I actually scheduled in chunks of time for writing, reading/research hours. And running, because, hey, a girl needs to do that. And I’m going to make an effort to stick to these hours, barring any meetings that I can’t avoid (like the department meeting above).

This isn’t a complete schedule. My morning routine is to drink coffee and catch up on email and social media. My brain just isn’t good for anything more than that before 9am. I also didn’t factor in my commute, which is 25 minutes each way. I didn’t include lunch, because unless I venture out of the building to have lunch with a colleague, I usually eat a sandwich at my computer while working. I did leave an hour open before my Tuesday evening class so I have time to not only eat, but venture out to get coffee and clear my head if I need to. Grading is obviously not included and that inevitably eats into evenings and weekends.

In addition to 8 hours of  writing time per week, I included a day for research (data collection, interviews etc.) and for reading articles etc. related to research. I’ll work from home on Friday as doing that stuff from home is ideal. Writing I do better at the office. There is no way I can get any writing or research done on my heavy teaching days (Monday and Wednesday), and that’s just going to have to be OK.

I included time for running 3 days a week (chances are that I’ll go on a long run on the weekend too). Running is key to keeping all these activity going in as non-stressful a way and the afternoon is the perfect time for me to run, come home and have reward beer. I haven’t been able to run much this summer due to an injury (and the heat), so getting back into that routine will be fantastic. Ideally, I’d come home around 4pm each day, go for a run (MWF), then cook a nice dinner and eat with my partner. Cooking and relaxing are just so much a part of daily life for me, I need a schedule that let’s me do that. And in the evenings I’m sure I’ll have to do some emailing and grading, but ideally, I’ll be able to actually relax and watch a good old movie.

So what could go wrong? Well, lots of things. First of all, meetings are going to inevitably cut into chunks of time. I’m on more committees this year and have more commitments. I can’t do anything about that, although I can say “no” more, which I did just do for the first time. Tuesday and Thursday are also potential issues. I am good about getting into school for teaching (the professor has to make it to class– no matter how close she cuts it), but in the past I have not been good about getting into school to just work. I’m likely to spend too much time in the morning in my PJs, unaware of the time, and then lazily run errands on my way to school, stop for lunch etc. Notice what I wrote there? “Just work.” Well, writing, we know, is work and isn’t “just” anything. I think if I actually put this time in the same mental category as any other appointment, that will help. And my partner knows about it, so she can prod me to follow my schedule.

Another potential problem is that during those writing times, I’ll get side tracked by emails, the fascinating internets etc. The only way that works for me in terms of focusing, is to use the Pomodoro technique and a timer. I have a timer app on my computer, but I’m not adverse to buying a plain old kitchen timer for my office. Knowing I can work for 15 minutes (with ticking in the background– helps to distract me from my tinnitus) and then quickly check FB really works for me.

If this schedule works, then I’ll be productive, and I’ll have time to relax and have a life.

I need some incentive, though. If I can get through September, following this schedule (minus meetings), then I need to do something as a reward. I can’t think of what that is, though. Maybe a nice meal out and a movie?

No matter how it appears, these are not New Year’s Resolutions

1 Jan

I made no resolutions for the New Year.  The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me.  ~Anaïs Nin

I used to make long lists of New Year’s resolutions, carefully thinking of what I want to start fresh with in the New Year. I stopped making them a few years ago. From what I’ve read, most New Year’s resolutions (weight loss, exercise, etc.) are doomed even before the new year begins. Nowadays, I find myself making more “semester resolutions” than New Year’s ones, making plans and adjustments to how I work from semester to semester. I still appreciate the passage of time into a new calendar year, though, and the possibilities and potential for the new year ahead. And since this year was one of such transition for us (moving, new job) I’m looking forward to what will hopefully be a bit of a stable, settled year.

For the past few weeks I’ve been thinking of a few “resolutions.” Maybe they’re for the New Year. Maybe they’re just for the upcoming semester, which is bound to be one of less adjustment than last semester, the first at my new TT job. So now that the serious acclimation period is over, I can work on some new habits– to bring in more of what I love into life.

New Year’s Goals:

536236_464644663595931_2024911457_nRead more fiction: I got some fantastic books for Christmas, and I still have digital and physical stacks of assorted fiction (lots of Scandinavian mysteries) to read. I would love to start reading again before bed for at least 20 minutes.

Read more non-fiction: I want to make time to read more literature in my field (not just related to teaching or what I happen to be writing at the moment). And I would love to read more non-fiction more broadly. More biographies and history books.

More running: I run pretty regularly now, but I think it’s time to start pushing myself a little more. Upping my mileage (I don’t really care about speed). Maybe a half marathon in the fall would be a good goal.

Frequent goals and progress reports:  I’d like to start having weekly meetings with myself, going over my schedule, goals and to-do lists. I love Anaïs Nin’s quote about making plans as a daily event. And I might start to post those weekly to-do lists and progress reports here.

That’s it! Nothing major. Now I think I’ll enjoy the rest of the day and get some reading done!

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