Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Motivation fairy, where art thou?

The semester is kicking into high gear, but somehow, it's not taking me with it. So far, I have a burning desire to do only the following: (1) sleep; (2) sleep some more; (3) read blogs; (4) go for long walks. To mix a metaphor, I've fallen off the Internet experiment wagon and need to get back on the horse.

So, without a visit from the motivation fairy, I'm posting a list of items that ought to get me moving:

  • I have some additional research money this year due to an award and need to make a more concrete plan about how to use it to apply for grants.
  • Some deadlines for conference papers, book manuscripts under review, and writing projects are approaching at the speed of light.
  • Ditto for some reference letters I need to write.
  • A colleague is going up for promotion to full, and while my nobler self is happy about that, my crabbed, envious self says I'd better get moving if I want to do this in a couple of years when I'm eligible.
  • Because my classes are enjoyable this semester, I'm spending a lot of time on them, maybe too much time, as a way of avoiding other responsibilities. Maybe preparing for these should be the reward(like a virtual dish of Belgian chocolate ice cream) at the end of the day.
  • Monday, August 27, 2007

    Words to the wise for newbies and not-so-newbies

    Tenured Radical has a post with excellent advice for new (and not-so-new) professors. While this is really just a post seconding her suggestions, I have a couple of other, more minor ones to add:

  • Learn to do whatever you can for yourself. In a department where I used to work, one of the administrative assistants had a sign up that said something like "Your failure to plan does not constitute an emergency for me." She would reinforce this by sitting at her desk and reading the newspaper in a very leisurely manner, ignoring us while we were dancing around her, flailing our arms, imploring her to open the photocopying room (or to fix the copier, which was about as robust as Marguerite Gautier on a bad day).

    In addition to being nice and to saying "thank you," as TR suggests, some of us learned that if we could cajole Ms. "What? Me hurry?" into showing us how to change the toner, add paper, or whatever else we needed to do, we didn't need to bother her. The same holds true for ordering desk copies, calling for travel reservations, or whatever else is nominally in the administrative assistant's realm: if she (or he) is busy, and if it's not a usurpation of his or her power to do it yourself, do so and lighten the load, unless there's some kind of status war involved that you don't want to be part of.

    And yes, say "thank you."

  • Leave your door open and your light on. Obviously you can't always leave your door open if you're taking a phone call or are on a noisy hall, but colleagues who might be inclined to stick their heads in and say hello if it's open will walk right on by if it's closed. You want to get to know people, and this is a good way to see them, students as well as your new colleagues.

  • Don't take things personally; it's not always about you. The Chronicle and other publications on academe sometimes make the departments sound like a snake pit, where every movement, word, and gesture is parsed by mean-spirited colleagues waiting for you to slip up. Although some people may behave this way, thus leading to the widespread advice on the Chronicle's career boards to "STFU," most will want to welcome you and see you do well.

    This isn't the interview process: your new colleagues already decided that you fit in to some degree, or you wouldn't have been offered the job. They are probably giving you something of a popularity rush right now as everyone tries to get to know you. This will drop off in a few weeks, but not because of anything you said or did; it's just that everyone gets busy.

    Speaking of busy: I have yet to meet an academic (or anyone else, for that matter) who responds well to any intimation that he or she is not as busy as you are. This seems to infuriate everyone without exception. Yes, you'll be really busy, but to complain that you're more overworked or have less free time than X to X's face is stupid impolitic.
  • Friday, August 24, 2007

    Anybody else tired?

    Well, the first week of school is officially over, and, as usual, I'm wiped out. This happens every year, and it never makes any sense: why should teaching the first week, when you have little or no writing to grade and less class prep than usual, be so tiring?

    This is shaping up to be (crosses fingers) a good semester for teaching, though. At the risk of sounding like that old "don't hate me because I'm beautiful" commercial, I'm on a reduced load this semester: one section of a survey class I like to teach and another one, a new prep, on a subject area that really interests me. The bookstore even ordered the books I asked it to order, and mostly in the quantities I asked for, mirabile dictu.

    I'd planned to go for a walk and then work tonight, but somehow, as the miles rolled by on the drive home, that plan grew less and less attractive. What did sound attractive is sitting on the couch, sipping wine and catching up on all the interesting blog posts I've missed this week.

    Wednesday, August 22, 2007

    Not, alas, a news item

    Cero's comments on the last post got me thinking about this, too:

    Explain to me, please, why various parts of the campus network go down sporadically at this time of the year, leaving us stuck for things like printing out rosters--which, in keeping with the "it's all at your fingertips and so convenient for you" ethos of every university today, are no longer made available to us.

    What's that you say? The network is getting heavy use because the students are back and classes have started?

    Who ever could have predicted heavy use of the server at this time of year? Why, it's not as though school starts every year at this time and someone could have predicted the problem.

    End of snark attack.

    Tuesday, August 21, 2007

    Hobbies for the back-to-school crowd

    Classes started this week, and my students seem nice. Why is it that I'm so pathetically pleased when they smile back at me or even smile all on their own?

    But classes did signal the end of my week of pursuing the following hobbies:

    Exercise 1

    1. Work on a syllabus for hours at a time . . . double-digit hours at a time. Decide that this is absolutely, positively, the last revision and that it's time to print the thing and get it copied. Go to bed relieved that it's done.
    2. Upon awakening, have a brainstorm about something that absolutely, positively must go into the syllabus. Open the file and start work on it again.

    Exercise 2

    1. Decide that the days you have allotted to reading a longish book are too many. Let them read more pages! Let them take responsibility for getting through the reading over the weekend! After all, you did this when you took the class back in the Pleistocene Age.
    2. Change syllabus to reflect fewer days spent on the work. Move other material to take its place.
    3. Recall student groans about excessive reading from past semesters.
    4. Restore the original number of days to the work. Repeat.

    Exercise 3

    1. Discover that the new and improved--and more expensive--edition of a book you were forced to order is missing several vital pieces you had planned to use in class.
    2. Become grievously irritated. Go on and explain the book's deficiencies in a review.
    3. Hunt around for your old copy of the book so that the pieces can be photocopied. Curse the habits of marking up books that have left all your books unfit for photocopying.
    4. Go to the secondhand bookstore. Buy an unmarked copy.
    5. Continue to grumble under your breath as you photocopy the necessary parts.

    Saturday, August 18, 2007

    Random bullets of Friday (by the numbers)

  • Number of syllabi completed and dropped off for copying: 1.
  • Number of syllabi left to do: 1.
  • Number of people who attended the long department meeting on Friday: almost everyone.
  • Number who sat and typed on a laptop most of the way through it, working on e-mail except when he/she was talking: 1. (My charitable self says that maybe s/he was sending notes to him/herself--hence the e-mail screen.)
  • Number of "team-building exercises" inflicted on us: mercifully, 0.
  • Amount of Haagen-Dazs Belgian Chocolate ice cream I bought specially on Thursday night and promised myself as a reward if I got through the whole thing: 1/4 cup, the perfect amount.
  • Wednesday, August 15, 2007

    Random bullets of panic (back to work edition)

    I'm back from the limited-internet land near the lake and the river that runs between two countries [tm jo(e)]. It was nice, even if the insect-less state of affairs here in Northern Clime made me forget that mosquitoes, blackflies, and other pests will get you if you aren't careful back near the lake and the river.
  • Please tell me that classes don't start VERY SOON, even if you have to lie.
  • All that new course prep that I airily waved away in June and July, thinking I'd have plenty of time? Yes, it has to be done, let me see (consults calendar) . . . yesterday.
  • The desk copies? The ones I ordered in May? So not in. But says I can have the most important one by tomorrow (talk about instant gratification) so that I can get the syllabus made up for my trip to campus on Friday.
  • Oh, and all that reading and writing I took along, thinking, why, what else will there be to do on the lake? I barely made a dent in any of it.
  • Saturday, August 04, 2007

    View from the hammock

    View from the hammock
    Originally uploaded by undines
    The piece that was knocking me out all July is done (hooray!), and I haven't been posting because I'm away visiting family and have limited internet access.

    On the other hand, when you can lie in a hammock (or paddle out on a kayak) and see this, limited access doesn't sound so bad after all.

    I'm going to keep up the internet experiment, or parts of it, when I get back, though.

    Happy August, everyone!