Sunday, September 21, 2014

Professor Notorious: What the Critics are Saying

Part of putting together my promotion file is assembling my student evaluations. We've actually improved the evaluations in recent years, and changed the tenure/promotion file process so that student evals are only one small part of the picture. But still, we have to include them. We are only required to include the summary sheets (e.g., the raw numbers), but we can include the actual narrative comments as well.

I read these comments as they come in, but there's something about going through six years' worth at once that gives one a bit more big-picture perspective. Sure, there are the loads of "She's great!" or "There's too much reading!" or "She made me love this subject!" or "She should make her assignments not due on the same day as my other classes' assignments." Such evaluations, like the poor, will always be with us. There are also the ones that offer concrete suggestions about how an assignment might be more helpfully structured, or who give me feedback on a new experimental assignment. And I take those into account.

But then, there are the really fun ones (and I do mean that), which I now share with you:

·      “Babbles in connection with lecture” [If only it were just in lecture.]
·      “This was a great class. Too bad it had so much religion in it.” [Well, it is a course on medieval Europe.]
·      “As always, I enjoyed your class. Teach more classes!” [Dear God, no.]
·      “It would be cool if you taught a bit more about the Knights Templar.”  [::backing out of the room slowly…::]
·      “Class was a pain and great at the same time” and “Very dedicated to getting us through the semester without losing our minds.” [Two comments from my methods class – what we refer to as “history boot camp”]
·      “Hi. You are cool.” [Thanks. Back atcha'.]
·     “The Abelard reading isn’t as interesting as Lateran IV.” [I just… What?!?]
·      “I didn’t dread coming to this class.” [I usually didn't, either. Usually.]
·      “SWED => This final is gonna blow.” [SWED = “smoke weed every day.” I had to look this up. Who says we don’t learn as much from our students as they learn from us?]
·      “Good job, tough class, great hair.” [A student who has taken my critiques of wordiness to heart.]
·      "What isn’t the Mediterranean?" [This, from a class where I apparently asked “What is the Mediterranean?” a few too many times…]

And finally, perhaps my all-time favorite evaluation comment: 

 ·      “Her passion for history is as contagious as smallpox and a lot more fun."

Friday, September 19, 2014

In the event you are assigned to a committee...

Hey! Everyone!

If you're a member of a committee, no matter at what level, do your shit on time.

What happens to you if you don't? Well, nothing. And you still get to put on your CV that you served because, really, who's going to check? Especially if you're tenured and stuff.

But if you don't do said shit on time, or you do a quarter-assed job of it, and if said work has hard deadlines, then you know what happens?

Do you?

Answer: The chair of the freaking committee does all the work you didn't. Yea, even if it means that she's up in the office until 7 p.m. on a Friday, two hours after declining invites from friendly colleagues for end-of-week, post-faculty-research-seminar drinks and socializing, because she's making sure everything gets done.

Or so I've heard.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Getting promoted, and getting older

The process of going through my promotion file has gotten me focused on dates -- Can I count this? Was it published after I submitted my last review? When was that, anyway?

And thinking about dates and eras of life and milestones in between, and I was struck by something -- well, two linked somethings, actually:

a. I hit all my major career accomplishments in my thirties: PhD, job, tenure, book (published a month before I turned 40). My thirties were also the last time that I ever got a raise, and the last time that I was in any sort of romantic relationship.

b. My forties (I'm a decent chunk into them) have been marked by zero milestones: no relationships (hell, no dating even), no home purchase, no promotions, no children, no raises -- none of the external markers that tell you that your life is on the right track. It's also so far, the decade of my life in which I have been most consistently happy.

Seriously: it's kinda weird.

Friday, September 12, 2014

"The File"

Here it is, Friday, a day I don't teach. And yet, here I am, sitting in my office for hours on end. Why, you may well ask, is that? Well, first of all, it's because I have air conditioning in my office, but not at home, and Grit City is a toasty 88 degrees with 65% humidity.

Second: I have internet here, and there are a few on-line chores I need to accomplish.

Most importantly, however: I am working on The File. Which is to say, my file for promotion to full proffie. I plan to be blogging the process a bit, because it's full of twists and turns and is likely a barrel of laughs for anyone who isn't currently in the middle of it. But for now, just know that for the past two weeks, the phrase "The File" is pronounced with capital letters.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Grand Experiment

I'm unplugging.

No, not from the blog (though it might seem that way most of the time lately). What I'm doing -- brace yourself -- is disconnecting my home internet.

The spur for this decision was financial, as my home internet bill recently rocketed up to sixty-three dollars a month. That's just the internet. I knew that if I called the local monopoly and tried to cancel, they'd lower my rates. But then the more I started thinking about it, the more I wondered what my life would be like without internet at home.

Here's the thing: Having home internet allows me to do things like look up stuff immediately, download and upload student papers, order library books, maintain my course website, answer e-mails from my students and other assorted university folk -- all without having to go into the office. I can do it any day of the week, any time, day or night. That's a good thing.

Except when it's not, right? Being available 24/7 is a decidedly mixed blessing.

And then there's all the stuff that's just a drain: too much time on the web, watching TV shows I don't care about, watching videos of nothing important, checking Facebook gods only know how many times a day. Yes, I tried the thing where you install limits on the biggest time-suck sites. Except that I now just go in and dismantle these things. I have no self-control. And I figure I spent 15 hours a week, at least, doing things that don't matter, and that I can't remember 15 minutes later.

In short, for me, home internet provides marginal convenience at considerable expense, in many senses of the word. Hence, the grand experiment in unplugging. Yes, I'll still have internet at the office (I'm there four days a week), not to mention at various coffee shops that I frequent a couple times a week, as well as via my phone. It's not like I'll be out of touch. But what I won't be able to do is come home from work, turn on the computer, and piss away hours every evening. I'm interested to see what happens. What will my brain do without the constant distraction? What could I do with 15 more hours a week?

I'll be sure to use some of that extra time to keep you updated. From a coffee shop, that is.