Academic ups and downs

  • Sleep is for the tenured.
  • I get so depressed when I don’t do any research.  If more than a day is spent on just service or just teaching I start feeling like I’m a failure.
  • It makes me kind of itchy in my brain to have so many unfinished projects.  I am longing for peace and quiet so that I can get some work done!
  • The part of the semester has hit where students can DO the things they couldn’t do at the beginning of the semester.  Their minds have expanded and they’re starting to *get* this whole critical thinking thing.  #2 says, yours do?  How nice for you.  #1  It doesn’t happen every semester, and it doesn’t happen for all students.  But we force a united message at them in the core… they learn correlation is not causation and the plural of anecdote is not data.
  • Even with Boicing, I’m always majorly behind on something.  Usually it’s writing.  Right now though, it’s reading.  I haven’t had to travel in a while so it has built up.  If I didn’t have office hours today I’d stay home in bed and just read this huge stack of stuff.
  • I am ALWAYS behind on email.  Who isn’t?
  • I really like my colleagues.  And I especially like the new hires that are my age in the (related but not the same) department one floor down from ours.   It’s nice having a lot more junior faculty around than there used to be.
  • Research librarians are awesome.  They can point you in new directions if you get lost.
  • Service swallows all your time.
  • Discussion seminars are really difficult when your students are lazy.
  • I hate feeling in the thrall of @#$# student evaluations.
  • The problem with getting more established in one’s field is that when you’re junior you only get crappy papers to referee, and the reports are easy, “Because of X, Y, and Z, this paper is not publishable anywhere” or “This paper is not of general interest but would be great in field journal Q,” but when you’ve been doing this for a while, people start to send you *good* papers that are going to be published, so you have to be a lot more careful with the reports.  And that takes time.  Plus it isn’t obvious right away what to do… early on they’re obvious rejects– just the fact that the top journal is sending a graduate student or first year faculty member a report at all means that it’s an easy reject.  There’s a lot more discretion and uncertainty when they stop sending you crap.  So… much… time…  It’s good for a person, especially when you see the other reviews, but it’s still a big time suck from one’s own stuff.
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13 Responses to “Academic ups and downs”

  1. First Gen American Says:

    When I was in college, I got a very distinct impression that most of my professors hated teaching. They were just there for their research projects and to get published and could care less about the students. That was just the “icky” part of the job that they were forced to do.

    I really hope you don’t feel that way, or if you do, you manage to hide it well. From someone who was putting herself through school, I certainly didn’t like the feeling that I was a fly buzzing around the professor’s head keeping him from what he really wanted to be spending time on.

    You do have a noble job. Don’t forget that someone’s experience in one of your classes could actually be life changing. I’ve personally been molded by a few professors and I don’t even know if they realized the power they had.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We’re Professors at research universities, not K-12 teachers. Teaching is 1/3 of our job. We’re also not engineers so the standards for teaching are much higher.

      We both do an excellent job of preparing students for the next class, and in a reasonably entertaining manner. (We’ve also both won teaching awards). But when students don’t put in time and effort it takes a lot more time and effort on our parts. We would like to let people fail in accordance to their laziness.

      Students also often do not know what they *need* to succeed at the next level. They come in thinking that learning is all about memorizing facts and following algorithms. It hurts their brains when they’re asked to think and they accuse the professor of laziness, when, in fact, it is much more difficult to teach critical thinking than to have them memorize facts for multiple choice exams. A year or two later, they are grateful, but during the process the evals can be low. Student *learning* should be the outcome. Not student enjoyment.

      • First Gen American Says:

        I think it would be fun to take some of your classes. I think the best thing about college is that process of learning how to think and figure stuff out on your own. Memorizing is temporary knowledge, comprehension is permanent. Thanks.

  2. Julie Says:

    Nicole and Maggie,
    Have you considered not scheduling any office hours for non-teaching days? Blocks of time are so important for research; it seems like a shame to break up what could be a pure research day with office hours. What I normally do is schedule regular office hours for teaching days only. If an exam or project due date is coming up, then I will schedule what I call “extra office hours” for the non-teaching day. Most non-teaching days can then be devoted to research (assuming there are no meetings to attend – I wish!)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I don’t always have “non-teaching days”. I try — but so does everyone else. We can’t ALL teach TuTh at the same time, and with our loads we are usually on campus most days of the week (bah). If I had fewer meetings my life would be better.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Amen to fewer meetings. My students demanded Thursday office hours after someone scheduled a core class over my Friday office hours. So there went my ability to stay at home even if there wasn’t a faculty meeting.

  3. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

    If you were attemping to design the worst possible method of assessing teaching effectiveness, it’d be pretty [censored]en hard to outdo student evaluations. Undergraduate students haven’t the faintest [censored]en clue what good teaching is about, they don’t know what they need to learn, and they don’t know how to judge whether they are learning it. Do armies poll their basic trainees to see if their drill sergeants are going a good job? [censored]E NO!

  4. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    CPP, I continue to love you more and more.

    • Comrade PhysioProf Says:

      I’m glad you’ve stopped messing with my anglo-saxon verbal stylings!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        That’s just because one of us spent all day on the plane (actually all day in the airport, but she scored $900 in travel vouchers which is awesome) and the other had full blog control (though we both love you). Somewhere we’ve got a post on “acceptable swearing” that shows our thought processes on anglo-saxon verbal stylings. (#2 wishes to encourage you to use more creative expletives).

  5. frugalscholar Says:

    I do think that students sense the fear of the untenured. But honestly, senior faculty use them as they please. So–if senior person likes you “The bad evaluations indicate that the student didn’t understand what the teacher was doing.” If senior person doesn’t like you: “Bad evaluations. Nuff said.”

    My favorite: when my department head of 15 years (who didn’t like me) evaluated me, she said “You have excellent evaluations because you teach courses where you get excellent evaluations. Therefore, your evaluations don’t count.” Of course, when I had bad ones, they did count!

    This is the time of the semester when the stress moves from teachers to students.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Someone left nasty comments on my second year review when I got the class from Hell. I basically told my senior faculty that if I got comments like that again in an annual review I was not going to teach the required core course that all the students hate taking (and that I had gotten above average teaching evals in every other semester, despite it being a huge much hated required course), and then one of them would have to. That seemed to nip complaints about my teaching in the bud, but I don’t want to go too far (especially since the outside market is not what it once was).

  6. Blogrolling: Grumpy rumblings of the untenured | DrugMonkey Says:

    [...] across this one via a link dropped at the Comrade PhysioProf blog. I think you will enjoy Grumpy rumblings of the untenured, [...]


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