Dealing with disrespect in the classroom

One of my clearest memories from middle school is the time that my class made our teacher break down and sob on her desk. She was a new teacher who seemed passionate and kind, and the increasingly vocal disrespect and general meanness from the class culminated in her total loss of control of the classroom and herself.  The principal came in and give us a severe talking to, but we never regained respect for our teacher.

Part way through my second semester I’m thinking a lot about how I can improve as a teacher. As I’ve mentioned, my research-focused training didn’t prepare me for a teaching-focused career. One thing that I’ve come to realize is that I don’t have complete control of my classrooms. Continue reading

The hiring process from the perspective of a new hire: Part II

This is the second part of a two-part post detailing my (a new faculty member) experiences on a hiring committee.  For Part I, go here.

The campus interviews

We had our three candidates on campus for interviews over a period of seven days.  Each candidate flew in the day before the interview and had scheduled activities from 7:30 am to 8:30 pm. Candidates had a meeting with the department faculty, meetings with each of us individually, time with the Dean, lunch with the graduate students, gave a seminar, and had dinner with the department. Overall, the three candidate each did a great job – one of the best things about doing phone interviews first is that collegiality and competence come through pretty well on the phone.  All the candidates were personable, prepared, and would probably be successful in the position.

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Graded musings

It’s that time of the semester when many of us in teaching positions lock ourselves away in “grading jail”, as we cope with stacks of term papers, exams, and other miscellaneous assignments. As the name implies, grading jail is not a place we go to have fun. It’s a poorly-kept secret that grading is many faculty members’ (and TAs) least favorite part of the job. For me, it’s been a consistent low point in my professional duties – one of the things that hasn’t gotten easier or more enjoyable as I’ve gained more experience.

Image by Jorge Cham, PhDcomics.com. Originally published 2/6/2008. Click link to go to original. Thanks Dr. Cham for so well depicting our collective grading angst!

Image by Jorge Cham, PhDcomics.com. Originally published 2/6/2008. Click image to go to original. Thanks Dr. Cham for so well depicting our collective grading angst!

Professional wisdom and tradition suggest that grading is important. Or rather, giving timely, frequent, and constructive feedback on students’ work is important to help students learn and to evaluate the job we are doing as teachers. Conversely, letting the grading stacks pile up for weeks or designing our syllabi to minimize grading decreases student interest in learning. Continue reading

I’m your professor, not your therapist!

One of the things that I’ve found I’m completely unprepared for as a new teacher and academic advisor is the level of emotion the students bring with them to talk with me.  I’m just not a public crier, so it always startles me when someone lets the waterworks go during what seems to me to be a relatively benign conversation.  Not that I never empty a box of Kleenex while watching a tearjerker with a group of friends, or think that crying in front of others makes you weak – it’s just not me. This has left me at a loss for what to do when someone breaks down in my office.  Politely ignore?  Offer Kleenex?  Ask details?  I should have paid better attention when friends talked about their experiences being the crier or the cryee!  Continue reading

A day in the life…

As a post-doc, I did three things: I did research, analyzed data, and I wrote. I ran behavioral experiments and western blots, I did a lot of data analysis.

There were other things – I worked with students in the lab, and I organized events with the Post-doc Association at the post-doc institution. Later I applied for jobs, a significant time commitment, especially in the second year. It isn’t that I had a lot of free time, but I did have a lot of flexibility. When a grant deadline was coming up, or a set of experiments to (hopefully) finish off a paper, I could clear blocks of time and focus on that one thing. This – and my friends in that town – are the only things that I’m nostalgic about from my postdoc.

That is not what my days look like anymore. Now I have a few other things on my plate. Now there is teaching, routine meetings, and the ongoing administrative work of running a lab, not to mention grant writing and trying to stay on top of the literature. Coming up is graduate admissions season, and a couple of deadlines for training grants for my lab peeps. This increase in the number-of-things wasn’t unexpected, I had watched and spoken with my grad school and post-doc mentors, not to mention other people both IRL and online, enough to know better. And the amount of work is a lot, but it’s not unbearable. What I am finding difficult is the fragmentation of my time.

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