Monthly Archives: July 2013

Faculty Writing Group

Writing group | New Faculty

 

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When I was in grad school, I had a stats study group. We’d congregate on the weekends in an empty conference room, bitch, complain, and moan while we did our stats homework sets together. We all had to take 20+ credits of research methods courses, so as you’re well aware, we were together: A LOT. In a good way. The people I studied with for all those years are now some of my closest friends in life and we now celebrate long distance when someone gets a new job or has a life change.

We hated stats study group though.

Fast forward five years and I’m still in a study group. Except now it’s for writing. With other faculty. As a young faculty member, it can be extremely difficult to balance out the schedule you set for yourself, others set for you, and the life stuff that no one can schedule.

My weakness: finding good time to write. 

I feel like it falls away sometimes, even with the best of intentions, the block scheduled in my calendar, or someone saying “there’s a deadline lady!”

So, here I am…….

I have managed to find friendship and professional camaraderie among another new faculty or two around this sandbox and the conversation inevitably came up. My friend suggested:

“let’s get together and write.”

I replied:

“it can be like occupy starbucks.”

And so, it was born. At 5 lbs. 6 oz. (roughly the weight of my mac), I couldn’t be more excited, overjoyed, or elated for this planned writing group.

Once the semester begins (in just a few short weeks), writing group will falter and the responsibility will be all mine again. I hope we can still find time to meet once a month (which is more realistic based off schedules) as a group and I hope to be able to continue writing once per week in my own ‘occupy starbucks’ movement.

How do you find time to write (or do the task that always seems to fall off the radar?)

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That’s Life

That's Life | New Faculty

I’ve found myself staring longingly at facebook and other social media this summer along with the dozens of blogs I subscribe to via feedly and bloglovin and I’ve determined one thing:

we’re making life look too pretty for our kids

We post these beautiful photos of food, scenery, family, and our vacations but never the stack of dirty dishes, crying children, the photo where our finger was in the field of the photo, or the 2847 hours it took to plan, book, and organize for the ‘perfect’ vacation.

That's Life | New Faculty

As I’ve gone on my own journey this summer, I’ve had to stop looking so longingly at these photos and put things into perspective.Behind that beautiful peach cobbler is a stack of pits, containers of ingredients, and likely some food props. Behind the scenery is probably some jerk who littered, behind those family photos are probably some tears (we won’t know from who-the parents orthe kids or both), and behind that vacation photo set is a large headache as someone planned it trying to offer their family a maximum experience in only a few short days. I’m not trying to rain on everyone’s parade, but I see larger implications for our future.

I’m an “adult.” I use the ” because I’m mostly fully formed but always a work in progress. I can think about that perfect situation, like a wedding, and know that it took an army of people to get that bride and groom or bride and bride or groom and groom down that aisle and onto their life. It did not happen in the ‘best 100 photos’ that they purchased from a photography service. If we don’t like it, we simply delete it, but that’s not how life works. We make mistakes, big and small, and instead of erasing it from our mind-we have to deal with it in order to grow.

I found myself super tired last week after personal and professional obligations had me burning life at both ends and last night: I crashed. I wanted nothing more than to veg out on my couch, watch some Netflix, and talk to my dad on the phone, since I’d been too busy to do it all week.

And then, I checked my phone. I’d been ‘invited’ to an event on facebook. I liked the people hosting it, it looked fun, and I knew I’d probably have a good time.

But I didn’t go.

I was just too pooped.

I’m taking the time to write this post and share it because I think our culture has trained us and more importantly, our children, that unless something is always perfect, fun, or shiny- it’s not worth sharing. We’ve been conditioned to always feel like we need to live a life competing against the “jones” but they’ve gone from our neighbors next door to 1,000 friends, connections, and otherwise virtual humans. Every time I log into a social media outlet, I see people having fun (which is great) and when I see someone who’s having a bad day, I don’t want to see it. It’s happened to me too! I’m so guilty!

This busy week I’m referring to involved doing something really unpleasant, I had to get police involved, and it’s not something that I would deem ‘fridge worthy’ for the public to see, but it is part of my life and it did happen.

As bloggers and humans, it’s ok to share some of the ‘messy stuff’ from time-to-time as long as it doesn’t violate your personal/private space. People who read you will appreciate it because it probably happened to more than half of your audience due to this thing I call “being human” which none of us seem to have the ability to escape. If we choose our words carefully, others can learn and grow.

That's Life | New Faculty

I’ll still be posting photos, recipes, and the like, but I might take a post a month and discuss things that DON’T make for the perfect pie because let’s face it:

it’s the messy stuff that makes a life too.

ps: all the photos are of my ‘life’ AKA: my mostly organized but somewhat disorganized house–my unmade bed, my tools, and my closet–the photos are mostly blurry, poor quality and not that great, but they show me one thing: LIFE!

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Hopping on the Struggle Bus

struggle bus | new faculty

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I’ve been thinking about these tender undergrads quite a bit lately. Mostly because they’re riding in the front seat of the struggle bus! Let me explain:

I’ve been training up bunches of students on facilitation and teaching this summer to run summer camps. We all know that our middle school students relate better to undergraduate students and high school students compared to someone they would deem as “old and moldy” like me. We work with various groups on campus and within our community to recruit, hire, train, and help them facilitate our camps to middle school groups far and wide.

I trained up a group of high school students about a month ago and they showed up for their training ready to go. They had studied the curriculum, had questions, and were eager to learn how to facilitate the group of students they were going to have for a week long camp.

I was presented with another group of undergrads not too long ago to train and I could tell the ‘struggle bus’ was going to be showing up within an hour of starting.

Not a single undergrad had looked over the material. One said it wasn’t “their fault” that they didn’t do it. When I asked the student when he was hired, he said, “april.” When I asked him when I had sent the materials he said, “may.” When I asked him what his new excuse was as to why he hadn’t done anything, he had no response for me. Another was joking with his peers that his plans to ‘get shitfaced’ the weekend before camp were well received in the morning. His tune had gone sour by 1 p.m.

I don’t think this generation is dumb or clueless but rather the opposite:

LEARNED HELPLESSNESS HAS BEEN INSTILLED IN THEM BY US!!!

The fact that they know so little is OUR FAULT, not theirs. The fact that they come out of college and move back home with their parents is OUR FAULT and their parents fault for not having enough expectations. I’m not parent bashing here, but what I am saying is that because we’ve made it easy for them, they’re taking full advantage of it. We’re not being honest or realistic with them. We raised them to think that they’d get a big ol’ bite of the pie when they got that piece of paper and now their dreams have fallen short. The jobs aren’t paying a ton but we told them to get that piece of paper.

It’s tough as hell for some of them to get a job. We’ve told them they have to go college to get what is now being touted as a worthless degree and push them into a job market with little prospect. For some of them, it’s easier to move home and wait it out. For others of them, they’ve learned that mom and/or dad will support them because that’s the only thing left to do. With crushing student loan debt and a crummy, yet recovering economy, it’s a tough call.

But what about the ones that have learned to be helpless?

I’m not taking it standing up, sitting down, or lying down.

In the situation I describe above, these students are being paid (very well) to perform this task. The struggle bus gained momentum throughout the afternoon after they practice facilitated with me. The student who was talking about getting drunk did very poorly during his time and he even knew it was a big old bust. I coached all of them and encouraged them to rethink their weekend plans. I looked directly at mr. shitfaced and suggested:

“perhaps you should wait to get shitfaced later in the day and look over this in the mornings.” with a smile as wide as Texas on my face.

I’m not trashing on these kids, I’m telling you that these behaviors came from years of conditioning. At home, at school, at social activities, and at college.

It takes a community to raise a child and we all need to start assuming some responsbility. They can work. They can be held to high expectations. It’s our job to stop caving in when they hop on the ‘struggle bus’ and coach them to get off the bus.

What’s the harm if they do spend a little time struggling? That’s called LIFE right? Let’s quit rolling out the red carpet, praising them for waking & breathing oxygen, and start holding them to much higher standards. They will rise to the occasion and usually meet us halfway if not exceed as long as the expectations are manageable.

I’m happy to say that my undergrads pulled it together and did a great job facilitating. It started out rocky but they rallied as I expected they would. I didn’t hand out praise for a job “not” well done but I did let them know that I expected them to be ready the following week. It’s hard to watch them flail or fail but it’s worth it in the end.

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Summer With the Students

Summer With Students |New Faculty

source–my own

Over casual meals and conversation, summer is a great time to build rapport, talk shop with more freedom, and be very productive in the sense that nothing may get written, the but foundation gets laid for the upcoming semesters.

I’ve had the good fortune of working with some outstanding undergraduate and graduate students in just a few short years and while I’ll save the ‘gloom and doom’ portion of the post for later, let me share with you the story behind the young ladies in the photo above.

The student (undergrad or grad) who excels, gets asked to work the extra projects and ends up reaping the rewards. The students in the photo above were all working with me (except the guy, he’s a colleague) and two of the three have been hired for the fall. The third graduated and is off to her first FT job soon. This group of young ladies has exceled in work ethic. It’s ok if they didn’t get hired knowing everything about research, we taught them. A good work ethic will get you a lot farther in my book than a giant list of books you’ve read or an ego the size of a fire truck. Quite frankly, the ego can go anyway. The same can be said for some of the fine graduate students I have the pleasure of knowing and working with. Checking their ego at the door and buckling down for some real work is paying off for them. They’re the ones being paid for to attend conferences, going to special sessions to learn new software, and while the workload is double, the students have all weighed the advantages and disadvantages for the long haul.

These are great human beings to work with. I cannot say enough nice things about them. There’s even the middle of the road students who I enjoy who work really hard but have other things in their lives (partners, young children) that impede them from being a ‘rock star’ but they also work extremely hard and will finish with ease.

Now to the other side of the coin: In talking w/ several unergrad researchers and grad students, I shared my experiences of how I’ve observed departments take students off of funding/benefits as a way to gently nudge them. The student may not have realized it, but was quickly becoming a career student, something the dpeartment was trying to avoid. The student persisted, running from small grant to small grant, running out of funding, going through lapses with no funding, but yet, would not finish their dissertation.

What does this say? What do you say to that student (besides my friend HONESTY that says, “hey, read the writing on the wall & get your shit together”)

I keep repeating and sound like the broken record to grad students, but I keep saying the following:

it sucks. work hard. your faculty notice. you get picked for things b/c we know you’ll do the work correctly not b/c we’re trying to punish you. when we give you the whole summer off unpaid, (and not by choice, when there’s ZERO offer for summer funding) it’s b/c we know you won’t produce during the summer b/c you didn’t produce much during the year.

If you’re the student who’s getting cut from funding completely–wake up, make some coffee & smell it. Unless there are catastrophic cuts somewhere (beyond control) it’s b/c we want you done. We want you out. You hanging on only makes you look desperate, not scholarly. Do circumstances arise? Yes, but departments are masters of moving money when they feel the investment will be worth it. Be worth it to your department to move money (and mountains) for you if need be.

Don’t be the career student who sucks everyone dry.

 

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Feeding My Soul Recap

Feeding the Faculty Soul | New Faculty

sunset off the Georgia Dome

June was a big month for me. I started the month with intentions to feed my burned out soul and lick my proverbial wounds:

  1. To feed my soul.
  2. To slow down.
  3. To take some time to take good care of my spirit.

Feeding the Faculty Soul | New Faculty

A patio set I was gifted. Before and After 🙂

The month has passed and several things have happened:

  • I’ve traveled.
  • I’ve read.
  • I did some things I wanted to do vs. what I felt like I should be doing.
  • I’ve finally got more than 5 hours of interrupted sleep (yes, i need to stop being so cheap & turn my AC on-more later)
  • I took it easy on myself. Skip a work out? it’s ok. Didn’t do something perfectly? the sun will rise again tomorrow.
  • I’ve meditated and sat still to not only observe the world around me, but listen to the voice inside of me.
  • I made a point to reconnect with people in my life who add to it positively: they challenge me, they love me, they push me to the greatness that I cannot see in myself and they enhance my life while being themselves.
  • I indulged myself with gifts that could not be bought at a store.
  • I acknowledged my feelings many times and found it to be freeing, cleansing, and not as scary as I’d been conditioned to believe.
  • I turned off my cable.
  • I turned on my inner voice. It was quiet at first but became louder with each passing day.
  • I facilitated a summer camp.
  • I continued to push my career while doing all of this.
  • I became more honest. I let my truth be known without doing harm or I stopped worrying and having so much anxiety about being truthful.

Feeding the Faculty Soul | New Faculty

Enjoying AC, a fluffy bed, a complimentary robe, & too much Bravo in the hotel….

I took an hour to just ‘be’ each day–or as close to an hour as I could carve out. I’m talking no working out, no technology, just silence with some reflection, reading on meditation, or other quiet type activities. I often sat out on the patio in the evenings reading and observing the people out with their dogs in the big green space.

June was a powerful month for me. I took the burn out I was experiencing and piggy backed it with the things I actually wanted to do vs. what I needed to do for survival.

I’m working on the sleep. In the interest of being the cheapest mo-fo possible, I didn’t turn on my AC at all in June–my electric bill was next to nothing, but I would find myself awake at 5 a.m. (which is fine but i hadn’t gone to bed until midnight) with the birds singing outside my open windows. First world problem??? YES! But, perhaps, it did finally force me to turn on my AC after my trip at night so I could sleep better. I began struggling with sleep months ago from stress and continue to work on getting my brain space quiet at bed time.

I lived alone for the month. It was just what I needed. I like to be around small groups of people and have introverted tendencies but the solitude was a needed respite from having a roommate. I planned for this intentionally and have a new person moving in. It gave me the freedom to be in my space, fill the space with positive energy, and reflect quietly. The pro’s and con’s of having a rent reducer. I will be glad to have someone around again, provided they are a positive energy in my life.

I didn’t push myself over the limit mentally. I traveled for work and instead of feeling like I had to be everywhere all the time, I stepped away from the conference for a day to see the sights with a friend from grad school. I quit trying to be everywhere all of the time. No one missed me–at the conference or at work. I was back in my hotel by 9 p.m. every night and usually in the big, fancy bed watching bad tv. I still ran a summer camp, did PD with adults, and presented my research all month, but didn’t kill myself chasing the imaginary pot of gold.

I leaned on friends. For things like watering my plants and picking up my UPS deliveries while I was gone. I made countless phone calls to my ‘real friends’ and discussed my trajectory as of late. I wrangled my true feelings instead of saying “everything is fine” because it wasn’t, I dealt with it and let people see my ‘messiness’ from time to time. Social media and our social conditioning tell us to only let people see the ‘perfect picture’ of our meal, but no one sees the mountain of dishes in the kitchen (if we’re speaking in analogies here).

I went into June pretty beat up. My soul was hurting, my shoulders were weary from carrying too much, and I needed to give myself a break. I’m happy to say that at the end of June, I feel 100 pounds lighter, my soul is happier, and while I wasn’t on vacation for the month, I found ways to give myself the peace it needed without letting anything suffer.

I think that as a new faculty, we all get burned out after a year or two and it forces us to truly ‘take stock’ in what we’re after. Learn from me: take good care of yourselves young faculty.

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