Monday, October 30, 2006

student panic

Always, two weeks before the paper is due, I get the crazed students in severe panic mode, mostly because they've waited to start their papers. But they express their panic in terms of 'I don't get policy, so I'm lost.' So this is when I start getting requests to review papers before the due date. I'm happy to, but I find that that the ones who submit a paper early for review actually do 'get it,' and it's the ones who think they 'get it' and don't submit a paper for a review that actually don't 'get it.'

And this time around, I have a student with 'severe concerns' about her group, and she wants to address it confidentially with me. She can't change groups this late in the semester, so this could be interesting. One purpose of the group work is to learn to work with people who have very different work methods and attitudes, so group hopping defeats the purpose of learning to work together. We'll see what she says.

What really killed me was getting an email from the assistant dean about how students are getting stressed at midterm, and she recommends a midterm evaluation along the lines of 'what do you like, not like, want to change about the course.' I should mention that this semester, I'm teaching on a satellite campus with completely different staff and faculty, and a completely different attitude/mentality. They molly-coddle the students too much on the branch campus.

I mean, it's freakin' grad school, it's supposed to be hard. It's finishing despite the challenges that lets you know you did it. If it were a cake walk, everybody would be getting the degree. How can students even apply for, and enroll in, grad school and not think it's going to be grueling.If I can get a course on the main campus for spring semester, I'm going to go back there.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

and she couldn't tell me sooner?!

Met with my second committee member Tuesday afternoon. I don't disagree with her about anything, but a lot of it I didn't know was expected, never having done this before. I took lots of notes, but am so overwhelmed I haven't looked at them since the meeting.

I can make the changes she suggested, I know I can. But it will take time, and lots of it.

She went so far as to suggest I 'put aside' my current intro and lit review, and create a new outline given her suggestions. I am thinking that very little of what I already have will be usable if I create a new outline.

This is definitely doable (with time), but here's what chaps my hide: I copied this committee member every single time I sent a new draft to my chair for review. Over a six month period, she received three or four drafts. If she had bothered to read a single one of those drafts, she could have headed me off at the pass so to speak, steered me in the right direction, before I submitted a final draft. Just one draft was all she had to read to save me days, if not weeks, of re-rewrites.

That's what fucking pisses me off royally.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

what are they thinking!

I put my students into an email group list to email them materials all at once. For some strange reason, I have started getting goofy junk emails from one of the students. For some strange reason, she added me to her address book, and she apparently forwards her favorite junk emails to everyone in her address book. What kind of students sends her prof junk email anyway!!!???

Today, a student accused me of being the one to give her the flu virus that she's been dealing with for three weeks. Granted I had that bad flu, but so did several other students in the class, by their own admission. And how does she know exactly where her virus came from? She could have been exposed anywhere. It's not like she's a hermit that never leaves her house. So now, everytime she starts hacking up a lung in class, I inwardly cringe because I know she's blaming me for her illness.

in her words

Rugrat wrote a paper that counted as credit for both her fashion design course and her english course. I just found a copy of it sitting by the 'puter. Here's what she wrote, word for word -- I've edited nothing.

Beauty cannot be described with one simple description. There is no one particular type of beauty. Being beautiful doesn't have to do with only physical characteristics and your appearance, but also what's inside and how you treat others. Beauty is not the "model look", where everyone is 6 feet tall and weighs less than 130 pounds. Beauty is not being one ethnicity and having a certain color skin or hair color. Beauty can only be described how you personally think it is. Like the saying says, "Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder".

I personally believe beauty is how you carry yourself and how you treat others around you. I think that you can be 100 pounds and be beautiful or be 200 pounds and be beautiful either way. A person can be black, white, brown, or anything and still be beautiful. In my opinion, you need to have self esteem to be beautiful, you have to tell yourself you are beautiful and believe it and you have to believe others when they say you're beautiful. In order to be beautiful, you have to believe it yourself, otherwise others will not think so.

I don't think the media should be portraying the perfect image as being super skinny, because there is no perfect image. Everyone is beautiful in their own ways, and everyone has imperfections even the models. I think that people's imperfections are what makes them beautiful and unique. If we were all the same, then everyone would be boring.

There are many reasons as to what is beautiful about myself and for the most part, they do not have to do with my appearance. I think that my Mexican heritage is something very beautiful about me. I think that when you can embrace your heritage and be so proud and prideful about it makes you very beautiful, especially when your country is one that isn't always put very high, like Mexico. It also makes me special because living in New York there isn't a huge population of Mexicans like there is Puerto Ricans or Dominicans, so it just makes me more unique than a lot of Latinos who live in New York. Another thing is that I'm proud of the way I look. Even though I'm not a size 2, like people think everyone should look, I still take pride in myself. I would rather be the way I am now than look like a model.

Update: rugrat told me last night that she got a 92% on this assignment.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

and another one bites the dust

After two good weeks in class, I get another email from the assistant dean saying another student has dropped. Another one of those advanced standing students who didn't even need to be there clogging up my class cause they'd already taken its equivalent in the BSW program.

So the dean's email to me went like this:

Hi, *****.

***** has dropped the policy course. She is another advanced standing student who is not required to take the course.

Hope things are going okay with your class. Let me know if I can be helpful.

****

Well, my last respond to the mass exodus was oh poor me, what did I do wrong. But not this time. This time I put it back on them, where it belonged. This is my response:

Thanks again for letting me know. Despite the expressed intentions of the other 4, only one bothered to email me and let me know they had dropped the course. And none of them expressed a concern to me before withdrawing, despite the fact that the rest of the class has no problem communicating concerns to me before and after class and via email.

I think it's telling that 5 of the 6 students who dropped were advanced standing students. If these students were upset at feeling forced into the only course available in that time period, then they might have been unhappy regardless of the professor or course content, especially if it's a course they've already taken. I do know that many of the remaining students were upset with the students who withdrew, because it forced a re-grouping (the students work in groups for the semester) four weeks into the semester, when most of the groups were already fully engaged. Apparently, none of the students who withdrew even bothered to let their group members know they planned to leave. I have heard a bit of gossip from some of the remaining students as I've walked by in the hall, but I'll chalk it up to hurt feelings from those in the abandoned groups, as it puts those who withdrew in a decidedly bad light.

All I can say is that the last two weeks in class without the students who withdrew have gone very smoothly. The remaining students are attentive, ask questions, give anecdotal examples of issues from their own jobs in the field, and a small handful are actually excited about the course despite the fact that it's 'required, not elective' in their words -- which is wonderful, considering the trepidation with which most students face policy courses.

So, I'm not taking it lying down anymore. So there.

Monday, October 16, 2006

getting better

Things have been much better in class the last two weeks, which has me questioning whether it has something to do with those students withdrawing. Maybe they were causing problems in class, and everyone's happier now that they're gone.

I'm not doing the mid-term eval. The students can do a final eval if they like, just like all students do.

I am trying to decide if I want to continue teaching on the new campus, or go back to teaching on the one I know so well.

just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water

Something freaky and scary happened on the way to work this morning.

I lost 8 minutes of my conscious life.

Not in an 'oh, where did the time go' kind of way. Not even remotely.

Not in an 'I was on autopilot' kind of way.

Not in an 'I fell asleep at the wheel' kind of way.

It was an 'I was awake and functioning normally but was apparently not conscious of what I was doing' kind of way.

The last thing I remembered was being stopped at a traffic light. The next thing I knew, I was 'coming to' a couple of miles, and 8 minutes, later. And I wasn't where I was supposed to me.

The thing is, between point A and point B, I have no memory whatsoever. I was not overly tired, and I didn't fall asleep at the wheel. There'd be no way to drive the busy, pedestrian filled, full of traffic lights route asleep without causing some major damage.

And it wasn't like I was just daydreaming and not paying attention, because I can always remember bits and pieces of the drive when I'm daydreaming.

This was like not being there, and then poof! Being there. And not having any knowledge or recollection of anything that happened in between. Nothing. Nada. It's like the time never happened. Except it did, because I was at Point B. And I 'woke up' wondering where I was and how I'd gotten there -- completely disoriented, confused, and scared as hell.

And yes, I know it sounds like dissociation. Remember, my master's degree is clinical. I understand dissociation. But that typically happens when a traumatic event occurs, or when a memory of a truamatic event is triggered. Nothing like that was present this morning. So I'm not willing to accept that as a possibility.

But if it wasn't that, then what was it. I was conscious, then I wasn't, then I was again. But my body functioned during the time I wasn't conscious. Somehow.

I'm very scared.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

do you all have any idea

Just what your comments mean to me? I mean, some of you are strangers, in the sense that I've never met you face-to-face, and may never do so. And yet, when I'm so very down, the comments you leave mean something. Some less caring readers will say that I am pathetic for depending upon anonymous readers to feel better about myself. All I can say to those individuals is fuck you -- you're not in any position to judge me.

I've been in such a very, very dark place lately. And am still today. I hide it, and apparently pretty successfully. Even friends and colleagues at work can't tell when I'm hiding the fact that the savage beast has awakened again. It's getting bad enough that I can't work out, or sleep, or concentrate for very long.

Why does he awake? He always seems to make his presence known when I'm dealing with serious criticisms, or highly stressful events. And the last few weeks have been particularly unbearable, with no end in sight. It's the criticism of the dissertation by one, the supercilious attitudes of those few students, the ongoing crisis of rugrat's physical health, the ongoing monetary issues, the worry about looking for a new job when I finish my dissertation (I've already made it known I'm looking, with my supervisor's support, but what if I find nothing). It's just all too much sometimes.

That's when the the beast stretches, yawns, and slyly begins to tell me just what a loser I really am. He demands to know how I dare to think that I'm capable of doing the things I do, how I dare to believe I could succeed at anything. I am not worthy, he berates me. I must admit, he says, that my place in life isn't what or where I dream it will be. And if I continue to pretend I belong, he warns, I will be found out and sent on my way. On and on he viciously undermines my self-esteem and sense of worth.

He's been awake for awhile now, and I've tried everything I can think of to lull him to sleep. In the past, depending upon just how awake he is, I could always get him back to sleep in a few days, at most a week. And he wouldn't show his face again for months. Sometimes simply being quiet in my room, listening to music will do it. Sometimes a night of chocolate. Or spending a $20 on something for myself. Sometimes, I have to eat more, and spend more, to shut him up. And therein is the cycle of beast and food and money. It doesn't even matter if he's only awake for a few days, because I can do enough damage to my bank account in those few days that the next six months I'll be dealing with the aftermath. You see, a limited income isn't my only problem -- spending what little I do have to keep the beast quiet keeps me in debt.

This week was no exception. Dinner via take out or fast food. Tonight I made burgers and fries, but when rugrat wasn't hungry, who do you suppose wound up eating her food, too. And a handbag last night. I always pride myself on sales, and the Liz Claiborne bag at Burlington Coat Factory for $20 was a bargain, I told myself. Except that I really didn't have 20 to spare. Tonight, two pair of trousers and a top at Macy's. Then a pair of pants for rugrat, too. All when I have a mere 50 in the bank, 20 open on my visa, and 7 open on my mastercard. I think they must have raised my limit at Macy's, or I couldn't have bought what I did.

But still, the fucking beast won't go back to sleep. My spending is beginning to cut into bills, and it'll take the next two paychecks to be completely caught up on everything. Which means that in the meantime, I'll be stressed about money, and rugrat, and dealing with criticisms, and that means the beast won't likely go to sleep. It's like the vicious cycles you learn about in abnormal psych.

And so, the comments I read tonight, when I was near tears, meant something. Lulled the beast for moment. And for that, I thank you.

she's not through yet

More criticism from the second committee member, by email. I'm becoming more and more afraid of meeting with her on the 24th. Afraid she'll discover that I really don't have what it takes. That I'm a fraud. And afraid she'll call me on it.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

why do i let this stuff get to me

This issue over students withdrawing (five now) four weeks into the semester, along with the one who complained, has me nuts. I told the dean that I haven't experienced this before, and didn't know why, and all she would say is that the four students who met with her didn't talk about me personally, just a lack of fit between teaching/learning styles. Apparently, they can't glean out of my lectures what is most important. Considering they have my lecture notes, arranged by outline, right in front of them when I lecture, that just doesn't make sense.

Anyway, the dean suggested I do a mid-semester anonymous evaluation, something that apparently a lot of the faculty on this particular campus do. A sort of a what do you like, what don't you like, what would you change kind of thing. But in light of the mass exodus, wouldn't the rest of the students see that as me admitting defeat and letting them call the shots?

The thing is, this is the only time this has happened. What if it's just a fluke, and not something that will happen again? I mean, if I've been teaching for four years, and nothing like this has ever happened, should I be letting it bother me so much?
And yet, it's driving me nuts. I know you can't please all the students, but most students I've had just suck it up and take it, they don't go whining to the associate dean.

Sigh. I don't know whether to do that mid-semester eval or not, or whether to take this as a fluke, or something more serious.

Monday, October 09, 2006

can I change my mind, please?

I'm not liking teaching so much right now. That one student who complained about my grading process to the dean outed herself in class when she made some lame-brained comment about how it wasn't right that everyone in class didn't have a chance for an 'A.' She's an obnoxious little woman who is driving her group nuts. And when she speaks in class, the other students all roll their eyes at her. But she's making my life hell. And so is the student who had the nerve to tell me that group work is an "undergrad" activity, and she's a grad student and a wife and a mother and doesn't have time for this "nonsense." I listened to her, shook my head and mmm-hmmm'ed, and then walked away. If she doesn't have the time for the work, she shouldn't have fucking signed up for the class.

On top of that, the dean emailed me to let me know that she withdrew four students from my class yesterday. She says they were advanced standing students who had had this course as an undergrad and they didn't have to take it, so they'll take another elective in the summer. But my question is, why did they sign up for the class in the first place then, and why did they stick around for four weeks before asking the dean to withdraw them.

And on top of those four, it seems that a few others may have dropped as well. It's like a mass exodus out of my class, and I've never seen anything like it. Granted I've only been teaching for four years, but in those four years, no one has ever complained about me to administration, and the only withdrawals I've ever had were the one or two that would withdraw after the first day of classes. I just don't get what's going on, but being the perfectionist who takes everything personally, it's really getting me down.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

not so bad

OK, I've calmed down and spoken to both of the committee members, and it's not so bad after all.

First, I emailed the one who wrote the email and said of course I'd love to meet with her, as I hadn't realized I was so far off-base. She wrote back and her second email was less harsh and more understandable.

Then the chair emailed me to say she'd spoken with the other member, and I wasn't so far off base, but there were things that needed to be included, and she was confident I could do so, and she just wanted me to have another perspective. Basically, she saw how the feedback was presented to me (she'd been copied on the email) and wanted to reassure me that it wasn't a bad thing.

It doesn't help, of course, that I still sometimes have this bit of insecurity that comes up from my past. It's the 'former welfare recipient who has the nerve to think she could actually be a Ph.D.' insecurity, and I can't seem to completely wipe it out of my psyche, although I continue to work on it.

Now, the thing is -- and this is where it gets embarrassing -- I am, in fact, missing something very important in my proposal. Here I am teaching policy analysis, having done it for a living (and as a volunteer), and I became so myopic about this dissertation that I couldn't seem to recognize that this was indeed a policy analysis. There are certain elements that need to be present in an analysis, and they aren't there in my proposal. So the prof was right on, just a bit harsh. I'll meet with her later this month, and hopefully I'll have some work done by then and can run it by her.

Anyway, I mentioned my embarrassment to my chair, and her response was:

Don't worry about it - this is why you work with other people on a research project. It is sooooo easy to miss something. Experts do it all the time.

Gotta love a chair like that, dontcha!

why ask

I always email my lecture notes to the students after the lecture, just in case someone missed a comment or a point in class on a particular day. Two weeks ago, a student asked if I would email them prior to the date I would be using them, so that they can follow along.

I told her that I had tried that before, and half the class stopped showing up because they figured if they had my notes, then they didn't need to be around for my lecture.

She, and all the students around her assured me that they would not do the same, so I agreed to try it once and see what happened.

So, last Friday, I emailed the lecture notes out for Saturday's class.

I'll give you one guess who didn't have those notes in class that day and kept holding up the class to ask me to repeat something.

bucking for a challenge

I received a call today from the associate dean at the campus where I'm teaching this semester. Seems a student visited her to share things with her that she 'didn't feel comfortable sharing with me.'OK, no problem.First concern from student: she's concerned about the paucity of 'A's' that I give in the grading process. Seems this student told the a.d. that I told the class that I've only given out 2 or 3 A's in my teaching career.

Well, I assured the dean that what I had, in fact, said was that I have only given two 'F's' in my career, both to students who failed to complete an assignment that was worth 25 percent of the total grade. The grades in my classes tend to run, in general, about a third 'A's,' a third 'B+'s,' and a third 'B's.' This is a graduate program, and the students need to maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA to remain in the program, and if their work is 'B' or better, no problem. If someone turns in written work that would not garner at least a 'B,' I tend to return the work to them with feedback and an opportunity to rewrite the work for a 'B.' My goal is not to fail students willy-nilly, but to allow them to learn from mistakes.

So, no problem, the dean would have backed me up even if it had been true that I don't give 'A's.' It's the instructor's prerogative, they have freedom in this program to set their classroom grading standards.

On to the second concern: personal disclosures. Hers, or mine? I asked. Apparently, mine. The student told the dean that she was uncomfortable with personal disclosures that I have supposedly made, and yet, when pressed by the dean to provide an example, the student could not. If she is so uncomfortable by these alleged disclosures, wouldn't they register firmly enough in her mind to at least have had one example on the tip of her tongue?

I think I see a student setting up what just might become a challenge at the end of the semester if she doesn't get her 'A' (yes, her -- we have only two male students in the class of 30). As in, if she doesn't get her 'A,' she can claim it's retaliation for going to the dean.

Problem for her is, I grade all assignments blind. Students use the last four digits of their SSN on their paper, and I keep the grade book without names. It isn't until I'm inputting final grades into the system at the end of the semester that I see the name of the student next to the grade.

Basically, she won't have a leg to stand on.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

feedback sucks

This is what I just found in my email from the second committee member:

I have read your proposal draft.

I think it is a very interesting study.

I think you have a good deal of work to do to develop the narrative about the policy issues and the literature review.It would help if you could select a few readings to share with me that have been most helpful to you in conceptualizing how you think about welfare policy and the accompanying value debates that have ensued over time.

You are going to need to demonstrate your understanding of these issues in a more developed manner than what you have presented to date in this draft. The focus on subsidized education as part of welfare policy needs to be better conceptualized. It would be helpful for you to think about how you can conceptualize educational assistance as an anti-poverty strategy. How would this benefit be classified as (using someone like Gilbert and Specht or some other authors)

I suggest you email me or call me to set up times to meet in person.

Fuck. Now I'm completely overwhelmed all over again. If I have to address all this, I'll never defend the proposal before Christmas. This committee member didn't read a single draft until now, and now she throws this at me. My chair never said anything like this -- in fact, I have no idea if my chair agrees or not. This is coming from a professor who is not known for being tough. In fact, I aced her theory course on children and families. I don't know where this hard core stuff is coming from, but I seriously want to just bail on this completely.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

listen up, motherfucker

It's a VIRUS that causes cervical CANCER, you motherfucking, fat-assed, photo-lying, story-telling, narrow-minded, anxiety-ridden, pill-popping, sorry-assed excuse for a human being.

Eighty percent of all women have the virus, and just how do you suppose they got it? That's right, from you fuckers -- men. Men who suffer no ill effects from the virus, and therefore don't give a fucking damn who they pass it on to.

My daughter could fucking die, you skin-sucking, belly-crawling insect! How dare you fucking attack me by using her! Grow some balls and act like a fucking man for once in your life!

Who do you think you are to suggest that my daughter, or any woman, should be ashamed to have an honest, open, frank, public discussion about the HPV virus? And why do you choose to refer to it as 'STD's' rather than name it specifically? Do you think to embarrass me by leading people to believe that she has multiple, undisclosed sexually transmitted diseases? Or that she is promiscuous, and it is a reflection on me? Well, it won't work, because this isn't a moral issue, it's a medical issue. I have taught my daughter not to be ashamed of this, and she discusses it openly herself. This is not some dirty little secret that shames us so badly that we will sweep it under the carpet and never speak of it. It is a major medical issue affecting millions of women.

It is these public discussions that helped encourage the creation of the vaccine that is now available for our young girls. It is these public discussions that have educated young women and teens so that they seek medical attention early enough to successfully fight this cancer. Because we speak publically, our youngest generation of girls will grow up without fearing this particular virus or the resulting cancer. Perhaps you need to learn a little something about the issue before projecting your own fucking narrow-minded opinions upon the actions of others who seek to educate the public. Be careful -- your ignorance is showing (again).

If you ever, ever, ever again verbally attack my daughter, or even act like you're going to -- ever -- you'll see just how vicious it will get. My daughter is off-limits, fuckwad!

The apology should be coming from you, for sinking lower than anyone who calls himself human should. For even deigning to mention my daughter in any context whatsoever.

I was happy to live and let live, each in our own little blogland, with a little chuckle here and there for fun, but you couldn't leave well enough alone, could you?

And by the way, this is between you and me, and only us. So leave the bystanders out of it for once and fight your own battles like a man. Copying my words into your blog incites others to get involved in something that should be between us. I didn't copy yours into mine, but perhaps I should have, because deleting your own words doesn't change the fact that you wrote them and they were wrong. It was a nasty, vicious thing to do, and it goes way beyond anything I've ever said publicly. I have never, ever brought any of your family or friends into any problem between us, and I never would -- because I know how wrong that is. So until you admit the inappropriateness of your original words, this post stays as is. Publicly admit that you misspoke, and it will come down.

Now go crawl back into your hole, and this time stay there.

And try fucking spell check the next time you post -- your illiteracy is showing, too.

Of course, this post could be about anyone, anyone at all. I haven't named a single, solitary person. If you think it's about you, then perhaps you're just paranoid.

And if your comment is one that I don't care for, be prepared to have it deleted. My blog, my choice.

Monday, October 02, 2006

shoes, glorious shoes

I was commenting in a blog recently about my dilemma in shoe shopping. I can only afford Payless, as I've blogged before (I tried to find those posts, but the blogger search engine doesn't seem to be working), and generally when they are buy-one-get-one-half-off (or BOGO, as they call it).

My favorite type of shoe is the pointy-toed pump, mule, or slingback. But of course, those sizes are much more narrow in the ball of the foot. And I already have a wide foot as it is. So I have to go a half-size up as well as wide, and it is very slim pickings in a 9W for pretty shoes. Maybe that's partly why I grab shoes whenever I find them.

Rugrat counted my shoes a few weeks ago, and she counted 33 pair. That's counting, though, sneakers for workouts, sensible low-heeled ones, summer sandals, and winter shoes. That's not so bad, is it?

My biggest challenge now is that I need a pair of boots, and I want something that goes to my knee. But not only is it hard to find the boots in a 'W,' the damned things are slightly too tight on my calves, and I can't get them zipped up. Now, I'm only about 30 pounds overweight at this point, so it burns me that I still can't get into a knee boot. And I can't afford to go somewhere more expensive. So, I guess it's ankle boots for me again this winter. Sigh.

I did, though, find a gorgeous pair of slingbacks at Payless a week or so ago that I've received massive compliments on. And at 14.99, how could I not buy them? I guess that means I have 34 pairs now. Yeah, you can all say it. Shoe whore!