Thursday, March 29, 2007

And now for something completely different

I couldn't stop laughing when I found this extravagant recipe in a cook book compiled by women from a United Methodist Church congregation.

Potato Soup

2 cans of potato soup
1 can of half and half

Praise the lord for traditional American cooking!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Ahhh Spring Break

Spring break - I am writing a grant proposal for my new position. It is a highly competitive foundation, and so mixed feelings (wouldn't it be great if I get it and what's the point, I won't be selected anyways) have given my motivation a bipolar edge. But I better clench my teeth and finish it.
And of course I have to simultaneously entertain the departmental colleague, who has only 1 week of spring break to get 5 weeks worth of work accomplished. I am wondering, why she is still sitting in my office monologuing about what home improvement projects she will decide on next...
I have only 10 weeks left here at my visiting position, and I am beginning to feel homeless. I have been excluded from all departmental meetings and the students treat me as if they don't have to impress me any longer.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Here a link for the next year newbies

Here a link for those who are starting to think about entering the tenure track job hunting season beginning in August:
At this wiki any applicant can post if they have received word from an advertised position, e.g. an invitation for a phone or on-campus interview. The search committees at the various institutions don't tend to keep you up-to-date what their advances in the whole search process are. So this is a marvellous method of telling the other folks who are in limbo if they should wait to hear from their dream position at University X, and decline the offer from the runner-up on their list. But this only works, if people share!

How friendly should I be with my students?

Feelin' a little homesick, so here a photo from my stompin' grounds

Teaching evaluations mean life or death at a small liberal arts college. And since I have not started my new position yet, I still have the chance to nip foolish mistakes in the bud, as for example becoming too friendly with your students. I am currently a visiting assistant professor and I have been experiencing the following dilemma:

If you are friends with students - not outside the school environment - but simply listen to their relationship, financial, family, etc. problems and you sincerely care for them and they get a good grade in your class, they love you, and as a result give you the highest evaluations. However, if they don't do well on your exams, they take it a little too personally, suddenly give you the cold shoulder and finally slaughter you on evaluations. And it is a dilemma, because I find that I have more in common with those undergraduate students than the close to retirement colleague. And it doesn't require much to become friendly. It only takes a music CD on my office desk as the catalyst for a conversation.

In the end, I think that it is difficult to hide who you are for six years. So perhaps my precautions will eventually fail no matter how carefully I plan not to make mistakes.

Monday, March 12, 2007

RateYourStudents - A Growing Disappointment

When I first discovered RateYourStudents a few months ago, I was delighted to find a blog rebelling against Well, not really "rebelling", but rather providing a quiet public space to vent, so you don't have to bore your friends with the same ole I-nearly-roasted-and-ate-a-few-basket-case-students-today story. Ahhh - the joy in reading about how there are students with more comical excuses than mine was such a relief.
But what the hell happened??? Now the blog publishes more posts of students who try to improve the image of their species are published than the posts of professors! So students have the right to defend themselves on RateYourStudents, whereas professors have to suck up the accusations on RateMyProfessor? It seems that the students are getting a taste of their own public humiliation, and even though it is completely anonymous, they feel attacked.
Professors are aware that most students are hard-working and decent human beings. That's why we love our jobs. But if students have a right to announce to the world that our noses are too long, then why can't we let loose a little as well?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Some Thoughts on Departmental Politics

With a new position, the sleight is clean. No relationships with colleagues have yet gone sour because you didn't take their side on creating a new course proposal or an argument they had with another faculty. So how does one best play the game of politics??? I can see two options:

A) Staying out of every one's business, never voicing your opinion, and even if asked to do so, keeping answers vague.

pros: nobody will be offended
cons: colleagues will consider you a coward

B) Being true to yourself and siding with the faculty, whose issues you believe are valid.

pros: you will make friends
cons: you will make enemies

Saturday, March 10, 2007

A New Beginning...

I recently accepted a position as Assistant Professor in the physical sciences at a small liberal arts college (SLAC) out west. Only a few more months and the frenzy will begin. Am I being overdramatic when assuming that these are the most important six years for the rest of my life? When judgement day comes and you don't make the cut, then so long sucker: you are out of a job, and nobody will hire you with the taint of failure! It is nerve-racking to feel Damocles' sword slowly swinging over you.

When I first applied for positions across the nation, I thought that landing at a decent SLAC with decent pay, research start-up, and a pretty science center was the big prize at the end of the Ph.D.-PostDoc-VisitingProf obstacle track. Now I realize that the real obstacle track, keeping this prize, is still ahead with the following major hurdles:

1. 3+ Publications
2. Making Your Students Like You
3. Not Losing the Game of Departmental and Institutional Politics

Oh, boy! I am scared!