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Oh wow do I like to teach. I made it through 9 powerpoint slides in 25 minutes, then spent the rest of my 50 minutes on an activity. I think they are getting it!
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Whoops. My class is just ending and one of the students lingered, to be the last one here, and asked, "Did I see you at [bar] last week? I thought I did, but wasn't sure."

I go out ONCE all semester, on a Wednesday night for goodnesssake, and am spotted by one of my 20 students. I mean, what are the odds?
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I am now online from home.

It was not a simple process. First, I could not get my laptop online. Then I got the other laptop online. Then both laptops would talk to the router, but the router wouldn't talk to the modem.  Finally, after a good long time on hold with EvilCableCo. they gave me the appropriate setting to "bridge" the modem, and then transfered me to Linksys for router help.  My number-mixupness bit me in the ass, in that I was mostly sitting on hold because I had reversed two digits in attempting to connect to the router, but we got that settled right off the bat.  The woman at Linksys was most concerned with getting me entered in their database, and while she was doing that I managed to finish configuring the router.

I was on hold a good long time with EvilCableCo.  I did the dished that had piled up (apparently when I am living alone my usual neuroticism about keeping a clean kitchen fades. It seems that I'm not really a neat freak, just ridiculously courteous). I cleaned my office. I organized my bag for tomorrow and wrote out my schedule. I broke some boxes down for recycling.  Then I was on hold for another chunk with Linksys, and installed the new bathroom hardware while waiting.

Just having the interweb makes me feel much less isolated, and having succesfully connected it and secured the wireless network makes me feel like I might get to be a real geek when I grow up after all, which amuses me.

And now, at 10 pm, I get to start reading two hefty articles and two book chunks for a class which convenes in 11 hours. Whee.

(In other news, no crying at school today.  I taught a class and taught it well.  I also got blisters on my feet from walking to school in pretty shoes.  Tomorrow is a Teva sandal day, which is okay with me since I'm not teaching).
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Today was the first day of business-back-to-(almost)-usual here at Virginia Tech, and I think it went okay.  I was in our building for about 5 hours, and it was subdued.  We had volunteers - grad students and faculty - sitting at a card table in the lobby wearing ribbon armbands and name tags asking "May I Help?" I did not have an official shift, but spent about two hours sitting at that table, talking to Greg-the-Great and participating in occasional student interactions. 

An obviously stressed person asked us about counseling resources, and got a handout.  One of my students from last year stopped in to talk - she lost a dear friend and is very sad, but trying to navigate the rest of the semester wisely. I was glad to see her, and hug her.  Another student wanted to talk about feeling guilty that students are being encouraged to take their grades-as-of-Monday as semester grades, rather than completing the rest of the semester.  She feels horrible about personally benefiting from this great tragedy, and I can see her point.

Students have been offered the option to base their semester grade on work completed before April 15, on that same work plus some chosen assignments that are left, or on the semester as originally planned.  Very few are planning to complete the originally planned work, and many instructors are not even asking for those assignments.  This makes sense. After all, our students are anxious and sad, grieving, and unsettled.  They are not performing at an optimal level, and we dont want academic pressure to create additional stress.  However, I dont think letting their semesters be done as of the tragedy is the way to go either. In my totally bullshit opinion, it is healthier for most people to continue coming to class (i.e. Being In Community) and have official academic outlets for the energy they may be attempting to manage.  I worry about students who are going home now, with no plan to return this semester. After all, it is only going to get harder to come back as we get further and further from the incident and it gets bigger and bigger in their heads.

I have no better solution to offer - some people have nothing left to give right now and should obviously be excused from the rest of the semester.  Since I am very, very uncomfortable with trying to develop  an objective rating scale for other people's pain (to determine who deserves that consideration), it must be offered to everybody.  I guess my ideal solution would involve no one dying last Monday, but in the absence of that best-possible-alternative, we just have to figure out what flawed, screwed-up compromises work best.
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This is not my day.  Yesterday wasn't either, and I am not holding my breath about tomorrow. I could ramble about my brain being out of focus and my to-do list being overwhelming, but I think I will tell you the story of my walk from the car to school today.

I park a ten-minute walk from my building, and travel across a parking lot, up a paved path past a large pond, and through a warren of buildings to get to my office. Today I made two-thirds of the walk in, before realizing my purse was still sitting on the back seat of my car, you know, somewhere I wouldn't forget it. This meant I walked along the duck pond three times, bird and people-watching.

On the first trip past, there were two guys sitting on a park bench, holding a laptop and staring at the ducks. They had an upside down recycling bin at their feet, and were debating something.

On the second trip past, they were lurking near the ducks. I say lurking because it was much too calculatedly casual and overtly innocent to be mere standing. They had the recycling bin propped up on one edge, with a long, blue string tied to the prop.  The set-up was obviously a duck trap.  One of the boys was too casually flinging pieces of bread around, and neither of them would meet my eyes.

On the third trip past, there was a pile of bread in the trap, and a flock of ducks edging closer as the bread flinger coaxed them in that direction.  His partner in crime was taking photo after photo.

I stopped and asked what they were doing. Tthe photographer told me they were catching a duck (his tone said, 'obviously!').  So I asked what they were going to do with the duck once they caught it, and was relieved to hear that they planned to take a picture and let it go.  I thought this was interesting, so asked them why they were hunting ducks with an obviously pilfered recycling bin.  They tried to blame their English class, but when I asked why their English teacher had sent them to catch a duck, they confessed that, well, it had been their idea. Apparently they have an assignment of some sort due, and were out manufacturing content.  I agreed to be interviewed on the subject, so there is now \video footage of me speculating that they may or may not capture a duck and confessing that I hope they do not.  From the angle at which he was holding the camera, I'm pretty sure my face was never in the shot, and he has some excellent footage of my v-necked top.  Oh well, at least I get to stay anonymous...
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You know you are having A Day when you discover - as dark falls - that you are locked in at the dump (excuse me, solid waste disposal facility), and your next thought is, oh, shit, these pants are WAY too tight for jumping six foot chainlink fences.

I manged to go over the fence without ripping the seat out of my too-tight jeans on the wire 'x's at the top (I have a lot more upper body strength than I would have thought this morning - I climbed up, then sort of held myself out from the barbs and lowered far enough to feel safe jumping), and the gate was chained in a way that the two of us pulling it apart were able to yank the dogs through the gap.  Good thing Kiska is so svelte.

Other than that, it was A Day. 

This whole giving up diet soda and refined sugar thing is not very much fun during the first three days - I get terrible cravings, have constant low-level headaches, and my stomach churns and churns.  

I spent the morning working on my measurement model in preparation for seeing my advisor.  The meeting itself was short and fine - any meeting where she doesn't take me out behind the psychology building and shoot me is a good meeting.  Then I met with a student to help him figure out the statistics for a study he is doing.  (When exactly did I get to be a stats expert?)  After that I escaped home for an hour, before dragging myself out for a dog walk with the border collies of doom, where we got locked in at the dump (the trail we were on ended there and it was too dark to go back into the woods and stumble around until we found another exit).  What a glamorous life I lead.
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I have always said that babies are like aliens.  I like infants - a lot - but really, they remind me of aliens.  I wrote this to share my logic with a friend, and thought I would post it here as well.

When they arrive on Earth, infants have just been expelled from the environment they always knew - a womb of amniotic fluid - and can't cope with our gravity.  They can't eat our food.  They don't speak any of our languages or have the capacity to process our vocal communication.  And they don't understand our customs and behaviors.

Over the course of their first years they develop the muscle structure to move in our gravity, learn to first understand and then produce vocal language, begin to eat our food, and start navigating our society.  This evolution takes place gradually and over time, as their brains develop new connections, their skeletal and muscle structure become capable of more and more refined motion, and they are exposed to more experiences.

Even Dr. D - the child developmental psychologist I worked for last year - thinks this is a great way to look at child development. To my chagrin, she actually announced it to our classes last spring. . .
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I taught the more difficult group today, and it was great.

I ended up leaving off the very last part of the lecture, since interest was flagging and it was information that they already had or would have to find to complete the homework, but no one fell asleep. I didn't use powerpoint.  And we all connected as a class - I feel really good about it.  Rather than showing the stiff, nervous me, I was able to be warm and funny.  This meant they responded better to me, and I actually like them now. 

Teaching can be so much fun.
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When Heather and I went to the Sea Life Center in Seward, someone was doing a presentation on octopuses (no really, that is the plural).  We finished our touring before the special speaker was finished, so stuck our heads into the presentation room to see if that was where we wanted to be.  And when I saw powerpoint, I turned and fled.

Powerpoint is capable of taking any fascinating subject (such as octopuses) and rendering it immediately boring.   Powerpoint is a tool, and, like all tools, should be used for good.  Instead it is too often used for drying out what could be an interesting topic and encouraging students to transfer information from the screen to their notebooks (digital or paper), without the benefit of first passing it through their brains.

As a novice instructor, powerpoint is appealing.  You know, 'Maybe if my powerpoints are shiny enough no one will notice how flawed and young I am . . . And, and, it will help me get my information across!!" But really, it doesn't work that way.  After spending several years watching powerpoints and then setting them in contrast to lectures taught by the brilliant instructor with whom I worked last year, I realize that powerpoint is not only a crutch, it is one that in turn cripples your teaching.  You are tied to the structure you developed in preparation, and people are too busy copying down whatever it is on the screen to listen to your (usually more important) accompanying lecture. 

My first year teaching intro. psych. recitation I also made the mistake of putting all my information on the slides.  They were overcrowded and my presence didn't add much, since by the time students get to college they can usually read.  As you may remember, I ran amok with activities and experiments to move away from this passive information transfer paradigm. I think now I have the confidence - even though I don’t have the subject matter expertise - to try sometime different. I am going to be using the computer projector to demonstrate analyses, so it will be a huge part of my teaching.  I may even use some - sparsely filled - powerpoint slides to convey information and structure my lecture.  But I am going to make a serious effort this year to TEACH, rather than flashing up information and seeing where it falls.

This rant was prompted by printing out the 22 powerpoint slides the person who taught this last class gifted to me for the first lecture.  Don't get any illusions about my laziness here - I am using her structure and her homework assignments (well, mostly) to facilitate this class (since I don’t know what I am doing . . .).  But, I cant teach her power point lectures.  I can take the information and give it to the students in a different way, but I just cannot bring myself to show them 22 powerpoint slides (16 of which detail the – essentially irrelevant - history of testing from the Han Dynasty forward) to convey essentially three points (a test is a measurement device used to quantify and predict behavior, scores must be interpreted to have meaning, and testing has been around for a long time).  My way may not end up being better, but at least I can say I tried .  . .

Wish me luck.

redzils: (Default)
I am now that instructor - you know, the one that returns student papers covered in illegible notes and sticky food spots. I just dropped a spoonful of ice-cream smack into Ang's essay. Thank goodness it was vanilla - at least it isnt a colored mark.

Also: my music player is very into Gene Autry tonight. It is quite a party at Chez Redzils: manic house destruction, cowboy music, and ice cream All! Night! Long!


Apr. 11th, 2006 09:42 pm
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It's been a very up and down day.
  • Got about 5 hours of sleep.
  • Went to work.
  • Realized I didn't have my keys, so couldn't get the student papers I wanted to pass back out of my desk.
  • Drove home to get my keys.
  • Found no keys, but lots of dog vomit. Kiska was really sick. I didn't have time to do anything about it though, because Julie was expecting me to be "onstage" in an hour so she could watch me teach.
  • I taught, and it went well. I felt adequately prepared and my activities seemed to be a hit. I even managed to gracefully weave developmental and I/O topics together.
  • I came home, and Ryan had cleaned up the dog mess (I owe him a BIG favor).
  • I swept and washed all the floors, which coated me in a fine layer of dust.
  • I got an email asking me to turn in hire paperwork, despite not being hired or something.
  • Pouring Pedialyte into an unwilling dog (70 lbs) is hard.
  • I completed and faxed my paperwork, ate something for dinner, and mucked out my desk.
  • I still couldn't find my keys. 
  • They finally turned up in my car.
  • My desk is clean (dust-fee) but still piled high with paperwork.
  • I got to talk to Heather.
  • I am too tired to do anything, except the meme below (I filled it out first). I think its bedtime, despite being only 10 pm . . ..

40 Questions Meme...

1) Who is the last person you high-fived? I'm not sure. I do a double thumbs up thing fairly often (mostly when I want to congratulate from far away, need an excuse to wink at someone, or want the enthusiastic one to Not Touch Me), but the last person I high-fived was probably a baby-sittee.
2) If you were drafted into a war, would you survive? Depends on where they put me.
3) Do you sleep with the TV on? No. I don't do anything with the TV on, since I am living a TV free life.
4) Have you ever drunk milk straight out of the carton? No.
5) Have you ever won a spelling bee -- Just classroom bees.
6) Have you ever been stung by a bee -- Yes, but not lately.
7) How fast can you type -- Fast. I haven't had to take a typing test since high school and I am much quicker now.
8) Are you afraid of the dark? -- Depends on the dark in question.
9) Eye color -- Brown.
10) Have you ever made out at a drive-in? -- Nope. I have only ever been to a drive in once - last summer. Cool experience.
11) When is the last time you chose a bath over a shower? -- When I was at my parent's house - I take lots of baths there and none here. If you saw my current bathroom you would understand.
12) Do you knock on wood? -- Yes.
13) Do you floss daily? -- Near-daily, in the shower.
15) Can you hula hoop? -- I don't know, but am choosing to believe that if I can belly-dance I can hula-hoop.
16) Are you good at keeping secrets? -- Yes.
17) What do you want for Christmas? -- A prescriptionl lens dive mask and a memory card for my camera.
19) Do you talk in your sleep? -- Rumor has it that I talk and sometimes hum in my sleep.
21) Have you ever flown a kite? -- Yup. Not quite like the Banks children, but still fun.
22) Do you wish on your fallen lashes? -- No.
23) Do you consider yourself successful? --Not yet.
24) How many people are on the contact list of your cell? -- Lots.
25) Have you ever asked for a pony? -- No. I wanted a horse, dammit, not a pony.
26) Plans for tomorrow? -- Women's Dissertation Writing Group. Volunteer with Kiska at the hospital. Work a few hours on the meta-analysis. Dance class.
27) Can you juggle? -- Yes.
28) Missing someone now? -- Yes, but I don't know who...
29) When was the last time you told someone I Love You? -- A few hours. I say that every single time I hang up the phone with my parents, sister, or grandmother, and sometimes with H.
30) And truly meant it? -- Of course.
31) How often do you drink -- Occasionally. I only drink with people I trust when I don't have to drive, and those stars don't align often.
32) How are you feeling today? -- tired.
34) Have you ever been suspended or expelled from school? -- no
35) What are you looking forward to? -- leaving home to go home
36) Have you ever crawled through a window? -- Lots of them. Latest one was probably breaking into my own house.
37) Have you ever eaten dog food? -- No.
38) Can you handle the truth? -- Usually.
39) Do you like green eggs and ham? --I do not like them, Sam I am.
40) Any cool scars? -- My knees sport the usual wreckage. My left wrist looks like I tried to slash it years ago, but it was actually a package-opening incident gone terribly wrong. Two Christmases ago I fell into barbed wire (a muddy bank gave way under me) and that left a six inch tear down the inside of my left forearm a few paralell stripes on my right shoulder. This Christmas I continued the December 25 disaster tradition by falling down a rocky breakwater, so there is a lovely new scar on my left shin from that.


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