Although I’ve seen a couple of interesting presentations, I have to admit I’m kind of bored with this conference. Unlike academic conferences where the same people tend to show up year after year, the nature of these conferences is that there’s not that camaraderie. There are a couple of familiar faces, but for the most part, the people change from year to year. People leave these positions after a few years and often go on to something completely different or to somewhere far away. Also, though we’re all from the same area, our institutions are so different, it’s hard to relate to people. For example, I went to a presentation by Temple on building a new collaborative lab environment. It was a $16 million project and there were 640 computers and 150 software packages. That’s a scale I can’t even imagine. I haven’t been particularly impressed with the sessions on teaching and learning. No one’s saying anything new or they’re geared toward distance education. And they’re all (with one or two exceptions) too focused on the technology and they’re not even thinking about pedagogy. The question that comes up at every session, though: how do we get faculty on board/involved? And of course, there are no faculty here to answer that question. We’re talking in a vacuum.
Maybe I need to move on to a different conference. I’m skipping a session right now because there was nothing of interest to me and I’ll probably skip the next one. The teaching and learning track is offering something on using an intelligent agent to provide Blackboard help. I don’t really want to know about that.
Yesterday, I plowed through 95 emails plus taught a workshop, and helped a faculty member work with an excel spreadsheet to update data and make a chart. Most of that email was questions and requests, the most common request right now being to move old course material in Blackboard over to a new course.* I feel like I did a week’s worth of work in a day. That’s a good thing since I’ll be out the rest of the week. I started to feel the energy of the beginning of school which, though hectic, is certainly invigorating.
I’m looking forward to the conference where I hope to have some good conversations and hear some interesting presentations. And there will also be good food and drink.
I’m sure there will be 95 emails waiting for me when I return, but that’s okay.
*This is something that people can do themselves, but the same people every year forget and ask me to do it. Or they wait until it’s too late to do themselves and the material is only available on DVD.
I’m feeling a distinct lack of motivation. Partly, that’s because there’s so much to do, I don’t know where to begin. I’m only going to be at work one day this week (today). Tomorrow, I head to Baltimore for a conference, which I’m looking forward to, but now I’m thinking about how much work needs to get done before classes start on Monday. The world will not fall apart, but still. I’ll also be gone next week for a day and a half for a mini conference. Looking forward to that, too, but again, the timing. Next month, I’m running my own conference. So far, so good, but lots of stuff to do for that, too. Things will clear up by March and I swear, I’m taking a vacation then.
I guess that’s the way academics are. There are stretches of time with no specific obligations but plenty to do during which the things that need to get done don’t quite get done. And then there are the stretches of time with too many specific obligations, plus the leftover stuff that didn’t get done before. I suppose every industry has its busy times, but I think I’m getting too old for this roller coaster ride. Partly, it’s my own fault for signing myself up for these things, but life would be boring if I just sat back and coasted, wouldn’t it?
I have always enjoyed cooking. Though I’m not a great cook, I get a lot of pleasure out of taking a list of measurements and ingredients and turning it into something that others can savor. When I interviewed for my first real job, they asked me what I did to relieve stress. I said, I bake bread. The woman interviewing me, whom I found out later, hated to cook, looked at me like I had two heads. Anything else? she asked, sure I must do something like jog or take long baths as a stress reliever.
Although, I’d love to be able to throw together the things in my cabinets to make something tasty without following a script, I think much of the pleasure (and the stress relief) I get comes from the focused attention on the recipe. I rarely have a recipe memorized and so I must concentrate on what it tells me to do. While I’m concentrating on the instructions, I can’t really think about anything else. Any worries I’ve had disappear as I rush to get onions chopped or carrots peeled or find the curry tucked away in the cabinet.
There’s the added pleasure, too, of watching everything transform. I love watching onions soften and broccoli turn bright green, sauces thicken and butter melt. And the colors of things mixed together, of broccoli next to carrots, of tumeric turning everything yellow, of tomatoes mixing with cream to be almost (but not quite) pink. It reminds me of being a kid again, when I would mix play-dough colors together or paint and I wasn’t quite sure how it would turn out. And it really didn’t matter. I was delighted nonetheless.
One of the most compelling things about reading faculty blogs is the way they provide an inside look into what faculty life is really like. I wish I could do the same here, but is it interesting enough? What would be an interesting perspective from the staff point of view? We get a good view of the administrative side–deans, provosts, etc.–from Dean Dad. I feel like those of us at a non decision-making level have little voice (and perhaps little to say). You don’t see stories about secretaries or other support staff in The Chronicle or Inside Higher Ed. Why? Are we that invisible? What would make us more visible and what would be compelling to know about the how we go about our jobs, what we think of our institutions and higher education? Let me know.
So the resolutions. Last year I didn’t make resolutions, though I did make them for the beginning of the school year. I take my resolutions pretty seriously. I like the fact that on New Year’s Day, we’re encouraged to reflect on the past year and make plans for the new. Otherwise, I feel like I’d careen through life and not notice everything that’s passing by. This past year has been somewhat difficult. I’ve had some setbacks both professionally and personally. In the midst of those setbacks, however, I managed to write a dissertation. The last few months, especially, have been good ones despite my being extraordinarily busy. I still felt like I hadn’t lost track of what’s important. So here’s what I want to do this year:
- I want to get back to exercising, at least three times a week. I was doing pretty well with this last year, but by summer, had quit keeping up with it. I have to think about when to do this. Right now, either in the morning or at night, it’s dark out. I could certainly do something indoors, but walking is the easiest exercise I can do, which makes it more likely I’ll keep it up. I’d like to do some yoga with that. Once the weather gets better, I can play tennis and do other outdoor activities.
- Along with the exercise, I’m planning to eat better. This past semester has been one of convenience foods. And most of those have been fairly unhealthy. I’m sure there will be a few of those still, but if it’s only every once in a while as opposed to every day, it won’t be a big deal. Mr. Geeky has resolved to cook more, so we’ll see how that goes.
- Reinstitute family game night. We have a ton of board games and got some new ones for Christmas, and it’d be fun to get back to having at least one day a week when we do something together as a family.
- Reinstitute date nights. Mr. Geeky and I were going on a date twice a month, but in December, we just couldn’t get it together since I was working constantly on the dissertation and we just generally had too much other stuff going on. I just don’t want this to fall completely by the wayside.
- Quit complaining about work. I think this is going to be a hard one. I have had some frustrating things to deal with at work. It’s hard not to let that stuff get you down. Plus, two of my favorite colleagues resigned just before the winter break. Mostly, I just want to focus on constructive solutions as opposed to railing against perceived injustices.
- Related to the above work resolution, I want to follow my passions at work. I have enough freedom in my job that much of the time I can pursue my interests as I see fit. For me, that’s going to mean more reading and research and more writing about that research. It’s also going to mean finding a way to share my knowledge and expertise with my immediate community as well as the broader community. And, I want to find ways to connect people who are interested in similar issues.
I think that’s enough to tackle in one year!
Update: One other resolution I had was to make some blog changes. As you can see, I’ve upgraded. Mainly I was waiting for haloscan. Finally, they have got it working with the new blogger. There will be more changes later, but I need to run off to the grocery store for some healthy food.