Update: In catching up with my RSS feeds, I ran into Kathy Sierra’s post about success. I love Kathy Sierra. I think she says in this post exactly what I was trying to say above. That is, there appears to be only one track to “success,” moving up (internally or externally). I think, however, that I’d be happier not moving up, but instead, being somehow acknowledged that I’m doing a kick-ass job. That might mean an increase in pay or taking away some of the icky crap I hate doing and replacing it with cool stuff I love doing. I’m moving in that direction, but now I have concrete ways of articulating this to people who can make that happen. Thanks, Kathy.
I’m struggling with this question right now in many areas of life. I feel pretty successful. I have a job I enjoy, a wonderful family, and my own house in a nice neighborhood. But in some ways, I don’t feel successful. I haven’t quite finished my Ph.D. and when I do, I’m probably not going to pursue a faculty career. If I do pursue a faculty career, it won’t be tenure-track. It would be continuing non-tenure track or some such kind of position. And that feels “lesser” to me. I feel “lesser” as just a staff member, which is part of why I’m even holding the thought of full-time teaching in my head. But I think I’d just be exchanging one “lesser” with another.
Success in academia is usually defined in terms of publishing the right number of papers in the right journals. It’s going to conferences and people have heard of you, read your work, or whatever. At some places, it might also be defined by teaching, with awards or good evaluations. But that’s on the faculty side. What would success look like on the staff side, for someone in my position?
In some ways, I could pursue success in the same way. I could publish. I do go to conferences. I’ve presented at many. That feels successful. If I were in development, I might measure success in terms of how much money I bring in. In admissions, getting a good class every year or increasing enrollment. But I don’t have any good measurements like that. I have personal measurements. I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot, contributed a lot to the institution, but kind of have nothing to show for it. I have no award, no merit raise, no tenure or promotion. And here, I have no opportunities to pursue those accolades. I must settle for the occasional pat on the back or glowing email. And those are fine, but I think I want more.
The problem is, I can’t define that “more.” What would more look like? A promotion? A raise? A new position? I’m not sure. I can’t get Chaucer’s Miller’s Wife out of my head. What do women want? What does this woman want? And I think the Miller’s Wife has a point. Authority would be a good thing. Maybe.
And yet, most of the time, I’m perfectly content. Maybe I’m just having a “the grass is greener” moment where other opportunities or changing things in my current situation looks better than the status quo. Maybe I’m just getting greedy.
What I sometimes find, however, is a lack of these two things, especially when it comes to technology. There are lots of reasons for this, most of them institutional. I don’t know of any field, aside from Computer Science perhaps, where technology is integrated in a way where faculty just simply naturally think about it as they are planning their classes. It’s always an afterthought. This, then, leads to a lack of imagination in implementation. How can you possibly come up with something truly interesting and innovative at the last minute? I’ll give you an example. I suggested to a professor, someone who is technically savvy and pretty imaginative, that he use Flickr for a class that was image-heavy. He wanted a way for students to comment on photos they had taken and posted to a web site. Now I give him credit for asking, but this was the second week of class before we were having this conversation. And although I explained that Flickr allowed you to comment, even put sticky notes right on the image and if you want, you can close off your collection just to your students, you can do that too. But there wasn’t time to demonstrate or come to the class and show how it worked or any of that.
I think I can partly blame myself for this. I don’t always reach out before the semester and suggest such things and I think I’ll do more of that. I’m currently writing the “Alphabet Soup” of technology for educators on my other blog. That has actually generated some response so far.
Another problem is that faculty, I realize, do not have time to do some of these things. It takes time to set up a Flickr account, perhaps set up a pool for students to work with, write documentation for that. It takes time to make video clips, to think about blogging, to make your Blackboard site more than just a document repository. I know, because I do these things for my own single class and it takes time. And there’s no reward, no guarantee of success, and the chance that one will be humilated in front of the class and fail miserably.
Many of the faculty at my institution come from places overflowing with staff and resources. Harvard, for example, has about 12 people on its instructional technology team alone. Yale has 16. Stanford has about 30 (too many for me to count quickly). Most of those places, too, have liaisons for each department and separate out work on classroom/research activities from basic technology needs like email, word processing, etc. For basic support, there’s another team of 15 or 20. At these places, a faculty member comes in the semester before and says, “I want an interactive site for anthropology 101″ and the site magically appears. Or I want these 100 images scanned and put into a nice powerpoint presentation and voila, it’s done. So, naturally, many of them expect the same kind of service when they arrive at our institution. But alas, with one person as a full-time instructional technologist and who also handles general web and technology issues from both faculty and staff, that service is simply not possible.
Would I like to provide that kind of service? Not really. I personally think there’s value in doing some of these things yourself. First, you know the material and the best way to present it. Reimagining it in digital form often makes you rethink the way you present the material. I’ve heard from colleagues who work at these larger institutions that sometimes the projects they create are never used or are used once and discarded. I’m guessing that if you create or help create a project yourself, you will use it. Often, too, if you’re just producing digital material from analog versions that have been dropped off, there’s never an opportunity to have a conversation about the best way to use the digital material or ways to make it flexible and fit different situations and classes. And there’s just that lack of curiosity and imagination again; there’s no desire to learn how these things work, how they could transform teaching.
I think most people associate technology with a kind of dystopia where curiosity and imagination have been stripped away. And maybe in the 80s and early 90s when the focus was automation and “making life easier.” And maybe that vision of technology still exists now. And it’s hard to get beyond that when much of what I and my department end up doing involves the nuts and bolts end of things instead of the fun, imaginative end of things. For me, technology, especially web technologies is all about creativity and imagination, of connecting and “talking” to people, of seeing things in new ways, of words converted to image, of image converted to words, of infinite possibility. Maybe people are afraid of that infinite possibility or maybe, conversely, they feel constrained and hemmed in by technology instead of feeling free to pursue a different path. I wish that more people would be more curious about technology instead of fearful of it. Unfortunately, I may be able to teach them how to use something, suggest possibilities, but I think it’s beyond my job duties to instill a sense of curiosity. But I’ll keep trying anyway.
Yesterday began at 6:00 a.m. and ended at 9:00 p.m. It was crazy. It still feels like the rush of the beginning of school. It’s not supposed to be this way. I managed to slow down enough to enjoy my class, which was really fun yesterday. I think we’re finally getting to know each other.
But I can’t think. I can barely string together a complete sentence and that’s so not fun. Words are my thing. Losing them. Not good.
I have to ask, those of you who are profs and parents, how painful is it for you to listen to curriculum discussions at the elementary or middle school level? After parent night last night, I was seriously considering home schooling. Listening to the way writing was taught pained me. And social studies? Oh. My. FSM. The teacher has an “inside track” on Iraq because she’s got three family members stationed there. Hellooo. Can we say one sided? Ugh. I guess I’ll just have to encourage Geeky Boy to think outside the box and to argue back. Sigh.
And the other thing that just freaks me out. The structure of it all. So rigid. And I’m sitting there thinking, “This is what I have to get students to unlearn when they get to college.” Oh, and the “Info Tech” class. OS 9 people! OS 9. And they’re just learning to type. That’s it. No how to use wikipedia. No other software tools. I know it costs money to buy new computers and all, but OS 9? AppleWorks? Holy crap. The woman teaching the class used to teach shorthand.
The only good thing was math and science. I liked math and science. The teacher’s a younger guy, about my age, and approaches learning very differently and uses technologhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gify in the classroom. They’re doing and online web thing with hurricanes. He puts the responsibility for learning on the students and provides an appropriate enviornment and the tools they need. So yay for that.
But man, the state of the public school system sucks. Such old methods. No wonder we’re lagging.
In other news, I sent chapter 4 off–hooray, hurrah. I am taking it a little bit easy this week. Did a little bit of work yesterday, but today, I have an early start to my work day, so I’m just hanging out. I lived with that chapter for so long, it feels weird to be moving on. But I’m glad I am. I can *really* see the light at the end of the tunnel now. So weird.
I have some more to say about faculty, teaching and technology. When my brain functions, I’ve been thinking about this, so more on that later. Oh, and I should go visit Wednesday Whining (is it Wednesday already?)
Last semester, when I taught this course, we really focused on blogging. We didn’t have a heavy-duty reading assignment until 2-3 weeks into the course. This semester, I decided to do both–have the blog and do some reading and leave it up to the students as to whether they blogged about the reading or something else related. The thing is, most students are averaging about 1 post a week, though I’ve assigned 4 posts (two over each long weekend). I know this blogging thing works. The hard part is motivating the students to get going on it. Most are motivated (from my recent study results) by receiving comments either from other students or from other bloggers. I had given them the assignment to find something to comment on and to comment and leave our url so that we might get some traffic to our site. I even showed them how to do this in class on Thursday.
I did my own assignment over the weekend and indeed, we did get a link and a comment. So I modeled what I wanted, and I guess I’ll discuss what I did in class. I’m also planning to do a brainstormin exercise a la jo(e). I feel like I need to mix it up in class a little. The students were kind of dragging on Thursday. Partly, I think the weather was a factor and it was beginning to sink in that college is going to be a lot of work and I think we’re kind of tired of the book. We should have gone through that faster.
The thing that’s hard is that my philosophy about teaching is that the students should take responsibility for their learning. Creating the environment for that is much harder than lecturing, just giving paper assignments and then grading them. I come to class with more questions than answers and I think some students find that unnerving. And if the students don’t wrestle with my questions, there’s a lot of dead air and I find that unnerving.
The kind of teacher I want to be is one who inspires in her students the desire to learn more. I’ve always had a few students like that. Whether I’ve had anything to do with it or not, I don’t know. But I recognize that I’m not always that inspiring. But I want to be, and so I keep working at it.
Okay, I can’t stay away. You people make me think too much. I was just glancing at blogs while I waited for my Death-to-the-Diet Brownies (recipe tomorrow) to cook, when I ran into Phantom’s post (Phantom Scribbler: Diversity)). I had read Jody’s post which she references and even looked up the demographics of our current school–so very white, like 94%. I had occasion to return to the issue of diversity while out driving today. I had gone over to our local nursery to get some flowers but decided I didn’t like their selection, so I punched Home Depot into our navigation system, thinking while I was at it, I’d check out some shelving. I knew there was one nearer to us than the one we usually went to up north, near a mall and Target and many other stores. So off I went to a town I hadn’t ever been to. On the way back, the navigation system (whom we call Muffy–long story) took me through a town we had considered living in. The town is lovely, one of the older suburbs of Philadelpha with large Victorian houses and a quaint downtown. The house we were looking at was an old central hall colonial. It was huge and had a large yard. But there were bars on the windows and bars on the windows of all the other nearby houses. The high school was practially in our back yard and all the students were outside and they were almost all African American. In fact, despite the town itself being 75% white, the schools are 75% African American. And we balked. We looked up the school information which was worrisome, much lower scores, for example that other schools in the area and then there were the bars.
Driving through the area today, it seemed much quainter then. I drove right through the downtown area and saw people of all different races walking around, enjoying the day. There was an arts festival going on and there were banners hanging and more people out than usual, I suspect. And I had a moment of regret. I’m always lamenting the lack of diversity around here and yet, I had run away from it here, too scared to take the risk. Living there would have put us on a train line. It certainly would have changed a lot of things about our life.
I am not comfortable with the way I reacted to the possibility of living in a diverse neighborhood, but as this shows, it doesn’t take much to move us into segregated areas. Go ahead, play with the model. Just a 30% preference to be with similar people creates a pretty segregated situation. At a 60% preference, you end up with almost 100% segregation.
And, as Zuska was writing the other day about the lack of women in science, it takes a real push from the majority for change to occur. If, as apparently has happened in this particular town, all the white people go to private schools, there’s no way to achieve any kind of diversity in the public schools. I don’t have the answer. I don’t know why I, as an individual, have not been more active in pursuing a more diverse environment for my kids. We’re all talk and no action over here, or as my college roommate used to say, all hat and no cattle.
I’m stepping away from blogging for the weekend–reading and writing. I have had what can only be described as one of the most incredibly stressful weeks of my life. It’s right up there with the week before my wedding. I went into the week fairly stressed out already and then things just piled on. Mr. Geeky was away for a couple of days. There’s no clean clothes or food in the house. I feel disoriented.
I did, however, pretty much finish Chapter 4 of the dissertation. W00t! I’m planning to clean it up a bit and send it off and begin Chapter 3. Yeah, I know, it’s not in order. Chapter 3 is the last chapter I have to draft. Then, I figure there’ll be some pretty major revisions once I see the thing as a whole. I know I’m going to want to make connections from Chapter 4 to Chapter 3, but seeing as I haven’t written it yet . . .
So, I’m going to spend the week on the diss and being a soccer mom. Geeky mom will return bright and early Monday morning.
Just wanted to thank J. at bingdella for the header! I think it looks great. Thanks, J.
I decided not to say I hated Katie Couric, because I don’t. I don’t know her at all and there are a couple of things I admire about her. But overall, I’m disappointed. But it’s also a very sticky wicket. I’ve been waiting since about 1986 for a female anchor, so it’s about time for that. And I hate that any criticism that’s launched at her gets twisted into something gendered. Go to YouTube and search for Katie Couric. It’s not pretty. For example, she did this contest for her sign off line and the Jimmy Kimmel show spliced together her real discussion of that with a flashing of her breasts. I ask you, would they have had Matt Lauer flash his audience as a signoff. I don’t think so.
The fact that she had a signoff line contest is part of what bugs me about her. I know she wants to seem friendly and “indclude the audience” but have some guts and just pick something already. You’ve had three months. I mean really. Add to that that she said after one of the stories I saw, “I just love that story.” She just doesn’t seem serious enough. It feels like she’s turned the news into a parlor game.
Part of me thinks, well the news format was determined by some white guys over the last 50 years. Maybe the news should change its format, but I don’t think the direction she chose is the right way to go. It just doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel like journalism in the same way that Fox News doesn’t feel like journalism.
It’s a shame, really, that our first female anchor has to be someone who, in my opinion, is not a real journalist and about whom the country has some gender-based hangups that they probably couldn’t get past even if she were a real journalist. There are some good female journalists they could have chosen–Martha Raddatz, Cokie Roberts, Diane Sawyer–to name a few. CBS’s own Lara Logan is an excellent journalist though perhaps it’s too early in her career to move to anchor.
I think, though, that most of my feelings about Katie are a bit amorphous. I’m not always sure why she makes me cringe. She seems phony in some way or trying too hard or something. I think agree with the following sentiment:
I wish I knew exactly why it was that I loathe Katie Couric so greatly. She has never personally attacked me or my family. She’s never done anything directly to offend me or anyone that I care about. She’s been nothing but an on air personality which, incidentally, has all but driven me mad for the last 15 years of my life with her plastic appearance and ridiculous hair styles. . . . There are few people in this world that have ever been able to have the effect on me that Katie has been able to have. Very few have been able to literally make me cringe at the sound of their name, and even fewer have made me want to scream at the sound of their voice.
I long for real news again. Since ABCs gone down the path to 9/11 and CBS has become some kind of variety show, I’m watching NBC–I guess.