World’s worst blogger?

January 7, 2013

I have a trend, I tend to post a few blogs early each semester and then stop.  Not enough time. Nothing interesting to write about. etc etc etc.

I’ve also said it before that I would do better to write a bit m ore often.  Once again I’ll make this ‘resolution.’  Maybe this time I’ll actually follow through.

For now, I’ll just share what I am looking forward to this spring semester.  I am looking forward to what looks like an excellent  student make-up in my experimental psychology course.  I’m changing up some of the ways that I relay material (less direct instruction, more ‘constructivist’ methods) and I am hopeful that this will make the course more engaging for the students. Strangely, each spring I look forward to teaching stat.  It’s a class not loved by most students, but I do get to have a lot of student contact with the activities and worksheets.  I’m looking forward to finalizing my sub-committee’s section of our HLC self-study.  This is a task that though extremely important, I would love to have off my plate! I’m looking forward to ‘hopefully’ having a good solid draft of a new curriculum by the end of this semester.  It’s been a bit of a slog this year, this semester we MUST make some decisions and get this concrete.  I REALLY look forward to when the revision of the curriculum is over!  Again, important work – don’t get me wrong – but it is mentally and emotionally taxing because of the political nature of curriculum reform.

Perhaps more importantly though I look forward to working with my research students on their senior thesis projects.  This is one of the great joys of my job and I love the point when the student gets to the end of the process, presents his or her research to others, and I can see that they can see the great accomplishment that they have made. I am hopeful that many will chose to present at a regional conference this year.

So what am I not looking forward to…well the usual: grading homework, giving detailed feedback on writing, long hours,early mornings, meetings, college politics, problem-child students.  In my mind this is actually what they pay me to do…..the rest I would do for free if I were independently wealthy.

I guess one last thing to look forward to.  For the new semester I get a new haircut and color.  I also plan sometime to add a bit to my wardrobe with the gift cards I received for Christmas.  Pretty things are always something to look forward to sharing!Sp13 hail


As with millions of others who celebrate their New Year at this time this has been a time of reflection for me.  Many people go on to create resolutions for themselves for the new year – unfortunately for most they will probably not keep them.  As a psychologist I can feel comfortable in saying this because for us past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.  Is it a perfect predictor – of course not – but it is the one I would hedge a bet upon.  Personally I tend not to make specific resolutions.  I typically only wish to live a happy life which includes finding those elusive balances between the demands and desires that I have.  However, there is one recent blog that intrigued me a bit.  It lists 30 things to stop doing to yourself.  Here is the list for those of you too lazy to click on the link above to the original blog entry:

  1. Stop spending time with the wrong people.
  2. Stop running from your problems.
  3. Stop lying to yourself.
  4. Stop putting your own needs on the back burner.
  5. Stop trying to be someone you’re not.
  6. Stop trying to hold onto the past.
  7. Stop being scared to make a mistake. *
  8. Stop berating yourself for old mistakes. *
  9. Stop trying to buy happiness.
  10. Stop exclusively looking to others for happiness.
  11. Stop being idle. *
  12. Stop thinking you’re not ready. *
  13. Stop getting involved in relationships for the wrong reasons.
  14. Stop rejecting new relationships just because old ones didn’t work.
  15. Stop trying to compete against everyone else. *
  16. Stop being jealous of others.
  17. Stop complaining and feeling sorry for yourself.
  18. Stop holding grudges.
  19. Stop letting others bring you down to their level.
  20. Stop wasting time explaining yourself to others.
  21. Stop doing the same things over and over without taking a break.
  22. Stop overlooking the beauty of small moments.
  23. Stop trying to make things perfect. *
  24. Stop following the path of least resistance.
  25. Stop acting like everything is fine if it isn’t. *
  26. Stop blaming others for your troubles.
  27. Stop trying to be everything to everyone. *
  28. Stop worrying so much. *
  29. Stop focusing on what you don’t want to happen. *
  30. Stop being ungrateful.

Now as I first read several of these I was quite sure that I did not have an issue with.  The ones with an asterisk are ones that I know that I do.  However, I think I would like to challenge myself to look a bit more objectively (as much as possible) to see if I really do believe that I do these items that might help preclude happiness.  So as one goal to write more (another perpetual goal that I never am able to keep) I think I will periodically choose one (maybe two) to reflect upon.

For my first entry I think I will start with one of these that I know I tend to occupy my time #12 “Stop thinking you’re not ready. *”  I think there are many of us who are early in our career (whatever that career might be) that have what I have heard referred to as the ‘imposter syndrome.”  I know that in my discussions with my grad school friends and also current junior faculty colleagues that this is a pretty common experience.  Basically, many of us have a fear that we will be ‘found out’ that that others will eventually see that we had somehow managed to get to where we are in some unsatisfactory manner.  I’m probably oversharing here,  but I know that I have felt this many times throughout my college, graduate training, and current position.  At times I did not take some risks because I simply do not think that I am ready – or I take the risk and continually ruminate on how unqualified I feel I might be for a certain task.

More currently I would like to believe that the impostor syndrome has not limited me and that I have been bold enough to take on challenging work that I might have felt internally that I was not ready for (though once I look at my own accomplishments and the accomplishments that others point out to me suggest that I am ready).  But I know that this is still a lingering fear.  Other elements of these 30 items play a part (perfectionism, ruminating on past failures, fear of making a mistake) in this.  This academic year in particular has challenged me to attempt to remove this “am I ready for this/impostor syndrome fear of being found out” in several ways.  What I need to be wary of is not whether or not I am qualified for the activities that I am in, I need to fear my own fear of not believing in myself to successfully accomplish these tasks.

Time Management

August 28, 2011

So this semester is probably going to be one of the busiest semesters of my professional life.  I have probably said this at the beginning of some past semester…but I’m quite sure that this one will beat out that earlier one.  The biggest commitment that I have this semester is the completion of a major text book project (due date Nov 1).  Though I have been working on this project through the majority of the summer, I am still working on completing two chapters of major writing revisions and then all 8 chapters of image replacements and other revision odds and ends.  Add onto this my heavy teaching load (2 sections Gen Psych, one section Cog Psych = about 90 students), chairing an important faulty committee, leading our college’s curricular revision initiative, and all of the other typical stuff a college prof does (grade, student meetings, faculty meetings, department meetings, ultimate Frisbee competitions, etc, etc.) and I have a mighty full plate.

To address the most pressing issue for me (the text book due date in 2 months) I have done something that I never have before – intentionally hid from my students for blocks of hours at a time.  I have scheduled at least 2 hours every day in my schedule (and yes my students know that I am doing this – I explain why) in the afternoons for writing.  This accomplishes several things: 1) I actually get writing done and am not inturrupted in my work flow, 2) I am forced not to work on anything else because everything else is left in my office (though I do need to monitor my online distractions), 3) I get a sense of change in the day – staying in one place can be stifling creatively for me .  A new location – and a cup of coffee – helps invigorate me. 4) I can model something that I recommend to my students when they do their writing.  And finally 5) I get to walk somewhere on campus for some fresh air.

This past week was my first week back to classes (it was a short week) and I tried out my new writing schedule on Wed and Thursday.  I have learned a few things 1) our library really has no legit quite area unless you go into a study room.  2) More students use the library in the middle of the afternoon than I thought (though it is just the first week of classes).  3) The library still has the same effect on my now as it did when I was in college – I have a tendency to doze off if I put my head down even for a minute.  4) In lieu of sometimes dozing off, I get A LOT done in these 2ish hours of time.

So I have a feeling that my scheduling will work well…now I just need to protect this precious time.  Too often meetings and such can begin to creep in and take over my nice long blocks of uninterrupted work time. At least for this semester I am going to need to be selfish here.  When you have a deadline for a major book publisher, you don’t turn in your homework late!

Ok, ok, ok, I already know the complaints what will come with this title if a student ever decides to read my blog. Yes, I was a student at one time, and yes I realize that time is extremely limited for ‘fun’ reading (i.e. reading not required for classes).  But if you do have the time I highly encourage you to browse the stacks, roam the isles, surf the listings for book titles that catch your interest.  Talk to your friends, family, and teachers about what books they are currently reading and then ask to borrow their copy.  It might be a fictional novel, it could be a non-fiction biography.  But READ!  As a student you must remember that you are busy grooming yourself for the real world.  The real world that does not necessarily need a list of specific skills, but also creativity and ingenuity. I my opinion, the most creative ideas are those that connect seemingly unconnected ideas, best way to do this is to be an active reader both in your profession and in your personal interest areas.

I find that I am at my most creative when I am reading the works of other people.  They present me with ideas and facts that I was not aware of.  I then have a tendency to bring in my own knowledge and experiences to make sense of these new ideas and facts, and then I make some connection.  This connection may be new, or it might simply be a little acknowledged area of study that if ripe for investigation.  This is where great ideas can come from and for me professionally, where new research ideas emerge.  I find my best ideas not when sitting alone in my office contemplating the next research question to ask; I find my most interesting ideas when attending conferences, speaking to colleagues, and reading my ‘for fun’ books over the summer.

I think most people have a need to be inspired by another person to be really creative (there is probably some research out there that supports this claim – guess I should go and read it – look yet another idea!).  I believe that few of us are truly creative on our own (in other words coming up with something completely new on our own with no help).  So as a student beginning your new semester, perhaps you will be asked to write a few papers.  My advice to you is to READ AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE before you actually start writing (in my experience too many students do this backwards by first writing the paper and then finding the 2 sources to support their claims – you really need to do this the other way around)!  Your prof might say you are required to have 2 sources (or 5 or 10)…you should actually be reading much more than that.  You might not use them all in your paper, but those other resources will provide ideas, insights, and leads for you.

It is my firm belief that a well-read individual will profit from their leisure reading.  So pick up or borrow a book or download something new to your Kindle and see just how creative you can be.

So, I write this post sitting on my back deck, smelling the perfume of the petunias that grace my backyard and listening to the cooing of a lone mourning dove and the chatter of various other song birds.  It is late June and it is one of the first ‘real’ summer days (80 degrees and a bit humid).  I LOVE summer, I practically live outside during this season sipping coffee on my deck in the morning, tending my flower and vegetable gardens, and generally just ‘putzing’ around.  For me it is strange to be inside, when I was a child I was the same way.  Thanks Ma for forcing us out of your hair to play in the yard!

Many people see teachers (college professors included) as having the luxury of not having to work in the summer, and indeed this may be way some people go into these occupations.  However, I would like to perhaps dispel a myth…not because I have been recently challenged by it, but I think it might be interesting for some folks.  In reality, us teachers do work, and often quite hard, in the summer time.  I will be focusing on the life of a college professor for this post, but I am sure this is true for my K-12 counterparts.

I have thought about this issue quite a bit recently.  I have had time to relax and to enjoy my pleasures during the summer, but when I think on my day, I am often surprised at how much I am actually doing.  The thing is, my busyness takes on a different composition during the summer than it does during the regular school year.  Here is a typical school-year day: Go to office, check e-mails and other forms of electronic communication (sigh…yes FB and Twitter), respond to e-mails, begin prep for that day’s classes (do I have my notes in order, materials for any activities – copies of handouts, worksheets, tests, etc.), student drops in with questions,  teach said classes, continue working on prepping for a new course I have not yet taught of some other course I am overhauling (really a never ending job), student comes in to chat, check e-mail, respond to e-mail, work on committee work, student drops in to ask question and to chat, grade assignments, think about the research/writing I should be working on while grading assignments, CRAP! I forgot to re-read the article I’ll be discussing tomorrow, search office fervently for article I’ll be discussing in tomorrow’s class, read article, meet with student for their research, committee meeting, go home, make dinner, grade, watch Daily Show and Colbert, go to bed intending to go to sleep but mind continues to keep racing about all of the stuff to do tomorrow.  Repeat.

Please keep in mind this is a typical day, a hectic/crazy day is much more busy!

Here is my summer busyness: Check e-mail and other forms of electronic communication (yes…again FB and Twitter) see the 30 e-mails telling me that I have assignments to grade for my online course, respond to student problems and issues concerning technology for online course, grade worksheets/assignments/etc for online course (average 2-3 hours a day), deal with the home ‘project-of-the-day (repairs, yardwork, gardening, upkeep, etc), read several journal articles/book chapters for research project, THINK about what I have just read and what that means for my research, force myself into my writing for my various professional interests (book revision, article outlines, articles, etc) and THINKING takes a lot of time, get exercise in because I know I’ll slip again during the school year, prep for fall courses (new preps or course overhauls…remember I said this was never ending), THINK and make plans for committee work to be done during the next school year, READ FOR FUN!

Ok, so I’m probably less busy in the summer, but really it is a very different kind of busy.  My academic year is often scattered in its various busynesses, my attention gets pulled in 5 directions all at once which makes it extremely difficult to do work that requires intense focus (such as research ideas and writing).  Summer is my chance to get that focus.  I can generally work at my own time, and therefore can do this work during times of day that I am most productive (usually later mornings and evenings).

I also love that my job allows for a time to de-compress.  I have time to engage in the things I love – being outdoors and reading.  I think it is healthy and if I did not have a job that had this type of consistent ‘end date’ I may not enjoy my occupation as much.  It is nice to know that each semester will come to an end, each school year comes to an end.  You stop, recalibrate, and hopefully refocus.  This is my experience anyway.  I still come to the beginning of the school year excited, refreshed, and ready to start.  I wonder if I would feel the same if I did not have these ‘breaks.’