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My friends were very understanding, sending a prompt, sympathetic and non-argumentative reply... and also reminded me of one reason why we are friends by saying cheerfully that they'd already looked into places to stay 'just in case' - b...
My friends were very understanding, sending a prompt, sympathetic and non-argumentative reply... and also reminded me of one reason why we are friends by saying cheerfully that they'd already looked into places to stay 'just in case' - belt-and-braces people need to stick together!So why was it so HARD to send that email, and why did I fret about it into the wee hours of the morning?And then when I DID fall asleep, why did Furball break all the 'access to the bedroom' rules by deciding to sleep across my neck*, causing dreams of suffocation under oddly fluffy paperwork and then an abrupt awakening and cat-ejection and trouble getting back to sleep?Despite the disrupted night, I still feel less ill than I did yesterday (which is not to say anywhere near actual wellness, but I've actually been able to eat something breakfastlike already and it's only 10:30!).*because it was cold, of course
about 3 hours ago
I don't think I've ever felt this anxious/anxiety-caused-unwell for so many days in a row without either getting an actual set of physical symptoms requiring time off (whether viral or psychosomatic) to go along with it or become suffici...
I don't think I've ever felt this anxious/anxiety-caused-unwell for so many days in a row without either getting an actual set of physical symptoms requiring time off (whether viral or psychosomatic) to go along with it or become sufficiently depressed that I need to take time off. Which is interesting, in two ways at least, since it both supports the hypothesis that my anxiety and depression aren't two facets of the same thing (or at least, aren't facets which inevitably co-occur) and maybe suggests that I am getting better at this 'pacing myself' thing. But it's not at ALL pleasant.I just tackled one of the big worry-causes by sending an email saying that I couldn't put my friends up this weekend when they visit the area - which was hard to write as I feel guilty, and wrong, and wimpish, and generally like it is a Bad Thing To Do - especially as I effectively invoked physical rather than mental health problems (although where the line is I cannot say). But was the right thing to do, I think, especially as they are people I love but who are more extravert than me, so spending time with them is fun but energy-sapping. And one of them is the kind of person who will Worry, vocally and genuinely, about me for months for all the things that are not as they were when I last saw them (I weigh more, I'm greyer and I creak more - tendonitis and back problems currently both flaring - etc.), and whilst the person will do this anyway over a cancellation it will be less, and less of a problem for me. That other people's worry worries me is not entirely logical or smart etc. but it's true and it's one of the reasons why talking about mental health is so tricky.AND I came up with a timetable for The New Module That Will Not Come Right (at the last minute, it has to be copied later today for distribution early tomorrow). So maybe two things tackled will help? I hope they do - I'm so tired of this. And the anxiety meds I take are tiring so taking extras helps with the other symptoms but exacerbates the tired. Sigh.
about 13 hours ago
Sometimes I think that everyone who makes policy for a living should have to work for at least a few months in a minimum wage job at some point in their lives. Yes, they’d discover just how low the minimum wage actually is relative to t...
Sometimes I think that everyone who makes policy for a living should have to work for at least a few months in a minimum wage job at some point in their lives. Yes, they’d discover just how low the minimum wage actually is relative to the cost of living. But they would also discover just how unstable the hours often are, and how damaging that instability is to people trying to move up in the world. I was reminded of that yet again recently upon hearing Tyler Cowen declare on a podcast that worsening inequality is both inevitable and not really a big deal. It is, and I see it on campus every day.Among their other indignities, minimum wage jobs often come with hours that fluctuate from week to week. That wreaks havoc with budgeting, for obvious reasons, but it also wreaks havoc with just about every other part of life. If you don’t have a car, you rely on the local bus schedule to get around. If your hours change every week, you may find your commuting time abruptly doubling because suddenly you’re out there when the buses only run once an hour. (Alternately, if you have an unreliable car, a suddenly urgent repair can throw your budget into chaos at any moment.) If you’re juggling college with work, you have immovable class hours bumping into constantly-moving work hours; an arrangement you cobbled together this week may be completely upended next week, only to be upended again the following week. That’s a level of daily stress that many of your fellow students aren’t carrying.And that’s before considering childcare. Children love routine, and care providers often require it. Finding safe and affordable childcare is hard enough without the hours changing every week. Daycare centers often aren’t open at night. And even the ones that are often require a relatively stable set of hours each week. On the home front, constantly-shifting hours do a number of such basics as meal planning and shopping, let alone such “extras” as kids’ sports. I’m constantly amazed that TB’s fall baseball team assumes that every kid can be at practice by 5:00 on weeknights. And it’s not unusual in that. Yes, people can find work-arounds sometimes, but every work-around requires more effort. The sheer amount of work that goes into compensating for being non-standard amounts to a massive tax, or, if you prefer, insult added to injury. In this world, the argument for community colleges to offer online classes becomes pretty compelling. If work and childcare and transportation arrangements are constantly shifting, it may be difficult or impossible to commit to being in room 125 every Tuesday at 11:00 for four months. An online class is still a commitment -- and it presumes predictable internet access, which is a real cost -- but at least it takes some of the logistics out of the equation. If that online class includes open educational resources in place of textbooks, then the cost to the student is reduced significantly, which helps, too.I’m a fan of community colleges being reasonably responsive to student needs this way. But at a certain point, the colleges can go only so far. At some point, the issue is that what students really need is stable home lives with predictable work hours and safe childcare. Some of that is beyond the reach of policy, obviously -- romantic breakups are a part of life -- but the level of risk that we offload onto the people with the fewest resources to handle it is just beyond reasonable. Yes, it’s about money, but it’s not just about money. It’s about having enough predictability in life that you can devote time and energy to studying, rather than to figuring out where to put your kid next week or how to get to work when the engine is dead and the buses aren’t reliable. Colleges can take positive steps, but if so many students are constantly exhausted just from navigating the vagaries of precarious lives, the effort will have to go far beyond colleges. It would be helpful if the folks making education
about 13 hours ago
Detroit may be bankrupt, but it is also home to an early learning model that was promising enough to win a Social Innovation Fund grant in 2011 to figure out just how effective it is. It began five years ago, when the United Way for Sout...
Detroit may be bankrupt, but it is also home to an early learning model that was promising enough to win a Social Innovation Fund grant in 2011 to figure out just how effective it is. It began five years ago, when the United Way for Southeastern Michigan started building its Early Learning Communities platform. The intent was to nearly double the percentage of low-income children ready for kindergarten in Detroit.
about 24 hours ago
Common Core is the first major reform initiative to deal with the front end of education — the substance of what actually is being taught in the classroom, instead of focusing solely on student performance on standardized tests (al...
Common Core is the first major reform initiative to deal with the front end of education — the substance of what actually is being taught in the classroom, instead of focusing solely on student performance on standardized tests (although testing is a big part of it as well). In language arts, there is much more focus on nonfiction, short novels and tough-to-read prose. "This is not to say that narrative reading or narrative writing are going away," said Jennifer Sinal, an English supervisor in Milford. But the focus is on engaging in active reading strategies across content areas.
about 24 hours ago
On the face of it, Dylan Redford has everything going for him — he is a handsome, intelligent and artistic 22-year-old who happens to be the grandson of Robert Redford. But he is also severely dyslexic and, at the age of 10, could ...
On the face of it, Dylan Redford has everything going for him — he is a handsome, intelligent and artistic 22-year-old who happens to be the grandson of Robert Redford. But he is also severely dyslexic and, at the age of 10, could barely read or write. Dylan's experiences with dyslexia are depicted in a new documentary, The Big Picture, directed by Dylan's father, James. After watching his "intellectually curious" son struggle with dyslexia throughout much of his childhood, James Redford says his ambition was simple. He wanted "to make the movie I wish my family could have seen."
about 24 hours ago
Today’s the publication day for Africa is My Home. Hurray!  And for those wanting to know more about it (including more primary source images, extensive bibliographies, source notes, teaching suggestions, reviews, and so forth) che...
Today’s the publication day for Africa is My Home. Hurray!  And for those wanting to know more about it (including more primary source images, extensive bibliographies, source notes, teaching suggestions, reviews, and so forth) check out my page for the book.
1 day ago
Agree or disagree? (see below)I happen to agree. Not to minimize anyone's stress in their academic job or to discount the anxieties that come with the pressure to get grants, publish papers, advise students, teach teach teach, travel...
Agree or disagree? (see below)I happen to agree. Not to minimize anyone's stress in their academic job or to discount the anxieties that come with the pressure to get grants, publish papers, advise students, teach teach teach, travel, answer endless surveys from administrators who want to know about our quality of life but whose response seems to be to make life more difficult, and so on, BUT a reader writes:.. from talking to male and female colleagues with kids, and having my daughter recently myself I find the idea that Academia is (more than other careers) hostile to family life to be hugely overblown. How many other jobs can you basically decide to set your schedule to be whatever hours you want, or even to work from home much of the time (I know several faculty members who have done this when they had young children and remain successful)? What other job lets you take 3 months in the summer to work on your own with few other obligations (some faculty I know work from home 4/5 days during the week in the summer)? What other career gives you 6 months to work from home or even another state if you want to, with no other work obligations, every 5-7 years (I know faculty who have taken a sabbatical basically to raise their infants)? And all of this while you are doing work you love that is intellectually stimulating, allows a standard of living well above average (and job security to rival a government job - even better at present!), and is physically safe. I am sick and tired of the privilege I see coming from academics. Some people have to actually work for a living. They work their bodies to death, and their minds to jelly because they have to. We are lucky. So, Damn, Lucky. What we need to do now, is convince more women of this and stop scaring people away with this idea that Academic science is some kind of hell that will destroy your life, your soul, and your family and any sane person would stay away... I think maybe some people have selective memories... It certainly doesn't seem to match with what you've described of your home life, or really that of any academic I've met.
1 day ago
Only 6 more classes until Fall Break (No classes Monday or Tuesday).  Six classes might be too many. I got an awesome recommendation from my chair for one of my grant thingies. The moment when colleague-strife affects students is the mom...
Only 6 more classes until Fall Break (No classes Monday or Tuesday).  Six classes might be too many. I got an awesome recommendation from my chair for one of my grant thingies. The moment when colleague-strife affects students is the moment that I stop being an innocent bystander with too much information and ask for a meeting with my chair.  Maybe this is a mistake, but I can’t stand the idea of our students being negatively affected by our interpersonal conflicts.
1 day ago
Last week, Rebecca Schuman did a wonderful meditation on a job ad from Sewanee that touched off quite a discussion, including here. This week, Cheryl Ball offered a more global how-to on reading faculty job postings. The trend of readi...
Last week, Rebecca Schuman did a wonderful meditation on a job ad from Sewanee that touched off quite a discussion, including here. This week, Cheryl Ball offered a more global how-to on reading faculty job postings. The trend of reading job ads as texts strikes me as positive, and someday -- when I’m feeling a little braver -- I may do the same for some administrative postings. But in the meantime, I was struck by some of the commentary to Ball’s piece in which various readers claimed that it’s possible, by this phrase or that one, to know what a committee is really looking for.Color me skeptical. At least if we use a robust interpretation of “looking for.”Having been lucky enough to be on the hiring side of the desk for a while now -- and I’m always acutely aware that there but for the grace of God go I -- I can attest that it rarely works like that.The first issue is that faculty job postings are rarely the product of a single author, or even of a single committee. They’re usually multiply edited pastiches of phrases from various sources, which explains why some of them read they way they do. Start with the standard institutional self-description. Add some departmentally-specific language phrased in ways that pass muster with HR. (For example: “minimum” qualifications are mandatory. “Preferred” qualifications are not.) Throw in the AA/EO phrasing and something about processes and deadlines. Whether any given search will hinge on affirmative action or similar considerations is usually impossible to predict. In my experience, it’s neither as dominant as conservative critics often suggest, nor as hollow as some liberal critics suggest. It’s a factor among others.Then comes the part that isn’t always obvious from the applicant’s perspective, but it’s real. Different people on the same committee will sometimes have different ideas of what they want. They may not even realize it until they’re confronted with actual candidates. A demo that struck one person as “dynamic” struck another as “domineering.” One person’s “thoughtful” is another person’s “distant,” and so on.From a candidate’s perspective, that can be maddening and contradictory. But it’s the way committees work. And it doesn’t stop there. The candidates who make it past the first round have a second round, in which still more variables come into play. In the second round, it’s even harder to rely on preconceptions, if only because you have so few candidates among whom to choose. It comes down to the actual people in front of you, with all of their three-dimensional quirks. In other words, beyond a certain point, parsing job ads to try to suss out what the committee is really looking for falls somewhere between kremlinology and astrology. Most of the time, the committee doesn’t even know, at least with a useful level of specificity. For what it’s worth, job candidates can actually use that perspective to their advantage. Instead of trying to guess what a given committee really wants, and contorting yourself into a pretzel to resemble it, I’d advise spending that time on gaining some self-awareness. Who are you as an academic? As a teacher? Be that. Bring your game, whatever that is. You have a better shot at controlling what you do than what a committee thinks, and you’ll probably do a better job of presenting yourself when you aren’t compensating for something, hiding something, or pretending to be something you’re not. Even better, you stand a better chance of being successful in the job over time if you present the best honest version of who you actually are then if you get the job under false pretenses. If the department really wants a flaming extrovert, and you’re a card-carrying introvert, you might be able to fake it through an interview. But if you succeed, you’ll quickly hate your life. Life is too short for that.None of this addresses the pure shortage of positions; I get that. That’s a much larger issue. But in the short term
1 day ago