Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Educational Tech Conference

I'm flying home today from a 3-day Chicago conference on technology in higher education.  The library director (also my friend) invited me, I agreed in a burst of professionalism last fall, and was increasingly reluctant as the time grew closer.  However, I have many new ideas for good teaching and how technology can foster excellent college teaching/learning (though tech can also be a distraction if used poorly).  The conference wasn't all RAH RAH TECH; I had feard it might be like some tech indoctrination cult (or like working for the infamous door-to-door sales Cutco knife company), but we never had to stand and cheer (CUTCO! CUTCO!).  It was really about high quality teaching and the 1.3 million ways that tech can foster deeper student learning.   Very impressive, actually, and I would go again in a couple of years.

I also went to a session about the iPad 2 - my goodness, what CAN'T that thing do? (ok, it can't wash the dog or... well, maybe that's the ONLY thing it can't do).  The presenter mentioned taking his in the hotel's hot tub, encased in a Ziploc bag; when his drink ran low, he used it to call the hotel's front desk, which brought him a fresh drink. 

This is a crazy time we live in, where so many of us live as wealthy as kings but always want more, more more.  Quite a contrast to the Uncultured Project I also learned about at the conference - one young man's quest to change the lives of people who live in dire poverty by using social media; check it out at - very inspiring indeed.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Getting Going

In the morning, laying in bed, I am not yet a dean.  And, on this first day of spring break, I am very motivated to delay the moment of putting on my dean skin and facing the world.

My husband cheerfully offered last night to get up with the kids and direct them to the bus stop by 7:48am.  So I do not set my alarm.  Sleeping in will be bliss!  However, the temptation is too great for God and he sends my 11-year-old son into our room, shouting with surprising gusto and authority, that IT'S 7:50 AND YOU NEED TO DRIVE US TO SCHOOL!!!!!  The dim grey light seeping through my ratty blinds and into my eyeballs suggests that he is incorrect.  By at least an hour.  My clock confirms that it is 6:50.  He insists EVERY CLOCK in the WHOLE HOUSE says IT'S 7:50 and WE HAVE TO GO!!!  I am awake. The hibernating circadas are awake.  God is laughing.  Fine. 

My wonderful husband gets up to calm the panicked pups and I decide to go back to sleep.  But cannot.  I agree to myself that I will read just one story in Dave Barry's Greatest Hits book. Only one.  But it's so funny that I cannot stop at one.  I read 5.  10.  More.  I am snorting and crying and gasping for breath.  I pause to rest.  And fall asleep.  God, thinking this is SO FUN, sends the very loud voice of my 15-year-old son into the air: OLD GUY - PICK UP THE PHONE!  My husband's cell phone, bedside, is "ringing" with the pre-recorded voice he keeps forgetting to change.  After 6 rings, my room returns to silence.  Until the cordless phone on the dresser rings for help. 

Enough already. It's time to shower.  Yesterday, in an impulsive move that has taken months to get off various ignored to-do lists, I decided to finally get our padded lawn chair off the roof.  I was nearly ready for my shower, and just before shedding my last bits of dignity, I opened the bathroom window, lunged half-way through, grabbed the chair, and wrestled it back through the window, shaking off chunks of ice from the seat.  Post-shower, I put it in the tub to dry.  Now this morning, I remove the chair to the floor, and a seatful of icy water sluices down my legs. Not so dry after all. I towel off the floor, then try to fold the chair to get it out of the way.  Another gallon pours onto the floor. I think I hear God snorting. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I am an idiot: Resume Weekend

I teach one course per semester, which keeps me energized and in touch with students, who I must admit are different than they were 10 years ago, or 15, or when I was a student.  I have changed, too.  I still love them - fresh ideas, finding their way in the world, floundering around making mistakes while trying to win friends and find mates.  Rather than loving them because I'm just-older-than-them, I now see myself more like an aunt who has lived far away and is now settling in to learn all about my long-lost-niece or nephew.  Bad analogy as it may be, I do want to help them and I do want to smack them in nearly equal shares - I want to help them as they grow up, smoothing the way to prevent bumps, and yet letting them fall down and get skinned when they do have bumps in the road. 

Anyway.  My students have been working all week on their resumes and cover letters - it's a tough assignment for many students, who see little value to their lawnmowing or waitressing or babysitting jobs beside the money they earned.  So on Friday, I asked them to submit their first draft and I would review them all over the weekend so we could keep going on Monday morning - at 8am.  26 of them.  I am an idiot.  But I only have 3 more to go.  Thank God for ice storms and sick kids and the DVD player, which all kept us home for most of the weekend.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Caution: Bathroom in Use

So, I'm minding my own business in the bathroom stall, alone here in the late afternoon around the time the Hope Haven clients, who have mental retardation, come about to do their cleaning.  There was no sign outside the bathroom door and the door isn't propped open, so I think nothing of using the bathroom.  Then I hear someone come in, walk directly to my stall door, and rattle it while peeking through the crack.

"Uuuhhh, SHIT!" I hear next, and a man's steps running away.  I didn't see Mike again that afternoon.  :)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Long Time, No Blog (here, anyway)

My summer blog attempts gave way to Caring Bridge blogs about my son (see during his strange "Sick-in-search-of-a-diagnosis" journey. 

But I miss taking time to think about my day or record little snippets that I can enjoy remembering later. So, I'll try to get back on track here in my new role as Dean for Curriculum and Instruction.  (Which basically means that I help faculty members teach better and help structure courses and policies so students can learn more.  And I still get to teach a class every semester - which is the very best part of the week.  Until I realized this week that my oldest son is just 3 years younger than my students - and I'm 20+ years older than them.  Ouch.)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Being on the "dark side"

I led a very organized, very useful workshop for the entire faculty this week.  I spent over 20 hours preparing materials, and though I was nervous, I was really pleased with how well it went.  As a result of what my co-leader and I did, faculty paperwork is significantly reduced, support staff are ready to help with what remains, and a number of institutional goals are met at once.  Initial praises for the co-organizer and I were plentiful.

And I once again was gulled into thinking that everyone was pleased and impressed, but learned today that one faculty member chose to blog about his disdain for the workshop - and he has a strong following among our colleagues.  My supervisor let me know about it - and was right to do so - but I don't have the heart to read it.  Just hearing the one phrase from it -- "let the administrators go back to their fortress" -- stung more than it should.  For these 5 years I have fought to keep my office among the faculty I serve rather than on the distant administrative wing of another building;  I have fought every year to continue teaching every semester, so that I do not become removed from the heart of the institution and the daily work of a faculty member.  And still, I remain on the "dark side," as an administrator, apparently open to jabs from folks who don't talk to me in person, though we cross paths daily both at work and in the neighborhood.

It is situations like this that make me re-think christian higher education - if the believers act this way toward other believers, can the heathens be any worse?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Summer Doldrums

My summer list of things to do is - as always - far longer than what is accomplishable.  In the late days of the spring semester, among the crush of meetings, reports to read, and and papers to grade, I like to prune my office plants, flick the dusty lady bugs off the windowsill where they've been hiding, and write my Summer List.

To a teacher, as with any kid, the idea of summer is seductive. All those unscheduled days, when I can wear jeans to work, come in late or take time off when I want, and go home with nothing in my briefcase.  Best of all, I can tackle projects I've been wanting to do...such bliss to anticipate the feeling of accomplishment!
And then the summer days fly by - a short family trip one week, an afternoon of hooky another, projects being harder or less fun than they looked, colleagues requesting help with writing or editing or just wanting to chat... and then July is here. 

July is not a good month.  It's still summer, but it's a big reality check, because August is the Month When Classes Start which means No More Summer.  No More Freedom.  No more Self-Directed Days.  July is when I start comparing how much time is left with the length of my summer list.  And I have to decide what isn't going to get done (again) this summer.  Like pruning my flowers back hard - it'll be good for them (and me) later, but it's sad and seems means and small and brutal for now.

So, instead of doing my summer projects, I like to prune my plants, pick the paper clips off my floor, and start daydreaming about my fall classes....