Archive for the ‘goals’ Category

What I learned from teaching Grant Writing (so far)

Monday, December 16th, 2013

All final projects from both of my sections of Researching and Writing Grants and Proposals have been read, responded to, graded, and sent back to the student. I can say that most of my students rocked these final projects. Not all, but most. And I’ve learned some important things along the way, but by no means is this a comprehensive list:

  • I’m definitely turning the proposal assignment for unit two into a letter of intent. How many LOIs do I write as a grant writer? Probably more than I write grants, or that is how it sometimes feels. Because of my (limited) experiences, I think this is a pretty important genre.
  • I won’t leave the final project as open as I did this time. I feel pretty comfortable doing this because of my past work with similar open-ended projects and teaching remix projects, and I know the professor who I TA’ed and took the grant writing class with did the same, but I don’t think I’ll keep it as open as I did this semester. I’ll still give them ample opportunities, but there will be a few more rules this time around. Even so, I did get fantastic final projects, so it wasn’t a failure. I just want to narrow things down a bit more for the future.
  • I would love to throw in something like indiegogo or gofundme or similar sites, but so far I haven’t seen time to do this and I won’t be able to really connect with local nonprofits before next semester, but it is on my list if I teach this in the Fall or sometime next academic year.
  • More realistic funding idea for spring: What I would like to maybe do is see if any nonprofit needs help with a funding campaign and students can help write letters, fundraise, and talk to people about that particular project. I think this is a better goal for spring semester and does similar work to an indiegogo type of campaign.

Overall, I had a good semester teaching grants. So much of what I have done so far feels like it has been a “baptism by fire” sort of thing, and it probably has in one degree or another. But I am pretty lucky in that I have been able to write real, actual grants and participate in other forms of grant writing and research while teaching this class. That is something I feel pretty lucky about being able to do.

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The crazy graduate student self

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

Now that I am done with my coursework and working on studying for my comprehensive exams and have built somewhat of a good reputation in my department (I say somewhat here because I don’t think people know me very well, which is really my own fault and something I plan to remedy), I have had opportunities thrown my way and also have had to make some decisions I don’t particularly enjoy making. I’ve also been thinking of how to approach this coming semester regarding my comps along with all the other responsibilities I have, such as teaching a new, and challenging, class and traveling to a conference to chair my first panel on authorship.

All this has had me thinking about how I feel I have two lives, or at least two distinct personalities that I’ve developed during graduate school, or perhaps I should say because of graduate school. Now don’t think I am meaning to sound crazy, though I know the way I phrase that may sound crazy, but what I mean is that in reality, I’m a very calm, collected, rational, and practical individual. A friend once said, “everything you do is deliberate.” He is right. I think through every possibility and examine the consequences of each decision I could make. I always do this. In fact, I’ve been doing this for the past couple days regarding my comp schedule for the coming semester. I haven’t completely made my decision yet, but I am certainly thinking about each action and the consequences and opportunities of those actions to figure out which is more beneficial to me.

So that is the calm, collected, rational part. The graduate student part of me is downright crazy. She is concerned more with what the CV says, than what may be best for her at that time. While I think sometimes I think she is right because, yes, my rational side says it would be possible to do it that way and be OK, that doesn’t exclude the desperation the crazy graduate student side demonstrates. As one of my friends would say, “that girl is just cray” and she kind of is sometimes.

Though I could give tons of examples, I am going to focus on the comps, which I know is a huge surprise to you all who have been reading this. One thing I have learned about the comps is that it is like having a newborn and listening to all the advice other people with children give. Everyone has their own ideas of how you should read for the comps. I’ve heard everything from “just take notes on two points from each article. Only worry about that” to “take good notes because it will help you with your dissertation.”  Some people also treat the comps as if it is just “something to get through” and while you will gain something from it, the meat is the dissertation. While I believe that is true to an extent, I know that if I take good notes and pay attention, I will be able to write a dissertation in a year or less. I know my work ethic. I know I am highly productive, even in the summer months. I also know that because I have not always taken classes in all of these areas, I need to pay close attention to my reading.

The point is that all this advice will drive you half-mad, to the point that crazy graduate student self is trying to tell you to pick the “easiest route” so that you can “be done quicker.” But the more mature side of me knows that probably isn’t the best idea, particularly because I am taking a route with this work that isn’t something I’ve been studying in classes as a student here. It is something that I’ve studied previously and worked on a lot and even have a life outside academia where I do work similar to this. (Wow, did I just say a life outside of academia?) So I know that while I can ask for advice until my head pops off, I need to follow my own best route.

And I have had other examples of this, too. Most recently is when I felt that I shouldn’t take (but didn’t receive anyway) a position after I had applied and interviewed for it because of how open-ended the position was and where I was at in my program. Knowing my own work ethic and thoughtfulness, I know how consuming that could really be, and at a time where I couldn’t have time for it. There is also the time I took three seminar classes while also teaching as a Master’s student because then next semester I wouldn’t have such a load and could work more on thesis research. That was crazy and probably not wise, but I survived. I received my first B because of that semester. And yes, I’ve done similar, crazy things as a PhD student just so I could make sure to finish coursework “on time,” whatever that means.

It is as if as a graduate student, there is always a clock running in the background that you are constantly aware of, and you are worried you are not up to par against that clock. It is a silly thought, really, my rational side says, because there is no such clock and everyone has their own levels of determination and momentum. Intelligence, really, has little to do with it. Being super smart helps, but it certainly isn’t necessary. And I know that sounds hilarious to some of you who are probably not in academia, but it is the truth. It is really just about getting the work done, being competent, and knowledgeable in your area. You do not have to remember everything, though I am sure it is helpful if you can, though I am not sure how you could, frankly. You simply have to know where to find the information you need. If you have that down, you are golden.

In sum, as a wise friend on twitter said, this is really just all about choosing which hill you want to die on and I have encountered some hills recently that I know I should not die on. I’m sure I’ll see others that I have to avoid in this coming year.

Changes for Spring 2013

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

I’ve spoken a bit about what I plan for my spring semester teaching wise here a couple of times. I stated that I would be teaching English 320, which focuses on business and professional communication. I was excited to teach the class and had two sections lined up for the course, so no double preps for me. But after the semester ended, I realized one of my classes had a low enrollment. Not surprisingly, it was the class that was scheduled for later in the day. But my first section had a high enrollment and was nearly full.

I contacted the chair of my department about the low enrollment and stated I was fine with any of the options to keep my stipend and TA status, though I was most interested in the opportunity with the writing center on campus. All the same, I wasn’t sure how they felt about doctoral students there since I had previously heard that doctoral students couldn’t use writing center work in place of one of their teaching loads. Apparently, this was incorrect information since the chair stated that the writing center would be happy to have more doctoral students. So I sent off a letter of application, my CV, and in the body of the email explained my situation of the canceled class and needed an alternative. I also expressed my excitement about working in the writing center.

One of my goals for the long-term future is to work in administration. I’d be interested in working with WAC, WID or directing some type of writing program, whether first year, upper division, or both. The opportunity to work in a writing center would serve as good guiding experience in this goal.

I have also worked as a tutor before, though never worked as a writing center tutor. I have worked as a tutor for international studies at my undergraduate university where I worked with international students on work they had to do in their literature and writing classes. As a MA student, I worked with the McNair Program prior to obtaining my first TA.

I am excited for this opportunity. I also have to admit I like the fact my grading will be cut down significantly. For the graduate student, grading always feels like the biggest chore. I enjoy responding to student work, but having to give that work a grade is the thing I dislike. I always confess my dislike for grades and explain why on the second day of class and explain the difference between responding to their work and grading it. This semester will be no different.

Having only one section of a class also means, of course, that when I screw up in my first class, I can’t redeem myself for the second session. 🙂

Another benefit of having only one section is that I am now able to take a Tuesday night class I wasn’t willing to take since I was teaching that second section. Now I am free to take that class and it will work out much better for my degree anyway. The history class, while useful if I keep my dissertation topic, is only really useful if I keep my dissertation topic. 😉

I’ll know more about what is going to happen to my spring schedule when I get back to school in a couple weeks. I know that if the writing center takes me, I’ll be working there 10 hours a week. Right now I have Fridays off, but I doubt that will continue with the ten hours I would need to fulfill.

A girl can dream. Even a graduate student can dream.

Creativity and Invention

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

This summer I had a goal. I wanted to get better at invention.

The reason for this was simple: while I think I am a relatively creative person and at least competent in intellect, I feel I am poor at invention, or at the very least I could be far better. As a poet and a teacher, invention and creativity are important to me. As an individual, creativity is important to me. And I wanted to be a better creator and so I thought I needed to read some books and learn to better improve it and continue that work in my actual work.

Another reason I wanted to do this was because when I am solving a problem, I usually throw out things I don’t need to solve the problem. I may ignore these things and maybe revisit them later, or discard them entirely. Considering everything I already knew about invention, I felt that was a bad habit I needed to break and I wanted to learn strategies for how. In truth, doing this has been the hardest part. I even told a friend who is an engineer and knows exactly what I am talking about that doing this might be “an impossible task.” I don’t know. Maybe and maybe not.

What I learned was that maybe I am better than invention in some ways than I think. For one, it just takes me longer to come up with things. For example, in class I don’t come up with my best ideas; instead, I come up with them after the fact and bring them with me for the next class or they end up in my homework. I need to realize that this is my typical MO and it isn’t a bad thing. It just means sitting in class can be a frustrating process as everyone else (or at least most others) say really smart, insightful things.

Another thing I learned is that i need to do things that I may not necessarily good at, which is always hard for me to do because at heart I am a competitor. I also learned that I need to add unrelated elements to things I already do. For example, I write poetry, but I don’t typically write sonnets. This means I should write a sonnet, right? Probably.

I also realized i need to take better notes. I don’t always take good notes of the things around me. Like what someone said at that dinner party (though I did sit down and write down a few things this morning after last night). Or like when I am going to school and I see something that interests me. I may remember these things for a time, but I need to take larger and better notice of them. And I need to listen a bit better because sometimes if I feel something isn’t important to me (I know, I sound like such a snot here), I tend to not pay too much attention or even say something not so nice. While I think I am polite listener, I need to let go of my biases a little more. I think we could all learn something from that.

Teaching, introversion, and academia

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

I recently read this article titled “Screening out the Introverts” about introverts as teachers and the whole question of “why?” that introverted teachers sometimes get from students after talking about introversion/extroversion with the class and, essentially, doing a kind of “coming out” to them. (Though I always assume they can pretty much guess my personality type, but perhaps I am wrong. I’ve been told in certain circumstances that I “talk a lot.”)

There is a passage I particularly liked and related to well in here, though I related well to many:

A few sympathetic students tried to persuade me that my introvert result was a mistake. How could I stand in front of that room, leading that very conversation, smiling at them, without being an extrovert? The answer: careful planning, acting, and rationing my public appearances. Also, my introversion fades when I become comfortable with unfamiliar people (the first weeks of classes are a strain).

The above is pretty much how I get through life. 🙂 It isn’t just in teaching where I find myself “standing in front of a room,” after all. As an academic, I give multiple presentations a year that are not necessarily me in my role of teacher. I also have a rich life, believe it or not, outside of academia where I find myself in social situations that require various types of socialization and performance abilities. Basically, I need to talk to people and so I do and as a strong introvert, I honestly dislike talking to people I don’t know well. I have a few close friends and those people I will talk to quite a bit. In fact, I tend to talk to the point it might drive them half-crazy, or they may say that I am “talking their ear off” to use a popular idiom. The reason why I talk so much is because I know them and probably have known them for quite some time. Hence I am incredibly (and perhaps sometimes too) comfortable.

The last part of that quote, the comment about how it takes weeks to get comfortable with a class, is so painfully true to me. Those first few weeks are strenuous because as a teacher, you already have to show that authority. That has to come immediately, and I do have tricks for this (for example, I tend to “lay down the law” pretty quickly and I have had students tell me that I “scared them” in the first few weeks because I seemed “very strict.” I explained how I have to do that in order to gain authority, and they understood completely. They know I am not really that way. Embarrassingly, I am a softie. I even cry easily.) But even while I am acting all tough, it is just an act. And during that performance, I am working on simply getting comfortable with all of them in the room so that I can forge on and outwardly be more of who I am with them later on. (This seems all badly explained to me, but whatever. It is the end of the semester and I have other things on my mind right now.)

But it is frustrating to be an introvert in academia. People tend to create rumors about you (and there is no greater place for rumors than an English department.) In reality, if you want to know something about me, ask. I will probably tell you what you wish to know. Sometimes I honestly make things up about myself to see how far rumors go. (It is a hilarious experiment, really, and if you wish to be entertained, try it. Great fun!) People also tend to paint you as the following: weird, socially awkward, quiet (I am, but not always. Trust me.), misanthropic (a little reductive, don’t you think?), or just generally deviant in some way. Introverts, by the larger group, are never seen to be the person they really are. Is this unfortunate? yes, but it is unavoidable given the way introverts interact with their social groups.

At the end of the article, the author asks about how introverts cope with the demands of academia, assuming we all cope differently, and I suppose we do. We are all individuals and so we are all different. So this led me to think about how I cope with it. Here is a short list (and it is probably very short. I apologize.):

  • I avoid large group get togethers for the most part. Large groups are exhausting and usually those large groups are filled with people I normally do not associate much with. Why use that energy? I occasionally make exceptions, but not usually. I do this because a. I am not interested in being friends with everyone  (I know enough people) and b. if I am being social, I’d rather use that energy with people I enjoy being around. I know extroverts would see this as very limiting, but it really isn’t to someone like me. So sorry if you see it that way. (I do talk to strangers, by the way, but that is mostly small talk and I avoid small talk.)
  • I am selective about the friends I make. I know that may sound harsh. It is the way it is. And I think most people function similarly.
  • I set aside time to be alone and set aside time to be social. I stick with these times.
  • I give myself time to think about questions and discussions that occur in class. To be honest, class is this time for me to take in information and use it later. Class is almost like recreation for me because I listen to a lot of ideas and thoughts and let them stew in my mind for a while. Then I’ll write about them somewhere. And I am not alone in feeling this way. I’ve read articles about how people, such as musicians, use concert practice and other group practices as recreation. They enjoy the time and learn from it, but think of the real work being the work they do alone (individual practice and so on). I am the same way, only with writing and my other classwork. So though I see it as recreational, I am not being lazy or relaxed. I am thinking the whole time and taking the information I need to think about and use later on.
  • I eat lunch alone most of the time. I teach during lunch time and so when I get lunch it is also time to “get away.” And this actually works out really well for me.

I am going to end with the following quote from the article I linked to above:

Should academe be concerned that it loses many of its introverted graduate students? Do they not have something to contribute? Does selecting for extroverts favor a cult of charismatic leadership: a star system? Is Cain correct in her view that a profession that sorts out introverts selects for unwarranted enthusiasms for, say, the latest theories, technologies, and institutional practices without considering the consequences? Does it foster a winner-take-all system in which compassion and sensitivity have no place?

I think those questions are good ones. And to better explain the Cain question, what she talks about in her book is that people listen to those who are talking the most and/or most admire the things that are new instead of taking time to consider if it is useful, if it works, if it is realistic and so on. As someone who comes from the working class, I can tell you that our academic institutions only support classism and have unrealistic views of technological access. (Yes, I can certainly back this up if you are interested.) But of course, we have trouble admitting to this because so few people in academia seem to have experience with being in poverty, just as how few people have experience of being a more introverted person in a world that doesn’t value listening as much as it should or could or misunderstands why quieter people aren’t the ones talking.

When the bullied becomes the bully

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

When I read this article from HuffPo this morning, I was not surprised by the findings. I admit to being bullied as a young person and I admit to being bullied as an adult. While I always thought that after public school bullying would cease, it never completely did. Mature adults do bully other adults, though the bullying is more matured (seems like a contradictory statement, I know) than the bullying of, say, a seventh grader. I’ve noticed that the bullying that occurs between adults is far different and I’ve witnessed multiple occasions where this has happened not only to myself, but to others I know, even in an academic environment where we pride ourselves on being open-minded, encouraging and thoughtful individuals. It happens in the underhanded comment, bullying disguised as humor, or outright aggressive behaviors.

Recently, I had to deal with bullying in my own classroom. During conferences, a student told me that one of the other students in her peer group made her feel “uncomfortable because of sexual jokes” and even going so far as to make fun of her last name. The student confessed that this individual had been in other classes with her and she had worked to mostly avoid this individual (who is another female, by the way, if that matters and I think it does). We talked about it and I have since talked to the student accused of the remarks who claims that is just her “trying to be funny.” I explained it wasn’t funny to her peer group members (I never said who lodged the complaint or made it obvious it was only one individual) and explained that during peer review one should stick to the work involved. I told her humor, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Though I didn’t disband the group, I thought about it, and if problems continue I will probably have to. But I feel that disbanding the group could make the bullying situation worse as I do believe the student who is the bully knows full well who lodged the complaint. But, at the same time, I can’t help but thinking if it is individualist ideology (solve your own problems) and a type of groupthink (we have to work with all kinds of people, so let’s practice now) that caused that decision and that best practice would just be to separate these students. But for now I am simply keeping a close eye on this group to make sure everything is comfortable for everyone and that peer group is productive and inclusive. I told the student who discussed the situation with me that if it continues, I need to know immediately and I believe she will comply with this.

But I can’t help but feel I could do more or that I have made the wrong decision, and I know it is the bullied individual in me that responds to this so strongly.

I want to tell you I am not a victim of bullying, or at least not the way we have read about it in the news. Think of the suicides that have resulted from bullying, which the documentary Bully in part focuses on. I realize media thrives on hype and groupthink, but the news is disturbing nonetheless. When the shootings were first reported in Ohio earlier this week, many suspected bullying where the bullied became the bully. This certainly happened with Littleton, CO in 1999. I remember when the news broke because I was “sick” that day and I was able to watch the events unfold on CNN in my parents’ living room.

In a way, I doubt many of us are not guilty of bullying to some extent, but there is evidence that suggests bullied kids become bullies as adults, or at least have a higher likelihood of bullying. Part of this is the revenge factor. A bullied kid does desire revenge and that is in part human nature. Another part is the self-esteem issue: we need to belittle someone else in order to raise ourselves, which is really ridiculous if you think about it. Either way, you would think the bullied would be more sympathetic or empathetic to others who are bullied, but not really because being a bully equals power. People like bullies. Look at some of the people who are popular or well liked in the media. I would argue a few of these are bullies. Look at some of the people at work or at school who seem to be admired. Some of these people are also bullies.

But, like I said, bullying in adults is different, much different. As an introvert, I am a keen observer of behavior. I have overheard almost whispered comments or things said under one’s breath about someone. I have seen bullying disguised in humor. I have seen colleagues leave a room laughing together at the expense of another colleague, though I hate to admit this here. This behavior is unacceptable.

I wish I had solutions, but I don’t and I think right now that is what many are searching for: solutions. This occurs through activism and non profit organizations geared toward helping others deal or work through situations regarding bullying. But do I have answers? No, of course not. As I told my friend Anthony recently, people suck. Though I admire people and have so much hope for the creativity and ingenuity of the other humans around me, I realize how cruel people can be. How thoughtless. And I have seen it throughout my whole life and sadly, I don’t expect it to change.

But I do expect we will keep talking about it and trying to do something about it as we build further awareness around it because let’s be honest, this is counterproductive to everything we as humans could achieve together.