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- I just woke up from a nap after having stayed up until 3 AM grading annotated bibliographies.
- Week seven is hell.
- I am almost finished taking classes – forever and ever — two more weeks and one of those is the week of Thanksgiving.
- Apparently some college freshman have never heard of apartheid. I’m adding that to my long list of things students are too young to remember.
- Also, students only vaguely remember Hurricane Katrina.
- Lack of sleep makes me want to eat carbs.
- Grading makes me want a glass of wine.
- I wrote a draft of my comps questions and sent them to my advisor, but he is sick, so there has been no word.
- Our comps process takes six weeks. (WTF.)
- I am so ready to be done with classes and focusing on my research.
- I don’t have funding for my research, so I need to get moving on the fellowship applications.
- If all goes well, I will spend April-August “in the field” and be ready to start writing in September.
- This time next year I could be sending out job applications.
- I really need to find a post-doc because I doubt I will be “ready” for a TT job by next winter.
- Some kind of Oprah Christmas present special just came on the TV and the people in the audience are screaming like they won the lottery, which they kinda did. But it is still creepy. Sort of like a revival meeting, only consumerism = god.
- My Spanish skills are finally returning to their 1992 levels. Between homework and classes I have been spending several hours a day working on this. Too bad that after this quarter is over I have no way to maintain or improve these skills since I need to focus on my comps and dissertation research.
- I still don’t have down the names of all 66 of my students. How do other people learn their students’ names? (I think it it must be some sort of learning disability on my part.)
- That is all for now.
There is a debate going around on the academic blog-o-sphere about faculty salaries and whether or not TT faculty have a right to complain. As far as I can tell it started over at Tenured Radical’s. When folks found out that TR makes over 107K many said she shouldn’t complain or that they themselves don’t feel the need or the right to complain. You can read a few different views: Historiann, Dr Crazy, another post by TR, Squadratomagico, and undine.
Here’s the thing folks, from the mouth of someone at the bottom of the academic totem pole…(I make 12-14K depending on whether I get the privilege of teaching over the summer.) If Tenured Radical or other full professors in secure positions are willing to unionize or in any way help organize for better working conditions in academia, I welcome their help. I would be happy to discuss with them what organizing priorities the union should have. Although raises for full faculty wouldn’t be my first priority, I wouldn’t be opposed to organizing for such raises. Certainly we could all agree to organize in opposition to increasing teaching loads and larger and larger class sizes. Unions filled with grad students and adjuncts are weak compared to unions that also have tenured professors as members. There is a campaign happening now at Crunchy U. to unionize the faculty – adjuncts and TT together. It seems that many TT faculty are reticent to join, despite their Marxist leanings.
If you can’t unionize in your state, maybe it is time to start organizing to change that law. There are lots of workers out there who are in worse positions who could use your help. If you can’t unionize legally, maybe it is time to organize. Maybe we should start talking to our students about the conditions we work under. Faculty and students could be allies in organizing for improved education funding. Civil disobedience could be considered. For that matter, you could do something to help K-12 educators who are struggling under crappy conditions. (Our new roommate is a 1st grade teacher at a low income public school.) Or doing something to help improve the working conditions for preschool teachers. Having well trained (and well paid) preschool teachers would make a huge difference in children’s lives. No one values preschool teachers, yet these are the folks that really need to understand developmental stages and how to provide kids with the foundations to do well in school.
Just don’t expect making change to be easy. I’m just saying.
Staycations seem to have become popular these days, but of course I’m just happy to have any time off, whether or not I get to do anything special. When I was a kid we always went camping or to a camping near the beach. (A friend of the family owned the cabin.) I never thought of those times as vacations exactly. I was a kid. Many kids at my school went to Europe or a tropical island for vacations.
My summer school is finally over. Thank the deities! I passed my Spanish class and now have six weeks or so to get some research done and relax a bit before the fall term starts. Living as we have been for the last year, with Beorn not working, makes taking any time off very challenging. Summers have been the worst for us in the last few years because we haven’t gotten financial aid. This year, even with some summer financial aid and two paychecks for summer teaching, not getting money in August will be challenging.
I enjoy having free time to putter around the house and “get things done.” (Ever seen the TV series Dead Like Me? In one episode a character reveals that she records herself doing stuff around the house and broadcasts it on the web. The show is called “Getting Things Done with Delores Herbig.”) There are a number of things I need to catch up on around here. Here is my list of things to do when you have time off, but no money to speak of.
1. Work on your vegetable garden. This week my mom visited and helped me get caught up on weeding me vegetable garden. I have a yardshare garden of about 600 sq ft that has been terribly neglected. When I got the space it was terribly overrun with bindweed.
Isn’t it cute? Any yet it’s evil. I can’t believe how much bindweed I have pulled this year and it is still winning!
2. Do some “spring” cleaning. I’m also spending time going through all the boxes in our closets. I gathered some old clothes to give to Good Will. Later in the week I will probably spend an afternoon at a few thrift stores looking for some clothing for the fall. My sewing machine and serger also haven’t gotten any use this year. The serger I bought for $5 at a garage sale last fall and I’m eager to try out sewing with it. I have a large tub full of various fabrics so I have lots of free material to experiment with.
3. Cook for the freezer or preserve some summer fruits and vegetables. Most likely, I will do some major cooking for the freezer. Having some already prepared food in the freezer makes it easier to avoid being tempted to buy food out when I’m tired or busy. We have also been freezing fresh fruits. While my mom was here we visited a pick-your-own blueberry farm and brought home several pounds of blueberries. I also froze quite a few strawberries and cherries while they were in season and so cheap.
4. Go to the library. When I was a kid we went to the public library a lot. As a grad student I don’t have much time for leisure reading, but I’m taking advantage now.
5. Play on your computer. Lots of people who are truly poor don’t have computers, which is another reason to go to the library, but I need a computer for work, so that’s a lot of recreation available to me. I can even catch up on my blog reading!
6. Go to a park. My mom and I visited the local arboretum and went for a little hike. Beorn’s mom went fishing at the county park while she was here.
7. Go swimming. Beorn and I have been swimming at the pool here at our complex, but there are lots of public pools and even rivers around here. I prefer to swim in natural water. It’s more interesting and there’s less chlorine. If you live near an ocean, even better. Swimming is the best exercise for people with rheumatoid arthritis because there is no stress on the joints.
8. Go to a museum or a concert. Most university towns have some sort of museums and concert series. As a grad student I get free entry into the museum and can get inexpensive concert tickets. Most museums have a free day at least once a month.
Now all of you academics will probably be wondering why I’m not spending all this time working on my research. But I will be spending a significant amount of time on it and I don’t think it’s healthy to drive yourself work once you have reached a certain point of exhaustion. In order to have good ideas I need time to refresh my brain.
Anyone else have ideas about what to do with “time off” when you don’t have a lot of money?
This summer, for the first time since I started grad school, in fact, for the first time ever, I’m “doing” summer school. This has kept me very busy! My department here at Crunchy U. offers summer classes, so for the first time I got the chance to teach my own class. Unfortunately it was the class from hell. I don’t want to tell the entire story, but there were a bunch of students in the class who weren’t ready for that class and my TA was no help. I think I worked 60-80 hours a week for the 4 weeks. On the up side, colleges and universities everywhere need people to teach this particular class and since it’s technology related, there are a limited number of people willing and able to teach it, so it will be good for my CV.
As soon as that was over, I started a Spanish class. I’m required to have two years of a language for my PhD. Unforunately, it’s been more than 10 years since I took any language classes, so those classes don’t count. Because I have limited time (I’m hoping to graduate before I’m 40) I decided to hop right in to second year Spanish. Since I had been teaching during the first four weeks of the summer, I had to start with the second quarter of second year Spanish. Make sense? Needless to say, there are huge gaps in my memory. My pronunciation is terrible now. I think it’s my age. Also, I can’t spell, even in Spanish! My previous college courses in Spanish were focused on speaking, now I’m expected to write, and I’m discovering a little of what it’s like to be illiterate. I have been making progress over the last three week though. Next week is the end of the class, so I will finally have some time off, and a chance to do a little more of my research.
Last week I took a couple of days off and travelled to my research site to do a couple of interviews. I need to get at least 15 or so interviews done by the end of September when school starts, so that I have some priliminary results to work with over the next year. I feel luck about the topic I’m working on and the location. Friends at Crunchy U. know people in the area, so I have been able to find places to stay and make connections locally.
The point of telling you all about my summer is to say that I’m burnt out! I need at least two weeks of lazing around doing nothing before I will be motivated to do anything again. I know many academics seem to be able to work long hours day after day, without a break, but I have become overly grumpy. Overwork is not good.
Now I’m getting off the computer and going to make some gazpacho and pizza. On Saturdays we have friends over for dinner and games.
- My neck has been hurting since Saturday. You know, like I slept wrong. It hurts to tilt my head to one side.
- I have been feeling nauseous and achey, also since Saturday, especially in the morning. No, I’m not pregnant and I don’t have a fever, so I don’t know what that is about.
- I finally got my haircut today, which I haven’t done since August. I’m letting it grow out, but I still need bangs to hide my gigantic forehead. (Bonus weird fact about me: I have a huge forehead which kind of makes it look like my hair is receding, but it’s been like that my whole life.)
- I waited on hold for a half an hour this afternoon just to hear from the advice nurse that I should use Advil and hot and cold packs for my neck. REALLY? I know she is used to dealing with 19 year old undergrads but she has my file right in front of her on the computer screen. If she was paying attention she could have figured out that I’m 34. She kept on asking me if I needed a note for my classes.
- I wish my problems could be solved by a note from the school nurse.
- My new haircut looks a little like Eve Myles from Torchwood, only my hair isn’t as long as hers.
- I’m spending some time at work learning web design. It’s actually kind of fun. My fabulous boss suggested I could take a class (offered next quarter) in video production and then work on creating videos and other multimedia stuff to put up on the web for his office.
- If this whole academia thing doesn’t work out maybe I’ll be able to find a job in “new media.”
- Beorn and I are now firmly involved in the grad school application process and both having small panic attacks about it. I mean we are talking about uprooting our entire lives here and moving across country and this all depends on the stupid, arbitrariness of the admissions committees, and we are too old for this crap, and we need to have kids soon, and and and…
- I really like trees and being outside. I miss having a job that involved moving around and being outside. Sitting at a desk for 12+ hours a day leads to mental and physical health problems.
- I’m considering taking up folk dancing 0r some similar activities. My favorite exercises are hiking and swimming in a lake or the ocean. Swimming pools and walking around town are just not the same.
That interview made me slightly nauseous. The people seemed nice enough. They asked for work samples, which is good. But they are located a long, long way away from where I live. They have a local office, but no one in my field works there. So I’m not getting my hopes up.
Also, they couldn’t get the conference call working, so I couldn’t hear one person the whole time. The other person had to repeat everything she said, it was so uncomfortable and nerve racking.
In light of discussions between Trillwing and Articulate Dad, I thought I would mention recent job related developments. I got my most recent campus job because last summer I went to a summer institute run by the office I’m now working for. I guess I made a good impression, despite my self esteem problems. I at least know these people a little and can make some good guesses about the office culture.
My phone interview for an internship with a consulting firm is a different matter. I replied to an add in a way. I keep job feeds on my bloglines, but rarely see entry level jobs advertised. Last week, I saw a job advertised through a recruiting firm and looked up the consulting company and contacted their HR person. My letter didn’t mention that I knew they were advertising for someone, I just told them about myself and that I was looking an internship to allow me to get some experience in their field. I emphasized what skills I thought I could bring to the company.
Frankly I was amazed that someone called me back, because I have been sending out a lot of letters and resumes. Now my problem is that they are going to know a lot more about me than I will about them. All I know is what their website says and whatever information I can glean from them on the phone. As much as I want to find my first job, I also know that to make it worth my while I will need to work there at least six months, preferably a year. That is a lot of time to spend if the office culture is dysfunctional.
Sometimes I question the need to continue in graduate school and get a PhD. I would like to do some consulting work in any case, but the problem is how to get started. The opportunity to attend conferences and network is one thing that makes me want to stay in grad school. Unless you get into a very progressive firm, spending 40+ hours a week in an office leaves little time for networking (outside of meetings with firm clients.)
I’m starting a new job next quarter. So this morning I met with my new supervisor. It felt like an awkward first date. Normally I’m fairly talkative (I used to make a living talking to people) but in new job situations I’m completely tongue tied. (Especially when I’m talking to someone I want to make a good impression on.) So I think I come across as meek and shy, which is not my personality normally. I tend to remain quiet until I’m able to assess the social situation and get comfortable. So the first few days or weeks I tend to be overly cautious. I’m fine when I’m teaching or giving a presentation, but one on one interviews seem to put me off my game.
The meeting with my new boss went fine, other than the fact that I will have five different people supervising me and there are probably 20+ different projects that they might want me to be working on. It’s kind of overwhelming really, to have a job that is so broadly defined. I want to make a good impression on these people so that they will want to continue to employ me.
Then this afternoon I got a call from a firm I had submitted the resume to, looking for an internship. They were calling to set up a phone interview. So I’m nervous about that as well. I hate talking on the phone. If I could just get my foot in the door at a consulting firm I would be in a much more secure situation. I could work for a year or two then and the question of continuing graduate school would be less urgent. I could take my time and figure out my strategy.