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August stream of consciousness post

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It’s mid-August which means that classes start pretty soon- two weeks from Monday in this case- so it’s time to reflect on the summer and think about the year ahead. I took last week off from working at all- not that I’ve had an especially busy summer- but I have had various things going on up until August 2nd and didn’t get to go on any trips so figured a no-work-week was in order before I have to get ready for classes. When my daughter was younger we always made a point to go on a trip in the summer- to see family, visit national parks, etc. But recently my husband has been doing long trips home to help his mom and our daughter is 19 now (one year of college done!) so it hasn’t been a focus for us. My daughter went to California with a college friend to visit my mom for a week in June, so that was nice for them. I didn’t want to intrude on their friend trip so stayed home. It’s too expensive for us all to go to Kenya every year, so I skipped that trip that my husband took, too. I g…

Teaching Evaluations

I think most of us in academia complain about teaching evaluations in one way or another and many articleshave been written on the problems with student evaluation of instruction. Since we made the switch to online evaluations another problem is low response rates. Some faculty have "tricks" that they claim work: offering extra credit if a certain response rate is reached, threatening not to grade exams if a certain response rate is NOT reached, giving in-class time to fill them out. I've tried some of these but the rates are still quite low. For online classes it's even worse. So on top of the other issues with student evaluation of teaching, there may not be enough data either.

At my university, they encourage us to use "multiple measures of teaching effectiveness" in the form of midterm evaluations of some kind. I have used Small Group Instructional Diagnosis several times to get feedback on what is and isn't working in classes. This semester I am us…

Friday afternoon meetings are the worst*

Is it ever appropriate for someone to yell at someone else in an academic faculty meeting? I would say no. Especially so if you’re a higher rank than the person you’re yelling at. Especially not during a brainstorming session on a Friday afternoon. Especially not if you’re a man and you’re yelling at a woman.

I just had another taste of how people at work don't value me or my opinions. The comment I made was clearly not going to be a major focus of what we were doing, but I thought I had a valid point and should be allowed to make it. If no one felt it was worth pursuing or discussing further, that’s fine. However, my comment was met with anger and aggression from one colleague. Nobody else said anything. I felt uncomfortable for being yelled at so I left the meeting right then. One (female) colleague emailed later to ask if I was okay. Another (female colleague) did on Sunday. The person who yelled emailed to apologize, but apology also pointed out that I was wrong. So that’s w…

Teaching with Documentaries

As I prepare for fall classes, I am having my annual dilemma over content I want to share with my students. This semester I'm teaching two classes that I've taught before: 1) Global Perspectives on Natural Disasters and 2) Global Change (I'm team-teaching the second one). In both classes, I use a textbook but also assign additional readings and show short and long documentaries during class.  I like to think of the videos as multimedia reading assignments that give students something to think about and discuss. But just like articles and books, I can only show the same documentaries for a while until they become outdated. So each time I have to decide if it's time to retire that favorite video or show it one more time.

A great example is The Trouble with Malaria. It's an episode of the CBC series "The Nature of Things" and gives an excellent overview of the disease and struggles to fight it. But it was made 20 years ago! I've been showing it in GEO 33…

Summer Slump is Real

As I've written on here before, I've always struggled with making the most of these wide open weeks in the summer and rarely feel that I've accomplished much by the time August rolls around and I have to get ready for Fall teaching. I guess I'm somewhat comforted knowing that I'm not alone in this, but I still don't know how to solve the problem for myself. There's so little time for research during the semester with my teaching and service obligations. For the last three years my family obligations have also required a huge and inflexible time commitment*, but I can't blame my lack of productivity on that and I really want to focus on summer for this post, anyway.

As this article in The Chronicle explains, most faculty have unstructured summers without set schedules. Some people are off doing fieldwork or have the discipline to write on some kind of schedule. Some people continue coming into campus regularly over the summer to maintain a work schedule. …

Burnout for Everyone

Commencement was 56 days ago and Fall classes start in 51 days, so we're definitely in the middle of summer now. I was happy to realize that we're still only halfway through since I'm enjoying having a break from teaching after literally no break at all since January 2nd*. I taught j-term online (totally voluntary and for extra pay), then my usual load in spring, then I also taught the first summer session online (also voluntary and for extra pay). With our current calendar there is no break between j-term and spring or between spring and first summer session. I volunteered for both since I can always use the money (my daughter has one more year before starting college!) Having no breaks between sessions mean that grades for one term are not even due when the next one starts(!) So it's a lot and I'm thankful for the break.

But, what about the students? I'm sure we have a lot of students who took courses during all three of those sessions, too. And many take mor…

Quick Check In

Haven't blogged here in quite a while! I haven't been blogging anywhere, but I do have a tumblr for Geography things and spend a lot of time on Twitter. Maybe I'll get something up here in the near future. Otherwise catch me on the platforms above.