Infrequent nightmares

Last night I had another dream that felt so real and left me feeling anxious and bewildered upon waking. I don’t have these dreams every night, but frequently enough I suppose. They seem to happen more at times I’m especially stressed – I’m sure that’s no coincidence.

The dream last night was similar to the rest: I dreamt I still had to defend my dissertation and felt immense panic at the prospect and a boatload of anxiety that it wasn’t done already. Then, the dream shifted and I was confused. Trying to figure out what I had been doing all this time if I hadn’t already defended my dissertation. I realized (in my dream) that I must stil lbe a student! And suddenly I was terribly worried for my future and where and when and IF I might find a real job.

I woke up at that point stressed out, anxious, and fearfully confused.

I don’t want to say grad school gave me post-traumatic stress syndrome, because people who have that usually had truly horrible things happen to them. But…evidently grad school gave me some post-traumatic style nightmares and an unhealthy dose of lingering anxiety.

It may be time to seek medication for that…

The little things

The little things are what always get left out. The odd local knowledge that becomes so mundane and ingrained you fail to notice it anymore. But often it’s those very little details that tell the more interesting story. Or help someone really understand another someone.

And that’s what’s missing from this blog. I’m hitting major highlights, but the little stuff? The day-in-day-out of becoming a young professor? Who could tell from this blog!? Not me! Not you!

What an oversight.

Some little things, in no specific order:

– I love my office. I’ve put some time and thought into its arrangement. I situated one of my desks so that it faces toward the door and has space for a student to sit across from me. My PhD advisor had a similar arrangement and it worked so well for our weekly meetings, I couldn’t fathom any other arrangement. Yet many other professors visiting my new digs commented on it – and one even changed her set up to be similar to mine. Score one for the new kid!

– Keys. I put my new keys on a lanyard, one I bought at the campus bookstore. This is so helpful because I can wear them around my neck when I go to the restroom. Why didn’t I do this before?!

– Water. Always bring water to class when teaching. If you’re stuck for a moment, you can take a drink while you think quickly. No one will be wiser (probably). Also really helpful if you get a tickle or cough. And I just get plain thirsty talking after awhile!

– Room setups for lecture rooms. You have to work with what you’ve got. And sometimes…it is not much. I teach in 3 rooms this term – each has a different set up. And one I would really love to change! I have a hearing impaired student so I have an interpreter. And I like to write on the white board as I go, using the power point mainly to show pictures or videos that emphasize the key points and as an outline to keep everything on topic. So I have a screen with the slides, a white board (that’s far too small) to write on, and an interpreter in the middle. It’s working, but it’s not ideal. My biggest complaint is the white board size. I run out of room far too quickly!

– Attire. I had envisioned buying a whole new wardrobe at Loft when I landed a professor gig. Oh the clothes! Finally I would have professional wear! Well…maybe if I’d gone R1 and landed the better-paying gig? I didn’t have the money to buy new clothes before starting. Not much anyway. Instead I went to Ross and picked up 3 new tops and 1 new pair of slacks. And a new scarf. I’m a sucker for scarves. And actually – I’m glad I didn’t buy more! It was good to have a few options to start, and then to scope out the wardrobe landscape of my peers. I recommend the same for anyone moving to a new location starting a new job. Have some basics of course – and a range of options if possible. Scope out the local scene, and then if your budget allows, fill your wardrobe according to your new surroundings. Or maybe you’re just more fashionable than I am and surroundings and peer attire matters not. Do what you will.

– Get a clicker. One of those USB things that plugs into the computer and allows you to advance slides while standing anywhere in the room. With built in laser pointer – only if your hand doesn’t shake too badly. Don’t get crazy with the laser.

Getting the hang of things?

I hesitate to even write that headline – it seems to be inviting trouble. I’m still majorly overwhelmed. My husband is sick, my baby has a cough that won’t go away (it seems), and I might be starting to get what they have.

But…I just wrote an exam review sheet (which helped me plan the exam itself) and darn if it didn’t seem to just come together brilliantly. Could be the late hour deluding my mind, but the point breakdown worked out splendidly. There’s math involved, but it’s a survey course with a lot of math-phobic folks. So if they don’t even attempt the math but get all the conceptual stuff right, they get a D on the exam. If all they do on each math problem is correctly identify the equation – BOOM. C. And show some work? B+. Get them all right? A of course.

It just felt nice that it happened organically, but it actually made sense with the grade scale too.

***

In other news, I have survived my first tenure-track review process! The way it works for me is that each year I submit my binder in the Fall term – which means my binder this year was dainty and cute because I’d been at the job all of about 6 weeks when it was time to turn it in. But, the good news is I “met expectations” for Year 1! Huzzah! Next year’s binder should prove to be a bit bigger and is more important in the whole earning-tenure process. Something to work on sporadically when I have time now (hah!) and with more urgency toward the end of summer.

Busy, busy!

The end of the term was busy, the winter break too short, and the start of the new term seems even busier. I made the mistake decision to write my own labs for my upper divisional course this term. There is a widely used textbook with pre-made labs that I could have used instead…but it’s quite expensive and in past experience leads to students being able to follow instructions, but being completely lost without the aid of the text. By writing my own (in theory) I can try to encourage more active thinking as they learn the techniques.

Here’s hoping, because it’s a fair amount of work!

End of Term

The end of the term is nearly upon us. Which means I have almost made it through my very first term as a “real” professor.

Upon reflection, I am much more comfortable teaching now than I was at the start. I do still occasionally feel butterflies before a lecture – but mostly now I feel bewildered and like it’s ridiculous when that happens. What do I have to be anxious about!?

On the whole, my classes seem to have been well-received. Though I certainly have my share of notes on how to improve them.

And not much time to feel comfortable. Next term will start soon enough and I have 2 new courses to prep for that as well. Keep moving forward!

My People

Let’s see if I can explain this generically. I earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in one field. Shall we call it Field A, for lack of imagination? My PhD was actually in a closely related, but different field, Field B. Because I’m creative like that. While I love the topics of both fields, I have to say that I truly found my People in Field B. I like the way they think better, I guess.

Now, at some schools, Fields A & B are sometimes combined in one broad department. Sometimes they are each their own department. It depends on the school. Sometimes they are in the same physical building; sometimes not – and that doesn’t seem to necessarily correlate with whether or not they are in the same department. For instance, where I earned my bachelor’s they were separate departments, but housed in the same building on campus.

Which brings us to my school. Where Field A and B are organized in separate departments and housed in separate buildings. However, my particular specialty – usually associated with Field B, is actually part of Field A’s department. Are you following this? It’s not completely unheard of – but it’s a little unusual for a school with 2 separate departments, that my specialty would wind up in Field A instead of B. Generally if they’re separate, my specialty lives with Field B. So, it’s kind of like the atypical divorce proceedings where the kids wind up with Dad. Not unheard of. Just atypical.

So, while I live in Field A’s department building and I am a Faculty of Field A – I have close ties with Field B’s department by virtue of what I do. And as such they invited me to their department meeting recently.

And while both departments are all male (except for me – just lovely), I have to say…Field B is still my people.

It does give me pause for thought…that perhaps I would have been better served finding a school where I could live with Field B. Or where the departments were truly combined so I could still rub shoulders regularly with my people. To be clear, I am not unhappy with my current arrangement. On paper it is the perfect arrangement to feature my diverse background and strengths.

It’s just something I’m thinking about. And some days, I do miss my people.

Current State of Affairs

I’ve wanted to post on here more regularly. To better capture the daily thought processes as I transform from a young doctoral student to a young professor. Unfortunately, as a young professor I seem to be rather busy. And I keep getting sick. But that’s neither here nor there.

Some random thoughts thus far:

* I am rather youthful looking. While nice in some ways, it’s annoying when I go to a professional meeting and introduce myself and say I’m from My School University and most people assume that means I’m a student. Nice. I guess I should lead with DR. before my name? Sounds way too pretentious for me.

* I love smaller class sizes and being at a school that emphasizes teaching. I do not love having to come up with alternative assignments to support students who missed the first half of the term and then suddenly show up expecting to make up half of the labs. What? How is that possible?

* While everyone is certainly friendly, I haven’t yet really made any friends. This is hard. And partly impossible because I’m so busy. Everyone’s so busy, in fact. On the plus side, I’m a bit too busy to be bothered by the lack most days.

* My office is finally done and I love it. Well, I should say the remodel is done. I still have organizing to do. Wall art to hang. That sort of thing. But it’s my little kingdom and I love it so.

Germs

It can be complicating, I think, to start a brand new tenure-track job with 2 kids in tow. Everyone’s life has complications, of course. I’m just sharing about mine, which tend to center on the two tiny spawn I brought into this world. These wee little bastions of germs. They’re cute, yes. And they go to daycare.

And when my son first started daycare in Old State, we were ALL three of us sick for a good 6 months. Daycare germs have a bad rep for a reason folks. It was pretty horrid.

Well, we got through it, and all of our immune systems were stronger for it. And then we moved to New State. New State, new germ biome. And the kidlets started daycare and guess what? We’ve ALL 4 been getting sick. The wee one almost constantly as this is her first go at daycare.

And it’s been especially challenging because some of the illnesses have come about on days I cannot really miss. Or I could, if someone would cover my attendance/participation-based course. But…twice now, no one will. It is AGGRAVATING. The first time I brought my sick son with me. He had pink eye. Yeah. The second time this happened, I had strep throat. And was still contagious. NO ONE would cover. And it wasn’t made clear to me until later that I could, in fact, just outright cancel the course. It was couched in a way that it sounded like that wasn’t an option.

And all that would be frustrating enough. But then one colleague has to go on and insinuate that I’m flakey or perhaps just goofing off and then calling off. No folks. Legitimately sick. This is what happens when you have young kids. You all did 20+ years ago. Try to think back, remember, and have some frickin compassion.

I am NOT a flake. It’s not because I’m a woman. It’s not because I’m a bad mom. It’s because we moved to a new germ community, and we’re going to get sick.

I just can’t help but think, if I didn’t have my two little disease carriers, it would be a bit less of a problem. So add that to the list of potential complications with having kiddos during the early years of your PhD: you get to go through the daycare blues at least twice.

The “Impostor” syndrome

I read several articles during my time as a PhD student about “impostor syndrome.” Evidently it’s a common frame of mind for PhD students; especially female PhD students. I was no exception. Basically it’s the sense that you don’t actually belong, you’re not actually good enough, and it’s just a matter of time before everyone figures it out. I feel this way…all the time. About everything. My teaching. My research. My parenting. Everything.

It’s not exactly the most mentally healthy state to be in.

And at present, it’s not so much that I feel like I’m an impostor – it’s more that it hasn’t fully sunk in. We’re halfway through the term, more or less, and it still feels more like I’m playing at being a professor. It astounds me on a near daily basis to remember…this is it. This is the real deal. I did it. I AM a professor.

It’s just weird still. I find myself often in disbelief. Not like the, awe, so amazed, cannot believe it’s happening to me kind. More like the, huh…so…I did it? I’m really doing this? And I’m getting paid to do this? And this is my job? I have a real job? After all these years of a school…a REAL job? With benefits and everything? Amazing.