Saturday, January 12, 2008

Excuses, excuses

(warning: egregious whining to follow)

I can't believe how delinquent I've been about posting this week. Ever had one of those weeks when you get lots done but there are still about a billion things left to do that all need to be done yesterday? I know you have. We all have. This was mine. If I make it to next Wednesday, things should get a bit better, but really it'll be at least the end of the month before I can breathe again. What's keeping me so busy?

1) I have a fellowship application that I'm working on, due at the end of the month. It's actually coming together quite nicely, but it still needs a lot of work, and I just don't have time.

2) The new schedule is starting, where I get to stay at work until 8:30 three nights out of the week. Blech.

3) I have to teach on Tuesday. This wouldn't be so bad except:

a) I haven't taught this class in almost 3 years, and it's the most precise of the classes that we teach, so I can't afford to forget anything. Not even one little detail. Guess who's reading the first 11 chapters (350 pages) of an organic chemistry textbook before Tuesday, just to brush up?

b) The prof is tough, which I like, but the students will hate. It will also increase their stress levels, and encourage them to blame the TA for all of their shortcomings (like not reading the book).

c) The students are premeds. Now, don't get me wrong. I have nothing against people that want to be doctors. Some of my best friends in undergrad were premeds. I believe that there are many nice people in the premed field. I have had some great premed students. That said, the prevailing culture in our department's premed students is that they already know it all, the prof and the TA are incompetent and useless, and that class is a waste of time. It also means that they are not interested in learning; they're interested in a 4.0. They don't care that they get it right, or understand. It just matters that they're ahead of the curve. I went to the first lecture last week, and it was a good one. At least 10 students got up at various times during the lecture and climbed over everyone in their row to leave, some only 10 or 15 minutes into the lecture. This sort of attitude obviously makes it less than fun to go in and teach, and it means that I have to know everything and make no mistakes to avoid reinforcing their preconceived ideas. Pressure? Nah.

d) I got my first really horrible TA assessment ever. I've taught over 900 students just in grad school (not counting the hundreds in undergrad), and I always get very good reviews, or at worst constructive criticism. I got my evals back this week, and I had one in which I was described variously as condescending, full of myself, arrogant, and smarmy. Ouch. I know that this is one student in well over 1000. I know that this shouldn't bother me. I know that this evaluation probably doesn't have anything to do with me. And yet, ouch. That kind of drop-kick makes it harder to be excited about going back into the classroom.

4) My research experiments have taken a decided turn towards the unpredictable. This is bad. I am at the stage in my graduate student career when things should be getting easier to understand, not harder. Researching this topic is something like trying to catch a bar of soap that you dropped in a bathtub. Just when you think you've finally got the darned thing, it goes shooting off again in some other direction and you start all over. Sometimes this is fun. This week, I am not amused.

5) I just found out that I have to give group meeting in 2 weeks and present my work to my advisor (who hasn't really been keeping up in months, so it's extra important to impress him) and fellow grad students. This is generally fun, but given #4, is adding to the stress level.

5) I was asked this past week and agreed to give a guest lecture in a friend's class at a community college. The date that she set? Wednesday. (Gasp!)

6) I'm taking a class this quarter on building a teaching portfolio. Our first draft of a teaching statement is due on Wednesday.

7) various and sundry other items that I'm sure I'm forgetting at the moment but will suddenly come due on me within the next 4 days, out of spite.

In short, I worked all week to shorten my list of pressing items, and it's still a mile long. Yay for working weekends.