My life is currently completely filled with obsessions over minutiae that I suspect most would find highly uninteresting, but that are taking over most of my brain. Onward…
When I was at my previous MRU, I had the opportunity to teach in an undergraduate honors program that worked on a completely flipped classroom model. The students were expected to do all the reading, pre-quizzes and material review before they came to class and then class was all problem-based learning. I had the luxury of walking into a program that was already designed and I only had to deliver a part of the material. I didn’t have to implement the learning model. It was really, really fun for me and the students were really engaging. I had a great experience.
Since arriving at new MRU, I’ve been teaching as a component of a team-taught series. The students attend lecture (ish), we deliver the lectures, and they take a multiple choice exam. I highlight “ish” in the students attending lecture, because our lectures are recorded so only a fraction of students actually attend. That means that I couldn’t see the look of bewilderment on their faces and they couldn’t see me draw the answers to their exam questions on the board during lecture. When it came time for the exam, their performance was…suboptimal at best. Still, it was very, very easy for me to do. I got up, delivered some lectures, had a TA run some exams through the scantron machine and *BOOM* my teaching was done.
Now I am developing courses for the upcoming year and I am left with a quandry. It would be very easy to use the traditional model, give some lectures, get teaching evaluations good enough for my tenure committee and call it a day, but I am left the with the nagging feeling that I left my soft money gig not only for the security of hard money, but also because I wanted more opportunities to teach. There is rationale to chill the fuck out and teach the easy way until I have things more established in my new lab, but I can’t help but feel a little obligation to do better. My conscious is a real motherfucker sometimes.
My mind is also occupied by the nuance of grant writing. Funding sucks so hard right now that everyone is desperate for the tricks that will give them that slight competitive edge and bump them into the percentile range likely to get funded. Does right and left justify makes a grant more favorably judged than left justify alone? What about 12 point Arial vs Georgia?
Even though I’ve had some grant success, I am constantly collecting other successful grants to try to glean whatever insights I can. I recently got a couple R01s from a colleague who has a track record of phenomenal success. It immediately struck me that he started every aim with “To test the hypothesis that…” instead of something like “To determine..” or “To quantify..”. I asked him about it and he said, “I do it because it immediately eliminates the stock critique that the aims are not hypothesis-driven. I’d never seen anything like this, but he has been so successful, I figured I’d give it a try in the sandbox..
As my sandbox, I got support from my college to attend a grant writing program offered by friend of the tweeple @iGrrrl. I submitted the initial draft of my aims, which I have continued to revise since, but was especially interested in the reaction to this way of phrasing my aims. Today I met with iGrrrl and the group of my peers also enrolled in the program and this new wording was not well-received. I’m intrigued by this. It would appear that sometimes one person’s gold is another person’s foil.
I’m also in the thick of my first year performance review. I can only chuckle because it was made to seem so simple by my chair and former chair. I turn in my CV with some shit highlighted, a paragraph gets written about how I’m new and “blah, blah, blah.” Review done. I was so proud because I was a month early in submitting my CV to the person conducting my review. Then yesterday I met with the them and, turns out, it’s not so simple. They need a folder with all this stuff in it that is more than just my CV. At the same time, I’ve been assigned to someone to review and, 6 days after my first attempt to contact them, I’ve heard no response. I have no idea how long I am supposed to wait before I am like “Dude!! WTF?!?!!!!”
February is closing in on me quickly and it is likely to be busy and insane.