Final Office Hours Reflection

It’s the end of RRR (“Reading, Recitation, Review”?) week here at Berkeley.  I’ve spent the past 48 hours parked in front of my computer screens, finishing up my science and technology paper and generally feeling pretty drained of all coherent thought.  End of the semester brain, am I right?

I finished grading my student’s final papers before turning my attention to my own, so I decided to hold one last office hours session so they could come pick their papers up.  So far, most of the students who have showed up for their papers have also wanted to discuss the course, their feelings towards the study of history and also (and most flattering!) ask me for advice.

Teaching has been everything I expected and simultaneously entirely different from what I thought it would be.  I went into teaching having been told that architecture students don’t care about history, don’t care about this course, and will do anything they can to avoid doing the work.  I think that assumption is the result of our brain’s ability to hold onto negative events and impressions more so than positive ones.  Or, perhaps I just had a great bunch of students who did want to be there and did care about improving their work over the semester.

The second expectation that this semester shattered was the view of teaching as a secondary, lesser obligation that comes behind research.  This is a strongly held doctrine in academia: you can teach anyone to teach, but you can’t teach anyone to do original, compelling research.  Even if this is true (I’m not sure if I believe that anyone can teach) it teaches graduate students and young professors to devalue experiences in the classroom and ignore the positive benefits of becoming invested in the education of their students.

It’s true that some students don’t care, but you don’t teach for those students.  You teach for the ones who are interested and engaged, the ones who want to learn something and broaden their minds.

Gosh, that’s a little cheesy.  But I’m sticking by it!

I’m excited to teach the second half of the survey next semester.  It’ll be wonderful if I have some of the same students in my section, especially if I can snag the ones who like to talk during discussion.   Till then, I’m excited to spend a few weeks not having to learn and teach something new every week. Winter break, here I come.

Caffeine/Research/Teaching/Rambling

Let it be known up front that I am VERY caffeinated right now.

BUT!  I am excited about several things that I feel compelled to share.

1.  I have, at last, found a new topic for my Unbuilt paper.  And it’s exciting.  And I get to watch movies as part of my research.  This is rad.

2. I’ve narrowed my argument for my STS paper.

3. Both of those topics are related to my larger research interests (HUZZAH!)

4. As a result, my research is seriously exciting to me right now.

5. My students are turning in the rough draft of their papers today.  I only got ONE request for an extension! I’m such a proud GSI.  My students, KIND OF THE BEST.  They totally listened to me when I told them to start their papers early.  Either that or I just got a bunch of students who already have good time management skills.

In other, list-related news, I’ve started lessons at the Berkeley Ballet Theater (lead with your heels!) so a post about that is forthcoming.  I’ve been calling my mom once a week (on Tuesdays).  And I think my week without complaining will start Sunday.  Awww yeah.

Productivity

It’s very easy to figure out ways in which I’m not productive but significantly more difficult to determine how I can flip those around and make myself more productive.

I think everybody involved in a competitive endeavor, whether graduate school or otherwise, is striving towards maximum productivity.  Personally, I’m looking for maximum productivity while simultaneously maximizing my enjoyment of life, which includes doing things that seem counterproductive (drinks with friends in the city on a school night? why not!) but are in fact just as productive as all of the hours I spend sitting in front of the computer.  But that’s a totally different topic.

I’m slightly unexcited to announce that, starting tomorrow, I will be doing two things to make myself more productive:

1. No email before noon.

This will be difficult. First I need to turn off the push notifications on my phone.  Then I need to simply not check my email before noon.    I might eventually modify this to be “No email until you’ve gotten up, ready, and have done your obligatory one hour of seminar paper research.”  Which leads me to…

2.  One hour per day, in the morning, of seminar paper research.

Seminar papers are, by far, the most important part of graduate school at this stage.  But I find myself leaving the research off until the end of the day, when I’m exhausted from GSI duties and reading for other classes.  The easy solution is to block off an hour, immediately after I’m vertical and have had my first cup of tea, to just buckle down and do it.  That way when I get to the end of the day I can let my mind wander a little more when I’m doing the tasks that are less essential.  This idea is courtesy of accountability buddy Eric in Chicago and those faculty diversity emails that I’m signed up for (Monday Motivators, huzzah!)  Both of them happened to have the same idea at the same time, which means it must be worth trying.

I also need to start trying to fix my awful sleeping patterns.  I’ve been averaging about 5-6 hours a night, usually waking up every few hours for no reason at all, and taking ages to fall asleep.  I’ve tried white noise, audiobooks, regular books, no screen time before bed, no food before bed, no caffeine after 5 pm… but no luck.  So that’s going to be the next thing that gets fixed around here!

 

“Social Construction”, a mid-reading rant

I am tired of hearing about how things are “socially constructed” (in this case, technological artifacts.)

EVERYTHING is socially constructed!

 Everything!*  

Saying something is “socially constructed” PROVES ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

 

*So not exactly everything, but in the realm of theory I subscribe to, this is true.

 

 

The nine-to-five

Before I started graduate school I had this really crazy idea.

I thought that, no matter what, if I worked a solid eight hour day I would be able to survive (nay, thrive!) in graduate school.

Ha. HAH.

Not even close.

Last semester I couldn’t maintain that sort of schedule due to studio.  This semester teaching is chewing away at the majority of my time.  It’s supposed to take up 20 hours a week as per union regulations, but sometimes I find myself going the extra mile for students, doing things well and not just to get them done, and unintentionally pushing aside my own research in the process.

Anyway, my point is that my day went something like this:

9:40 am-12:30 pm:  Seminar

12:30 pm-1pm: Prep for teaching, devour lunch

1pm-3pm: Teach

3pm-6pm: Unwind, grade a few proposals/type notes, take the bus home from campus

6pm-7pm: Dinner

7pm-8pm: Grey’s Anatomy because dangit, it’s still Friday and I need mindless television to keep my brain from revolting. Typed more notes to keep myself busy while it was on.

8pm-9pm: Read articles for seminar paper.

and that brings us to right now, as I sit here debating if I should finally try and finish Barnes’ T.S Kuhn and Social Science or if I should just call it a night because right now, that’s a twelve hour day (with about 2 hours worth of breaks).

But I’m honestly not sure how I can make more time for paper research this semester.  Just completing all my tasks for GSIing, plus reading for seminar, plus little projects and assignments, makes me want to come home and collapse at the end of the day.  I like the research I’m doing and find it truly fascinating but is it really impossible to do everything and do it well?

Pile of Books

I have an extremely bad habit of coming up with something that, to me, sounds like a GREAT IDEA, ordering a ton of books on it, forgetting about it* over the course of the next day/week, and then getting an email notifying me to come and pick up books that I cannot remember why I wanted to read.

So I pick them up anyway and add them to my pile.  Will I ever get through this pile?  Will I ever remember why I wanted to read these books in the first place?

 

* Sometimes I forget about it because it only seemed like a good idea at the time, and after some thought it’s actually not so great.  But the books still seem interesting and I’m always hopeful that they will lead to a better idea.. if I ever get around to picking them up.