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Reposted from annetteboardman by annetteboardman

There are academic jobs out there, full-time ones even, and both temporary and tenure track ones.  It is challenging to get one, but not impossible.  Of course the competition is very fierce, and there are often many many many applications for any full time (even sometimes part time) position.  But there are a lot of things you should know, and things you can do, to help you when you go on the job market.  Honest.  And things that can sink your application like a lead weight.  

No matter where you are in academic life, from an undergraduate student to a Ph.D. recipient (or an ABD*) to someone who has been out of the academic grind for a while and wants to go back, it can be helpful to hear from someone on the other side.  I have done those applications and I have served on a whole bunch of several search committees.  Follow me below the orange board of the Game of Life for more.

*ABD stands for "All But Dissertation," and can mean everything from someone is scheduled to defend the dissertation in a month, or the person has just started to write and has several years to go, to someone who has been writing so long while other things have come up, and probably may not ever finish.  I was hired "ABD" for a non-tenure track position, and finishing was a hard slog.  I have known others who never finished once they started to teach full time.

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Sat May 16, 2015 at 05:57 PM PDT

Teachers' Lounge: Bullies

by annetteboardman

Reposted from annetteboardman by annetteboardman

Almost all of us (probably all of us) have experienced bullying of one or more types in our lives.  It comes from our "friends" (even those who often really are what we think of as friends), from our early years.  But even when we are not young we are subject to the effects of being tormented by bullies.  They can manifest as depression, even suicide, retreat from the world or other changes in behaviour, or high blood pressure or other health problems.

There have been many diaries here talking about bullying, including that inspired by skin colour, sexual orientation and identity, or other aspects of identity.  This one deals with bullying that goes on in and around the classroom -- bullying by teachers, bullying by students, and bullying by colleagues.  Bullying is always a terrible thing, and it is no less horrid in a university setting.  If you are a student, it can affect your ability to succeed in university, which will have long term career and life implications.  If you are a faculty member, bullying from others (bosses, colleagues, students) has implications for career as well.  You have at least a master's degree, and often a Ph.D. or other terminal degree, education that has cost a lot in time and funds, also representing significant emotional  investment.

I've been thinking about this as we get to the end of the semester here.  When my grades went in I took some time to look up people on my former Dean at his current university and discovered that he had retired a year ago.  He had left here for an administrative position there, which he was so very bad at he did not stay a sean, and retired in the tenured faculty position that came with the deanship.  In a way it makes it easier to know that he was so bad he failed at the job in two separate places.  But it took me twenty years to not be stressed when I dealt with his successor deans when I met with them, and I still am much more uncomfortable with administration than are many of my colleagues.

But teachers can be on both sides of bullying.  They can be the bullies as well as being bullied by students.  The queries about exam results or "why did I get this grade" discussions are often really beneficial for both parties, but on occasion they can descend (or escalate) into more personal and even threatening confrontations.  It is a challenge for teachers to achieve an appropriate balance but it is a very important one to strive for.  

Follow me below the elongated highway interchange of orange for more.

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Reposted from annetteboardman by annetteboardman

I am not at graduation today because for the second time in four years I have a really bad back, which means I would not  be able to sit for two hours on a hard chair with no room to wiggle and shift around.  But this year they are very nicely streaming the graduation ceremony and I probably am getting a better view of the students than I would on the ground, as part of the gauntlet students walk through on their way into the stadium (we are lucky that the weather has let up enough for them to hold the ceremony in the stadium outside, or they would have been splitting it into two halves and there would still not have been room for everyone to see the ceremony).  The streaming is working well, and I am at home, with ice on my lower back, watching the governor of my state joking with someone on the podium as a break from the crowds of graduates and parents and photographers.  I will go in to campus later in the hopes of catching those students I have not been able to congratulate in the past week or two.  And to congratulate again the ones I have seen.

This is always a time of awkwardness.  I will miss these kids, but if/when I see them again they will be even more differentiated by life experiences and (maybe) more interesting in long conversations.  While students are at college, they (and I) keep a very distant, professional relationship, but after graduation I get to know some of them better, even if I don't see them nearly as often.  I hope that they have gotten something from me.  I certainly know I have gotten a lot from teaching many of them.  It is both happy and very sad.  I always cry at graduations, just as I cry at weddings, and funerals.  Life passages.  Yeah, that's the ticket.

Follow me below the tangled orange graduation path for more thoughts on graduation.

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Tue May 05, 2015 at 04:59 PM PDT

Blueberries . . .

by lmackh

Reposted from lmackh by Lorikeet

Today is National Teacher Day. Schools are closed for the celebrations, right? Hah. Teachers have come to accept that we are often under- (or completely un-) appreciated, misunderstood, and maligned.

A co-worker sent this article to our entire organization today. Blueberries

“If I ran my business the way you people operate your schools, I wouldn’t be in business very long!”
The article goes on to say:
I was convinced of two things. First, public schools needed to change; they were archaic selecting and sorting mechanisms designed for the industrial age and out of step with the needs of our emerging “knowledge society”. Second, educators were a major part of the problem: they resisted change, hunkered down in their feathered nests, protected by tenure and shielded by a bureaucratic monopoly. They needed to look to business. We knew how to produce quality. Zero defects! TQM! Continuous improvement!
Over and over again, teachers are told that we need to do our jobs better, that our students need to be better educated. At the same time, however, we're being told this by people who by and large have little to no experience with the education system, and who have very little functional understanding of the obstacles and barriers we face every day in the classroom, regardless of the level at which we teach. Business people preach a business model; the tech industry gurus (such as Bill Gates) think that technology is the solution. But they often forget the human component that we deal with every day, every month, every year.

I always phrased it like this: Schools cannot operate like a production line in a business. In a business, you can control the quality of the raw materials you take in. If you receive raw materials that are not up to standard, you can reject them. Schools have no control over the raw materials. We get some raw materials from the best possible producers -- from parents who are engaged with their kids (but not overly so), who have talked with them and taught them the skills they need to have before they come to school. We get raw materials from producers that seem like they should be of high quality, because they come from the best location; but these materials are sometimes flawed, too, because they've been protected from every adversity and are consequently not very strong on their own. We get the raw materials from parents who try hard, but who haven't necessarily had the tools they needed to provide a solid grounding for their child pre-school: perhaps a lack of financial resources, perhaps a lack of education, perhaps a lack of parenting skills. Their children come to school with some skills they need, but often lag behind on other crucial skills. Then we get the raw materials from situations that put the children months -- if not years -- behind their peers. Poverty, neglect, poor nutrition, homelessness, displacement, language barriers, developmental delays, attention deficit issues, substance abuse . . . the list goes on.

“Mr. Vollmer,” she said, leaning forward with a wicked eyebrow raised to the sky, “when you are standing on your receiving dock and you see an inferior shipment of blueberries arrive, what do you do?”

In the silence of that room, I could hear the trap snap…. I was dead meat, but I wasn’t going to lie.

“I send them back.”

“That’s right!” she barked, “and we can never send back our blueberries. We take them big, small, rich, poor, gifted, exceptional, abused, frightened, confident, homeless, rude, and brilliant. We take them with ADHD, junior rheumatoid arthritis, and English as their second language. We take them all! Every one! And that, Mr. Vollmer, is why it’s not a business. It’s school!”

We are not only expected to educate all students regardless of where they start, we are also expected to do it with fewer and fewer resources, larger and larger classes, less support staff, and in many places, for stagnant salaries. We get told by people all around us that we're not doing our jobs, that we need to do better, that there are too many bad teachers in the system, etc. When we have the audacity to strike for better working conditions, the inevitable response runs along the lines of "What are you complaining about? You only work 9 months out of the year and get 3 months of paid vacation! You only work a 6 or 7 hour day. Teachers have it so easy!" I feel like I've spent my whole life educating the public on what we do and why we do it. I've spent my entire career defending myself to people who should actually value the fact that I care enough about how I do my job and what I have to do it with that I have been willing to go on strike -- for $40/day in strike pay -- 3 times in my career. It doesn't seem to occur to anyone that if teachers don't do their jobs properly, we end up with an undereducated populace who are unable to get jobs, manage their own lives, participate in their civic duties, etc.

To quote Diane Ravitch, from her book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System:

Schools that expect nothing more of their students than mastery of basic skills will not produce graduates who are ready for college or the modern workplace.  Nor will they send forth men and women prepared to design new technologies, achieve scientific breakthroughs, or accomplish feats of engineering skill.  Nor will their graduates be prepared to appreciate and add to our society's cultural achievements or to understand and strengthen its democratic heritage.  Without a comprehensive liberal arts education, our students will not be prepared for the responsibilities of citizenship in a democracy, nor will they be equipped to make decisions based on knowledge, thoughtful debate, and reason.
Further:
Our schools cannot be improved by those who say that money doesn't matter.  Resources matter, and it matters whether they are spent wisely . . . if we are serious about narrowing and closing the achievement gap, then we will make sure that the schools attended by our neediest students have well educated teachers, small classes, beautiful facilities, and a curriculum rich in the arts and sciences.

 Our schools cannot be improved if we ignore the disadvantages associated with poverty that affect children's ability to learn.

Our schools cannot be improved if we use them as society's all-purpose punching bag, blaming them for the ills of the economy, the burdens imposed on children by poverty, the dysfunction of families, and the erosion of civility.  Schools must work with other institutions and cannot replace them.

Currently, the problem is that the other institutions -- the government, politicians, business leaders, religious leaders -- all want to TELL teachers how to do their jobs, without consultation. They want to mandate what gets taught, what gets spent, who does what, but with limited knowledge of how schools work, what our actual purpose is, and what the constraints are within which we operate.

And as long as there is a gap between schools in poor neighborhoods and schools in wealthy neighborhoods -- a gap in resources, a gap in facilities, a gap in staffing levels, a gap in income, a gap in accessibility, etc. -- we will continue to see some schools succeeding and some schools failing. The problems with our education system will not be fixed until we start to address the inequalities in society. That's a much bigger problem . . . and one that can't be blamed on just one group of people. We all have to take responsibility for it. Time to stop beating up the teachers . . .

Discuss
Reposted from annetteboardman by annetteboardman

This past semester I have been teaching a class that introduces students to Interdisciplinary Studies in preparation for them proposing their own interdisciplinary major.  There are generally two books taught in the class, one fiction and one non-fiction (this year it was Dracula and And the Band Played On; last year it was Manahatta and World War Z).  At the end of this semester I asked the students what books they would recommend in future years.  I tried to write down all the suggestions that were flung at me, and I may have some of the titles and some of the authors incorrect.  But there were a lot of interesting books proposed, and I have a reading list ahead of me for my summer.
There are 14 students in the class, and they all have interesting and strong ideas.  Every one of them had at least one suggestion, and obviously most had many.  I thought you would enjoy seeing book recommendations from a remarkable group of 19-22 year old students.

Below the fold for more!

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Thu Apr 23, 2015 at 11:23 PM PDT

Walker's UW Budget Cut - Some Context

by lufthase

Reposted from lufthase by Lorikeet

Scott Walker's proposed $300 Million cut to the UW System combined with conservatives' complaining about high tuition made me curious about the history of UW funding and the root cause of rising tuition. I dug through Legislative Fiscal Bureau reports, UW Redbooks, and Board of Regents minutes to cobble together these two spreadsheets, which I've put on Google Docs:

My sources and methods can be found in the footnotes of each spreadsheet. If you have any questions about the data, let me know in the comments.

The upshot of what I found is that State Aid to the UW has been on a downward trajectory for the better part of 40 years, and this, combined with increased enrollment, has lead directly to increased tuition. That is, with each successive budget, the UW becomes a little less "public." And while this problem is bigger than Scott Walker, he is cutting more funding more quickly than any of his predecessors.

Charts, graphs, and math below the orange thing…

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Reposted from annetteboardman by annetteboardman

I keep looking around for the trick but at the moment I have only one assignment to grade this weekend, and of the nine class sessions I have next week (three classes are twice a week and one is three times), students are doing presentations for two of them, one is canceled because some of the students will be at a national conference, and for two others I have visiting speakers. One, still other, is the point of the class where the steering committee comes in for feedback from the first year and capstone classes, which will meet together.  

The last third of any semester is a bit bonkers.  You figure out that you still have more material to cover than is possible in twice the time you have left.  The student presentations are coming up and in the spring there is a national Undergraduate Research Week, during which our own Student Research Conference is held and many of our students will be traveling to present at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research.  I also have students who are going to a ceramics demonstration in Iowa next week, and they will miss a class session in addition to those listed above.    

And then there are the visiting speakers who are candidates for positions next year.  I will give over one period next week to that endeavor, which is absolutely worth "losing" the day to if is gets us the ideal colleague, another full-time art historian.

And it is spring.  And the orange flower beds are in bloom.  Follow me below the virtual knot garden for more.

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Reposted from IvoryTusk by Lorikeet

I see a lot of really fantastic work on the Kos regarding the incredible work that teachers do, and those amazing individuals who support the work we do and the schools their children attend every day.  Not too long ago, I was asked the following question by an average person in my community: "I do not have any children, and I do not have any stake really within the educational system.  How do I let teachers know I support their work?"  I told her even a simple donation of pens and pencils would be a huge thing, especially this time of year.  She was aghast!  "Really?  Just pens?"  I said absolutely!  We don't have the resources to replenish supplies, and much of what we have been able to carefully hoard has been used up by now.  She said at this point, "I really wish I knew more about what you faced every day."  

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Sat Apr 04, 2015 at 11:38 AM PDT

Teachers' Lounge: Death

by annetteboardman

Reposted from annetteboardman by annetteboardman

I have been thinking about death this week, and I was even before the student paper had a full page article on Thursday about the death of a former student whom I had had in my class.  This was not the first student I have taught who has died.  After all, I am finishing up my 23rd year here, and I have taught several thousand people in my career.  The first one I knew about was a major, who had for a time been my advisee, and it was startling, but not completely unexpected.  She had taken several years longer than normal to complete her degree, having taken time out for unspecified medical concerns.  I was always happy to see her when she returned, but I knew that she had some serious health issues, and her death was therefore not shocking.  I found out about her almost a year after she had passed away, and the letter I wrote to her mother (I think, but it was so long ago I can no longer be sure) was thus very brief.  I didn't want to upset her, but I did want to let her know that I had known and liked her daughter, and was sorry to know that she was gone.

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Wed Apr 01, 2015 at 04:01 PM PDT

Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs

by rserven

Reposted from TransAction by rserven

 photo Tudor.Rachel-224x300_zpso54qaj4k.jpgRachel Tudor was hired at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant before she began transition.  That link goes to an article published in 2011.

The story now has an update.

When she began transition four years ago, Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs Douglas N. McMillan is reported to have said that Tudor's "lifestyle" offended his Baptist beliefs and asked whether Tudor could just be summarily dismissed.

He was told that action would constitute gender discrimination under Title IX by the Department of Education.

Tudor was informed that being transgender was a "gave offense" to McMillan's religious sensibilities.

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Reposted from Readers and Book Lovers by rserven
Diane Corcoran Nielsen
"To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark." — Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

I'll always remember my years of teaching K-8 computer literacy and computer-aided instruction. There was something about the small time I spent with kindergarteners each day that made me learn more about teaching thanm perhaps any other experience.

For years teachers have seen students who were promising readers in the primary grades begin to experience challenges in third and fourth grades as reading materials became more difficult. University of Kansas researchers conducted a study with the goal of identifying how to better predict in kindergarten who might have reading difficulties in the future and to determine what extra instruction should include in order to help ensure their later success as readers.
The researchers worked with more than 350 Lawrence kindergartners to see whether they could predict which studedianenielsen100nts might have future reading difficulties. They also provided reading interventions focused on both aspects of learning to read words (phonics and letter identification) and comprehension (vocabulary and story understanding) with a group of students that showed some difficulties with language and reading-related assessments in kindergarten.
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Reposted from Daily Kos Labor by Lorikeet
Alliance charter school teacher Xochil Johansen:
One of the big appeals of charter schools, for the hedge funders and politicians who support them, is that they're a way to break unions. But as charter schools become more entrenched, and their teachers see the problems that come with high turnover, low wages, and lack of due process protections, they're starting to unionize. Which was definitely not the plan of the charter industry. Earlier this month, teachers at the largest Los Angeles charter chain, Alliance, launched an organizing drive, because:
"We believe that when teachers have a respected voice in policymaking it leads to school sustainability and teacher retention," said Elana Goldbaum, who teaches history at Gertz-Ressler High School, a member of the Alliance group. "We have a lot of talent and we want to see that stay. We want to see our teachers be a part of the decision-making and we want to advocate for our students and ourselves."
The letter teachers sent to Alliance management specifically asked for "a fair and neutral process," i.e. no union-busting, and Alliance—the board of which includes a hedge fund billionaire (among other financial industry types), a former mayor of Los Angeles, and a judge—seemed to say yes:
In a statement, leaders of the 11,000-student charter group said that they would not stop the teachers from pursuing union affiliation.

"We acknowledge the rights of our teachers to undertake this effort. We also recognize that our teachers are under no obligation to participate," said the statement from President and Chief Executive Judy Burton and incoming President and Chief Executive Dan Katzir.

About that. Alliance has now launched an anti-union website as part of a broader effort to keep teachers from joining together to get collective bargaining and other union rights. Not exactly neutral, though I guess Alliance management isn't yet saying teachers don't have the right to unionize, they're just saying they really don't think teachers should exercise that right. Since Alliance is publicly funded, these anti-union messages are being paid for with public money; teachers are enlisting community support in the request for true neutrality.

The charter industry has reason to be frightened. It's an industry built on overworking and underpaying teachers, accepting the high turnover that comes with that (at a detriment to students), and denying teachers a voice in what goes on in the classroom. As one Alliance teacher says, in a video you can see below the fold, "I would like to organize a union because I believe that teachers should have a say in the curriculum and instruction that's being provided to their students." That shouldn't be such a big ask, but apparently it is.

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