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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 02:11 PM PDT

Teachers' Lounge: Bullies

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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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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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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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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Sat Apr 04, 2015 at 11:37 AM PDT

Teachers' Lounge: Death

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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Sat Mar 21, 2015 at 01:33 PM PDT

Teachers' Lounge: Dracula

by annetteboardman

Several weeks ago, I wrote about my interdisciplinary class reading And the Band Played On, and the resulting discussion.  The second book I have assigned this semester is the 1897 novel Dracula.  We wanted to have a book that was made into at least two different video productions. The students in the senior class (the one paired with my introductory class) are starting tomorrow running Dracula films on Sunday afternoons, and leading an associated discussion; those in my class are to attend at least two of the screenings, but I would not be surprised if many went to more than the minimum.  After all, Dracula is a pretty good read and they have had a lot of interesting things to say in the discussion.

Follow me below the winding Transylvanian mountain road for more.

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Tue Mar 03, 2015 at 07:00 PM PST

Sweet Briar College

by annetteboardman

I am the product of a women's college.  It was an accident, essentially.  I wanted to study a major, archaeology, that was really only available at one university, so that was where I went.  It was small, which made me happy, smaller than my high school.  And I got to know pretty much everyone in my class, and probably more than anything else I learned there, I learned to be a friend with other women.  All my closest friends in high school were guys, but women were something new, and I thrived in that environment.  

I am who I am because of the place I went to college, where I developed into a relatively confident scholar, if perhaps never getting rid of a deep insecurity in my social life.  But I like what I became and I owe it to my undergraduate experience.  

That is why the news today has hit me so hard.  Sweet Briar College, a small liberal arts women's college in rural Virginia is closing.

Follow me below the fold for more.

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I just turned in preliminary grades this past week -- advisory marks that are provided to the students after four weeks.  It is too early to know what the final mark will be for any certainty, but I do know what the habits are of highly unsuccessful students, and I have seen those play out clearly already.  Some are really not connected to class performance, but are an indication of how seriously the students are taking the class.  Sadly, I do tend to take this very seriously, and I really would like my students to do so as well.

You can take this as a rather cranky prof heading into midterm or a wise older aunt giving you some advice.  If you are a student (or have one heading to school or university soon), you might want to keep these in mind when you or yours walk into my class.  If you are a teacher, I am sure you have your own ideas and experiences.  Please share!  (let me know I am not alone)

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Sun Feb 15, 2015 at 09:53 AM PST

No frigate like a book

by annetteboardman

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul –

Emily Dickinson

My father writes emails on a regular basis, about whatever comes into his mind.  Yesterday's email was a musing on finding role models, particularly important when you don't have a family that provides them.  He was born in Boston, to a lower-class family at the beginning of the Great Depression.

I asked for his permission to post his writing, and he gave it.  You will enjoy what he has to say, below the fold.

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I have a pile of papers to grade this weekend.  A virtual pile, to be specific, but the fact that these are on my computer does not make them any less daunting.  I had them last weekend, too, but I was working on a different set to hand back, one that had come in a day previously.  This weekend is definitely the time I have to plough through 42 shorts papers, or 3 pages or so each.  So what am I doing?  Making bread, cooking dinner for a couple of friends, and cleaning my house.  And writing for Daily Kos.  But I will work to get maybe 10 of the papers done today, maybe 20 tomorrow, then the next 12 over the next few days; current goal is Wednesday, but Monday to return exams to the same class.  

In other words, I know from procrastination (I do need to walk on the treadmill some thing afternoon too). I am not the best at concentrating.  But I can do things on time, and I know that when there is a deadline you do have to meet it.  In my world, a grant application cannot come in late, a letter of recommendation has to come in on time.  

That is why I stick to deadlines in my classes.  But I hate it.  Sometimes the world does work inflexibly, and other times dates are kinda timey-wimey.  

Come with me below the twisted path of orange logic for more.

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We all have those teachers and professors who have made phenomenal impacts on our lives, for good and bad, for personal and/or academic reasons.  Teachers can introduce us to new and exciting ideas or convince us to abandon a previously-loved field of investigation, build or cut down self-confidence and self-worth, and lead us to develop ethics and attitudes, for good or ill, that will last for the rest of our lives.  You know the ones I am talking about.  The good ones I know by name; the bad ones only by year and subject.  There was the Native American History teacher in 11th grade who had us fill out pre-made worksheets for a full quarter.  I remember none of that.  In contrast, Mrs. Carttar in sixth grade was probably the best teacher I had.  She was a very classic 1960s educator, dealing with what at the time was really unusual material -- Africa (I still remember loving the peanut chicken stew we ate for lunch one day, and with that class I didn't mind worksheets!), about what it was like to experience prejudice and shunning ("Prejudice Day" was a valuable experience for those on both sides of the class -- the experience was repeated with a flipping of the two halves of the class), and the friends I made there are still my closest friends from high school (with Todd I went to the first Star Trek convention in Kansas City -- we rode in on the Greyhound and my Dad picked us up and brought us home, on a weekday, no less!).  Mrs. Fambrough introduced me to Shakespeare, although I had read and seen the plays before.  In college there were Mrs. Ridgway, Ms. Mellink, Mrs. Crawford, and Mrs. Pinney, and of course, Mr. Ellis, who was my advisor when I officially declared my major.  All were excellent teachers and more importantly, they were mentors.  

Mentoring is a lifelong thing, if you do it right. Teaching and modeling are never over.  I saw Mrs. Ridgway at my 30th college reunion this past summer.  I saw her eyes dip to my nametag, and then she knew exactly what I had done, both during my time there and after I graduated.  She remembered that I had written a humour column for my college newspaper, based on the commentary of my (imaginary) cat who was a predecessor in tone of Grumpy Cat.  I heard from a co-major from the men's college down the road how she had come to his graduation, held the day after ours, and she was one of the few faculty from ours to attend theirs.  It had meant a lot to him then, and still now.  Those are the things that stick, and she still is amazing to me.  I can only hope to mean as much to my students thirty years on.

That is what it means to me to be a good teacher, to not only manage to develop ideas and knowledge that will stick with someone in the immediate semester, but to engender attitudes and abilities that will still be around in thirty to forty years.  I have not been teaching that long, but I am in my 23rd year here, and I have seen my students grown into exciting professionals, in a variety of fields.  and I hope to mean to them in the future what my school and college teachers mean to me.  

Come below the whirly-gig of glory for more.

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