So it’s been a year now since U of C said “don’t come to campus!” and I’ve been working from home.
I freaking hate it.
I’m so sick of always being in the same place. Of course I get to go out and walk the river path and run the river path and all that stuff. But I always come back to the same place. There is no variety and it’s really getting to me.
I miss my office. I miss having my own space. I don’t have my own space at home. My computer is set up on the dining room table. I miss having that physical separation between “this is where I work” and “this is where I live.” And I really miss teaching in person.
What’s worse is that I still don’t know when we’ll be able to go back. The university is supposed to announce the plans for fall semester sometime in April. I can’t imagine us going all the way back to “live” classes, especially for the larger classes with 200+ students, but who knows.
The thing is, though, that as much as I hate working from home, I’d rather be stuck with that in the fall than return before we can be sure that most people (profs, staff, students) are fully vaccinated. I remember those Science Theater hallways – SO MANY PEOPLE crowded in there while classes change. I would not want to be in a classroom of 200 students, let alone in a crowded hallway with hundreds more.
But Canada’s going with the stupid (in my opinion) vaccine plan of getting everyone vaccinated with their first shot by June and then waiting FOUR FREAKING MONTHS until the lowest risk group (which I’m sure I’m in) is supposed to get their second shot. They’re banking on it being okay to wait that long between doses which (again in my opinion) is super risky.
It also means that the lowest risk group won’t be fully vaccinated before the fall semester starts. And maybe I’m being overly worried, but I really don’t want to be around that many people before I get my second shot (and before most of those people get their second shot as well).
It’s just…ugh. So frustrating.
We’ve now been teaching online for a year at U of C.
And I miss teaching in person so much. I miss being able to gauge how my students are feeling about the material. I miss seeing them be actually engaged in the material (to varying degrees) rather than just hoping they’re paying attention while their webcams are off. I miss getting that feedback, because that feedback really helps me adjust how I’m teaching to best suit the students. Am I going too fast? Too slow? Am I not explaining something enough? Am I explaining something too much?
I HAVE NO IDEA AND I HATE IT LSJFLASFJLASFEWLAFHASLDFHF
I just want to do my job the way it’s intended to be done.
So this nightmare of a semester is finally over.
Teaching online is…not enjoyable. I miss actually getting to see and interact with my students. I feel so disconnected from them and I feel like I’ve been absolute crap at my job this semester, even though I’m really trying to do the best I can given the garbage circumstances.
It’s so demotivating, and now is not the time to become demotivated. It’s also SUPER FREAKING FRUSTRATING that the first “real” (non-spring/summer) semester of my tenure-track position has been marred by online nonsense, and it’s even more SUPER FREAKING FRUSTRATING that my first actual course coordinating assignment (next semester’s STAT 213) will be during an online semester rather than a “normal” one. I feel like no matter what I do, I won’t get to show my true ability to coordinate effectively, especially since everyone is new to online teaching and there are so many things that can go wrong.
But the main thing? I miss my students. I miss actually teaching them in person and feeling like I’m making a difference in their learning. I’m definitely not getting that vibe this semester and it’s destroying my soul.
So very demotivating.
And just for clarification, I’m not blaming the U of C for any of this. They (at least the Math/Stats Department) did the smart thing by making all the courses online this semester and next, especially with how Alberta’s crashing and burning COVID-wise right now. It just…sucks.
AAAAAAAAAAA SUMMER CLASSES START TODAY AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
This will be my first full semester online. It will also be the first time I’ve taught two classes in a short semester since I taught STAT 213 and STAT 217 a few springs ago.
Hopefully it will all go okay. My two classes are back-to-back, though, which means I’ll be talking for four hours straight on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays…not sure how my voice is going to handle that. I guess we’ll see.
SHORT BLOG SORRY BYE
We can technically contact our supervisors if we “can’t or don’t” want to work from home, but I don’t want to be that guy who goes against the “let’s get this under control” rules just for the sake of convenience.
So I guess tomorrow I’ll haul all my nonsense home and hope that I’ll be able to concentrate well enough here to actually work.
(I might also try running outside tomorrow, since we’re finally getting a day where the weather is no longer in Super Winter mode.)
I submit to you some very creepy photos of the University of Calgary without students.
It’s…it’s weird in here.
So MATH 249, SCIE 301, and STAT 323 have now been frantically converted to online format!
Classes have been cancelled today, too, because it sounds like they realized that asking instructors to completely readjust their courses with less than 48 hours’ notice was a little rough.
Which is good for me, since it’ll put my video lecture recordings two days ahead of when they need to be posted rather than just one. Buffers are good.
BLAH SORRY too busy to blog.
(Also, I will never tire of referring to the internet as a series of tubes. Never.)
OH MY GOD YOU GUYS.
OH MY GOD.
Let me tell you about my day today.
So as I’m sure you’re all aware (if you read my blog, at least), I am currently in a limited-term contract at the U of C, which I just got last August after being a sessional (semester-by-semester) instructor since 2016. This limited-term contract is good through this coming August (2020).
I’m sure you’re also all aware that my dream is to have this job as my career for the rest of my life, so I’ve been really trying to let the higher-ups know that I would basically do anything to keep teaching here.
Anyway, Alberta just made some huge cuts to education, which will affect the U of C in some sort of negative way. We’re not sure how bad it will be yet as the University has not yet released its new budget, but we know it will be a cut from what we’ve got going on so far.
So you can imagine that when our department head emailed me and said he wanted to talk to me today, I was immediately like “oh fuck, here we go, he’s going to tell me they can’t renew/extend my limited-term contract after August and he’s just giving me a heads up.”
That’s not what happened.
Want to know what happened instead?
He said that they’re going to be converting my limited-term position into a tenure-track position.
Do you know what that means? That means that I’ll be able to go up for a tenure review and possibly become a tenured professor. Tenure is basically the supreme job security level.
Tenure is permanence.
And they feel like I’ve earned the right to apply for it.
W H A T .
I don’t think I’ve completely wrapped my head around this yet. This is a huge step towards what I’ve been wanting ever since I started teaching back in 2012. This is the university basically saying “we like you and need you and have confidence in your abilities.”
This is a huge, huge deal to me.
I’m so freaking excited.
So on my office door, my name is now on one of those wooden thingies instead of just a piece of paper. Does that mean I’m finally cool?
So I’m sure you’re all curious as to what I’m teaching next semester, right?
Edit: MATH 249
That SCIE 301 class is not even in the Math/Stats Department, so that’ll be interesting (that’s the one I was in the meeting for last week).
I hope the fact that I can teach math, stats, AND outside the department increases my usefulness around here. I fear for my future, even though I’m good up through next August.
So this is my first semester teaching as an actual factual instructor rather than a sessional instructor.
This is also my first semester teaching Calc I (MATH 265) instead of “Introductory Calculus” (MATH 249), though it sounds like the two classes are very similar.
AAAAAAAAA I FINALLY HAVE MY OWN OFFICE
LOOK LOOK LOOK
[Word doesn’t recognize the word “yo?” What in the actual hell.]
So I found a couple things of interest with respect to teaching that I’d like to post here, both for my own reference later and for anyone else who might be interested.
The first is an article by Dr. Evan Peck, an assistant professor of computer science at Bucknell University. It’s basically a document detailing some things that he’d like his students to know about him as a professor. I really like this idea; it allows the student to see a more personal or “human” side of a prof while also emphasizing important aspects of the teaching process, like the benefit of office hours or letting students know that it’s okay if they’re not immediately experts in the subject being taught.
The other is an article from the American Mathematical Society that talks about why we teach, methods of instruction, and how giving instruction more life and personality (as opposed to being super professional and button-down) can really engage students more and increase enthusiasm for the topic being taught (specifically math in this case).
Super interesting. Give them a read!
I’ve been super vague on this blog regarding this topic ‘cause I didn’t know what the outcome would be and didn’t want to jinx it, but here we go.
Back in June, there was a job posting for an instructor position in the math/stats department here at U of C. I was encouraged to apply for it, which I readily did. Last week I had my interview (it was just myself and some other dude who got to that point).
And today? I got the news that the job is mine!
Starting September 1st, I will be a limited-term instructor with a guaranteed one year contract. That might not sound like much, but that’s a big step in the right direction. I currently am a sessional instructor, which means that I’ve just been hired on a semester-by-semester basis. Zero job security, lots of panic near the ends of semesters, and way too much insecurity for a control freak like myself.
But now? I’m guaranteed work through next August. I have a set amount of classes to teach per semester (three in the fall, three in the winter, one in either the spring or summer). I get a semester off (either spring or summer, whichever one I’m not teaching). I’m getting paid a lot more. I get benefits and a pension.
But most importantly, I am one step closer in making this job a permanent, long term thing. I am one step closer to being able to say that I get to work my dream job for the rest of my working life. And I can finally (at least until next July or so, haha) stop spending so much of my energy on freaking out about job security and re-direct it towards teaching.
Because that’s what I love. That’s what I want.
Have I mentioned lately that I’m burnt out and just want to go home?
I’m burnt out and just want to go home.
Annnnnnnd SPRING 2019 MATH 249 has ended!
They took their final exam today. It was a three-hour long exam, and honestly, I’d rather be writing the exam than standing around like a turd for three hours waiting for everyone to finish.
Anyway, this class was a lot more enjoyable to teach the second time around, probably because I wasn’t frantically trying to make all the notes/labs/exams/etc. as the course progressed.
So this semester is finally over.
It’s been a long one.
I mean yeah, I guess there’s still finals, but that’s a minute detail at this point.
Successfully teaching that calculus course meant a lot to me. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do it at the start of the year, but I ended up doing it.
I hope I did Leibniz proud. I know that sounds like a really weird thing to say, but it means a lot to me, okay? It just…it just does.
Man, I am ready for this semester to be over.
Making brand new sets of notes* as the semester goes is a lot of work. The last time I was making brand new notes without any prior material of my own was when I first taught STAT 217 in Winter 2017; the last time I was making brand new notes for a subject I’d never even taught before was when I first started working at UI in 2012.
So it’s been a while.
And I forgot how much freaking work it was.
*And lab material, and additional practice problems, and practice midterm keys, and midterms, and a final.
Is the semester over yet?