Saturday, August 22, 2009

Student Woes

I'm not talking here about the woes of being a student, as classes for me haven't started yet this semester. No, I am instead referring to the woes of having to deal with students. Learning Curves has some funny/disastrous stories about dealing with students who either (1) don't know the rules, or (2) think the rules don't apply to them. Throw in a little (3) professors/advisers who tell the students that the rules don't apply to them, or that the prof. knows how to get around the rules, and you've got a whole lot of crazy going on.

I have spent the past two weeks trying to sort out student registrations. Due to a whole lot of SNAFUs, we have had to cancel and re-create several sections of courses. Naturally, this has throw every student into a freak-out tizzy. Which is compounded by the fact that so many of them seem to have no idea how to check their own freakin' schedule. Which, I do not get. This is supposed to be the millenial generation (with a few older students, but most of them are 35 or younger) that grew up with a computer attached to their forehead. How can they not figure this out on their own?

See, I have limited sympathy because I, too, am a student at this university. I figured it all out, all by myself. I did not call my program's manager to ask what classes I was registered for (check your schedule online!), or where the classes would be meeting (check your schedule online!), or what my financial aid is (check your schedule online! and then click the very next tab that says "financial aid"!). I feel like expecting students to be able to figure these things out is a very reasonable expectation. And yet, I have fielded uncountable calls and emails from helpless students wanting to know where to park--not just how to get a parking pass (you buy it online! I sent out this info TWICE this summer!), but WHERE to park. As in, "Which parking lot is closest to my classes?"

Oh my freakin' god. Are you seriously, SERIOUSLY, calling me to ask which parking lot to use? Did your brain up and die? Because, if it did, you are going to find grad school rather difficult.

Oh yes. GRAD SCHOOL. I work with graduate students. Somehow compounds the whole thing, doesn't it?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Plight of International Students

Thus Spake Zuska has an interesting post on back-to-school memories, her example particularly related to the difficulties that international and non-English speaking students face.
When I went to Germany as a postdoc I spoke essentially no German at all. (Guten Tag! Ein Bier, bitte? Wo ist die Toilette?) I was welcomed by all my colleagues, helped to find an apartment, shown where and how to shop for groceries, integrated into the social life of my colleagues, assisted in learning my way around the research site, and treated with kindness at every turn. People excused my pathetic German, and begged me to let them practice their English with me. Do you think the average grad student or post doc from India or China has exactly this sort of experience here in the U.S.?

What a difference it makes when you speak the dominant language, eh?

Although my own experience living and teaching abroad was not *quite* so welcoming [ah, the French!], I imagine that it was far and away easier to be an American abroad than it is to be pretty much anyone living in America who looks or talks different. What do you think?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Who knew that corporeal punishment still went on? Evidently it does, and "disabled" kids (their usage) are getting the brunt of it.

From the ACLU & Human Rights Watch press release:

Corporal punishment, legal in 20 states, typically takes the form of "paddling," during which an administrator or teacher hits a child repeatedly on the buttocks with a long wooden board. ACLU and Human Rights Watch interviews found that students with disabilities also suffered many other forms of corporal punishment, including beatings, spanking, slapping, pinching, being dragged across the room, and being thrown to the floor.

I am speechless to think that this occurs anywhere in America, with any student. Just speechless.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Keep your government hands off of MY Medicare!

From PortlyDyke at Shakesville:

But I am truly sick of hearing about how we don't need health-care reform from any and all of the following people and groups of people:
  1. Insurance Companies and Their Paid Representatives, including "Grass-roots" Organizations That Are Funded by Insurance Lobbyists and PR Firms
  2. Congressional members and political figures who are covered by one of the best health benefit plans in the country (or their spouses, who often remain covered even after divorce).
  3. Any of the more than 96 million people who are covered by a public health plan such as Medicare or Medicaid, or the nearly 8 million people covered by VA health care.
  4. Anyone who receives health care coverage from their employer, but who has no idea what that would cost them out of pocket if they for paid that coverage privately.
  5. Dick. Fucking. Armey. -- who is currently suing the government to try to get out of medicare without losing his Social Security -- because he wants to keep the benefits he had as a member of Congress.
Will somebody please get some End-Of-Life counseling for the G.O.P. already!?!?!?!

I think I'm laughing so hard I'm crying. Or just crying. THANK YOU for someone out there calling out the hypocrisy of all the over-insured wanting to deny insurance to everyone else. I just don't get it and my brain. just. might. EXPLODE! if I have to listen to one more of my newly republican friends [which, really. WTF. we aren't even in our 40s. we shouldn't be becoming GOP clones *quite* yet.] talk about "socialized medicine" and how it means we are becoming like Sweden and soon will pay over 50% of our income into taxes.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Me as a "Mad Men" Character

Thanks to Historiann, I just spent a really productive few minutes Mad Men-izing myself. What fun. Now, if I could only find a fun polka-dot dress like this one in *real* life, I'd be all set to channel my inner 50s...academic? Hmm.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Think vs. Do

Dr. Jekyll & Mrs. Hyde had an interesting post on finding grad school buddies to work with:

If you are headed for or starting graduate school, I'd encourage you to contemplate which of these--thinking or doing--you consider your strength. I certainly knew heading in to grad school that I loved scientific concepts, but struggled with benchwork. If you know which half you find easier, recognize how much you need practice with the other half, and find someone to help you with it. Perhaps you have a fellow labmate who has the skills you lack, or a friend in a neighbor lab. This person's approach to problems may seem totally foreign to you, but that's exactly why you need them.
I've head advice along these lines before; finding a writing group being a more field-appropriate idea, rather than a lab partner, but the gist behind it is the same--that doc students need both the support and the idea-germination that a good group of classmate-colleagues can provide. Now, how to find that group? Or, how to find time to find that group?

Scary People Out There

Via Historiann...

Scientist and blogger Isis posted recently on a threat she received via email that involved her small daughter. If you needed any more convincing that speaking publicly in any forum, much less a forum where you can't see your audience, is something to be wary reminds me of that quote from Harry Potter along the lines of "Don't trust anything that can think for itself if you can't see where it keeps its brain." I think the blog-equivalent might be, Don't trust an audience you can't see. Sad, isn't it?


In happier news, I am thrilled--ecstatic even--to announce that I am going to be a GRA this year! After applying back in June along with probably every other returning PhD student for what, in this budget times, are probably dwindling GRA spots, I was sure that I wouldn't be selected. But then, I got an interview. With faculty members in the program that I would most like to work with, in one of my future ideal worlds. [Yes, I have multiple future ideal worlds.] They said they'd take a week to decide...but I heard from them yesterday, and was offered the spot! Actually, one of two spots, with an awesome classmate getting the other spot. We'll be doing all sorts of cool stuff around urban education, student agency, all with that lovely social justice-activism bent that is my personal interest. It could not be a better fit, research-interests-wise. AND I will be getting both more money and more free tuition than anticipated. I'm all agog with excitement!