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Thoughts from Teaching

Thursday: October 12, 2017

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This post is about what I learned through my short 5-year career teaching anthropology at the university level. Take it or leave it. I regret none of the hard work and built relationships, though for now, in no way am I upset to be out of it, either! These are in no particular order:

Distraction

Students have such a disadvantage today than they did even when I was a non-traditional student only about a decade ago. The Chronicle of Higher Education wrote this nice summary about it, and if you don’t have access, you can google the title and find it published elsewhere. Essentially, not only does one bad apple ruin the bunch (a student using an electronic device distracts those around him/her), but students today are so enveloped in a digital world that their brain is chemically addicted to the pleasure responses it gives when a new message pops up. That excitement, which becomes literally addictive, becomes intrusive thoughts. Remember when people laughed at the idea one could be addicted to video games like World of Warcraft (W.o.W.aholics)? Fast forward to today, and it’s not so funny. Even when students are “good” and keep their phones out of sight, the brain will sometimes spontaneously wonder if anything new is happening in the world outside the classroom. This is true for many people, of course, not just students. I know sometimes the news gets me. Woe the day news broadcasts became 24/7 with minute by minute updates. Research shows people can’t help it. In fact, I had a girl during an exam decide to text someone mid-test. Who does that?! I gave her a zero. She was sincerely flabbergasted – “it was just a text! it had nothing to do with the test!” I think she may have even gotten sick about it all. I felt evil, but explained that I had no idea if she asked for help on the exam or not and she understood. My rules were very clear!

So what to do? Until I had found that article, I alternated between being apathetic (it’s their loss, not mine!) and being a technology police officer (if they are caught, they are considered absent for that day – and attendance was weighted enough to where that mattered). I couldn’t decide which was best – I know it pissed me off to see students messing around on phones or laptops, but at the same time, this is our society and I wanted to find a way to make it all groove together.

But then I read the article, and it was able to put into words what was niggling at my brain. Henceforth, I maintained the Absolutely No Technology rule. I was happier. Students were less likely to embarrass themselves by having a video play sound loudly from one of those surprise obnoxious commercials, or giggle out loud at something their friend said. I do feel that all students benefitted from it – “good” students were not distracted, and those who would have been playing around on the internet were actually forced to focus more often in class. Yet, I hated calling people out, and felt really persnickety about using the attendance rule. That said, if I kept teaching, I would definitely maintain it. Shrug.

Entitlement

At first, I did not want to weigh in on the “millennial” discussions because every new generation looks poor in the eyes of the previous ones, is it not true? But there is a stark reality between me and my kindred and those I was teaching. In some circles, I am considered by birth year to be a millennial, and I don’t doubt that I do share some traits with them, but what I’ve decided is that sorry, but no. I align with the concept of a between generation – I am also like Gen Xers in important ways. Thus, a goofy term Xennial probably fits me personally best – and I believe “generations” in a meaningful sense will become shorter and shorter because of how quickly our culture is changing with globalization and technology. But that’s not what this is about – this is about the annoying side of my students which I blame largely on their generational culture. Could it be parenting? Could it be changes in the larger society? Could it be different kinds of war? Could it be 24/7 access to information and entertainment in your pocket? The everyone-gets-a-blue-ribbon mentality? Sure, yes, all combined, and more.

I don’t know the why, I just know the reality: too many of my students were entitled. They would sit through class sleeping or texting (if they came at all), participate none, do subpar work on assignments, barely pass tests, and then have the nerve to make an office appointment and not even ask for but to demand an A. I even had a mother write a note about it! How I never looked them squarely in the eyes and simply said WTF, I don’t know. I asked my older colleagues (who had me as a student!) if I am only now seeing the dark side of teaching or if they feel like things have changed. Resoundingly, student attitudes have changed. I saw very little respect for professors coming from these students. Professors were treated as discourteously as I’ve seen some gas station attendants.

Disconnect

Sort of tied to that last thought, how are students suppose to respect professors when the academic system does not? I adjuncted for 3 years, getting paid less than minimum wage when all things were calculated, and making well below the poverty line year after year for my efforts. One semester, my entire course load was cancelled the day before classes started. This is not a sustainable living. As a visiting lecturer for two years, I felt compensated. I felt finally welcomed into the academic setting, welcomed to meetings and committees, a part of the whole rather than the used and abused echelon. I felt like my ideas for the program in general would be heard and that I was being paid to implement them finally instead of just dream about them. And then quick as a whistle, the institute dropped a tenure-track anthropologist, and then dropped the visiting line, leaving only one stable adjunct (with a PhD!) and another adjunct that many took issue with. They replaced the tenure line and the visiting line with two contingent fellowship lines. My predecessor, who retired just before I was hired, built a “four field” program that was really mostly physical, with almost equal cultural, and a tiny bit archaeological, with a single linguistic course tossed in. When I came into the mix, we had several students interested in archaeology so I planned to bump that up a bit once I got the basic courses under way. Today, the institution offers a four year bachelor degree in anthropology with zero full-time faculty strictly devoted to the students’ wellfare, with zero archaeological instructors and zero physical instructors. But you’ve heard this before in a previous post.

So additionally, now that I had access to faculty meetings, I can say the institution of academia perplexes me. They often sounded self-congratulatory about how amazing the teachers are with their unique students (the students, like me when I was one, often have major real-life requirements that I don’t think many professors who went from highschool to bachelor to master to PhD without needing a real job or having real family issues to deal with could ever possibly hope to understand; Ivory Tower, indeed!). It would be like a doctor taking all the credit for delivering a baby when the mother is the one who did all the work! The zenith of my disappointment with a large majority of the faculty was at a meeting when they discovered, lo, that graduates six years later were still making less than 40k a year. The majority in the room sounded dumbstruck! And here I was, in a contingent position after just adjuncting for them for two years barely making a dime, with more than a bachelor’s degree. What did they expect? How clueless and far removed are they from the real world? Plus, 35k a year (I think that was the number given) is not a death sentence. That’s a pretty good gig for most people in my part of the world who don’t have major problems medically or likewise.

There was also big noise about convincing (coercing, I call it) students to graduate in four years (they made 4 classes cost the same as 5, a flat rate). The school gets money from the larger institution based on this four-year rate. Nevermind that being a non-traditional student (like many there were), and/or having real life responsibilities (like paying medical bills for themselves or their close loved ones, yes even at the ripe old age of 17) makes it near impossible to take 5 classes a semester. I mean, heck, a lot of these students could never do five classes simply because they can’t afford a car so they are stuck on someone else’s time and their homelife is not conducive to studying. If the university actually cared about the students instead of pretending they did at every meeting, then I think there would be a better discussion to the bigger budget system than trying to spin it like it is in the students’ best interest to develop panic disorders or drop out if they can’t handle the school load.

Input = Output

Most of my teachers in college and in my master’s program complimented me about how “good” of a student I was. Surely, I was no better than the majority. I barely studied, though I did do my homework (usually). I wrote all papers the night before (or morning of, as the case may be). I did pay attention, and attend, class. Took notes, even – but never looked at them again. I’d call this all midlevel participation, wouldn’t you?

But then I became a teacher and that very first semester, when I was a fish out of water at all the wild things I was experiencing, I knew I really was a “good” student. And it wasn’t my actions that made me one, it was my values. A) I wanted to do well and B) I did not want to disappoint my teacher, even if I disliked them. But this, too, was not enough to be a “good” student.

After reading Teaching Unprepared Students, I realized the other key factor: learning styles. My learning style was being freely given to me in the class format itself. According to VARK, I am multi-modal, which means I learn from all kinds of styles, but my best chance is with auditory and reading. Well, hello! Attend a lecture and read the homework! But for some students, these methods are almost meaningless. In all my classes, I made them take the VARK questionnaire on day one, and then reminded them of their responses and suggestions if they were struggling later in class. They began to see they aren’t objectively “bad” students – they just learn differently than “naturally good” ones. Their self-esteemed improved, and they were able to be successful in classes beyond our anthropology ones. Bingo!

Mentoring

Boy calls me an “empath” because I feel deeply the emotions of others (even if it is a bug, and I am making it up in my head). This was harmful in the beginning of my career because it overwhelmed me. No one told me students would cry in my office – and not about bad grades but about dying family members, utter depression, facing homelessness, or the like. I was a teacher, not a psychiatrist! As empathic as I am, all their issues weighed heavily on me. I doubt students realized it, and for many I was one of the few who “got” it. These were real people, regardless of our teacher-student relationship. I couldn’t be cold and cut them off. I couldn’t push them out of my office because I was too busy. I couldn’t end office hours because I had “more important” things to do. That’s what some faculty did, but I did the opposite. I encouraged students to meet with me – one semester I had over 50 meetings! (That was when I was an adjunct not even being paid for my time!!)

It did get in the way a lot, but I know for certain, some students were better off by having my ear. Or, by the “wisdom” I could impart about how to do school or whatever. I don’t think a teacher is suppose to be so single-minded to only deliver information. I think a teacher is meant to mentor a person into a better person; the education part is the given, while the other values and skills are part and parcel. You cannot teach someone the specifics of a field without their first having a foundation to stand on. And if their parents or highschool or other college professors have let them down, then, yes, I think teachers should pick up the slack. Remember those faculty meetings that rubbed me the wrong way? There is a big divide with that thought. Most professors appeared to feel that if a student couldn’t cut it because they had a poor educational background, then the student should drop out. I’m sorry, but where will that student get the foundation then to get educated? You want them to stay ignorant, with low self-esteem, making bad decisions their whole life because they weren’t born with privilege? Uhm, no. What’s that phrase? It’s misquoted terribly these days, but “be the change you want to see in the world.” Teachers, in my humble opinion, are mentors first. Get rid of the ego.

I think that is why, semester after semester, I would have more than one praise for being the “favorite” or “best” or “most compassionate” teacher on campus. And I never made my classes easy. Some parts were easy, some classes were by default easier than others, but I always attempted to challenge even the brightest in the class. So when I read “best” next to “hardest” from the same anonymous individuals, year after year, I knew I succeeded.

And that mentoring part of teaching is what I miss most. The students lost a great teacher when my contract was not extended, and universities are losing great teachers left and right as they choose to hire contingent faculty rather than open lines with benefits. Contingent faculty cannot sustainably remain awesome. They do not get paid or respected enough to warrant their hard work year after year. Contingency in academia is a big mistake. Hopefully, the pendulum will swing the other way soon and students will actually get what they pay for: an education that makes them better people in society guided by their mentors. This is not all on the universities; this is a societal problem. We need to value education so much more than as “a piece of paper”. Good luck to you all.

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Grant: Teaching Online

Wednesday: March 25, 2015

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I was contacted by our Center for Innovation and Scholarship in Teaching department at one of the universities I teach at, letting me know that they had a grant with my name on it if I would be interested in taking a course about how to teach online. Duh – of course!

I am not sure how I was nominated for the grant, or if everyone gets one as they take the course, but I am very excited and it couldn’t come at a better time with my current financial woes.

The class starts Monday, but I have already poked around. See, although I am teaching online already, this program interests me very much – beyond the financial carrot:

  • While I have taken an online course as a student, that was many, many years ago. I’ve forgotten what worked and didn’t for me as a student, and technology has changed dramatically since then. What do online courses even look like today? This course will teach me how to design an online class.
  • (What does teaching itself look like? This course might show me how not to feel like such a fraud! Oh, I still giggle at the cosmic joke that life has played on me!)
  • My university is transitioning to a new Learning Management System, and I haven’t had the motivation to look into it yet. I had decided that I would do it when it was essentially forced on me – but approaching it early and with training is a far better idea! This course will teach me how to use the new LMS.

By the way – that new LMS, Canvas? Golden in comparison. Gosh, why didn’t I look into it sooner?!

From what I gather, my classes are already set up pretty much exactly how they need to be, which is great news for me. Of course there are things to tweak and new ideas that I will learn, but the bulk of the course design is solid. One of my fears when I initially accepted the grant contract was that it would be very taxing to start over from scratch – especially now that I have it running fairly smoothly. Thankfully, though, the most work will simply be taking those ideas to the new LMS. Phew!

I am also looking forward to taking this class with other people. I only know one other enrolled, and just barely. He is another physical anthropologist, in a Lectureship position so he gets to participate a little more than I do in the department. Though I seem to have more teaching experience than him (at least when he was first hired), I am interested to see his ideas about teaching anthropology, and seeing the other “students”‘ comments on what works or doesn’t.

I have plenty of questions that I hope get addressed. How do you direct students to participate *meaningfully* in discussions? How do you objectively grade discussions? How do you handle the time-sap that internet communication brings? How to you keep the class fun and personable when they only know you through a screen? How do you keep from getting bored? And so on.

At the end of the course, to accomplish my grant requirements, I will be peer reviewed for the fall semester. Once I fully pass, I will be certified to teach others how to teach anthropology online. This is cool, but at my small university, unlikely to mean much (I was given the disclaimer as such). Clearly, minimum enrollment would just never be satisfied!

Unrelated side note: I am trying to find small ways to still be “active” in the science community so I nominated myself to be Vice Chair for the Anthropology Section for the Indiana Academy of Science. I could not attend due to car woes, but the current Chair let me know that someone present claimed the position, but no one took on Chair itself. Did I want to be the next Chair? I hemmed and hawed and decided to decline instead – how rude is it to take a title if I cannot commit to the responsibilities? I may wish I had taken the role, but there are always future votes when I can actually be present.

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More adjuncting notes!

Thursday: February 26, 2015

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Keith has been keeping a record of his new adjuncting trials (you can begin here), and I’d like to comment about some of his issues from this week’s post because I ran into very similar issues (and still do, actually). Read his current post first, then check back here.

Keith says:

“I had the next lecture ready, and the one after that as well. While I thought it would be helpful to be so far ahead, as I got ready for the class, I was confused about what I would be presenting. The two lectures got jumbled up in my head!”

Ahhh, I know this dilemma well! I learned to use my jumbled comments as segues into the next lecture with a simple “and we will learn more about that next time” or “so when you read about that, now you know how it ties into today’s topic”. In fact, my mistakes in this matter have led me to intentionally create segues, which helps the students see the threads I am weaving and follow them with less difficulty.

Keith came up with a brilliant activity to teach about subsistence strategies and get the students engaged. It’s very clever and I may have to borrow the idea! But, in his first implementation, he ran into some issues immediately and had to formulate a quick Plan B.

“I arrived at the campus early Friday morning to get set up. The classroom opens up into a nice quad area with some hilly lawn. When I started planting frilly toothpicks there, I came to a frightening realization: the toothpicks are nearly invisible in the grass! While having the resources be hard to find to a degree would be fine, but complete camoflage would have made the activity too time-consuming. Also, they could be a hazard for anyone with thin footwear. With fifteen minutes before class started, I needed a new plan, fast.”

Been there, done that as well. [I ignore the picture he paints in my head – most of my classrooms don’t even have windows, let alone an opening straight into a quad!!] This is why I learned to not seek perfection-through-well-preparation because until you have the experience of how it works in front of a classroom, with the constraints of the physical environment and complications of a mass of individuals, you just cannot be fully prepared, ever. Try to do your best, absolutely, but there is no sense in turning class projects into mini-theses with hours and hours and hours of thought behind them. If it falls flat, then you wasted a lot of time!

Make the classroom your fishbowl. Play around with it between semesters. Mold it to not only what works, but what works for you. Keith may tweak his activity until it runs smoothly for him. And if I copied it directly, it still may be a disaster for me, and that’s okay! I’ve read so many articles about teaching anthropology and found so many cool activities that veterans use consistently, but if they do not work for what I want to focus on and my own personality and the type of students I have, then it doesn’t work, period. That does not at all suggest I am a failure. Move on.

He also mentions how discussions with students trigger his own thoughts on the subjects. This is a fun part of teaching, for sure. Sometimes, I will stop lecture right then and there if I am reminded of a video or news article or internet meme (I try to use current events often!). I’ve noticed that this sudden break in routine wakes students up (me too! me too!), allows them to see how easy it is to find information on the internet – or how to critique the information pushed on them, and shows them exactly how I found the information in case they want to show a friend (which will increase their own interest in the subject). It’s a win-win in my eyes. I pause the lecture, search for a half a minute or so, and then BAM! And if I cannot find it, I just say “oh well, I will have this by next class” or sometimes I tell them to check their messages because I will send them the link. Just depends on the issue.

And for that reason, I try not to have lecture/activity prepared to fill up the entire meeting time – I’ve found to have about ten minutes to spare works great – it either gets eaten up during lecture for questions, or before/after for review questions. And if not, well, students are rarely anything but grateful for getting out early.

Of course, now that I’ve taught the same courses a few times, I know where more questions are asked, and where I need to ask more questions to check their understanding before continuing. I can say now that it is much more relaxing and fun to teach Cultural Anthropology and Human Origins. I have a ton of notes I want to fix for the next time I teach Archaeology, and I dread the thought of creating a brand new class (while at the same time dreaming of doing something new and exciting!). For now, my positions at the universities where I teach allow me to be comfortable with these three classes so I needn’t really concern myself of trying something entirely new all over again. (But I have been collecting ideas, for sure!)

In fact, I’ve just been offered a grant to develop an online course (which I am already teaching). Yes please – not only because grants are wicked cool, but because it really would be helpful to get some direction! My reviews thus far have been way, way better than I had expected, but still – always room for improvement!

 

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Learning to Adjunct

Monday: February 2, 2015

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I have two friends who have embarked on the adjuncting train this semester and I have shared some insights with them that I have learned along the way so I thought I would catalog these here. Remember, I have only been adjuncting since 2012 and in no way do I have things figured out – veterans of teaching will be able to expand much more (or laugh at) but as an early adjunct, I think it worthy to explore what I’ve discovered on my own (and what works for me personally, as these will certainly not work for everyone!).

1. There is so much out there on how to teach the subject I am teaching. I need to read and research everything to make the perfect course.

  • STOP. Your students will not know the difference between the perfect course and whatever course you create. Your students will not know that although you picked article A to go over, article B made better points. Your students will never know the effort you already have put into creating the class.
  • Going down that hole saps all of your time and increases your anxiety as you begin juggling ever-dwindling time with ever-more-creative ideas. You must stop collecting data and just analyze what you already have! Just. Stop.
  • Perfect courses do not exist. You will always be tweaking a class to keep it current. You will find what worked awesome in one semester flopped in another because the student base changed a little. You’ll get better over time. You’ll get bored and want to try new ideas. You must always be dynamic and you can look for new ideas each semester rather than all of them right here and now. Just STOP.

2. I can’t tell if my students are bored or if the material is over their heads. 

  • I pause in lecture and ask recap questions of what we just discussed, or present a question that would be answered with the next segment of lecture.
  • If they know the answers, they are likely bored and I can speed things up, skip over material, or add more complex examples on the fly.
  • If they have no clue, I backtrack to make the questions easier to find out where I lost them. Then I work very slowly over examples – or if time is an issue, I re-present the information differently during the next class with a warning that they need to study that part of their homework before we meet again.

3. My lectures are too short.

  • I drink a lot of tea during lecture – this helps me pause between segments, and the slowed speed lets their minds catch up. It also helps me not answer my own questions too quickly if no one has a response.
  • See above – I ask questions a lot. Just random things I think of on the fly. Or I throw out an example that was in the news recently, to bring it back to why it is important they learn this stuff.
  • Sometimes I have them work with a partner on a “minute” paper – come up with their own example, or answer a tough question together, or something like that and then we go around the room.
  • Depending on how short – is it bad to let them out early every now and then? I think not.

4. My lectures are too long.

  • This was often the case when I first started. I felt the need to cover everything in the text book, provide my own examples, and have a lot of prepared questions ready. What I’ve realized? I am not the textbook’s author and there is no reason I need to cover every detail.
  • Go through the lectures and chop out things that really don’t matter for the big picture. They will read the details in the book. Sometimes I cut huge sections out because it doesn’t jive with what I want to talk about nor have time for. That’s ok. Sometimes I still hold them accountable for it; sometimes, I don’t.
  • I’ve given up on prepared examples and questions for the most part. These easily come to me on the fly because I look for current events almost daily in the news or through internet memes, or whatever I think students might come across.
  • I use the learning management software to send messages out a lot – here I can add small bits of information we did not cover in depth in class, to make up for lost time.

5. One student always answers all my questions.

  • I learn my students’ names within the first week usually. This will obviously not be easy if you are teaching large classes, but I find that a few classes of 30 or less is easy for me.
  • Instead of posing questions to the class, I will start asking individual students. Usually, that one student gets the hint and I can go back to asking the larger group, but if not, at least everyone can have a chance throughout the semester.

6. How do I learn my student’s names?

  • I take formal attendance (as in, I call out their names) the first few days of the semester.
  • During break, or after class, I will jot their names down in the order that they sat in rather than just having an alphabetical list.
  • On day three or so, I will make it a game with them and go around the room trying to figure out their names. They do not seem to mind (and actually seem happy to see me struggle), and I start as soon as people walk in, so that I am not wasting class time. (I usually am a few minutes early.)

7. How do I get my students to talk?

  • Learn their names – and have them learn each other’s names. Not in any formal way, but by hearing you use names all the time, they will pick up on it. Instead of sitting by a stranger, they are sitting by an acquaintance. That is a step away from friends – you are building a camaraderie through names! It becomes a safe place.
  • First, even if I can present questions to the whole class rather than individuals (see point #4), I still call on specific students every now and then.
  • I start by calling on ones that I think will not mind speaking up (these are easy to spot – they answer your questions from day one, or had a lot to say about themselves if you do a quick intro of each other on the first day of class).
  • Then, a few weeks in the semester, everyone is fair game. I’ve noticed that it seems to help prevent the same student always saying they don’t know. Seeing classmates who – to them, at least – appear confident but trying to answer anyway seems to give them support to try themselves.
  • I do not tell a student when s/he is flat out wrong (at least, I have not had to). Instead, I always say something like “well, not really – can someone explain why?” or “sort of, but let’s think of a better way to explain that”. Softening the blow keeps their mind open – they are not as embarrassed and dwelling on those emotions right after you respond. Instead, they are open to hearing the correct explanations.
  • I always ask for others to help out if a student takes too long in answering or says they do not know. This way, they have each other’s back (see the first bullet – create a safe place!).
  • I have seen a student give a crazy answer or ask a silly question, and the class snickers. This is no good! But, it is always easy to stop – quickly, deliberately, but non-chalantly, I will say something like “Now, don’t laugh – it is very easy to understand what so and so is saying when you think about looking at it from this way. Remember, all of us started out in different places, the goal is to end up in the same place when the semester is over.”
  • (That theme, of starting out with different levels of skill/knowledge is something I harp on throughout the semester – and I celebrate it. Each student brings something unique to the table, and I allow them to see that and feel good about it.)
  • I put them in changing groups a lot. By mid-semester, there are no more strangers in the class. They feel fine speaking out.
  • I seem approachable. I get told that to my face, and in my reviews. I am not exactly sure what I do any differently than their other teachers, except I know I do not feel like a teacher (cosmic joke, and all that). Personality probably just plays a huge role here. Try relating to them. I tell them stories about how I sucked at learning this particular segment, but what helped me was studying this particular way. I tell them information and then relate it to their immediate culture – twitter, Harry Potter, ironic hipster memes, whatever. I show them news articles or youtubes that just get me. I think I look like a real person instead of an authority figure. I dunno – I haven’t figured this one out yet.

8. I have students who are failing. Is it me???

  • I thought so, at first. It was hard giving Fs out in the beginning at the end of the semester. But honestly, you have to earn that F the same way you earn an A. It’s not you – it’s them. No matter what sob story they are telling you, it is them.
  • I had a hard time getting over C’s being acceptable to these people. Wow. I mean, even D’s seem to be what some aim for.
  • You can easily separate students who do not try and those who do by seeing who talks to you. If they continually ask for help, and tell you they are trying the things you are suggesting (with proof, like flash cards or something), that is effort. And, they will not get an F. It is illogical that they can try and still fail that badly.

9. Several students dropped at the beginning of the semester. Is it me???

  • No. I use to think it was. But they don’t even know you yet. They signed up thinking they had a blow-off class and realized it isn’t. Or, they signed up to too many classes and had to cancel one. Or, they were on a waitlist for the class they really wanted, and finally got in. Etc, etc, etc.
  • In fact, I use to try to keep students in my class. My naivety assured me that if I could just help them, and they could just try, they can pass the class! Then I realized that some students know themselves better than I do. They know they will not do what it takes. Let them go.

10. What excuses are considered excused absences?

  • Personal choice. My opinions vary much differently than many of my own teachers. But I think this is because I was out in the so-called “real world” for a long long time, while most professors stay within Academia since they entered its doors as undergraduates. I went to a college where school was second to full-time jobs and family responsibilities. I get it – life happens whether it works with your semester schedule or not. For me, punishing students who have outside responsibilities pisses me off because I was one of those students. Instead, I believe these students – who are being responsible, mind you – need more support to get through college than someone who doesn’t have outside responsibilities. It is really easy to have perfect attendance when you do not have a job, a mortgage, or a family. Duh.
  • I write in the syllabus that it is only University approved matters, or things arranged with me prior to their absence. And these things, for me, must be something I would have missed class for. And, with proof. “I got called into work.” Ok – show me some sign of your time sheet. “I will need to take my sister to the airport.” Ok – show me a selfie with the terminal screen that has the day/time. “I was sick” – show me a note (I hate this one because I never went to the doctor myself, but this one is way too easy to fake otherwise). “I had a funeral to attend” – show me the memo card (I hate that! So uncouth to ask for proof of a dead loved one but what can you do?). “I had car troubles” – well those troubles better have resulted in a receipt (which I also hate, but again, too easy to fake).
  • Of course, I am more lenient on good students. Is that fair? I dunno, I guess it depends on how you determine what “good” is. I do not mean A+ students. I mean engaged students who are objectively putting effort into the class. It is a system that works for me.
  • Sometimes I ask students to do a small assignment to make up for it. Something simple, like finding a current news article and writing about how it pertains to class, or something. Be adaptive to whatever happens.

11. I was only going to have one class this semester which I spent all summer prepping. Then, the week before classes started, I was told I would have another type of class to teach, so I am freaking out trying to get it ready. Then, when the semester actually started, I only have one class.

  • Welcome to adjuncting.

I’ve also had to learn how to teach the same subject in a number of different ways: twice a week (1 hour 15 minute classes), three times a week (50 minute classes), once a week (2 hours and 30 minutes), twice a week in the summer (3 hours each), and online (random hours as needed). It’s a mind game, especially when trying to do two different kinds in one semester!

I’ve realized that I do not dislike teaching, but I do dislike adjuncting. Separating the two is a little confusing, I admit, and took me a while to figure out for myself (and is not the fault of any of the departments I work for). Some universities have a less wonky system than others, and some states have gone as far as having adjunct unions. A quick web search will show you that there is a nationwide problem that does not seem to be getting addressed. To summarize what I’ve read on the topic:

  • Enrollment seems to be low no matter where you are in the country, which greatly leads to last minute changes in scheduling.
  • Schools are allowing their full-time professors (with all the great benefits) to retire without replacing them with new full-timers.
  • They are hiring adjuncts (with zero benefits or job security) in their place.
  • These adjuncts now increasingly need to hold PhDs in order to compete.
  • (This prospect, of getting my PhD to only be an adjunct anyway, is one of the reasons the time and investment of a PhD is not on my plate right now.)
  • Without incentive of benefits or permanent positions, adjuncts move around a lot, not investing in any one university.
  • Without better pay or benefits, adjuncts often work second jobs outside of academia, or hold many positions across many campuses. Thus, they are not investing in the universities as much as they would probably like to anyway because their time is spent in other endeavors or commuting.
  • This is all bad news bears. Un-invested teachers lead to un-invested students and un-invested programs.
  • The internet talk urges for change, but no one has an answer. Universities continue to cut budgets (a problem for faculty). Tuition fees are being raised (a problem for students). (All the while, apparently, they are paying higher in administration salaries.) Times are tough, yeah?
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Teaching Unprepared Students

Monday: April 7, 2014

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This post is a combination of my personal opinion from asking students questions during office visits, comparisons made between universities where I have taught the same class, and a book that may hold some answers. Part 1:

I am currently teaching at the university where I received my undergraduate degree. I have a good understanding of the students, which are quite different than the students I met at the university where I gained my graduate degree (and the ones I taught there my last year). These students live at home or have apartments and mortgages in the local area (there are no dorms). Therefore, most of them have part time jobs and many have full time jobs and almost all of them have long commute times (averaging probably 20 minutes to over 2 hours). Some have family members they must take care of, and a lot are parents themselves (even the freshman); there are many non-traditional students in the mix, too. Economic classes differ as well – a lot of low-middle to low income kids come through these doors. First generation college kids without a clue how these things work. And while some of the local high schools are perfectly normal or even rated high, some in the greater region from which these students are drawn from fall below the curve, so to speak. Overall, their mindset is probably different than the students found at most large campuses – if school was their single priority in life, they typically do not wind up at this university. Of course, some take it very seriously (like I did, toward the end), but many here look at school as a necessary requirement because their parents told them to, or they believe that “the piece of paper” will make their life better in some way. For several, school is not about the education one receives, but the hoops required to jump through to get a job.

I knew all this when I took the teaching job. However, I was blown away at just how much these characteristics play in each student’s attitude toward their time at university. So much so that during one pointedly low weekend, I decided I never wanted to teach again. (It’s been a rough winter, ok?) But the scientific side of me kept coming back to my Human Origins class – how could teaching the same material have such absurdly different results between two campuses? It couldn’t be that I just can’t teach – it was something about my interaction with the average type of student here. So, what was different?

I began really formulating some type of ephemeral pedagogy (gah, I have always hated that word!). I was brainstorming ideas, but unfortunately I found myself with too much on my plate to really implement them. I mean…would anything really work anyway? I had no idea how to teach – no one teaches college instructors on the hows of it! Yet, I got rated so highly at the other university – why weren’t my ideas working here?

Then one day in my email box, a book club was announced from the other university. “Teaching Unprepared Students: Strategies for Promoting Success and Retention in Higher Education” by Kathleen F. Gabriel. A book club, how dorky was that? Yes, that was my first reaction. But then came the “well, I’ve never done a book club before…I am not even sure what it entails and all that” so I was to avoid addressing it for all of a day. Because finally, I said, “this is a long shot, but it sounds exactly like what I need. I will go out on a limb and join it.” In fact, there was trouble with shipping me the book and I kept pressing them for a copy because I finally realized that I had to learn something about teaching if I was to make it through the semester.

The book came and I learned that my ideas, which had been cobbled together from my own experience with a vast amount of teachers and relations with other students, were exactly on point. That was a fire lit for my self-confidence, for one thing. But the trouble was that I didn’t go deep enough with my ideas. And, as mentioned, I had made some key mistakes which set the path for this clunky journey I’ve been on ever since.

This post will continue in part two, explaining what I learned. But it has given me the gumption to stick at it, to enjoy it again like I had my first year (which was a true surprise). I like my students, and I may not teach forever, or be given the opportunities to teach every semester, but that one low weekend of ill thoughts is behind me. What lies ahead are a lot of minor tweaks which will hopefully solve major problems.

It’s just exhausting being a new teacher, you know?

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In the game

Friday: March 14, 2014

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Sorry about that, there was an issue with search engine indexing that took a while to correct. I’ll be back in the action of posting somewhat regularly soon (whatever that means for this site, anyway). I did compile some notes about my experiences this semester so far while it was down. Here are a few points that I would like to share:

  • I am surprised at (and truly appreciate) how supportive of me personally the department seems to be. I guess I did not really feel that way at the bank, looking back (where I was for about 11 years). But then again, it wasn’t like there was room for improvement really unless I changed departments there. Being a new teacher – there is plenty of room!
  • The IU system had some kinks when they reissued my student ID number, which have finally all been corrected. The interlibrary loan system (ILL) was a real problem for me, and became very frustrating for my students as well, which may have set the tone for them to not read several assignments…
  • Over break I enjoyed “PJ days” 24/7, but sadly this has been moved to 24/5. I had trouble accepting that a real job could have so much flexibility, actually (the years at the bank brainwashed me). Not just in how I spend my time (I’m only required to be on campus 6 hours a week, though the amount of work it takes for preparing each class certainly makes it a full time job), but mostly in that I define my own goals and timelines for the courses. Duh, right? But it isn’t that easy – I am still adjusting my mindset on where to draw the line. There are no rules for teaching…
  • There are no rules for teaching! I learned this when I taught at UIndy, actually. No one ever taught me how to teach (indeed, I never ever wanted to be a teacher so I never ever really thought about how). No one taught me how to plan a semester. How to assess learning. How to manage time with students contacting me, scheduling appointments, grading papers, writing lectures, etc. How to deal with students who were unable to get their books for the first month of class. How to deal with students unprepared for college in general. How to deal with Polar Vortexes that have cancelled my classes 5 times. [When I originally jotted these notes down, there was also a recent college shooting – I am certainly not prepared to handle anything of that sort.] I am amazed (yet not surprised from my own past experiences as a student) that Universities don’t offer at least a workshop for new teachers. Maybe some do, I dunno.

But this is also what I have learned, halfway through the semester: I am incredibly right and I have made key mistakes. Yes, at the same time. In another post, I will address this comment.

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Class Design

Saturday: December 14, 2013

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Lately, I’ve felt like I am back in grad school, working on a grant application and reading a slew of books to prep for teaching. I’ve noted three main areas of stress for that:

1. Selecting a book:

2. Reading the materials in time:

    • I am aware that some time can be saved by just simply staying ahead of the students week by week but that is not my style, at least for now as a new teacher. Firstly, I need to read everything to even understand what I want to include overall in the course of the class. Secondly, I may decide to rearrange chapters or it may inspire me to hunt down a movie or other readings. And lastly, I want to be able to hint at future ideas and paint a big picture throughout the semester, not just at the end, looking backward.

3. Structuring the course schedule:

    • Once all the materials are read and gathered, I have to lay it out into a temporal form. This is the hardest part for me – not only because I am new at it all, but also because I am going from teaching 50 minute classes three days a week to 75 minute classes twice a week (and then in the summer, to 3 hour classes twice a week). With my very first class, Cultural Anthropology, I created a timeline without dates. In my opinion, that is not very hard to follow but apparently some students had issue with “not knowing when anything was due” (even though, as I likely expressed here already, I made it very clear each week verbally and through email). However, by my second semester, when I had figured out how many slides fit a lecture, I was able to easily abide by dates. That is sort of out the window now, though, with the difference in class schedule.

Once my books were committed, I felt relief – the bookstore could do their thing and students would be ready the first week of class. I was originally daunted at getting all the materials read on time, but I’ve cut back a bit helping at Boy’s office (though I have helped out at the Candy Store a bit) and slowed down on the grant application for a while. I just got the Ceren book today, and I have 20 pages left in the Biocultural book, the rest are read, so I am good to go there, holidays notwithstanding. I’ve mostly fleshed out a schedule for archaeology but I still need to get a grip on physical anthropology.

And then there are the lectures. I’ve never had trouble making power points (though I can get quite OCD with finding just the right picture and have ventured down many rabbit holes on the internet because of it, wasting a lot of time!). As long as I know what I want to cover, I do agree that these can be made on the fly throughout the semester, so I am not terribly worried that they may not all be ready to go in time. Will my future self hate me for it? Possibly. But I also want to try to not rely on powerpoints as much this round. They will certainly be central to my lectures (it is the way I was primarily taught, and I do think that it helps students organize idea segments into linear thoughts that are easier to recall) but I want to utilize the board and in-class exercises more. I started playing with the board by the end of my first semester and used it a lot more in my second, so that shan’t be too difficult either. I don’t want to talk at them, but rather to them. The ones who listen, anyway.

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Spring opportunity

Tuesday: October 29, 2013

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My alma mater contacted me today and offered me two classes this spring, which means I have a full load from them in both the spring and summer sessions. I will teach three sections of Human Origins and Prehistory (which, as mentioned before, is like the Monkeys, Apes, and Humans course I taught at UIndy), and an Introduction to Archaeology class. When I took that class as an undergrad, I found it completely boring. I’ll do my best to jazz it up, but I am not sure how many material goods I will have at hand in the lab for hands-on experience. I’ve conferred with Dr. M to choose a book and I can use the public archaeology event he hosts at Lew Wallace in my course too. At least that is something!

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One down…

Friday: October 25, 2013

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I have contacted several local schools (less than 45 minute drive) and unfortunately no one is hiring an anthropology adjunct at this time, though they have added me to their files for future reference. Some conversations were discouraging – for instance, only having a single anthropology class, so of course that is filled every semester; only having online classes (can you imagine taking cultural or archaeology online, without any hands-on components? How utterly boring! I would have certainly been turned off from anthropology!); not having offered an anthropology class in years…But other conversations were great. One university said they would hire me immediately but just didn’t have the funding for it, and the others seemed excited but couldn’t hire me for the same reason.

I have thus just expanded my search to include schools within an hour and a half drive. I do not like this concept as it means I may get a job on the north side of Chicago – not a bad place, but the fact I would be driving *through* the city to get there is not a selling point. So far, I have just contacted my two favorite universities. We will see if they bite, and if not, there are still plenty within that distance to contact.

My alma mater did get back to me, however, and though they do not have an opening in the spring, I have been given a class each summer session. The department is going through a lot of changes (a new chair, a possible retirement, posting for a full time professor, and so on) so I am not sure what lies ahead, but this is a start. I am a little nervous teaching over the summer, having barely any teaching experience as is, because the classes are longer and the weeks are shorter, but I am still very excited! I am somewhat bummed that I probably will be unable to go to Georgia, though, but perhaps they will schedule that so I could pop in for the week between semesters.

The class I will teach is Human Origins and Prehistory (almost identical to the Monkeys, Apes, and Humans class I taught this spring). When I took it, there was no lab component, but I believe that is important – it really makes science accessible to students who do not realize they can do science. And, of course, it makes learning about the species and objects so much more interesting being able to lay your hands on them. I will need to get into the lab and see how it has grown since my time there.

On a side note, I am probably going to be able to attend BARFAA, in Ohio, this November. It will be a cool experience, to attend without the stress of presenting!!

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Call me Master

Friday: August 16, 2013

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It is finally official: I have graduated, huzzah!

So much to catch up on, but first, I must rest. Physically from 7 weeks in the field and mentally from my 2 years away from home. My adjunct position fell through this semester due to low enrollments (quite possibly linked to all the nay saying about student loans and such currently). That bums me out but honestly, I think I will rather enjoy having the next 4 months to myself (well, and to officially work part time at Boy’s office). Plus, there are some grants to apply for, a house to work on, a yard to tackle, and a plethora of crafting projects to attend to! I definitely will not be bored as I adjust to this new life of mine.

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Prospects

Wednesday: March 13, 2013

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My life changes completely in the fall. I had thought my life changed completely when I quit the bank and started grad school far from home, and to an extent it had. However, I had been in school since time immemorial, so although I no longer work outside of school, it isn’t entirely new. Graduating this August means that I have officially changed careers. Not many people I know have experienced this – most people have gone to school and then gotten jobs in their new field, ie. they began their career, or changed positions but stayed within the same company. I had a pretty good thing going at the bank for an entire decade, and this new life will be utterly different.

I am leery to become a full-time teacher at the get-go. For so long, I was against teaching at all. Only through my Supplemental Instructor position as an undergrad, and now adjunct position at grad school have I come to enjoy opening minds (and realizing that I may be slightly decent at it maybe has helped, too). Therefore, I am not in a rush to get a PhD any longer. Limiting myself to an adjunct position by only having a master’s degree will leave me with free time that can be spent on other projects (or if necessary, I can fill up that time with adjunct positions at multiple universities). One of these will be officially helping my husband in his career for a time (self-employed computery mumbo jumbo that you wouldn’t want me to get into here). Other prospects, I hope, will be anthropological in nature.

The wires of the Interwebz at Boy’s office.

So where does this leave me? Well, I did have an interview at my alma mater and I do have a teaching position this fall, yay! It really wasn’t much of an interview, I admit. I stayed in contact with one of my professors and she let the Chair know I was interested in the position. My advisor also caught wind and all three were very excited. I brought my updated CV, and we chatted for quite some time but I was essentially hired immediately. They always felt I was a star student, and I excelled as an SI leader. In addition, they get a lot of adjuncts from bigger universities (with money and dorms). These adjuncts do not usually understand the student base; the school itself is in one of the most down-trodden areas of the state and most of the population commutes (as far away as 2 hours!). People have full-time jobs that take priority because they have to support themselves, and many students have families (whether or not they are traditional or non-traditional students). I get this entirely; in fact, I had a hard time adjusting to the students at UIndy where many have never worked a day in their life, everything is paid for by their families, and they live on campus. UIndy has many more dedicated students, but my alma mater has many more life-experienced students. It is interesting to me that academia can be so different, and a shame that not everyone can have both qualities.

To start, I will do intro classes to either cultural or physical anthropology, and in the future I may be able to teach 200 level courses like archaeology (I already have plenty of ideas for that!). The program has been changing since I graduated there (indeed, when I was there, there was no anthropology bachelor degree), and I am excited to aid in that change. Here’s another photo; I am with the Chair 5 years ago – you can read about it here.

I received many awards at the College of Arts and Science Honors Tea Ceremony over the years at my alma mater.

The faculty at UIndy seems sad to see me leave (side note: I’ve been known around the lab as Rebecca the Grey because Boy’s computer wizardry has worn off on me slightly and they believe I have magical powers with technology – but recently we had a get-together and I was elevated to White, whoo!). They have said that I can always count on them for support in the future and such. And, since they know I am dedicated to the field, I may be able to do summer archaeology projects around the state with them (starting with, perhaps, my home county in Southern Indiana). I will use my free time to write grant proposals and they will help mentor me with their experience in the field. I love this idea – it keeps me from being “just a teacher” and I do not mean that as if teaching isn’t a worthy occupation. I simply mean that I don’t want to be only a teacher; I want to be an active anthropologist.

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Teaching

Friday: February 15, 2013

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My teacher evaluations from last semester came in today so I got to be reminded of the feelings of pure and utter judgement. I expected an average score, with possible complaints of:

  • No dates on the syllabus
  • No access to the “powerpoints” (I actually use Keynote, but I feel that “powerpoint” has become like bandaids and kleenix)
  • Not loud enough
  • Too many emails

My syllabus had everything in order, but without due dates, so I announced when things were due in class – typically giving them an entire week to do the assignments, and most of the time things were always due on Monday. They knew of all the assignments – everything was listed from the beginning. I did that because having never taught before, I had zero idea of how fast the pace would be. One chapter per week? Two? Sometimes a mix? I suspected this may be a source of complaint because some students constantly “did not know it was due today”. I find that statement hard to believe considering I always wrote it on the board, announced it verbally, reminded them over the course of several days, AND sent emails out. I believe that even though this actually was a source of complaint on the evaluations, I did well above my duty at a college level and feel no shame. It wasn’t something I liked doing, however, but now that I know how many slides I can get through in a day, I think I have the pace figured out enough to not have that be an issue in the future.

I did not upload my presentations for a few reasons. The primary reason was that they were not finished in time before class – I tweaked until the very last moment. It is an OCD problem of mine, I guess. Second, my power points did not say anything that literally wasn’t directly from the book. I did that on purpose, since, again, I had never taught before, I felt that I should stick to what the professionals were teaching for my first round. Third, while I do agree that a small few would greatly benefit from having access, I believe that it handicaps the majority by giving them the impression that it is ok to not pay attention because they have access to “all my notes” – whether this is true or not is of course debatable. In fact, one of my professors is testing this concept currently by providing access and will compare to past semester grades. This, of course, was a complaint on my evaluations.

No one said anything about my quiet voice (I do try to project but it just is not who I am). No one said anything about too many emails (although I did offer this question specifically on a survey I gave them, and a very few did feel I was spamming them). No one said anything about me not reprimanding the talkers enough (their grade suffered, sure enough, and I talked to them both during and after class, but they were definitely giving me problems). I know this isn’t listed above – but I was curious if anyone felt I didn’t have the classroom under control. Sometimes I wondered.

Overall, I probably learned more than any of my students, but also overall, I was rated pretty high. Interestingly, I taught two sections, on the same days with just an hour between, and received very different results. My first class – the class I expected to give me the lowest ratings since it was at 9am and I was barely alive, plus if I made mistakes or whatnot, I had time to fix them by the 11am class – rated me super duper high. My second class (with the troublemakers) rated me average – but on the low end. My chair says it is one of the things he hates about the evaluations, because I was the same teacher, teaching the same material, and yet I ended up with vastly different responses – what the heck? There is really no way to know considering it is confidential and I can’t seek students out to ask, but I suspect it may have been because my second class had mostly upper classmen – bored students who waited too long to take a 100 level class, who had “lives” outside of school, and the like. Whereas my first class, mostly freshmen, had no idea what to think about college yet, studied much more (’tis true – higher scores all around!) – actually did the reading assignments – and got a better experience out of the class.

How do you teach people that life is what they make it?

And with good timing, today I applied for my first job. I am not sure if there are any openings for the fall, but I sent the chair an email along with my updated CV. I told boy it was his valentine’s day gift – that I may have a job in the fall when I come home. I will need to adjunct at several locations but I want to see how just one goes for my first semester as a real teacher. If the school I applied to doesn’t take the bait, I have a few more in mind (but I admit, it would sadden me considering I would love to be a part of their growing program).

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“Missing out”

Friday: January 18, 2013

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I got stopped in the food court area today by a former student. She mentioned that her friends were taking cultural anthropology and asked if they had me. Then she learned I wasn’t teaching it this semester, so she told them that they were “missing out on a great professor.”

It was just a little something to brighten my day, so I wanted to gloat about it;)

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The Last Semester

Tuesday: January 15, 2013

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Today I began my last semester at UIndy. I am enrolled in Mortuary Archaeology, Applied Statistics, and some Thesis Writing hours. I am also auditing Soil Morphology and teaching Monkeys, Apes, and Humans (an anthropology class cross-listed as a biology class). I have two teaching assistants to help with the labs and grading.

This will be a new teaching experience for me in several regards. First, the room is not optimal. It is very, very cramped, with a projector not a tv, and the layout is awkward. Second, I am to mirror my advisor’s class, so essentially I am using his power points (though I made them more visually appealing, in my opinion). At first, I thought this would be much easier than starting from scratch like I did with Cultural, but I failed to realize that I am a linear thinker, which maybe is not how anyone would describe him (at least, not myself). It will be interesting to see how I can work with the materials provided. Third, I have obviously never worked with teaching assistants before. I know them personally, so I know there shouldn’t be any issues, and just the idea that they can do the grading for me is exciting! Fourth, this class has a lab component. Essentially, this should not be all that different than from when I TA’d a year ago, except that more will be expected from me as I travel throughout the room. I am the teacher, I ought to know everything, right?

My husband has a bet that I should drop Soil Morphology. I have until the end of this week to decide for a full refund. I want to keep it (auditing Comparative was so awesome because I got to do my favorite thing – learn – but without the stress of turning in assignments or being assessed on a grading scale), but the reality is that I do not want to repeat what I did to myself last semester.

I am experiencing different thoughts this semester than in the past. I am not sure if it is from being burnt out last semester, being pushed to the edge but surviving and growing from last semester, or a wee bit of impatience to be done and get back to my life up north. Likely a combination of all and then some. But I am in a good place right now, and I hope this semester will not be as trying personally for me as last time.

It is my last semester though, which gives me a bit of melancholy. Now, I do still have a field school requirement to meet this summer and finish my thesis project, but essentially, I am almost done!

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End of 3rd Semester Update

Thursday: December 13, 2012

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Well, well, has it been another semester already?

I realize that this blog cannot have the priority I wish it could until my work at school is done. Which is ok, considering I am doing so much and it’s thrilling, but I feel like I have so much to say!

Over break, I will try to update some, but no promises. Here are some pics to hold you over:

Pirate me burning GRE study material.

My husband, housemate, and I throw an annual Halloween party. As hosts, the three of us dress similar, and this year we were pirates, arg. My friend Jaclyn and I burned her GRE study materials. It was therapeutic.

My undergrad gang, mascot included.

I think the photobomber was friends with the dude who took the pic, but I am not sure. My cohorter Anna calls these three my “posse” because we hang out a lot, but really I am more like their rescued and adopted stray animal because they are experts at UIndy stuff, and I am always asking them where to go, who to talk to, and what things mean. My husband teases me that I can get along so well with people literally 10 years younger than me, but I can just as easily get along with people 10 years older, so I don’t take offense. Maybe I am an ageless spirit.

Enjoying dinner and drinks at Shallow's.

Minus faculty, the bio department, and about 2 others, the above group is pretty much all the people I hang around with at school. It is a mix of grads and undergrads. It was to celebrate the end of our Theory of Archaeology class, though not everyone in the photo took it; some were there to celebrate Zach’s 21st birthday too. And Amy is graduating this semester. It was just a good time to finally get together and celebrate.

In the trench, cleaning up.

Those of us who have been involved with excavations at the Lew Wallace Study were invited to a private sushi dinner hosted by the new owners of Lew Wallace’s house. It was a pretty cool experience – not only to see his house, or to have a personal chef preparing food, but the owners were very friendly. The tornado that blew through and left us in a hail storm? I could have done without that. Anyway, when I got there, Anne told me people had mistaken my photograph for hers. I wasn’t sure what she meant until I saw it on the table: I was in the newspaper. Here is a link to the article: History Beneath Us Returns to Study.

Site survey in a field.

This photo was taken in northern Indiana. While there isn’t much to look at, it captures how unexciting some aspects of archaeology is. Dr. M is using the total station, sighting in the prism that is being held by someone at the copse of trees, far enough away you cannot see them. The purpose was to lock in on the backsight, so that the tripod could record points accurately on a grid created in previous work. We then walked the majority of this field, all the way back to the horizon line of the field, then returning to the street, then moving over a couple feet to return back to the horizon line. We flagged every significant item: broken ceramic pieces, unusual rocks (possible tools), historic brick pieces (there was a brick factory here once), and modern day trash (to do research on how garbage moves across the landscape). Then we went back to each and every flag with the prism, while someone sighted in the points. It was hot and unexciting except for the humor in company. Yet, I would always choose this type of work over my previous job (sorry chicas!).

I have much to share, but alas, I still have responsibilities. Tonight, I will be grading my students’ finals, reading some late submitted papers, and submitting final grades.

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Adjunct Professor

Thursday: September 6, 2012

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I haven’t posted because all summer I have been working diligently to design a course for Cultural Anthropology when not scanning teeth. When the opportunity came up to teach this semester, I did not take it lightly. I am still working as a Research Associate, and it is getting to be crunch time for my thesis. The addition of teaching (not one, but two classes!) on top of that is a heavy task.

This semester will prove to be the busiest yet. Aside from teaching and DENTALWEAR work, I am enrolled in Archaeological Theory and Medical Anthropology. But of course, my utter despise of free time (what?) has coerced me into auditing a Comparative Osteology class as well. Plus there is still that whole commute thing on the weekends to see my husband and cats.

Oh and I moved to my own apartment literally right next to campus – I can walk! However, there are roaches, and I may be forced to move again if the landlord doesn’t get it under control. Soon.

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