Category Archives: Academia

I’m back (again….)

…maybe my return will “stick” this time? 😛

First, I want to thank those of you who have stuck with me despite such a long absence. I really appreciated the comments and messages you’ve sent during the last year while I’ve been “away.” These helped me feel more like myself during the very hard first year with baby Adelle in our household.

Oh boy, has it been a year.

With my return to the blogosphere, I should warn you that the focus  of my blog is probably going to shift a bit because my life has shifted so much since Adelle’s arrival. I love my baby to pieces, but being a parent is hard work. ADHD or not, this is the hardest job I’ve ever done. My dissertation comes close, but this is still way harder and rewarding in ways academia (or any job) could never be. This shift might annoy some of you who are not parents. Sorry 😦  The polish will also probably be off the writing because this is a task that will have to be reserved for after bedtime, when I’m already tired and still have work to do before heading to bed. My goal is one post per week. I might get to more than one per week during the summer, and I might struggle to get to one per week once the school year starts back up again. We’ll see how things go.

Moreso than before, I’m finding that it’s incredibly important to have reasonable goals in mind for each day, both at work and at home. I’m still keeping my task list going, and I’ve instituted a new electronic system for tracking paper-writing progress (more about this in a future entry). I don’t write down the home goals, usually because they stare me in the face and can’t be forgotten as easily as relatively nebulous work goals. I’ve also found that I need to be nice to myself when I fall short at home or at work, and to keep things in perspective.

Off of my blog, my first home goal for tonight is to take out the trash. This will involve sneaking into Adelle’s room to empty her diaper pail (YUCK). This doesn’t sound like a big challenge, but it’s tricky to do this without making lots of noise. Plus, once I have the trash ready to go, I have to open the garage door to take it outside… and of course, Adelle’s room is directly over the garage and she’s not the heaviest of sleepers. If we make it through the trash without waking her up, then we run the risk again when we unload & reload the dishwasher (i.e., a task that must be done daily with 3 people living in a house, especially when one of them goes through about 10 sippy cups in a day and loves to watch her spoon fall on the floor after she drops it from the highchair). Usually she sleeps until the point when I *just* sit down with my cup of herbal tea…. To non-parent readers, this evening’s plan of action probably sounds incredibly lame. Readers who are parents will likely understand how difficult it is to get these two little tasks done after chasing after a toddler for the last few hours after putting in a day at work.

Of course, since Adelle’s arrival the house has suffered. The home goals are much smaller now than they used to be, and we have lower standards for what is acceptable. The same has happened at work. I really didn’t write at all for most of Adelle’s first year. I spent most of the year trying to do a full-time job on 60% time. It didn’t work so well: I was exhausted all the time from interrupted sleep and couldn’t focus very well because I was so anxious about not making progress. It’s just now that things are starting to get back on track: I just submitted an article last month, the first one I’ve written in about 18 months, and I’m incredibly proud to have done so. The next step will be easier, because the first is always the hardest…

…and with that, I will now take that first step toward taking out the trash 🙂



a tempting opportunity

A colleague recently alerted me to a job posting in my field at Ideal Home State University.  I can’t decide if I should apply or not.

On one hand, I should apply because:

  1. I’d like to be housed in a department of my actual academic discipline (instead of a sub-area, as I am now, meaning that I’d have colleagues who understand and appreciate my research).
  2. I’d be housed in an academic unit that has support for the type of grantwriting I do. I would most likely have greater support for grantwriting endeavors, and wouldn’t have to answer truly dumb questions about the NIH grant application process.
  3. It would be a step up in the academic hierarchy, but a reasonable step up for someone with my academic pedigree. This is a place where I’d want to get tenure, but gaining tenure should also be attainable.
  4. I’d be in my home state and would be surrounded by people who understand my regional accent and idioms.
  5. After a long period during which nearly all of my friends moved out of state, a few of them are starting to trickle back. We’d have friends again, and we’d get to see them more than once a year!
  6. My family would be about an hour’s drive away instead of a day’s drive away, making holidays and family emergencies a bit easier on the stress level. We’d also save megabucks on travel.
  7. We’d be within 1.5 hours of a major international airport.

On the other hand, I shouldn’t apply because:

  1. Having just one more task on my plate right now might seriously put me over the edge…
  2. If I was invited to interview for the position, I’d have to do so while 6+ months pregnant.
  3. If I was successful, I’d be ditching my current department after being here for less than two years, and this makes me look like a skipper.
  4. If I was successful, we’d have to move with a small infant in tow, and would have to deal with the current local housing market.
  5. The job market in Home State is really, really bad, so it might be hard for Hubby to find a job there (that being said, it might actually end up being easier because it’s a more metropolitan area than our current location).

I think I’ll go ahead and apply regardless, because opportunities like this don’t come along very often, and the potential benefits definitely outweigh the potential drawbacks.

Academic readers, what else do I need to consider at this point?

the reason for my long silence

At long last, I can break my silence and explain why I’ve been away from this blog for so long. It’s because I was afraid I would spill the beans before the time was right.ultrasound clipped

I am pleased to announce that Hubby and I are expecting, and I’m due at the end of April. The ultrasound pic at the right was taken about 6 weeks ago, during my 1st appointment at the High Risk OB (consultation regarding my ADD medication).

So far, things are going well for both me and the little one. Our offspring has a good strong heartbeat, and it danced around a ton during the ultrasound! We have our real ultrasound next month, and will have more information then about its development thus far. The pregnancy has been quite easy for me overall. I had very little morning sickness, other than some food aversions and mild nausea at odd times of the day. It only lasted for about 3 weeks, and the worst of it went away when I stopped taking the fish oil supplement (prenatal vitamin adjunct).

A note about fish oil that’s relevant for ADDers, pregnant or not: This might sound stupid, but do not try taking it at night. For a month, I took it with my regular prenatal vitamin at dinner, and I had insomnia for that entire month. It was miserable. The insomnia decreased when I switched to taking it in the morning, and it helped a little bit with concentration. Notwithstanding, a single capsule was murder on my stomach. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so awful if I hadn’t been in the middle of morning sickness, but I’m also not convinced that it wasn’t the cause of the morning sickness itself.

Medication has been a bit tricky, at least at first. I was switched to a new pdoc around the same time I had the positive pregnancy test. Amazingly, my new pdoc has ADD, and she’s been amazingly helpful and supportive with troubleshooting my medication. We tried various options: I dropped back to 10mg of ritalin 3x/day, then 5 mg 3x/day, on the way to the goal of 0 mg of ritalin 0x/day. I was frustrated and miserable at 5mg, and barely functional at 10mg, but I stuck with that dose for a month before going to the aforementioned high risk OB consultation. The three high risk OBs I’ve now worked with in that office have actually been the most supportive of my medication. One of them even said to me, “If you need this medication to function, you need it to function. Period.” Their acceptance was amazingly refreshing. Of course, the reality is that we won’t know for some time if my medication has done any harm… keep your fingers crossed for us, please!

Work issues have been resolving themselves. I met with my department chair today to let him know about our upcoming addition, and he was very supportive. It looks like we will be able to put some plans into place in advance to handle my inevitable absence at the end of the spring semester, and I have some decisions to make about using my summer funding, stopping the tenure clock for next year, etc. I have time to make these decisions, fortunately. This was a big relief, but it’s really the small things at work that have made it more stressful for me this semester. For example, I outgrew most of my work pants around 6-8 weeks of pregnancy, and now I’m starting to outgrow my work shirts. I don’t look particularly pregnant, just  a bit pot-bellied… The second “minor” issue is H1N1 flu. It’s going around on my campus, and I’ve had at least a dozen students out sick with it. I was able to get the H1N1 vaccine over a week ago, but still have a few days until I will have full immunity against all the nasty germs my students are sneezing and coughing all over the place. Yuck!

All in all, everything’s going far better than we’d anticipated, and I can only hope that things continue to go this smoothly between now and the end of April!

ah, summer (part 3)

About 2 months ago I posted about my experiences teaching over the summer. I had a student with severe ADHD in my small class, and it made the class a unique challenge.

This morning I received my course evals in that class.

Three students accused me of unfair treatment and favoritism because I was “too nice” to my student with ADHD.

Yes, they actually used these words in my evaluations.

I know for a fact that 2 of these 3 were students I’d had to threaten to physically separate the day before because they wouldn’t shut up for the 80 minute lecture (the “eye rollers” mentioned in the post from 2 months ago; these two students plan to be psychologists after completing their undergraduate degrees. HA!). The third student was one of their friends.

Apparently I was supposed to kick the ADHD student out of my class when they asked repeated tangential questions instead of dealing with them and moving on. Apparently it’s also unfair that I gave copies of my lecture notes to the student with ADHD.

Never mind that that this student was also paying for the course and actually displayed interest in the material, and that the student with ADHD had accommodations that guaranteed them access to my lecture notes as well as other types of support in the course.

I am livid and disgusted. Apparently as a professor I’m responsible for controlling everybody’s annoying behavior in the classroom, but I’m still unreasonable to expect neurotypical normals to shut up and leave their cell phones alone.

another year…

Sorry to  be away… things are going on, so I am too busy to post! (Not a bad thing, right?)

I am mega-annoyed right now because it is the 2nd week of our term, and I’ve been getting messages from students every day this week about adding one or the other of my classes. This is definitely unusual. For pete’s sake… we’ve had 3 sessions already (of about 30 classes total)… why on earth would anybody think they could add after they’ve missed 10% of the course?

ah, summer (part 2)

Summer goes on, and I’m still inside, working on grant reviews. I’m about halfway through my stack, and have discovered a couple of tricks to help speed up the review process. It’s still taking me about 5 hours per application, which is really slow. I haven’t yet figured out if I’m being compulsive or inefficient. I suspect it’s both together :-S. I’m getting about 1.5 applications done per day, and am well-situated to be done with the reviews well in advance of the deadline. At any rate, as I’m now too brain-dead to work on reviews any longer, I’ll follow through on last week’s promise that I’d recount an ADD-related experience I had in my summer class.

It seems that each semester I have at least one student who has moderate to severe ADHD. My summer course was no exception; I had a student with ADHD that was sufficiently severe to require fairly intensive accommodations, which I was happy to provide in order to help them be successful in my course.

Outside of those accommodations, this student clearly had trouble in all the usual ways. They couldn’t sit still in class, had trouble coming to class on time, had trouble turning in work by deadlines, wouldn’t raise their hand before speaking, dominated the class discussion, went off on tangents, etc….. but really cared about the class and was clearly trying their darndest to do well.

My heart always goes out to these students, because they inevitably share stories of disappointments in classes and having to work so hard with professors who are less willing to follow their lists of accommodations (something I don’t understand, since these should be guaranteed to them by law).

I worked hard with this student, and was very proud of her performance by the end of the summer course. I observed a noticible improvement and substantial grasp of the course material, and saw how proud they were about their performance and enjoyment of the course. At the end of the term, my ADHD student thanked me profusely, saying that they’d planned to buy me a gift card for the local coffee shop in thanks for all my effort (of course I declined; no bribe needed, but the thoughtful gesture was definitely appreciated).

Unfortunately, on the last day of lecture, when my student went off on a tangent that took up quite a bit of course time. I did my best to divert them to get the class back on topic, and did fairly well…. but out of the corner of my eye, caught one of my neurotypically-normal students rolling their eyes and elbowing their friend in a clearly nasty way.

I almost lost it, not because of the nastiness, but because of the *nerve* it took to be nasty when this student has been nothing but open with their classmates about their disability, and asked for their patience with their quirks (something they didn’t need to do by any means). This same neurotypically-normal student had sent me an entitled message the night before challenging my grade on their paper, as well as my comments about their sloppy writing. When I replied that I stood by my comments, they indicated that I’d hurt their feelings and stomped on their pride.

It just goes to show that it’s not one’s strengths or weaknesses that determine their worth as a person. This “typical” student had the gall to be mean to somebody who has been nothing but kind and hardworking, as well as the guts to demand that I don’t “stomp on their pride” by giving valid criticism on their writing. All my student wtih ADHD wanted was to have adequate support to accommodate her learning needs, and was grateful to get it in a respectful fashion.

Now if only the rest of the world could understand this basic lesson…

ah, summer….

I haven’t blogged in over two months, and of course the reason is that I’ve been busy. It’s a common misperception that academics “take the summer off.” I can assure you that this is definitely *not* the case.  I’ve been in this line of work for a decade, and even my mom still thinks this a little bit (i.e., she’s bugging me about coming for a visit, but I don’t know how I’m going to make it fit in my schedule without having to pull all-nighters. This would be very, very bad…).

How I spent my summer “vacation”: I taught a summer class in May and June (and will post about an experience in this class soon), dealt with 3-4 Masters theses, took a few days’ off last week before the 4th of July, and have spent this week working on a paper and doing grant reviews. I’ll do the same tasks next week, and then will spend a few days in DC finishing the grant reviews. The week after that, Hubby and I go to Hubby’s home country for a week-long holiday (badly needed!). Once we return, there’s only a couple of weeks until the new semester begins. I’ve taught my two fall semester classes before, but one requires a bit of reprep, an assignment requires fairly substantial revision, etc. All of this work takes time.

It feels like summer is over before it’s really even begun. I’m trying not to think about this too much because it makes me feel sad and burned out. It also makes me feel like I haven’t accomplished anything (totally untrue, but still…). For example, I’d planned to get at least 2 papers out this summer, but now I think I’m going to have to forego at least one because I’m doing these grant reviews.

At least the weather is nice, and I get to enjoy it because I’m doing most of my work from home! If only the weather and summer could last just a couple weeks’ longer…