The Irreverent Professor

Unvarnished realities about life, teaching, learning, and change in this wild, wild world

Archive for the month “January, 2013”

I’d Like to Thank the Academy…

When I do something stupid in my personal or professional life, I usually joke about it by saying, “Well, I guess I’m not going to be Mother/Wife/Professor/Employee of the Year this year.”  Only this year – I am!

I just got back from Orlando, where the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) was kind and generous enough to name me “2013 Educator of the Year.”  Complete with recognition at a big luncheon and a lovely award that I will proudly display in my office at the university (and reference on my faculty annual report, of course).

Difficult to see, but I am holding my lovely glass trophy-like award

Difficult to see, but I am holding my lovely glass trophy-like award

There’s something both humbling and gratifying about being recognized by my peers for something I love to do.  PCMA’s definition of “Educator” extends beyond those who “formally” teach in a university setting and includes those who provide education to industry professionals.  As time permits, I do both (I am considering cloning myself so I can do all the things I want to do all the time).  So I am doubly-grateful for this award for the recognition of the work I do with the next generation of meeting professionals and with novice to seasoned meeting professionals.

What is even more gratifying is that this is the second award that PCMA has given me.  In 2009, the PCMA Education Foundation named me the Educator Honoree at the Dinner for Professional Achievement, a big, swanky black-tie affair (intended to raise money for the Foundation but otherwise much like the Academy Awards for meeting professionals).

A "red carpet" shot of my husband and I at the PCMA Education Foundation Dinner in 2009

A “red carpet” shot of my husband and I at the PCMA Education Foundation Dinner in 2009

I didn’t get to give a speech at the award ceremony this week, but if I had, I’d say something like this…

I’d like to thank the Academy (PCMA committee), my sweet husband for putting up with my special brand of crazy, my 3 year old son for accepting Mommy’s “trips” out of town as commonplace, my students for letting me share in the classroom what I think is important for them to know, and the meetings industry as a whole for letting me be a part of it.

Carpe education!

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Students Make Me Sick!

I managed to avoid the worst of flu season in December, despite having a small child in daycare where “personal space” has no meaning.  While those around me were falling, I was pleased to have no sniffles, no sore throat, no earache – nothing.  All through the holiday season, when I was off and had nothing but time (granted, it was time I used to chase a 3 year old around for 12 hours a day – G*d bless naps and early bedtimes).

College has been back in session for a whopping 3 days.  And not fully in session at that.  I’d estimate that about 80% of the students actually showed up in class this week at all.  (Apparently, there’s a misconception that “syllabus week” is optional.)   And sure enough…by Friday I was getting sick.

Pack 30+ students in a classroom and at least 20% of them are coughing and using tissues on their noses and touching everything!  I’m not a germophobe by any stretch (refer back to 3 year old boy who has his mouth and hands on and in everything and thinks hand washing is a punishment), but ewwwwwww.

Put this many people this close together and they are going to spread cooties.  No way around it.

Put this many people this close together and they are going to spread cooties. No way around it.

I blame faculty for this (including former me).  We require attendance, we grade on attendance, we admonish when they don’t show up for class.  And so they come, wagging their germs behind them.  To excuse their absence, they must have a doctor’s note.  Seriously?  Do you go to the doctor every time you get a cold?  I don’t.  I avoid the doctor’s office like it’s ground zero for bubonic plague, going only when I am absolutely sure that death has knocked on my door.  (No offense to my awesome nurse practitioner, Angela, who is a delight).

So why do we require this of students?  By bringing their germs to class, they make other students (and professors) suffer.  Why not treat them like the adults they are (supposed to be) becoming?

Well, I blame students too.  Students are creative creatures.  The excuses I’ve gotten for absences!  Wow, some doozies.  I once had a student give me a very elaborate and tear-filled excuse for having to miss an exam because her father died.  It was a heart-wrenching, tear-jerking story.  Of course, I excused her.  So imagine my surprise when I met (you guessed it) her father at graduation.  What a miraculous resurrection.  Not.

So I tell my students: “Come, don’t come.  It’s up to you.”  There are consequences for not showing up (missing my scintillating commentary on the material is one, of course), but there are also consequences for stressing your body and mind when you’re sick.  You be the judge of how sick is too sick to come to class.  If you are throwing up, please don’t come.  If you have a headache, maybe you need to suck it up.

I tell them they don’t need to tell me why they are out.  I don’t need to hear that they are hungover or sleep through my class.  Of course I care if they are sick, in the hospital, or have a death in the family.  But unless I can help or they need a shoulder to cry on, they don’t need to tell me.  They need to take care of themselves.  I would rather foster the traits of honesty and critical self-management in them than…whatever giving strict rules on attendance garners.

Perhaps we (faculty) are also contributing to the work environment that gives workers the idea that they can’t take a sick day from work, either.  Many people believe the company will surely fall apart without them (it won’t).  But that’s a rant for another day.

Instead of going to bed, I’m off to catch a plane to attend a conference, cold germs and all.  Well, I can’t miss it!  They need me.

Uh-oh.

Carpe germ avoidance therapy.

They’re Back! They’re Back! Students, That is.

Squeeeee!  They’re back.  The students are back.  Walking through the rain (without umbrellas) in their winter uniforms: exercise pants and a ginormous sorority/fraternity sweatshirt for the girls, jeans and a hooded sweatshirt of any ilk for the boys. (As I don my grown-up clothes for the first time in weeks, I’m jealous of their comfort).

This morning I’ve already gotten one excuse for missing class today, one request for directions to a classroom (not mine), heard of one student who registered for a course this semester that he’s already taken, and seen at least a dozen Starbucks cups.  And that was just driving in and putting my stuff down in my office.

Of course, I also had a nightmare about the first day of class last night.  Remember in college how you’d have that anxiety dream that you’d signed up for a class but forgot to attend until well over halfway through the semester?  (Oh, maybe that was just me).  For me, it was always a history class.  I’m terrible at (and decidedly disinterested in) history.  Unless it’s fictional history and involves murder and mayhem like my favorite book of all time, Devil in the White City.  But I digress.

Erik Larson's awesome book about the Chicago's World Fair as a mask for a murdering psycho.

Erik Larson’s awesome book about the Chicago’s World Fair as a mask for a murdering psycho.

Anyway, as a professor, that nightmare is usually that I was supposed to be teaching a class and forgot until mid-semester.  (I’ve come a long way, huh?).  But last night I had a nightmare about the first day of my meeting planning class.  The scary part is, it was probably a pretty accurate portrayal of what’s likely to happen.  So apparently I’m just scared of the way I’ve changed the course this semester.  They’re planning a real conference.  For a real non-profit group on campus.  And that terrifies me.  But that’s a post for another day.

It’s SO boring around here without them.  Students, I mean, not murdering psychos.  I’m glad they’re back.  All is right with the world again (nightmares notwithstanding).

Carpe the first day of school!

First Week of Classes…Do They Remember?

Classes officially start at my university on Wednesday.  I am guessing, however, that my students aren’t even thinking about that, despite it being two days away.  Why?

(1) Because it’s still two days away.  After using the college-student-to-grown-up conversion formula, that’s roughly the equivalent of 732 days.  Do you know what you are doing in 732 days?  I thought not.  It’s all the time in the world to remember what classes they’ve registered for, check with their friends to see what they registered for, check Rate My Professors to see if they got a “good” (translation: easy) professor and besides, add/drop is for another week so classes don’t really start until the end of that.

(2) Because (a) its their last semester and they are totally freaked out about college coming to an end and being thrust into the real world or (b) its not their last semester and they are dreading slogging through another one because it seems like graduation will never come.

(3) Perhaps most importantly, the BCS National Championship is today and the world doesn’t continue past that.  Even my 3 year old son knows that.  So who am I to argue?

Roll Tide, Roll.

Carpe 15!

Can I get an itty-bitty Roll Tide?

Can I get an itty-bitty Roll Tide?

The Least Stressful Job of 2013…University Professor. What?!

Forbes magazine has released its annual ranking of most and least stressful jobs of 2013.  And the #1 least stressful job is…(drum roll, please)…being a university professor.

Which leaves me wondering…am I doing this wrong????!!!!

The “tsk, tsk” disappointed face of my doctor every time I go in to get my blood pressure taken would suggest so.

Professors “don’t spend too many hours in the classroom.”  True.  But guess what – those classroom hours are the least stressful hours in my whole work week!  If I could spend more time in the classroom, I’m sure my doctor would make his “tsk, tsk” face less often. It’s the hours preparing for class, grading papers and exams, doing research, advising students, and attending meetings that is stressful.  And I won’t even get into some of the other stressful things I’ve endured in various faculty positions at universities I’ve worked at–unionization, being called on the carpet in front of someone with a (comparatively) big corner office, having to fire people.

Me wearing my teacher face even at our department holiday party.

Me wearing my teacher face even at our department holiday party.

And bless the hearts of the tenure-seeking faculty.  I’ve never seen a group of more stressed-out people.  Counting every word in every article, checking every journal’s ranking, praying for minor revisions, all while juggling a course load and treating every administrator like they are made of glass…just in case they have a say in the tenure decision.  One of my former colleagues was even told she shouldn’t get a tattoo while seeking tenure because “it just wouldn’t be appropriate.”  But, hey, no pressure.

I will grant you that the winter holidays and summers off are great.  But I don’t know many faculty who actually get to take them “off.”  Researchers do a lot of their research over these “breaks.”  And non-researchers teach to make extra money to bolster that whopping average salary of $62,000.

Me?  I do neither.  I travel – for business, for pleasure.  I spend time with my husband and son.  I catch up on my stories.  I get back into the exercise program that eludes me nine months out of the year.

Sure, there’s often no 9-5 expectation (which is nice for those of us who are not morning people).  And there’s very little direct supervision (which soothes my entrepreneurial soul).  And some campuses (like mine) make the walk to class a lovely and uplifting experience.

I’m not sure I’d go along with it being the “least stressful” job of 2013.  But I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.  I hope everyone out there can say the same.  If not, keep looking until you can.

Carpe career choices.

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