The Irreverent Professor

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

Archive for the category “Holidays”

That’s What The Holidays Are All About…

Two things: (1) I don’t write a mommy blog, but this is about mommy stuff and (2) I’m sorry I haven’t written a blog post in a while. I miss it.  With the semester and my other work, time just got away from me.

Anyway, it’s the winter holiday season and you know what that means!  That’s right:

1) Grades are in and I’ve been completely burned out for a week or so, reeling from the exhaustion and brain fatigue that comes from grading finals, dealing with grade grubbers, and hoping my class would make for next semester. It didn’t :-(.

2) I’m doing the “politically correct” dance and waiting for repercussions for saying “Merry Christmas” (which is the holiday I celebrate…although more in a secular than in a religious way) versus “Happy Generic Winter Holidays If You Celebrate Any of Them.”

and

3) My sweet 5-year-old son is completely and totally out of control with excitement.

Just a few of our festive decorations.

Just a few of our festive decorations.

It’s a joy to be able to see his face light up as brightly as our Griswald-esque Christmas decorations. It is also a joy to be able to wield the “Santa’s going to put coal in your stocking” threat over his head. It’s a refreshing change from the threat of:

  • Time out
  • Spankings (yes, I know, barbaric, horrible, call DFACS, leave snide comments on this post if you must)
  • Taking away one or more toys
  • Forced child labor
  • Making him live in the backyard
  • Making him live in Siberia

or the truly cruel punishment of…gosh, I don’t even know if I should say it in a public forum…

  • Making him play with his toys in his room by himself.

We are truly evil, no? At least to our little extrovert. Being alone is the worst punishment he can think of. Although we have recently discovered another powerful threat: Telling his teacher, Mrs. T, that he’s been making bad choices. She’s a lovely woman, so I’m not sure what he’s afraid of, but I got this hint from him: “If you tell her, she’ll make me eat lunch by myself.” Ah.

He’s an interesting cat. A little super-extrovert athlete being raised by older introverted geeks. It’s going to be a wild ride.

In the spirit of the holidays, please allow me to share my favorite Boy-ism (so far) from my son this season: “When are we going to have hot chocolate? ‘Cause that’s what Christmas is all about.”

The reason for the season...according to my 5 year old.

The reason for the season…according to my 5 year old.

So have some hot chocolate and Happy Holidays!

Carpe hot chocolate!

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!

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.

New Years Resolutions of a Teacher…and More

It’s almost New Year’s Eve here and so of course I’m thinking about my new year’s resolutions.  And all the resolutions that came before and were not achieved (or were – but mostly not).  Which makes me realize that I need to frame my New Year’s Resolutions a bit better.

So this year, I am not going to make my new year’s resolutions…

  • To lose weight (although I need to)

    G and TW

    My cousin G was kind enough to say that I was “the thinnest she’d ever seen me” on this visit. I’ve gained it back. Viva la chocolat!

  • To exercise regularly (although I need to do this too)
  • To be less stressed (although I desperately need to be)
  • To travel more (although sometimes I want to)

And so on…

Instead this year, my New Year’s Resolution will simply be this: to be a better me.

  • To be a better professor to my students. For any students reading this: that doesn’t necessarily mean easier or higher grader.  But it does mean trying really hard to come up with new and improved ways of conveying information with the end goal of helping you gain knowledge and experience that will help you in the “real world.”
  • To be a better wife. My husband is a saint and does far more than his share of everything…well, everything except shopping for our son’s clothes.  He hates that.
  • To be a better mother.  Everyone has gifts.  Patience is not one of mine.  Having a child has not improved that.  Fortunately, one of my gifts seems to be acting completely silly, so that helps.

    The greatest motivator of all for improvement.

    The greatest motivator of all for improvement.

  • To be a better friend.  I am not a great friend.  I prioritize a number of things (including all of the above, as you see) above being a friend.  I want to be a better friend, whatever that means.  I hope it means happy hour once a week with my friends, but we’ll see.

    Friends at PCMA Dinner

    Dear friends at a fancy pants dinner in 2012

  • To be a better professional.  I love the field that I’m in and I enjoying speaking, presenting, and training.  But after a while, it becomes easy to “phone it in.”  And that happens when I start getting bored.  So this year I’m going to figure out how I can provide something the industry needs and be true to my own interests, too.  No compromises.

Stay tuned for improvements to be made.

Carpe the new year.

Ding Dong, The Semester is (Almost) Dead

When I was a meeting planner (many moons ago), I was affected by a phenomenon I call “post meeting blues.”  After much anticipation leading up to the meeting and the chaos of the on-site experience (which invariably involved excitement like presenters not showing up, catering snafus, and 28-hour work days), there was a “let down” feeling after the meeting was over.  First came the relief, then the inexplicable down-in-the-dumps-depression.

Me with two of my favorite students (yes, professors have favorites...shhhh)

Me with two of my favorite students (yes, professors have favorites…shhhh)

Now that I’m a college professor, I find the end of the semester follows a similar pattern.  As I type this, I have one grade yet to come in (c’mon, kid, turn it in, turn it in, turn it in).  Once it’s in, I will feel jubilation as I submit  final grades to the great and powerful Oz.  I will dance and sing (where no one can see or hear me) and feel the knots in every one of my muscles relax.  Then I will walk that fine line between relaxation and boredom.

Then it happens — boom! — post-semester depression.  I start feeling aimless (even though my “aim” should be prepping for the next semester).  I even start missing my students.  They’re all at home and not missing school at all, of course.  But I miss their faces (or more accurately, the tops of their heads, which is all I can see some days as they look down at their phones instead of at me while I facilitate class).  I miss their witty repartee, the words from the ones who make valuable contributions to class, and even their “deer in the headlights” facial expressions when they are called on or busted for looking at Facebook instead of their notes.

So this semester, I have a plan.  And I’m not ashamed to share it.  This year, I’m planning a one day vacation from my brain.  The plan is simple.  On one day (after  the great and powerful Oz has released me from his grasp), I’m going to leave my pajamas on all day, plop my already generously sized derriere on the sofa at home, and watch something mindless on TV…all day.  Just for one day.  I’m thinking sappy Christmas movies on Lifetime or the Hallmark channels.  Other props for the day include the gallon tin of Garrett popcorn (Chicago Mix) that I plan to order for myself, a 2-liter bottle of root beer, and three cats to keep me warm.

One of the three cats

One of the three cats

So there.  That’s my plan for a one-day vacation from my brain.  Before my toddler son gets out of daycare for 12 days (heaven help me), before the official Christmas festivities start, before I start panicking over how much I have to do to get ready for next semester.  One day that’s mine.  All mine.

Carpe brain rest.  And Happy Holidays.

‘Tis the Season…for Giving. Or Not.

The holiday season is just around the corner.  Me, I celebrate Christmas, but I include in the holiday season Hanukkah, Solstice, Kwanzaa, Festivus and whatever other holidays people celebrate around this time of year (don’t crucify me for not knowing all the pertinent holidays!  I consulted the Interfaith Calendar but am sure it is far from complete.)

Our Christmas treet

Our Christmas tree

Which makes me think about the concept of giving.  To whom do you give?  How much?  When?  I’m at that fortunate point in my life that I don’t really need anything.  [I mean, other than See’s Candies and Garrett popcorn.  Duh.]

Anyway, I was at my brother’s house for Thanksgiving (which could have been the topic of a separate post on a blog called something like Dysfunctional Family Follies).  The topic of Christmas came up and my sister-in-law and I both sincerely expressed the desire to (a) not receive any more “stuff” and (b) not have to feel compelled to go buy other people stuff.  Sometimes it just isn’t fun, you know?  You check people off your list and buy them “stuff” that they don’t need…a la George Carlin (a censored version of his comedy routine video about “Stuff”)–just to get it over with.

This is just the stuff we have to decorate for Christmas season.  We put stuff in, on, and under this stuff.  What a holiday!

This is just the stuff we have to decorate for Christmas season. We put stuff in, on, and under this stuff. What a holiday!

So what about at work?  A friend and colleague mentioned she is “required” to participate in the Secret Santa (or Dirty Santa or whatever) activity at work.  And she’s Jewish.  It’s not a big deal to her, but it could be to someone.  It may not be the $10-15 price tag.  Maybe it’s the time to find such a gift.  Or the nature of the holiday.  Or maybe someone just doesn’t like their co-workers!  [Note to co-workers: This is a general statement, not directed at you.  I am looking forward to participating!  And appreciate that it was made “optional.”]  And some people are “invited” (which everyone knows means “expected”) to contribute to Christmas presents or gift cards for admins, housekeepers, even bosses!  Which sticks in my craw a bit.

So I finally stumbled on something work-related that I feel comfortable contributing to.  Unbeknownst to me, there’s a program called REACH Alabama at the university which asks people to support those college students (and future college students) who have no one – foster kids, orphans, etc.  From contributing gift cards to help them with expenses to hosting them in your home for a meal or a holiday, there are many ways to give to this group of kids.  Now this I can get behind.  This makes sense.  I know a young woman in college who has no family.  Not even an estranged freaky dysfunctional aunt and uncle (though I have some I’d be happy to share).  I can’t imagine not having anyone who will call you on Christmas or (fill in your holiday here).

Sure, the goal of the program is to get foster kids into college and degreed.  The statistics on how many attend college and how many finish are staggering.  But I’m grateful to have found it.  It will make me feel good to do something for these kids.  I will consciously not give to the “invitations to give” that I can’t philosophically support.  But I will contribute to REACH Alabama.  This is what Christmas is about.  I’ve been so blessed and so fortunate in my life.  It’s time to pay it forward.

Carpe holiday spirit!

Holiday Breaks are “Breaks” for Faculty, Too

First day back after Thanksgiving break was great–mainly because I got to hole up in my office and hammer out what I consider to be excellent (ok, one excellent and one so-so) lectures for tomorrow’s classes.  And I feel good (ok, so-so) about that.  But tomorrow I know it will happen.  I will no sooner step into the classroom tomorrow than a student will ask the question I’m dreading: “Have you graded our projects?”

Ah, sweet students.  Most deserving students.  No, no, no.  No!  No, I have not graded your projects.  Thanksgiving is an American family holiday.  I am an American.  I spent it with my family.  It’s an official university…nay, country-wide…holiday.

So I offer my sincere apologies to those students who have a difficult time believing that professors are people too.  And I offer my sincerest thanks to the students who understand and have a modicum of patience.

Carpe holiday breaks.

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