Dr. Mom, My Adventures as a Mommy-Scientist

Discussion of my journey from grad school to postdoc to tenure with two kids, a husband, (and a bit of breast cancer) in tow.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Top Ten Lists

Well, class is still driving me crazy. I love it but it is the biggest time sink since...well since I took applied math. Anyway having no time to write anything else, I thought I would share something my husband has been suggesting for a while:

Top Ten Ways that My Children have Woken Me Up

10. I'm poopy.
Preceeded by smell. Requires diaper change, sometimes PJs too.

9. My bed is wet.
Always at 2 AM. Requires change of bed, new diaper, new PJs.

8. Monster in room/closet.
Thanks to Daughter, Son has discovered monsters. Turns out they are everywhere, they even live under bed which is flush with floor. Solved by soothing, promises to check on Son, threatening Daughter with real monster if she ever scares Son again.

7. Missing buddy- Variation 1
Buddy is declared missing by child. When arriving in room, buddy is quickly located in bed covers to which child sheepishly replies "oh thanks Mom." Solved by threat, if I come down here and buddy is in your bed, I will take buddy to my bed for rest of evening.

6. Missing buddy- Variation 2
Usually at 12 AM. Buddy is actually missing, but this was not noticed until substantially past bedtime. Requires search throughout entire house to find missing stuffed animal, animal is usually located in least likely place imaginable (i.e., car, violin case, bathtub, etc.)

5. Son sneaks into Daughters bed, steals buddies.
Daughter awakes screaming believing that intruder has stolen nothing in the house other than her buddies. Buddies are discovered in bed with Son, who is very pleased with self. Solved by time-outs, threats to remove all buddies from house.

4. Not enough buddies.
This is one of my favorites. Daughter comes to us sobbing, says I don't have enough bunnies (the small animal that she sleeps with). We ask how many do you have? She responds two. We ask how many do you need. Sobbing she replies four. Resolved by tucking in and threatening to make # of bunnies=1.

3. Son, covered in colored drool, which lands on cheek as he leans over me in bed.
Turns out Son has discovered the location of the candy jar. Not only has he consumed all the jelly beans, he has moved on to the lollypops. Sugar high persists for two hours. Solved by throwing out all candy except Mommy's secret stash which is really, really high up in the kitchen (and consists of chocolate which Son doesn't like anyway).

2. Morning body slam.
Son or Daughter quietly sneaks into bedroom and jumps with full force on myself or my husband. Usually happens around 6 AM. Solved by time-out, threats to body slam them in middle of night.

1. Mom, Son ate all the vitamins.
Gotta love this. In case you don't know iron poisoning is the leading cause of poison death in children, resulting from, you guessed it vitamin ingestion. Of course this happened on the day that both my husband and myself were in bed with 102+ fevers and my son was supposed to be sleeping. Resulted in a call to poison control, trip to the ER, x-rays, stool samples (that was fun), and observation. He is fine, the bottle was almost empty anwyay. Lessons learned: childproof caps can be opened easily by 2 year olds, but not by Grandmas with arthritis, and babyproofing is always a good idea.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Musings while not working on my class...

Gosh, I wish I had more time to post there are so many things I would like to say...so here is a sampling.

1) Teaching is still consuming ALL of my available time. I think things are going really well though. The students seem happy, even though the midterm was tough. At first I was worried that all my mistakes (and there are many) would undermine my credibility. But, I have found that as long as I honestly admit the mistake, acknowledge the contribution of the student who found it, and correct it, everyone seems happy. This is good.

2) Because teaching is taking so much time "big important grant" is not being written. Many federal agencies only have deadlines twice a year, and it can take a year or more to hear about a proposal so to miss a cycle is a big problem. But, I realize that there is no possible way for me to turn in a quality product by the deadline, and I refuse to turn in junk. I hope this doesn't kill me, but I have enough on my plate, I think I will be okay.

3) Last week Doonesbury ran this comic:

and I laughed and laughed, and then I thought. THIS is the problem with women in engineering. We aren't better or worse than male engineers, just different. The establishment wants robots that travel up inclines, but we're building hoverbots. At some point, the establishment needs to realize that the contributions of women are significant, even if they don't always fit into the traditional mold

Just some things to chew on...oh and congrats to Science Woman on becoming a mom. It almost makes me want to do it again, almost, but not quite.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Teaching Evals

My university normally doesn't do evals until the end of the term. However, in order to get an idea of how I am doing, and have a chance to change things that aren't going well, I gave my students a short mid-term eval.

The results were good and bad. They were below my expectations, but then I have pretty high expectations. My overall rating was somewhere between a 3-4 (out of 5). I was criticized a lot for organization, which is ironic because I am one of the best organized people on the planet, but I know exactly what they are talking about. To try and make the subject more relevant to my students (the text is pretty outdated as are all of them in my field), I have been writing example problems from lots of newer subdivisions of my field. The disadvantage of that is that I am using unvetted problems, and on occasion there are errors or the questions are poorly worded. I don't want to give them the same boring material that has been studied for the last 20 years, but new material implies the possibility of mistakes.

Also, I had tried as much as possible to emulate the professor for the previous class, especially since mine is a continuation of his course. In the process, I misinterpreted his syllabus a little bit. He said 1/2 the HWs were group and 1/2 were individual. I assumed this met that 1 week it was individual and 1 week group. Turns out it meant that 1/2 the problems each week were individual and 1/2 were group. Nobody bothered to tell me this until this eval. So in a way I am glad I asked, but I'm also thinking why didn't anybody say anything?

The final point is that they think the HWs are too long. I think everyone in every class probably thinks the HWs are too long. The thing is I think the previous prof might have been a little soft on them. The number of HW problems that I am assigning is consistent with the prof who taught my class previously, and is exactly the same as the problems that I was assigned when I took the course (Did I mention that it hasn't changed in 20 years?) In addition to all that, each course will get successively worse. So if I am soft on them now, they will feel hit by a mack truck in the next course. I am reluctant to reduce the HWs, but I am not sure how to address their concerns. How can I convince them that this is a good thing?

The good news is that I have a couple days to ruminate on all this before the next class. So, we will have a talk about everything and I will try to make adjustments. Hopefully by the end of the term. I will be getting all 5s on my evals.

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