Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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How Much A University Sessional Instructor Gets Paid vs. How Much They Work

As you may recall from all my complaining about how busy I was last semester, I was teaching a new (to me) university course. Teaching a course that you’ve never taught before is an *insane* amount of work, because you have to:

  • develop the course itself – what are the learning objectives? what’s the scope of the material you will cover?
  • create the assignments
  • create grading rubrics so you know how you will grade the assignments and can share that with your students1
  • create your lecture notes
  • create the slides to go with your lecture notes
  • create in-class activities to make the learning more active

And that’s all (ideally) before classes even start2! Once classes start you do things like:

  • teach your class (for 3 hours per week in this case)
  • mark all the assignments3
  • tweak lecture material4
  • arrange some guest speakers on a topic of interest to the class5
  • hold office hours to answer students’ questions6

Because I’m a nerd – and also a bit of a glutton for punishment – I decided to see just how much work it was to teach this course that I’d never taught before. I tracked my hours using Time Edition, just like I did for the hours I spent working on my MBA.

Here’s how much time I spent on the course:

Activity Time Spent (in hours)
Teaching in class 36.0
Planning (creating syllabus, developing assignments & rubrics, developing lecture materials, etc.) 116.9
Communicating with Students (email, office hours) 7.9
Marking 33.6
Total 192.4

That work was happened between the end of June 2015, when I was offered the sessional instructor position to teach the class, until early December 2015, when I finished marking the student’s final assignments. Here’s what the break down of hours looked like by month:

Hours spent teaching a new course

However.

As a sessional instructor, I’m not actually paid until the course starts7. And even then I’m only paid, in this case, for 5.5 hours per week8. The semester is 13 weeks long, which means that I was paid for 71.5 hours, when I actually worked 192.4 hours. Put another way, I worked 122.9 unpaid hours or nearly 4x more hours than I was paid for.

Now, I went into the course knowing that I’d end up doing a lot more work than I’d be paid for, but it’s a little bit shocking to see just how much that ended up being.

  1. I made a mistake this past semester where I put the grading rubric on the end of the Word document that contained the assignment instructions, but when I pdf’d the file, it cut off the rubric (it seems that because the rubric were on pages in landscape instead of portrait orientation, the program I was using decided to not include it in the pdf), so the students didn’t actually get to see the rubric before they handed in the first assignment! Lesson learned for me – always check the whole file after you pdf something! []
  2. I say “ideally” because I didn’t have all my lecture materials created before the course started. This meant I was creating some of my lecture material during the semester, while I was teaching. I knew what I was going to cover before classes started, but hadn’t written it all up as lecture notes or made all my slides []
  3. Unless you have a teaching assistant. Which I did not. []
  4. for example, if something exciting happens in the news related to your topic that you want to share with the class, or you happen to read something new related to your topic, or students ask you some really excellent questions one week and you do some research to provide them with answers the next week []
  5. In my case, my students had lots of great questions about being an external evaluator, but since I’ve only ever been an internal evaluator, I decided to bring in a few people I know who work as external evaluators as they could give much better answers to those questions than I could. []
  6. In my case, I arranged to meet some students via Skype like a sort of “virtual” office hour, since I was only ever on campus for class. []
  7. In fact, I had to go through a lot of hoop jumping just to get access to the library in order to do my unpaid preparatory work – when I went to the library they told me that I’m not an instructor until the course starts and looked at me like I was crazy when I suggested that I needed to plan my course before the first day of classes. []
  8. 3 hours of teaching and 2.5 hours of work outside the classroom – preparation, office hours, emailing with students, marking, etc. []

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Academically Promiscuous

It’s September, which means the start of the school year is upon us. This is, of course, rather meaningless if you aren’t a student, a parent of a student, or some sort of instructor… Now, don’t worry, I haven’t enrolled in any new degree programs1. But I have picked up a new teaching gig.

As you know, I teach an online stats class at the Justice Institute, but that is offered in the January semester. I haven’t taught a face-to-face class since before I started my MBA and, honestly, I’ve been missing the in-person interaction with the students2. I really enjoy working with students – it’s so rewarding to be able to help them learn new things, to see the moment when a new concept or skill just “clicks” for them, when they start to connect what they are learning in class with things in their other classes or their work, and I always learn new things from my students too. So when the opportunity to teach a class that is in my exact area of expertise came up for this semester, I jumped on it!

As you also may know, I have three different alma maters3 and I’ve taught at two different post-secondary institutions4. But now I’m adding yet another school to my repertoire, as the university I’ll be teaching at starting next week is Simon Fraser University. Now, you may recall that a few years back I got an Adjunct Prof title at SFU. In that capacity I’d done some grant writing with a colleague and supervised some practicum students, but this has been my first opportunity to teach a course5. And I’m pretty stoked about it.

So now the number of post-secondary institutions where I’ve taught has caught up with the number that I have degrees from! I know some academics who are academically monogamous (*cough* Dr. Dan *cough*), but apparently I am academically promiscuous.

Anyway, writing this blog posting has been a wee bit of a break from preparing my slides for next week’s class, but I really should get back to that! In the meantime, check out this adorable image that I found while looking for Creative Commons licensed or royalty-free images to put on my slides6!

L'il Devil

Image Credit: Post on Flickr by Darren Bell with a Creative Commons license.

  1. I’m still sticking by my claim that I’m not going to do any more degrees! []
  2. While doing my MBA, I often thought about how, though I really enjoyed all the cool things I was learning, I kind of liked being on the other side of the classroom better! []
  3. McMaster – the best university in the history of universities! – for my BSc(Hons), University of Guelph for my MSc, and UBC for my PhD and MBA. []
  4. UBC and the JI []
  5. This is the first time that they’ve needed an instructor in a class that I have expertise in where the class wasn’t during the day. I can only teach night classes, since my day job is, well, a day job. []
  6. For the record, the slide on which I’ll be putting this image is during the part of my class where I’m talking about group work and, in particular, the importance of having someone be a devil’s advocate, so you don’t get stuck in groupthink! []

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MBA = Most Bad Ass

Last Wednesday, I attended my fourth – and final – university convocation as a graduate1, receiving my hard earned MBA2. It’s hard to believe that just 28 months ago3, me and 50 other brave souls embarked on the intense and life changing journey that is the part-time MBA program at UBC. Taking an program like this – super intense in both the amount and type of work – while also holding down full-time jobs4 takes a special5 kind of person. I knew I was going to learn a lot in this program, as I had no background in business whatsoever, but when I look back on it, I’m still stunned by how much I learned. Entire fields that I knew nothing about – accounting, finance, economics, marketing, just to name a few – are now not only comprehensible to me, but also fascinating. This program has provided not just content, but also new skills that I apply every day in my work and personal life and it has expanded my worldview.

And I feel very privileged to have traveled these past 28 months with the most fantastic group of people. I met people from all sorts of different sectors and backgrounds and learned as much from them as I did from my professors and textbooks. We worked hard together through countless classes and group meetings and Skype meetings and lunch meetings, through study groups and running simulated businesses and writing business plans and doing Friday case nights and the seemingly endless hours of capstone weekend. There were papers and exams and presentations and celebrations. There was a lot of laughter and some tears and some rants and all the things that life-long friendships are made of.


The day of graduation, though they were calling for rain, actually turned out to be sunny and beautiful! One of the graduates from the full-time MBA cohort with whom I had a class6 and next to whom I sat at grad (due to us having surnames that are alphabetically similar) noted that this was because he’d worked his skills from the MBA – Master of the Black Arts. The convocation ceremony was nice, full of all the pomp and circumstance that a university convocation entails – the speeches were great and since I knew all of the part-time MBAs and a bunch of the full-timers (as I’d taken a couple of classes from the full-time program and some of them took some of our part-time classes) the seemingly endless parade of graduates crossing the stage was more interesting to me than my previous graduations, where I’d known far fewer of the people graduating.

This is the sea of graduates as seen from the balcony of the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at UBC, where convocation is held:

MBA Graduation 2014 - A Sea of Graduates

You can spot me in the fifth row by the fact that I’m in a pink robe instead of the black MBA robe – one of the perks of having the PhD7.

In other news, I totally underestimated how long I’d be on stage when I said 7.4 seconds – it actually turns out that I was on stage for nearly 20 whole seconds! Here’s the video to prove it:

Here is 4/5ths of D2NA, my group from school. One of our big project in the Core part of our program was to write a business plan and our company was D2NA, and our product was the Double Device (you may recall our mascot, Marty The Moose.)). From left to right we have Bronwyn, me, the guy who holds the ceremonial university mace8 (not part of our group), Emily, and Tyler. Missing from the photo is Edmond, who wasn’t at the ceremony.

D2NA at MBA Grad!

And here’s a photo of me with Fran, the most helpful person EVER! When I first started my MBA, UBC had some difficulty in figuring out how to process my scholarship, as it’s a rare type of scholarship9 and they didn’t appear to have ever had a student with one of these before, so no one in the finance area could figure out how to deal with it. But Fran came to my rescue and after about a billion emails with Finance, she was able to get it sorted out for me so that I could get my scholarship money and thus be able to pay my tuition fees. She came up to me after the ceremony and introduced herself because, despite the aforementioned billion emails, we’d never actually met in person. Needless to say, I gave her the biggest hug!

MBA Graduation 2014

Because I’m spoiled, my mom and my Aunt Eileen came out from Toronto for my big day:

My mom, me and Aunt Eileen

They were here for the whole week and we had many adventures, which will have to be the subject of another blog posting as this one is already getting way long!

Speaking of spoiled, I was spoiled by my mom and aunt, who not only came all this way for my grad, but also showered me with gifts, including the beautiful shoes I wore to grad10 and the beautiful flowers that you see me holding11

And as if I weren’t spoiled enough, my Aunty Gwen sent me this MBA grad present – a gorgeous blanket that she crocheted herself, made specifically to go with my beloved purple chair:

Handmade afghan - an MBA grad present from my Aunty GwenThe picture does not do it justice – it’s an exquisite stitch that she used an the colours in it as so beautiful and it totally completes the chair!

All in all, it was a lovely day and I am very pleased that I can now officially put the “MBA” behind my name. For the record, I am now legally entitled to write my name thusly:

Beth Snow, BSc(Hons), MSc, PhD, MBA, CE

So that’s 18 letters after my name – and only 8 letters in my name! Even if you were to use my full legal name “Mary Elizabeth Snow” instead of just “Beth”, that’s only 17 letters in my name – still one fewer than all the ones I’ve earned the right to be put after my name!


Image Credit: Specially thanks to my Aunt Eileen and my friend and classmate, Emily Graham, for the photos and video!

Footnotes:

  1. If I get any more university degrees, they will have to be of the Honorary Doctorate variety, as I have no plans to actually do work for another degree. Though apparently you have to do something honourable in order to be granted an Hon Doc, so I guess I’ll have to figure out something honourable to do now. []
  2. A.k.a., graduating from grade 25 []
  3. And three years ago I don’t think I’d even started studying for the GMAT yet! []
  4. Not to mention having families, social lives, etc. By my count there were 11 babies born or conceived during the 28 months of our program, along with 6 weddings. []
  5. Translation: Crazy. []
  6. Healthcare Management. []
  7. You can spot the other PhD from my class – Keith – in the bottom left of that photo. []
  8. I have no idea why the university has a ceremonial mace. []
  9. Mostly because you can only get it if you hold a health sciences-based PhD and are doing an MBA, and there aren’t many people who have done a PhD that want to go back to school! []
  10. See photo above. []
  11. The flowers, sadly, have had to live on my balcony as the cats seem to think they look most delicious and I have no idea if these particular flowers are poisonous to cats, so to be on the safe side, I’m keeping them outside. []

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I finally have something to blame all my absentmindedness on!

I’ve long been absentminded, but I can now add “Professor” on to that, for, as you will already know if you are linked in to me on Linked In, I have a shiny new title to add to my resume: Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Health Science at Simon Fraser University.

Adjunct Professor, unlike the regular kind, is a title that signifies that one is associated with the university through their professional work. For me, that includes collaborating with researchers, supervising practicum students, and hopefully doing some teaching as well1. So I’m not quitting my day job, but rather awesome-ifying it2 as one of the things that I really like to do is bridge the academic world with the world of health services, and this title signifies that bridge.

photo

Dr. Snow, Absentminded Professor

  1. I don’t have anything set up teaching-wise as of yet, but I have some ideas! []
  2. Well, I should say “further awesome-ifying it”, as it’s already pretty awesome. []

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Since Five Years Is A Long Time To Not Be A Student

Hey, remember that time I said that a government agency wants to give me bucketloads of money so that I can get an MBA and that I needed to write the GMAT and then apply to the program and then hopefully I’d actually get in so I can have the aforementioned bucketloads of money? Yeah, that all happened. Schools starts for me in January.

Now, before you all going telling me (again) that I’m a Crazyface McGee, it’s merely an intensive 28-month, part-time program that I’ll do while still working full-time and that costs $41K+. You may now all call me crazy. But only half crazy, really, because of the aforementioned bucketloads of money.

Stack O'Money!
Not the actual pile of money I’ll be getting. Mine will be Canadian.

After the crushing level of student debt I incurred to get my first three degrees, I swore I’d never borrow another penny for education again, but when I found out about the scholarship to do an MBA, it was really too good of an opportunity to pass up. Especially given that I actually won the scholarship!

I just found out about my offer of admission last week, celebrated on Friday with a fine wine and a three-year-old cheese, both of which I picked up in Oregon in the summer and have been saving for just such a momentous occasion, and paid my tuition fee deposit yesterday. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what this time commitment will mean for my life and a lot of planning of how I’ll get myself organized to juggle my life, work, and school, but the reality of the situation is really starting to sink in now. Expect some think-y blog postings about such topics over the next little while – please bear with me! Or, you know, tell me I’m crazy.

Image Credit: Posted by docwonder on Flickr.

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Falsifiability is the new hot pink

About eleventy bazillion years ago, I did an invited guest lecture in Dr. Dan’s class. I had such good intention of blogging about it at the time. Better late than never though, right?

Picture it! The course is Dr. Dan’s graduate level Experimental Design course. The location is a classroom in the hallowed halls of my alma mater #2 of 3, the University of Guelph1.The topic is The Scientific Method. Which is awesome because it allowed me to wax poetic – and engage in discussions with the students – about such things as philosophical world views unpinning research, qualitative/quantitative/mixed methodology approaches to research, falsifiability, and “what is an experiment, exactly?” In case you are interested in such thing, here’s my Prezi:

Now, the Prezi doesn’t really stand on its own, given my belief that one’s visual aids for a presentation should be a visual aid that compliments the person yammering at the front of the room (i.e., me) rather than replacing them. After all, if the Prezi was a complete package without me, then no one would want to pay me the big bucks to do these invited guest lectures2. Also, I’m a big fan of getting the class into a discussion about the material3, so that isn’t really captured in the Prezi either. In conclusion, you had to be there. Which you weren’t4.

*Note: The title of this blog posting was shamelessly stolen from Rick’s comment on Dr. Dan’s blog posting on this very topic.

  1. To which I had not been, I will add, since I finished my Master’s back in August 2000!! []
  2. For the record, I was paid no bucks, as is customary for guest lectures, but I may or may not have been paid in Americanos and coconut milk ice cream. And an offer for a Dr. Dan guest lecture in one of my classes. []
  3. The class was maybe not so into that at first, but I find that if you leave enough silence, they’ll get talking. And they did! []
  4. Unless you were, in which case, how the heck did you find my blog? []

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My Dissertation Haiku

Three days ago, Darren pointed out this site to me: Dissertation Haiku. On this site, people write a single haiku that summarizes their PhD dissertation.  Since then, I’ve been trying to write a haiku to summarize my dissertation and failing miserably. As it turns out, I suck at haikus. So I did what any self-respecting scientist would do – I hired my statistician to do it for me1.

And now I give you my Dissertation Haiku, written by Dr. Daniel J. Gillis:

Boozing rat mommies
Make baby rat bones so weak
Poor baby rat bones

If you’d like to read the longer version, my dissertation is here.

Incidentally, at this exact moment, Dr. Dan has also posted his own dissertation haiku. Coordinated simultaneous blog postings. Yes, we truly are that cool.

Update: My dissertation haiku is now published on the Dissertation Haiku site! Go there to read it in all its haikuy glory! Also, if you happen to be one of my friends who also has a dissertation, you should submit your own dissertation haiku there too. Submit, I say!

  1. where by “hire” I mean asked him nicely and gave him no money. Not unlike his day job, except for the asking him nicely part []

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New publication

While updating my CV today, I discovered that a paper I wrote1, which had been accepted for publication a gajillion years ago, is finally in print.

Click on the image if you want to read all about teaching transdisciplinarity in a discipline-centred world!

Teaching Transdisciplinarity

  1. based on the conference presentation I did in New Brunswick, way back when []

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Bunch of Random Stuff

Here’s a bunch of random stuff that each aren’t long enough to make a blog posting on their own, but collectively make up a bunch of random stuff.

  • Some very cool people are getting honourary doctorates at UBC1 this year, including satirist Rick Mercer, author Douglas Coupland, and astronaut Julie Payette. Also getting a UBC HonDoc is the person with the worst French language skills on the planet, John Furlong2.  One name on the list that really caught my eye was Dr. Nora Volkow – she’s the Director of the US National Institute of Drug Addiction3. You can see her in this HBO documentary on addiction, where she does an amazing job explaining the science of addiction. Her work as a neuroscientist has gone a long way to show that addiction involves a pathophysiology of the brain – so addiction isn’t about strength of will or moral character, it’s a disease.
  • Here’s some interesting information about how larger plates are making us fatter.  I’ve read quite a few studies recently on how portion sizes have increased over the years – both at restaurants and at homes.  Further, studies show that bigger portion size actually results in people taking bigger bites of food.
  • I have a date for the Polar Bear Swim on January 1, 2011.  My friend Krista has agreed to join me!  And, as she says, we’ve said it on the intertubes, so now we *have* to do it!
  • For some unknown reason, WordPress has stopped emailing me comments that are made on my blog. I have it set up to do so, as seen here, but I don’t get emails.  So if I’m slower at replying to comments than I used to be, blame WordPress.  I’m innocent.
  • Today, my friend Dr. Jen officially became Dr. Jen.  Technically, you aren’t allowed to use the PhD behind your name, or call yourself “Dr.,” until after your convocation4. Even though once you’ve handed the final copy of your thesis into the Faculty of Graduate Studies, you’ve done all you need to do. But until the degree is actually granted on convocation day, you technically don’t have it.  Not like that stops anyone from calling themselves “Dr.” right from the moment the committee at the defence says “I’m pleased to inform you…” though. Congratulations, Dr. Jen!!
  1. I hope to get an HonDoc some day. Because I have a fascination with collecting letters to put behind my name. []
  2. seriously, I have better French than that guys AND I DON’T EVEN SPEAK FRENCH []
  3. an aside: I was just perusing Dr. Volkow’s Wikipedia page and apparently she’s the great granddaughter of Trotsky! []
  4. same is technically true of Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, but since you don’t change your honorific with those degrees, it’s not such a big deal []

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Congratulations, Dr. Bedford!

Today, my friend Jen defended her PhD!  I didn’t get to attend the defence because The Man made me go to work all day, but I heard from people that were in attendance that Jen rocked it!  Not that there was any doubt that she would!

IMG_0405

Here’s a poor quality photo I took of Jen on my iPhone at the Cactus Club, where we went for celebratory drinks tonight.

Congratulations, Dr. Jen!  I hope you are enjoying your new life as one of the club. You deserve it!