Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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(More Than) Halfway There

It’s mid-March. Which means it is, mercifully, more than half way through the semester for the eighteen billion courses that I’m teaching right now. I mean, I love the classes that I’m teaching – one is statistics, another is data and research management, and a third is program planning & evaluation1 – and my students are awesome. But oh my gawd that is a lot of balls to keep in the air at the same time, along with my regular day job and various other sundry things I do.

Two of the courses run the full semester (one online and one in a weekly night class), but the other one is a half-sized course that runs over two weekends (Friday and half of Saturday one weekend and then three weekends later, half of Saturday and all day Sunday). I taught my first of those weekends on the first weekend of March and it was totally flashback to my MBA, which ran on a similar cadence and occurred in the same venue. And also the feeling of sheer exhaustion.

Right now, every day is go to work, possibly go to the gym or play hockey or teach a class (depending on the day), then spend the night marking assignments/creating assignments/develop course material and activities/making slide decks/reviewing online discussions and responding to students. Unless it’s a Saturday or Sunday, in which case I get to skip the “go to work part”. Every. Single. Day.

But I’m more than halfway there. I’ve completed week 10 of 15 weeks for my two full semester courses and half of my classes for the weekend course. I’ve only marked 6 of 14 assignments/tests, so there’s still a fair bit of work to do on that front, so I guess I’m a bit less than half done on marking and a bit more than half done on teaching.

I am really, really going to enjoy May this year.

  1. Yes, those topics are exciting to me. YMMV. []

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A Very Long-Winded Explanation of Why I Haven’t Blogged in Nearly a Month

Hey, remember that time I agreed to teach all of the courses in the universe this semester, in addition to my day job, while saying “this is a terrible idea and I’m going to be so freaking exhausted for the entire four months of this!”? but then also “but they will pay me money and that mortgage doesn’t pay itself!” Well, it turns out that I was right on both of those counts. Since December (when I started working on all of this stuff in earnest), my calendar has been jam packed with course prep, teaching, and marking for three courses:

One course is an online stats course that I’ve been teaching at the Justice Institute since 2011. After having taught it eight times already, I’m pretty happy with the course and only need to make minor tweaks to the course material. The majority of my work for the course is marking assignments – so I put it into my calendar when those are due to make sure that I get through them as quickly as possible.

My second course is also at the Justice Institute – late last year, they asked me if I’d be willing to teach a class on data and research management (using Excel as a tool for managing data and doing some data analysis). This class is on campus – right in my very own town!1 – and it’s a night course – so I actually can teach it despite having a day job. I’m a huge nerd, so this is actually stuff that I really enjoy. Plus, the JI lets sessionals in on the pension plan (which no other school that I teach at does) and I’m down for some extra free money.

And then the opportunity to teach a Program Planning & Evaluation course at UBC over a couple of weekends in March arose. I’ve taught a Program Planning & Evaluation course a few times and while this one I’m teaching in March is shorter (1.5 credits instead of my usual 3 credits) and it’s a different audience (people in leadership roles rather than those earlier in their career), I have all the content I need for the course – I just need to streamline it, create assignments better aligned to the audience and the duration and structure of the course schedule, and devise some learning activities around that content2 – all of which I have underway. The course is at the downtown campus, which is so much more convenient than having to trek out to Point Grey!

Anyhoo, all this to say that this has been me since mid-December and will continue to be me until the about mid-April:

upset-534103

I’m going to also write a quick posting about all the various things that I haven’t posted about in the last month, but I’ll do that as a separate posting because I imagine most people stopped reading this boring posting several paragraphs ago.

Image source: From Pixabay, shared with a “free for commercial use” license: https://pixabay.com/en/upset-sad-confused-figurine-534103/ 

  1. So much better than trekking up Burnaby mountain to teach. []
  2. Active learning is always great, but when teaching half and full days as I will be in this course, it’s a necessity – no one wants to hear me lecture for 8 hours! []

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I guess this is what it must feel like to be a whale, if a whale lived in a vast ocean of work instead of water

Illustrator whaleI feel like I’m coming up for a short breath after being submerged for a really long time, knowing that I’m shortly going to dive back down. I guess this is what it must feel like to be a whale, if a whale lived in a vast ocean of work instead of water.

The things under which I’ve been submerged recently include, in no particular order:

  • finishing up the course I was teaching this semester, including grading all the final assignments, calculating participation grades for the semester, and submitting final grades to the school
  • completing revisions for the new edition of my textbook1, including proofing all the revisions we did
  • submitting a grant application2
  • working on another grant application that is due May 1
  • my presidential duties
  • my actual day job, which is getting crazy busy as a Really Big Thing is about to happen and we have to be ready for it

But the textbook revisions and the marking are all done now, and those were two really time-consuming things that I was having to fit into my weekends and evenings, and the time available for working in the evenings and on the weekends were abbreviated due to the fact that I’m dedicated to doing my three days a week at the gym (which really is a big part of what helps me decompress when I’m so busy!) and I’ve been working longer than normal hours at my actual day job, due to all the work of preparing for the aforementioned Really Big Thing. So now I feel like I have a few days where I can actually breathe. By which I mean “write a blog post about how busy I’ve been”.

Of course, this is just a short reprieve, as I’m about to dive back down into the deep ocean that is work craziness. As, I mentioned above there is a Really Big Thing happening at work soon. This Really Big Thing will involve my team (a) providing data to monitor the progress and/or outcomes (good or bad) of said Really Big Thing (translation: lots of people will be wanting to see the data we produce daily) and (b) having to provide support 12 hours a day, 7 days a week until such time as the Really Big Thing settles down into just a Big Thing and we can go back to our regular work days and hours. Which means that I’ll be working some early mornings and some weekends and also, since I’m the lead of the team, should any crises happen, I could potentially be called even when I’m not on site. All that stuff happens starting April 28th.

Also, I’m going to have some house guests around this same time! Dr. Dan and one of his students will be staying with me from May 2-8, as they will be in town for important work things, and then from May 8-13, my mom and my Aunt Wendy will be staying with me as my Aunt has an important conference to attend and my mom is coming along to visit. I’m very excited to see all of them, as I think it will be good for me to get some quality time with family & friends to keep me grounded when I’m not at the hospital doing my Really Big Things.

Sperm whale starting a dive #2

Image Credit: Whale illustration posted by Steve on Flickr with a Creative Commons license and whale tail photo posted by Vilmos Vincze on Flickr with a Creative Commons license.

  1. I don’t think I’ve mentioned here that we are putting out a new edition. The original came out in 2012, which is like a million years ago in textbook years, so it was due. Nutrition is still a pretty young field, so there were a fair amount of things to update! It should be ready by the end of the month and everyone should buy a copy or 12. []
  2. Which I was just a co-investigator on, so I’m not saying I did the most work on it; was it was a team effort of a bunch of people and lead by someone else, but it still took up some time. []

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NaBloPoMo – Day 28 – It’s All Over But The Marking

Tonight was my last class of the course I’m teaching this semester. On my drive home from campus I was a little sad, because I know that I’ll not see any of my students again1! Despite having a class of 90 students, I actually got to know a fair number of them through in class discussion and chats on the break and after class.

The class is an intro to business concepts for students in food, nutrition, & health majors. The major assignment is writing a business plan together and we spent the last two classes having student presentations – which are Dragons’ Den style pitches where the students pretend they are pitching their business plans to room full of investors. Like last year, I was blown away by the creativity of both their business ideas and by their presentations, by the tough questions the students asked each other, and how much work and thought had gone into these projects, as evidenced by how well they dealt with those tough questions.

While I will definitely miss the students, I won’t be sad about getting my Tuesday nights back. And my Monday nights (when I did class prep). And my weekends (when I also did class prep). Teaching a class is a freaking lot of work. Well, once the marking gets wrapped up, that is.

  1. The trials and tribulations of being a sessional instructor who only teaches this one, fourth year course in that Faculty. []

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Teaching

Tonight was the last class of the course I’m teaching this semester. Since it was my first time teaching this class, it was a crazy amount of work and I am so, so, so, so, so, so tired. But I have to say that I really enjoyed teaching this class! The material leant itself well to active learning – though I definitely want to increase the amount of activities and decrease the amount of me-as-a-talking-head even more next year. The students did their class presentations this week and last and they were excellent – they really went above and beyond to produce some stellar work. A few students stayed behind after class to chat with me – they said that they agreed that more in-class activities would be better and even had some ideas for possible activities. And they said that they got a lot out of the class, as it was so different from any of their other classes, and that they found the little extras (like stories I told that brought the concepts into real life situations and videos I shared that touched on the concepts we were learning) really added some depth to the class, and that they really appreciated the work I’d put into it. That’s the kind of feedback that puts a smile on this very tired instructor’s face!

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You forgot the “chill”

In class today, I was demonstrating a method of data collection formally called “Dotmocracy” (but now being referred to as “Idea Ratings Sheets”). The basic premise is that you are looking to get a group to rate ideas and you have them write their ideas on a sheet and then everyone in the group can rate it from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree” – and they can also add comments about strengths or weaknesses of the idea. For this demo, the class decided that the topic would be “What is the best thing to do over the Christmas holidays?” and some of the ideas were things like “Spend time with family”, “Eat delicious foods”, “Catch up on TV”, etc.

After everyone did the rating, we checked out the results. And by far the best comment was on this one, where the idea of the best thing to do over the Christmas holidays is “Binge watching Netflix”:

Don't forget the "chill"

And the comment that one student wrote on it:

Don't forget the "chill"

“You forgot the “chill””.

And that explains why tonight I said a phrase that I never anticipated saying as a university professor in response to a student’s question about what a concept means: “You’ll have to Google “Netflix and chill””.

For the uninitiated: Netflix and chill.

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Look at me! I’m A Talking Head

A colleague of mine was making a series of videos1 for a class that she teaches and interviewed some experts on relevant topics. One of those topics was evaluation and one of those experts was me!

I’m totally breaking my “I don’t talk about work on my blog” but (a) the job title listed in the video is my old job, so I’m technically not talking about my work in its current form and (b) rampant narcissism requires that I share this video with everyone. Also, I think I come across as a little bit more professional than the last time I was interviewed as an expert… on drinking beer and eating nachos while watching Canucks playoff games

  1. I posted this on Twitter the other day, but I figured I’d post it here so that I’ll be able to find it again when I want to. Twitter is like a black hole that all my various witty remarks disappear into, never to be seen again. []

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Happy PhDiversary To Me!

As detailed in a previous posting, Nov 16 marks the anniversary of the day I received my PhD, according to my transcript. The convocation ceremony for my PhD was Nov 22, 2006 and my current theory1 is that Nov 16 marks the day that Senate voted to approve candidates for convocation – but I based that entirely on speculation.

At any rate, I am commemorating this, my 7th PhDiversary, in the traditional fashion, by posting this picture of a Tumbeast in a puffy PhD hat:

PhD Tumblbeast

And speaking of the puffy hat, it will soon be making its reappearance in my life as I have a grad photo session booked for Nov 252 and, as detailed in a previous posting, I will be yet again donning the pink robe and puffy hat of a UBC PhDer for that photo, as well as for the convocation ceremony next spring. Long live the puffy hat!

  1. Translation: I’m too lazy to actually investigate this. []
  2. I’m actually dreading this a bit, as I don’t really want to see how much older and fatter I’m going to look in these photos compared to the ones that were taken in the same robe and hat 7 years ago! []

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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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I Can Haz Business Ideas?

The core part of my MBA program involves two major projects. The first one is a business simulation using something caled Capsim, which we are partway through, and the second one is to write a business plan.

But before writing a business plan, one needs to have an idea for a business! This is where you come in, gentle reader. We are at the stage where we have to think of a business opportunity. Essentially, we want to find a “need” that isn’t being met by any currently existing business – an unmet need that we can then build a business around. At this point, we are wanting to generate as many ideas as possible – the more creative, the better! We have a few ideas, but I thought I’d check in with you – some “crowdsourcing,” if you will – to expand our thought processes.

So, do you have an unmet need? What really bugs you and makes you think “Why doesn’t someone solve this problem for me?