In the beginning there was grad school. That ended in 2010. Now what do I blog about?

NEW BLOG - ACADEMIC AMPLITUDE

March 27, 2008

In Review

I had my review at work today. The vice chair of my department read his comments off the review form to me and we had a few laughs, especially when he said he couldn't give me all O's (outstanding) so there were a few E's (excellent) in there. We chatted briefly, I asked for a private office, he said that would be almost impossible. I asked for a PDA, he said sure. So all in all, it was a good review. What it will amount to in my check, I have no idea but I am sure it won't be enough to grant my husband an early retirement.

Evaluations are weird. I used to work at a place where the form was five pages long and instructions were to list 3 positives and 2 neutrals or negatives in each section. We as employees were encouraged to do a self eval and submit it to our supervisor. I was fortunate enough to have 5 years to master the self-eval and it ended up that 3 of my annual evals were almost word-for-word copies of my submitted self-eval. I was honest - I gave myself fair assessments. I knew I could improve my camaraderie with coworkers and improve my appearance, so I always put those in there. A few times I had to make stuff up - like attend more student functions or spend more time reviewing company policy (I could quote the manual, but never had the chance to prove it).

At the end was a section for the supervisor to write 5 goals and the employee to state an action plan to reach those goals. One manager noted my anti-social behavior and challenged me to interact socially - and I took it as a valuable challenge. I started going to lunch and chatting with staff. I joined the staff softball team. I volunteered to chair the diversity council. I was organizer for two annual 'fun days' and helped plan a family day. Another supervisor challenged me to dress more professionally. I didn't do too well at that, but I did start getting regular hair 'styles' not just 'cuts', and I increased my shoe collection from 2 pairs to 6 pairs. All good things.

The eval process there, I thought, was a good one. Some give and take, a balance of positive and negative commentary and some goals.

Here, at my current locale, the form is a simple 1.5 page list of check boxes with a few blank spaces for minor comments. Quality of work: Outstanding Interactions with others: Excellent etc. There isn't any space to note that I attended & spoke at a national convention, and attended regional conferences. I want it in writing that I have enrolled in graduate school so I can be of more service to the department and the school (and make more money, of course).

On this form there is no room for goal setting, no action plan. I don't like that. I need to be challenged. I can't even set a goal to get all O's because I am already there (according to my supervisor today). So what now?

Yes, I am happy that my work is appreciated and my supervisor is willing to gush about me to the big cheese. I'm just a little disappointed that he didn't give me a challenge for this year. If I did a self-eval I would have put, for goals:
  1. Identify solution for cross-campus conferencing; implement
  2. Identify problems with email distribution list; solve
  3. Assess student technology needs; write summary and proposal
  4. Assess faculty technology and training needs; write summary and action plan
So I guess those are my goals. The actual implementation or problem solving I can't guarantee because, since they aren't in my eval I don't have full departmental support. But I can do as much as I can on my end and will learn something in the process and make some headway across the technological divide. The great thing about school and work being so closely related is that I can craft school assignments into work-related projects. A few of the goals listed above could be projects I can get school credit for, so it definitely works to my benefit.

And I am very excited about getting a PDA! Hooray for tech toys!

March 10, 2008

spring break

Beaches. Beer. Bar-b-que. Not for me.

Although it was on my schedule, in the syllabus, I really didn't pay any mind to the scheduled week off. Not until I fell behind in my homework. Then I rallied and made significant headway so that I, too, could enjoy the week off without the worry of unfinished business.

Because life is life and life is like that, this week hasn't been super wonderful. I have been logging on to the course website, just to poke around and peek at replies to my discussions posts even though I promised myself I wouldn't. And I have been stressing out just little because I haven't decided on an 'engaging question' for a research project I didn't know I would be working on. (I did read the syllabus, and re-read it; the information is unclear). But that isn't due until next week so I could put it on the theoretical back burner without guilt.

And it is tax season. So this week I have been working on our household taxes. Oh joy of joys. Why do people who have children get tax refunds and people without children have to leave their money with the federal government to spend? That makes no sense to me. I know it costs money to raise kids, but seriously. That tax credit needs to be dissolved into something either equally beneficial or equally penalizing.

So Sunday is Dad's 79th birthday. I'm not a big fan of family obligations. I hear the death march drumming as whatever event it is draws nearer. Budda-budda-bum, bum, bum, bum, bum. Budda-da-da-da-da-da bum, bum, bum, bum, bum. Its not that I don't love my family and I do enjoy visiting my brother and playing with his rugrats. Its the obligation part of it that bothers me. Everyone waits until its someones birthday and then scrambles to plan a get-together and no one has any idea of each others' schedule because we haven't seen each other since the last birthday. And you can tell just by looking around that everyone has somewhere else they'd rather be, even if its just at home at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon (like me). Not really - I see my brother regularly. I am just exaggerating to support my argument that family obligations aren't really very much fun. Because they aren't.

On the bright side, my office-mate is away for the week with her church, saving the souls of people in El Salvador, or building shelters or digging wells, or whatever. But it means that I have the whole office to myself AND there aren't twenty million people dancing in and out our door to chat with her. I love it. I'd love to have my own office. I had a private office three years ago, and it was a nice one, too, a corner office on a second floor with a view of 100 year old pine trees growing up and around a decaying old state hospital. It was glorious - the privacy, the seclusion, the autonomy. When I started with my current employer, my first position involved a cubicle. It was the worst working environment I could be assigned. It was right near a door, too, so every five minutes someone would enter or exit the suite and that door would slam. My nerves were shot after a few months - I'd jump out of my skin every time I heard the mechanism catch in the door handle. Plus it was a suite - there were four of us in there - one gay male, the boss, and three women. Talk about over emotional wrecks. Ugh. Terrible. But there was always chocolate around.

My office mate now is OK; she is nice, she tries to be friendly. But she is older and on the verge of retirement and she has a classic case of employee burnout - she knows too much, has been there too long, has seen too much change and is ready to leave but can't until she's earned her full retirement so she feels 'stuck' and helpless. She's a miserable pill. She talks to herself constantly, which would be funny except its kind of scary. She lives alone with cats - crazy cat lady? - and rarely takes time off. She might fall down dead the day after she retires because it seems all she has is her job. And her yearly trip to El Salvador. You'd think someone who comes back from a third world country would feel pretty good about life, but last year, she came back in an even worse mood. So I am not anxious for her return and definitely enjoying my week alone. I am having lunch in my office with my feet up on the windowsill. Its great. Even if only short lived.

All in all, everything is well balanced, I think. I am ready for classes to start up again next week. I am glad I had time to do my taxes - in fact, I'll try to remember this next year since it has worked out so nicely. And if my office mate goes away again next year, maybe I'll invite Dad to have lunch with me in my office and my brother and sisters can do the scramble on their own. Its all about learning from experience, right?