The Dynamic Duo December 6, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, family, papers, research.
Tags: acknowledgements, collaboration, engineering research, Mike, papers, research, spouse
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When I was doing my MS, I ended up getting a research assistantship working in the same place as Mike (which is, of course, where I now am working). There was one person higher up in the ranks who would occasionally see us having lunch together and would exclaim, “There’s the Dynamic Duo!” This person was rather tickled that Mike and were interested in the same field of engineering.
At the time, it kind of peeved me. I was already getting a bit of a feeling that people viewed me as his shadow, and this comment didn’t help to alleviate that concern. Now I think about it, however, and it actually was much better than I thought because there was no implication that either one of us was better than the other: we were peers.
We both take this view when we’re doing research, and we really enjoy collaborating on things. We’ve found that our strengths are complimentary, so it’s very easy to talk to each other about a topic and get good feedback. We also have several projects that we’re doing separately, but we almost always (especially on our drives home) talk about what we’re doing and asking for feedback. (Well, admittedly, it’s volunteered whether we want it or not.)
Those conversations have, more often than not, been incredibly helpful in moving projects forward. However, this leaves us in a bit of a bind because, as I said, some of these projects really aren’t involving the other person. When this happens, especially if the project results in publication, we always have to make a decision: do we add the other person as co-author or mention them in the acknowledgements. When it’s been nothing more than conversational input, particularly when we proofread each other’s papers, we choose the latter. This does lead to some interesting possibilities for entertaining acknowledgements.
I would like to thank my spouse for suggesting such a nifty title.
I would like to thank my spouse for catching that diagram that was completely bass ackwards when proofreading the paper for me.
and maybe even
I would like to thank my spouse for the helpful input in developing the concept of this project, despite the fact that they laughed at my hokey acronym.
I know. It’s totally unprofessional. But it’s a lot of fun to imagine doing such a thing.
Guest post by Gigadog: “Help me, please!” December 1, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in personal, pets.
Tags: arthritis foundation, cold, costume, donations, Gigadog, newfoundlands
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Mom took a picture of dad and me while he was scratching my neck:
Dad was just placating me. You know why? Mom is making me wear this ARFul costume next weekend. Mom says that I’ll love it because we’re going for a long walk. Yeah…a long walk, where people won’t see beautiful me, they’ll see beautiful me all covered up and looking like an elf.
Also, it’s supposed to be -5ºF that morning. That’s cold, even for a fluffy pup like me. I have no idea what mom is going to do without a beautiful fur coat like mine.
She says it’s for a good cause, though. Something about ARFritis. If you can please donate, it might almost make it worth it to go out in public, especially in the cold, and both mom and I would be very happy. (Although, let’s face it. I’m a dog, so I’m pretty much happy all the time.) It certainly would make it worthwhile to look so silly and undignified.
She loves me more… November 22, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in older son, pets.
Tags: Gigadog, older son, parenting, pets, teenagers
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Tonight, the older son jumped over Gigadog. I asked him to please step over her carefully. If he jumps over her, he could slip and miss her, and he’d fall on her. Having someone fall on her would likely freak her out, and she would bite him. This would leave me in a dilemma: I have an injured dog and an injured child. Who do I bring for medical care first?
I told the older son that I would likely bring Gigadog because she loves me more. He looked stunned.
“It’s not that I love her more, but she loves me more. She sits and pants and wags her tail when I get home. You do none of those things,” I told him.
“It’s not that I don’t love you, it’s that I just express it differently,” he responded.
“I don’t recognize the way you express it. It would be much better if you panted.”
I’m not sure *anyone* recognizes the way teenagers express affection toward their parents. Dogs are so much easier to read.
A useful exercise November 19, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in education, engineering, older son, teaching.
Tags: effectiveness, evaluations, students, teaching
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Since I began teaching this class, I’ve had this nagging question in my head: is what I’m doing effective? I’ve contemplated inquiring as to whether anything changed in terms of retention or GPA of students who went through the class before versus after I started teaching. It would be good to track that as much as possible, so that I could see if changes in the class manifested in changes in those retention-type numbers, although I wonder if I would be able to evaluate micro-changes in the class that way given other issues seem to swamp data about student behavior. (It may just be me, but I’ve noticed that when the economy is good, more of my students seem to be interested. When it’s not good, I have a lot of students who are back in school because they think it’s the only way to get a better job or the students are very pessimistic. It seems like the attitude of all of the students get pushed in pulled in ways like that.) It might also be a good thing to put on my resume. Wouldn’t it be impressive if I could say something about improving retention in the dept. since taking over the class? Having quantitative data saying you’re an effective teacher certainly can’t hurt.
On the other hand, I’ve wondered if it was worth the time to do so or if the school would give me some reason why they couldn’t provide me with that kind of data. Or worse yet: what if I didn’t like what I saw? (It’s easy to attribute favorable changes to one’s efforts but seems hypocritical to evaluate negative changes as being out of one’s control.)
When I started teaching this class, which is supposed to be an academic skills class for freshmen, it was done as whatever each teacher wanted it to be. I imagine most people put a decent amount of effort into it, but there was one year that apparently didn’t go well. A former classmate told me that when he took the course (a decade ago?), the prof decided that, being engineers, they didn’t need academic help: they needed social skills. They spent the entire semester playing fantasy football. I wish I was kidding.
When I put the course together, I came up with “everything I wish I’d known as a freshman plus all this stuff on how to learn and study effectively (because I’d been reading a ton on learning disabilities because of older son) along with things I’ve observed my students really ought to know even if I knew those things at that age”. So, I jammed a lot of stuff into the course. And, as I said, I have no way of knowing how well it’s working as the only feedback I’ve had was student evals (which, I have to admit, have been much better than I anticipated).
At least, I didn’t until today. I had requested to have some upper-level engineering students come to my classes to talk about their experiences and answer questions. One student went through my class last year. At some point, she said, “I bet you all think this class is a waste of time.” She continued, saying how useful the class was in transitioning her from high school, where she didn’t have to work much in order to get good grades, to college where things were more challenging. She mentioned a couple of the project-type activities I had them do and said she’s using that information a lot in her upper-level classes.
I was surprised. That’s exactly the kind of thing I’m hoping to hear, but I was surprised that she began discussing that unprompted. (I had only mentioned in introducing her that she was a former student.) It’s made me wonder how many other students have similar perceptions being a year or two into the program…and whether I need to rethink my view of trying to get concrete data.
The “dear teacher” letter November 11, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in education, gifted, math, teaching, younger son.
Tags: gifted, gifted education, math, teaching, younger son
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Last week was parent-teacher conferences at the younger son’s school.
If you don’t know, I dread these things. I had been feeling better after last year, but then I realized I’d been lulled into a false sense of security. In particular, two years ago, younger son’s teacher was having a fit because he wasn’t doing math with all the other kids. The thing we kept getting was, “He’s really not all that great at math.” Last year, we attempted to have the younger son do his math curriculum at school. We kept trying for a month. However, it was very clear that his teacher was unable to help him, so they sent him out into the main office area where there was a lot of traffic…and no one to help him. We said we would take care of it at home and didn’t hear another thing about it again.
At the beginning of this year, there was some noise that he would do the math at home in addition to the math at school. We quickly put a stop to that and said, “You’re punishing him for being smart.” Making him do two sets of math a day is no good.
The thing is, I really don’t understand this. He’s doing excellent by standardized testing standards. What more do they want? I sure hope they aren’t saying, “If Johnny worked just a bit harder, he would be at the 98th percentile instead of the 96th!” Or are they saying that if they worked harder, they could beat Suzie’s score in math? I seriously doubt it…and if they are, then I think they’re a little bit whacked. All I can think is that this is either a control issue or a conformity issue. It has absolutely nothing to do with his math ability.
Which, incidentally, isn’t all that good. ”You know, he’s not the top student in the class as far as math testing goes.” That’s what we got. I suspect this is, “He’d be doing better if he was doing math with all the rest of his classmates,” as in I should feel guilty for making him miss out on the stuff his friends are doing.
Unfortunately for her, I really get irritated with things like guilt trips and appeals to social norms. I really don’t care if my kid is doing something different.
The other issue is that it has *everything* to do with his math ability. She’s taking math scores and comparing them to other kids. We already know that his processing speed may not be that great and that he’s not the kind of kid who likes to spend time memorizing things. Math at the elementary level is all about those things: computation and recall. However, his reasoning and visualization skills are really great. Like most elementary teachers, I think she doesn’t understand that math is more than multiplication tables. She recognized that he knows those things, but that maybe he needs time to figure it out rather than having it at the tip of his tongue. What she doesn’t realize is that he’s not the kind of kid who is going to tolerate endless drilling of memorization facts when his real strengths are in logic and reasoning. Would you like math if it was always doing the types of things you hate? This kid is stoked to get into algebra soon…why would I want to kill that and tell him he needs to practice flash cards more?
There are ‘optional’ tests on the MAPs in science and science reasoning. His scores in both those areas were the same for 10th graders and above, according to national norms. Why do they always want to hold kids back to their weakest skills, even when those skills are still obviously above average for their age mates? Even in his ‘weak’ area, he’s still near the top of his class…and they conveniently ignore his strengths and pretend like those have nothing to do with the issue at hand.
I have to write this teacher a letter with some follow-up information. However, there is a part of me that wants to ask why there is such a focus on holding younger son back when they should instead be focusing on allowing ALL of the children to perform at a level appropriate to their abilities.
You see, when she said he wasn’t at the top of the class in math, I didn’t feel guilty. I felt bad for those other kids because they were being held back and not having the opportunity to work on interesting and challenging work the way younger son is. Rather than being ashamed that my son is getting to do things he finds interesting and challenging (so that he’s also learning about having to work hard and deal with frustration), I wondered why the teacher and school aren’t ashamed of what they’re doing to those other students.
Never tell me the odds November 6, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in science fiction, younger son.
Tags: science fiction, star wars, wisdom, younger son
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As I was explaining (complaining?) to the older son about the odds of some particular favorable event happening, the younger son, who was playing a video game and didn’t even bother looking up from the computer, piped up with this little gem:
You know, he’s a smart kid. If Han Solo hadn’t attempted to outrun the Empire, the most likely outcome would’ve been capture. Of course, I suppose he didn’t see the getting encased in carbonite thing as a potential outcome.
Fortunately, I don’t anticipate that any outcome will result in carbonite encasement regardless of the success or failure of my attempts.
Happy Halloween! October 31, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in pets.
Tags: bison, Gigadog, halloween, holiday, pictures
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I hope everyone had a happy Halloween! Sadly, we know that Gigadog didn’t. That look she was giving me was, “If these were real bison horns, I would be using them to gore you about now.”
I still think she makes a lovely bison. And true to form, she was exceptionally stubborn when she had the horns on…which wasn’t for long.
You could be a teacher October 16, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in career, education, feminism, research, science, teaching, work, younger son.
Tags: education, high school, higher education, math, teaching, younger son
The older boy snickered.
“I like to think so,” I responded.
There was a brief silence followed by, “Welllll………you’re good at math, and you’re a teacher…maybe you should teach math at a high school!”
What followed was a long explanation about how I just physically can’t handle the idea of teaching K-12. Teaching 6 hours a day, grading, prep, etc. Actually, it’s mostly the teaching. Teaching more than 4 hours turns me into a puddle that can’t function until I’ve had a good night’s sleep. Teaching high school is not the ideal profession for introverts. There’s also the fact that, frankly, it would get boring to teach high school math after more than a year or two. The math is what interests me more than the challenge of helping students to understand (though that is an interesting problem when the material is also sufficiently intellectually stimulating). I think he gets it, but he still likes the idea of his mom as a math teacher.
This did bring to the surface some thoughts I’ve been mulling over. Does he see me as a teacher because he already knows I teach or does gender roles have something to do with it? I’ve been pondering this a lot because I get the sense that there are some academics who really do view teaching through a gendered lens and therefore think I’d be better off at a community or liberal arts college. In fact, I imagine there’s a blog post where I discussed someone telling me as much, but I’m not going to dig it out now.
One thing that has occurred to me is that, if I want people to look at my research, I may actually actively have to avoid things that will stick ‘teacher’ into their heads when they think of me. That is, it’s probably a good idea to actively avoid involvement in education conferences and societies except at a cursory level. Teaching should be kept at a minimum. I enjoy the service work component and the idea of exploring interesting aspects of STEM education. I also really enjoy interacting with students (but not all day long). I don’t like the idea that it means that my other abilities and accomplishments will be overlooked. Maybe that’s taking things too far, but I don’t really know how to cement the ‘researcher’ thing into people’s brains unless that’s the only thing they see when looking at my CV. Maybe once the ‘teacher’ version of me has been wiped clean, it’ll be okay to begin dabbling in serious educational research pursuits.
That’s obviously not what my son was worried about. He simply wants me to have a job I enjoy…and maybe there’s a bit of an ulterior motive as he hopes I’d be home more during the summers. It’s a nice idea, but the other nine months of the year probably wouldn’t be all that enjoyable for me…especially if doing research was secondary, or worse, nonexistent.
All that being said, I think that if I do ever become a math teacher, I want the above tshirt. (You can get it here, if you’re curious.)
I wonder where that came from? October 15, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in family, science, younger son.
Tags: Mike, science, younger son
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Mike was helping younger son study for a science test. After they were finished, Mike turned to me and said that younger son seems to have a very good handle on the subject. The younger son, in response, said that he really likes science and thinks it may even be “his talent.”
I smiled at Mike and said, “Gee, I wonder where that came from?”
Younger boy, apparently not realizing that the question was rhetorical, said in the most definitive tone, “You, Mom!”
I sure wasn’t expecting that but I certainly appreciated it. For the record, however, I’m guessing Mike had a little something to do with it, too.
October sucks October 13, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, family, older son, personal, teaching, work.
Tags: college, family, family/work balance, NSF, older son, sports, stress, work
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I really am starting to dread October. Being in the midst of it, I understand why.
October is when *everything* happens. There’s no way to handle it but to keep going until the sheer exhaustion kicks in. For me personally, I have NSF proposals due. I am deep in the throes of teaching and grading. I have reports due and conference papers to prepare. My kids have all their various sports and other activities in full swing, meaning that we have activities going on 3 or 4 nights per week.
This year is definitely worse than last year because I’m still recovering from my medical fiasco last month, complete with lots of fun follow-up tests, and still am not able to engage in complete stress relief on a regular basis (i.e. running). Further, the older son is going through the college application process, which is generally more time consuming than either of us really likes at this point. I am hoping that these factors won’t be present in Octobers to come.
Half-way there, though. Just a couple more weeks, and things will ease off. One of the sports that both boys are in will be done until spring, NSF proposals will be over, most of the major grading I have will be done…and there will be leftover Halloween candy. As long as someone saves me a peanut butter cup, I’ll be fine.