Friday, January 30, 2009

Still in the Running

I just heard from another committee member, who also happens to be our department's Placement Coordinator. She was letting me know she'd just finished having a "very pleasant and happy conversation" with the head of the search committee my advisor spoke with yesterday. This is good...I think. Like with yesterday's news, I get to be really happy about this for today. And then tomorrow, it's back to work. It may all ultimately come to nothing, so I'm not getting my hopes up. Luckily, I still have so much work to do that I'm to busy to sit around and be nervous and excited. I will, however, squeeze in some waiting by the phone and e-mail!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Job Search Etiquette Question

Last week, I got an e-mail from the chair of a search committee regarding a job I'd applied for in late November. The position was in my field, and the applications were to be reviewed immediately until the position was field. No clear indication of whether or not MLA interviews would be part of the process.

The e-mail I got last week explained that they had bypassed MLA and were now beginning the selection process, and they wanted to know if I was still available and interested in the job.

Uhhh, yeah.

So, time passes on, and today I learn from my advisor that they called her to follow up on her recommendation letter. Good news, of course, but I'm not going crazy or anything. My question is: Can I ask my advisor anything about the phone call? Obviously, I'm not asking for a play-by-play. I'm just curious if the search committee had any particular concern(s), or if this was just a run-of-the-mill follow up in the "tell us more about this person" kind of way.

Any traditional rules or etiquette for this situation?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Shopping Bounties and The Home Stretch

A couple friends and I shared a girls shopping trip in Nearby Giant Town this weekend, and I made out like a bandit on maternity clothes! Why would I need maternity clothes if this is my third child, you ask? Well, because my attic appears to eat maternity clothes by the box-load. Poof, a big box of maternity clothes disappeared. We hit one particularly uppity maternity boutique that I knew featured some very expensive clothes that I would never be able to afford. My plan, however, was to see if I could score any goods on the sale rack, where items were more in my budget. And score I did! I got a lovely Japanese Weekend summer dress for $45 (regularly priced at $119) and a pair of off-white, ellyB corduroy dress pants that were not only long enough (I'm 6'2" remember), but on sale for $45 (regularly priced at $90)! These pants are truly comfortable and somehow manage to make my arse look decent despite being 6 months pregnant--totally worth the money.

After stocking my closet with my new goods, I realized there will be more things we need to get before the baby comes. Thinking about this also made me realize that we only have 3 months left. Given how fast this pregnancy has gone by, 3 months doesn't seem like a lot of time. I still have to get Eliza's closet reorganized to accommodate sharing it with her new sister, and this is not a small task in itself. I also need to get some sort of bassinet, because the Pack & Play we used when Eliza was a newborn won't fit next to the bed anymore. I've never used a sling before, but I'd like to use one with this baby, so I'll have to get at least one of those. I know it doesn't seem like a lot is still needed, but I've done this enough times to know how little things come up in the moment and at the last minute, and the little things are enough to drive you crazy.

I think I may just budget in the time to take Spring Break week off from dissertation work so I can have the entire week to concentrate on getting everything in the house baby ready. Once that's done, I'll be more relaxed, which will help with concentrating on the dissertation. I've come up with a new timeline which will ensure that each chapter gets at least some revision before May 5th. Once that happens, I'll be able to send off a complete draft to my committee members to get feedback on what else they'd like to see. Knowing what else they want out of each chapter will make it much easier for me to develop a work plan for the summer while I stay home with the baby. I've never tried to care for a newborn and revise a dissertation at the same time, so I don't know how this is going to work. I'm reminding myself that a great deal of this depends on what kind of baby I have: a sleepy baby who easily falls into some sort of schedule or rhythm, a baby who likes to change up her schedule every day, or something in between??

But, I look at the ticker on the side of my blog, and I can't believe how fast the time has gone by, or how much work I still have to do before this baby comes. Speaking of work.... :)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What Do Boys Have Against Early Modern Women Writers?

Or, How Do We Get More Male Students Interested in Women Writers?

In my mock interview, one of the mock search committee members posed the following question:

"I also work with early modern women, and I've found over the years that, to some extent, you end up preaching to the choir. You present conference papers to an audience of women. You teach senior seminars that are, by and large, made up of female students. How do you handle this?"

Yeah, uh...I wasn't expecting that question. Nonetheless, I provided an honest answer by explaining that the former hadn't been my experience thus far, and that I'd have to think more about it in terms of teaching, when the time comes.

Well, the time has come.

I'm team-teaching a senior seminar, "Aphra Behn & The Rise of Consumer Literature", this semester, and the first day of class revealed an entire room of young ladies and one gentleman. Yep, out of 18 students, there's only one guy. Obviously this brought to mind the question I'd been asked, and now I'm thinking about several related questions.

First, is this [all/predominently female students] a thing I have any control of to begin with? That is, the person asking the question seemed to presume that the teacher has some direct agency in preventing this situation, and I'm not sure if that's actually the case.

Second, if I do have some ability to change the situation, what can I do?

Third, why does it matter anyway? Why the urge to see a more gender-balanced classroom? I certainly wouldn't want to start pulling in uninterested male students simply for the purpose of having an equal numbers of boys and girls in the room. I believe the implicit question had more to do with the issue of male scholars (or scholars-to-be) being uninterested in women writers than the issue of gender equity in the classroom.

I don't know that I have any answers at this point, but I suspect this won't be the last time I'm confronted with the issue. Ultimately, I don't feel like it's my job to justify or market my subfield to gain a specific audience. Clearly, I want classes I teach to make, and designing appealing (nay, sexy) course titles always helps to that effect. But, I can't *make* male English majors (or any other group of students) be interested in the things I'm teaching. Again, I have no brilliant conclusions to make, but the question still lingers for some reason...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Even though it's her Dad...

The eldest Obama daughter intently videos his address...and she's doing it with some serious focus. I find this cute in a precocious way.

The Hat

Seriously, that's some hat on Aretha Franklin!

Academic angst, Hormones, and More Stuff to Worry About

Yeah, so I'm a bit terrified. Today's the first day of classes, and I'm team-teaching a senior seminar course on Aphra Behn with my advisor. She could teach this in her sleep. She could teach this blindfolded with her hands tied behind her back. I, however, have no fucking clue what I should be doing. I know what I usually do when I teach, but this may not be what she considers "good teaching", so what if she hates it? What if she thinks I'm an incompetent boob who shouldn't be allowed near English majors? What if my normally great rapport with students falls short because they see that she is clearly the Queen Bee, and I am the lowly graduate student who wants to be a professor when she grows up. Yes, I'm all in knots about trying to figure out how much I should prepare for the days when my advisor is leading class, and how much/if I should alter my normal teaching style to address seniors.

I usually start class off by offering some guiding questions or issues to discuss and then I sit back and let the students take it from there. After this, I just "direct traffic" and let them determine what direction the class discussion should take. My worry is that my advisor will see this approach as lazy or unchallenging. Agghh...I kinda want to vomit right now.

Adding to this, I can't even take pleasure in watching any of the inauguration coverage because I'm so hormonal I start tearing up as soon as see the images of history being made. I don't mean just a little bit of watery eyes, either, I mean full-blown cry.

And it gets even better (well, actually worse) turns out that the last surgical procedure I had on my neck last May?? Well, its effects have worn off. I found this out after waking up last Tuesday morning with near immobilizing pain. The neurologist admitted that the information I'd been given last year, about the surgery lasting anywhere from 6 months to 2 years, was inaccurate. Instead, he said that 6 months to 1 year was more like it...big fuc&*ng difference Doc!! The best he could offer was trigger-point injections of anasthesia, which would numb the area and buy some time for the steroids to work. Just a little FYI: trigger-point injection fucking HURT!! Seriously, I was screaming and crying and wishing I'd just gone back home! It felt like someone was stabbing me repeatedly with a knife in my neck. I'll NEVER go through those again!

On top of the neck issue returning and the general lower back/sciatica pain that comes with pregnancy, it also looks like I may need a root canal! I woke up with a bad toothache on Sunday, went to the dentist yesterday, and the x-ray showed what looked to be an abcessing tooth. So, off to the endontist I go. Let's see, how many doctors do I have now: general physician; obstetrician; dentist; orthodontist; peridontist; endontist; neurologist. Seven doctors. At 32 years old, I should not have seven doctors unless I have some sort of terminal illness. I just feel like my body is failing me, and it sucks. I'm going to start a pre-natal yoga class on Saturday, which I'm hoping will help with both the neck and back pain and generally help me to feel a little more mentally and physically balanced. I've never done yoga, so I'm not sure what to expect. We'll see how it goes...things have to get better though, right?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Food Issues

Is it wrong for me to keep a giant bag of Cheetos (and various other snacks and treats) at my office rather than at home, so as to avoid having to share with my husband or children? I mean, seriously, Hubby can take out an entire bag of chips in one sitting, and I could be eating a bowl of shit and the kids would still want a bite! What's up with Mama never getting to have her own damn food?! In my defense, I kind of live at my office, M-F, 9:00-5:00, so having food up here makes sense, especially when I forget to bring my lunch sometimes. Nonetheless, I feel guilty when I see my cheesy fingers...a bit like blood on my hands.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Urge Toward "Other Options"

After this year's job market experience, in which I expected nothing and got nothing, I'd decided not to enter into the spring job market so as not to take any time away from the dissertation. Though there are never any guarantees, I remain hopeful that, with PhD in hand, my next job market run (Dec 09) will be better (not like it could be worse, right?). The problem/issue is that I can't seem to shake the thought, feeling, or maybe urge is the best word, that I'm ready to be done and move on. By this I mean primarily to have a full-time job. A colleague put it best today when she described this urge as my way of disassociating myself from my department, school, and this town. I'm mentally preparing myself for the moving on that will happen when I get a job. The problem is that I'm not terribly patient when it comes to things other than my children. Maybe it's partly in my nature and partly a result from having two children and a third on the way, but I'm seriously wondering if I should consider "other options," options that depart from the traditional

Step 1: finish diss and hit job market in Dec w/PhD in hand, with the hope of
Step 2: landing a t-t job at the best 4-year school I can find and then
Step 3: publishing my way up to a better school, and so on, and so on.

For example, there are full-time, tenure-track positions open in my field AND my husband's field at a community college (the largest public institution of higher education) in his big, urban, hometown. The course load is 4-4, which would very likely be the course load at any school we'd land jobs at right after we finish. The cost of living is higher, but I'm guessing that the salary accounts for the cost of living. So, my dilemma is whether or not to consider options like this at this point.

On one hand: I have another year of funding as a grad student (teaching only one course per semester), though I won't need another academic year to finish. I have yet to see how the job market treats me with a PhD in hand (neither does my husband). I've been told by the "powers that be" in my department's graduate office that funding as a lecturer will very likely be available for 2-3 years after I finish. I have a history of short-changing myself and my work, thinking neither are good or smart enough; this especially happens when I get scared of unknown factors (i.e. an even worse economy next year, not getting a job even with a PhD in hand, not getting a publication out before or soon after I'm finished).

I'm not sure sure what's on the other hand....Maybe the possibility that I could hate teaching at a cc? Or worse, I'd hate it, but no 4-year would hire after I'd been at a cc? Is there a stigma associated with teaching at cc's that prevents you from moving on to good 4-year universities? What are the statistics for how many people move from a cc to a 4-year? I'm also pretty sure my advisor would expressly discourage me considering this option, at least at this point, unless there were extenuating circumstances (family, personal issues, etc.). I don't have a good sense of self-awareness in terms of knowing with any certainty where or at what kind of school I'd be happy. There are definitely some places I know I'd be miserable at, but how do I know if I'd be happy teaching at a cc (or any other school) if I haven't yet done so? I can't stand the thought of teaching nothing but introductory composition and literature forever, but I also shudder at the thought of the pressure to publish, publish, publish, OR ELSE!

I guess I have the academic equivalent of cold feet or something...I feel the urge to get a damn job now, as long as its one that I could be remotely comfortable with (full-time, tenure-track, not in the desert or CA, FL, ND, SD, WY, or several other states where I don't think I'd be happy living). But, I also recognize the sense it makes to chill out, relax, and follow the Traditional Path of Academic Progress, especially when there's absolutely nothing to lose (at this point) by doing so.

Ugh...this is one of those times where I really wish I had a wide audience who could wisely guide toward the light.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Sugar and spice and...whatever

I almost forgot to mention: it's gonna be another girl for the AcadeMama family!

I'd secretly hoped for a girl, as I don't know anything about boys really. I like them and all, but eventually they grow up and get married, and next thing you know, you're the mother-in-law that doesn't get to be in the room when your grandchild is born...Hmph.

So yes, another girl, now if we can only agree on a name. I really like Sydney or Alexandra as first names. Hubby, however, is being slow about picking out names that are even somewhat worthy of serious consideration. We'll see how it goes, we've got right at four months to make a decision.

Post-MLA Thoughts

Well, I've officially "done" the MLA thing. I can say that I'm happy I went, but this is mainly because the trip was (mostly) paid for with award funds, and I didn't have the pressure of an interview. Yep, no interviews for me this year. I thought I'd be sad about this, but sadness, disappointment, resentment, etc. never came. I was actually a bit relieved, as an interview could have led to a campus visit, which could have led to a job, which would have ensured an enormous pressure to finish all revisions by the time the baby comes in early May. This last task is no small feat, given the fact that I'm team-teaching a course I've never taught before this spring.

By all accounts, the trip to San Francisco was a good one: lovely friends with whom to share my time, lunches, dinners, and sightseeing; a couple of great panels; the opportunity to be introduced to several other big names in my field (a perk of having an advisor who's been doing this for more than 20 years); and a solid sense of the ebb and flow of conference traffic and energy. Should I get an interview in December 2009, I have a definite idea of what I'll do differently (i.e. NOT stay in one of the conference hotels, so as to avoid the whole anxious, crazy energy that permeates the air of every hallway, nook and cranny). A few things I was struck by during my first MLA:

- ill-fitting suits (too many to count), which I'm guessing can be chalked up to graduate students who don't have the money to pay for quality business attire

- how easy it was to spot an MLA-er in a crowd, no matter how far away from the conference you travelled

- the constant flow of traffic in/out of panels, right in the middle of other people's presentations (this is tied with the number of people just dozing through the papers)

- the ridiculous cost of EVERYTHING associated with any of the conference hotels ($13.95 for a 24-hour period of wi-fi access)

- the comfort and ease of the shuttle system between hotels (one of my favorite things!)

- the book exhibit!! Had I known of the wonders of the book exhibit, I surely would have saved all my money to spend here on the last day of the conference, when most things were 50% off!

- how lovely (and awkward) the cash bar can be. I loved seeing all the people from my department in one place, but trying to make small, yet impressive, talk with our job candidates was difficult, especially knowing that only a few of them would make it back for campus visits.

Perhaps the best news I got was from my advisor, who ended up knowing two of the people on the search committee for a job that would have been *really, really* good for me. She ran into them at MLA, and they indicated that they were "impressed" with my materials and I "would likely have been on their short list" had the job search not been cancelled. This news is good enough for me right now, to simply know that my work can hold its own a bit, even ABD.

I have decided, however, that I won't be buying a ticket for MLA 2009 unless I actually get an interview request. It's just too much money to throw away, and Hubby also has the AHA (American Historical Association) to attend immediately after MLA. Of course, he could save us much of the trouble by landing a job during this spring's job season! A girl can dream, right?