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Archive for the ‘school’ Category

I bleed

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Tonight I proctored our first exam of the semester in Prob Stats.

My hands shook. My stomach hurt. Now that it’s over, I feel drained and a little nauseous.

Lest you think ‘proctoring’ is more complex than it really is, here’s what I did. I handed out tests. I told the class how to deal with a typo in the final problem. I answered individual questions, most of which were very straightforward. I collected the tests when the hour and a half was up.

Oh, I also announced when we had 45 minutes left, then fifteen minutes left, then 5 minutes left.

It’s not really a taxing job.

And yet – I was a wreck.

I so very badly wanted my students (I call them mine and I’ve lectured all of twice) to do well. I needed them to have learned something from me. I wanted the time I’d spent with them, during office hours or class or over email, to have cleared up any lingering questions that remained for them.

I really really wanted them to nail it.

When I had any reason to think that one of them was having a hard time – asking me a questions I couldn’t answer because it would be cheating, or staring really sadly at their paper – I wanted to help. I wanted to say “I’m so sorry that I didn’t, somehow, make sure that this was clear to you”.

Grading the tests just now was even worse. I kept thinking ‘damn it, I KNOW you know this – you answered it in class or on the homework or …’. I want to email certain students and say, look, I see exactly what you did here. I know why you thought this was the right answer, and here’s the part of the problem statement that you missed. Why don’t you take another look.

Of course I can’t do that.

Crockett says this makes me a good teacher – wanting success for all of my students. I think that it makes me a person who is not capable of becoming a teacher. I can’t feel this wrung out all the time.

Maybe it gets easier – but is that a good thing? Should you bleed for your students, or not?

(The moral here? Actual teachers (people who do this for a living and not just as an assistant for tuition) are under appreciated and underpaid. You know me – always saying things that everyone already knows.)



things that other people do poorly

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

I feel like there are things about the world that other people should understand. Two people from yesterday in particular.

Let’s start with the complaint that’s going to make me sound like less of a intolerant craphead, ok?

Yesterday, after a loooong lecture and completely craptastic (and the word of the day is …. crap!) office hours, I walked the half mile back to my car.

I found a sticky note on my driver’s side window. It said ‘call me about your car 303-xxx-xxxx Alan’.


Unnecessarily mad, really, but dude. What the hell. My first thought was that he’d hit me and was just really impolite about it. I walked around the car a couple of times and didn’t see anything, but seriously? My car is sort of trashed anyway. I wouldn’t have necessarily noticed a new ding.

My second thought was that he was mad that I was parked by the creek (in public parking) when I had a Mines permit sticker on my car. That’s just the only other thing I could think of that would cause someone to want to talk to me.

I didn’t want to deal with either of those things, but I called him and left a super pissed off message regarding the note. (That’s super pissed off in my mind – in reality I probably just sounded a little frustrated. I don’t do pissed off out loud very well.)

He called last night to tell me that he sells MOTHERFUCKING WINDSHIELDS.

Whatever. Douche. The note sounded like a command – and it was a sales pitch? Even if my windshield had literally shattered on the drive home, I wouldn’t have had him put in the new one. He clearly doesn’t understand… well, things. Like how to win over prospective customers.

The second person who did something weird and irritating (to me) yesterday was a generally nice fellow who’s in my Statistical Methods class. A class I’m taking, not teaching.

He came up to me and said ‘you have office hours, right?’ I said ‘… yes, for the undergrad prob stats kids.’ He said ‘I’m going to come by – you really helped me with my homework when we talked about it before class the other day’.

He didn’t ask if that would be all right, he just said it like a thing that was going to happen. It’s nice that our ten minute chat helped him, but I’m not his teacher. If he wants to work on homework together, I’d maybe try and find a time that wasn’t already set aside for another purpose. Instead, he wants to come in and supersede my undergrad kids with his graduate level not-my-problem issues.

Seriously, what? (Yes, this is probably not that irritating to anyone but me. Maybe it was the way he said it. Or maybe I’m ridiculous.)

Sometimes I just hate everyone.

Yesterday was one of those days.

goooOOOOOGle crisp

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

I don’t know why, but right now I want really badly to say ‘google’ like you say the ‘cookie’ in the cookie crisp commercials.

So yeah, Google. Today I had the opportunity to attend an event hosted at the Boulder Google office, called Google.GetAJob(). It was specifically for female college students in tech.

I was sofaking excited, you have no idea. I’m going to Google! Whooo hoo! I’m going to get to see the inside of the offices and talk to people who work there and YAY. They’re going to love me and offer me an job and I’m going to get to play with them forever and ever!

Everything you’ve heard about the offices is true. (I signed an NDA but I don’t think the presence of kitchens in their offices was covered, so I’m going to risk it – plus, it’s nothing that hasn’t been said before). There really is food within 300 feet of you at all times. There really are massages available three days a week. There is a ‘decompression room’ with curtained off lounge chairs. In the Boulder office, at least, there is a bouldering wall and a Rock Band set up. There are bean bag chairs.

There is a teepee.

There are two cafes in addition to the micro kitchens found every 300 feet.

Some of it’s a little silly. For example, the dishes in the cafeteria have color coded labels – green, yellow, and red. Green means good for you, red bad. I find that cute but oddly invasive. If you only provide foods you feel good about serving to your employees, that’s a little much, but at least you’re sticking with your guns. This way feels sort of shaming, which I’m never a fan of. ‘Should you be eating that? Are you sure?’

I’m being a little judgey, I know. I think that’s because of the point I’m about to make that I’ve taken my dear sweet time getting around to:

I didn’t like it there.

There were three main reasons.

First, everyone I had the opportunity to talk to was self congratulatory to the extreme. You know that famous speech they give at Ivy League schools – look left, look right, only one of you is going to make it here? It was like that, except everyone was young and pretty and called themselves Googlers. Perhaps that was a function of the type of individuals who volunteer to spend their day escorting a bunch of college women around, though?

Second, there were very few women there. The Boulder office has about 200 people, and I saw rooms full of men everywhere we went – and every woman I saw was somehow involved in the event. There was a definite feeling that they’d all been dragged front and center just to show us that they exist. According to the always reliable internets, Google gets somewhere between 1300 and 6000 applications a day. With that many applicants, if you can’t diversify, you’re not trying. (The event was ostensibly a step in the right direction, but they weren’t actually recruiting us and one person actually told me that they find men do better with their interviews so they’re trying to help us interview like men. If your interview process isn’t bringing in the range of employees that you want, does it make more sense to change the process or to change the applicants? Oh wait, I know this one – THE PROCESS.)

Third and most importantly, the amenities felt like slight of hand. I can’t think of any better way to explain it.

  • ‘So what kind of hours do the employees on this project put in?’ ‘Hey look, a teepee!’
  • ‘What’s the plan for diversifying the workforce?’ ‘The air in the office is cleaner than the air outside!’
  • ‘What kind of opportunities are there for working with the research group?’ ‘Let’s go look at the Flatirons from the private deck!’ (Yes, they were gorgeous. Obviously.)
  • ‘What’s your favorite thing about working here?’ ‘Here, have a Google tee shirt!’

Oh, also a fourth thing:

I was given these two stickers simultaneously. (If you can’t see it, one is a sticker that says ‘I’m a woman in tech. That doesn’t mean everything has to be pink.’ The other is the Google name with the second o replaced by a female sign that’s pink.)


I’m disappointed. I really wanted them to love me – it never even occurred to me that I wouldn’t love them. After I got home, I did some perusing, and I quite a bit of proof that Google is not for everyone. (No one on that thread explaining why they left mentioned the unfortunate male/female ratio – but it appears that no one on that thread is a woman, either.)

I feel like Google was my career Santa Claus, and I just found out it he’s actually a regular dude in a fake beard.

I hope no one ever offers to let me tour Whole Foods.

P.S. Just to head this off – yes, Google’s male/female engineer ratio is probably similar to other big technology companies. A) I don’t think that’s ideal anywhere, and B) IT’S GOOGLE. They set the bar higher all by themselves, it’s only fair for me to ask them to live up to that.

well, that happened

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Today I taught my first college lecture.

It was…. um….

It definitely happened.

I don’t actually have a great sense of how it went. I left about to cry – but I cry a lot lately, so that’s not a great barometer. Hey, is there air outside? Does that mean anything? No.

We have this thing that we use in class called inkSurvey. It’s actually part of what I’m writing research project on – all 40 of the students are given tablets for the duration of each lecture and there’s a web based program where they’re able to interact with us anonymously. It’s a whole big thing.

Via inkSurvey, one of them wrote ‘be our teacher for the rest of the semester!!’. That gave me the happys, you guys.

And then?

I fucked up two problems in a row, on the board.

I don’t know. My brother and Crockett have assured me that a teacher saying ‘I don’t know’ is not an unacceptable occurrence, especially if it’s followed by ‘I’ll look at it and get back to you’. Plus, as any anxiety ridden slightly obsessive graduate student would do, I double checked what I couldn’t remember and wrote up solutions and put them on the class site when I got home. And also emailed everyone. And also spent three hours this afternoon helping with homework via email.

Basically, I think I’m a good TA.

Just – I wanted everyone to leave that class thinking ‘damn, that was awesome!’. And it didn’t happen.

P.S. It’s Crockett’s mom’s birthday! Happy birthday, mama Crockett. You’re one seriously kickass lady.


Hairy Wednesday

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011


His hair is super cool. I think he thinks so too because he sits up front in every class. By ‘up front’ I mean between me and the teacher. Every day. No matter where I sit.