5 Ways to enjoy the (campus) Staycation

 

Who isn’t excited to have a little time off? But often as graduate students we don’t have the option to bail on teaching and graduate responsibilities during breaks. Whether it’s because traveling is too expensive or have an approaching deadline for a project you will, on occasion, find yourself in town during a school break. Staying in town when the majority of the student body vacates can seem disheartening, but have no fear, here are five hidden ways to enjoy your campus staycation.

1) First, appreciate the silence. Ok maybe not complete silence, but the bustle of cars, buses and people everywhere tends to settle down during long breaks.

2) Remember that you’ll have a more flexible schedule. The demands of seminars, attending meetings and/or teaching courses are reduced (if not eliminated) thus allowing you to be more flexible with your days. Perhaps you can take the opportunity to sleep in or leave campus early.

3) Get out and explore the town! Our schedules are always jam packed, so we rarely have free time to explore. Go ahead and try a new restaurant. The wait times are usually non-existent during long breaks, so treat yourself to that new place you’ve been wanting to try. This is also a great time to catch a movie, go to the gym, library or other campus hotspots that can feel overpopulated during regular semester hours can be easier to manage during the breaks.

*FYI* Check operating hours as businesses may adjust times or close for repairs due to fewer patrons.

4) Resources are abundant, whether trying to use the campus printing, valuable office space, or the machines that always seem to be taken. It is highly unlikely you are the only one around, but there are far fewer people everywhere making it easier to access shared equipment.

5) Lastly, you are not alone. There are tons of other grad students in the same boat. Plan to meet up with people you don’t get to see regularly because of your busy schedules. So use the time to reconnect with old buddies or if you’re new to campus, use it as an opportunity to make new friends.

Black History Month: Celebrating the People Who Changed IU

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the month-long celebration of African-American culture and black contributions in the US and across the world. Origins from the Historian Carter G. Woodson and others, “Negro History Week” celebrated black excellence and our rich contributions to advancing America’s history1. As elementary students we are familiar with Harriet Tubman leading slaves to freedom using the Underground Railroad and the writings of Frederick Douglas. We touch on the peaceful teachings of civil disobedience of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and remember Rosa Parks’ resistance to relinquish her bus seat during the fight for Civil Rights.

However, arriving on most college campus, there’s a shift. It as though the teaching of black history, diminishes. African-American’s at Indiana University have a rich history of perseverance and accomplishments all their own that we should take pride in learning. A few notable Black achievements from the Bloomington campus are mentioned below and by all means this is not an exhaustive list.

Dr. James P. Holland2 Dr. Holland received his PhD in zoology-endocrinology from Indiana University (IU) in 1961. As Professor of Biology for more than 30 years at IU, he received the Herman B. Wells Lifetime Achievement Award as well as over two dozen teaching and service awards. Dr. Holland was a seven-time recipient of the Senior Class Award for Teaching Excellence in Biology and Dedication to Undergraduates, an award voted each year by the biology senior class, in which faculty rarely earn the designation more than once. His love and passion for teaching was apparent and appreciated by those around him. As a mentor and role model for all students, not just underrepresented groups, he championed higher education in the sciences helping to form the Mathematics and Science Scholarship Program which was renamed in his honor to the Holland program in 20032. The Dept. of Biology honors Dr. Holland every year with a fall lecture series. An endowment awards a 1st year fellowship to support underrepresented PhD students studying life sciences which I proudly received the first year of my doctoral studies.

 Marcellus Neal and Frances Marshall3 Marcellus Neal and Frances Marshall, were the first African Americans (man and woman respectively), to graduate from Indiana University. Marcellus Neal graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1895 while Frances Marshall earned her English degree in 1919. Thus, the namesake inspirations for the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center (NMBCC). A beautiful building on campus that hosts special events and provides access to computer labs, study rooms and lounge space to promote community building across the IU campus.

 Kappa Alpha Psi (ΚΑΨ) 3 – Created January 5th, 1911 the ten founders of the Alpha chapter established the first Black fraternity on a predominantly white campus. Due to inability for interracial housing and combat racial discrimination, this group of men came together to support students and rally political activism early on at IU.

Information was gathered from these sources, click for more details

  1. http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/black-history-month
  2.  https://biology.indiana.edu/about/alumni-giving/holland-fellowship.html
  3.  https://blackculture.indiana.edu/about/history.html

Dealing with Haters: What to do when you get negative evaluations

Although there are a many ways to fund grad school, most often your graduate stipend will come from a teaching position. For some this will be a one-time gig, but for many it’s an every semester commitment. During your time as an Associate Instructor (AI), often referred to at other universities as a Teaching Assistant (TA), you will be faced with the end-of-term evaluation. This is an important assessment from the students you are teaching solicited by the department to garner feedback about the course to make it better. Often, these are also ‘free for alls’ for students to tell you how they really feel, for better or worse.

The reality is whether you enjoy being in the classroom or not, negative critiques can hurt because it can feel (or be) a personal attack on your character. During my first year of teaching it was like night and day between the fall and spring semesters. Whether it was the number of students doubling or the personality of the group of students, I know that reading my evaluations made me question whether academia was the right fit for me. After reflecting on my personal classroom experience, a few pieces of advice:

Fix the things you can Ultimately, teaching is a skill like any other and needs to be continually developed. No one is perfect, and what worked before may not work the same way with this group of students. If your students make recommendations within the evaluation forms, see if there are reoccurring themes. Use these areas to focus on and improve your teaching style. For example: Do you speak too softly? Are lecture slides too busy? Have your office hours been held at a difficult time? Use these recommendations as small fixes that can improve the overall classroom dynamic. Universities often offer teaching pedagogy courses or have centers that host workshops to help improve teaching and learning. Making one or two improvements may increase the overall experience for both you and your students.

Recognize there are things you can’t change Understand that some critiques will be beyond your control. Whether it’s the amount of work required for the course, content to be covered or assigned projects, most of these are established way before you’re assigned to teach a course. Sometimes addressing it on the first day of class is helpful (and sometimes it’s ignored). Reflecting on why some comments are made, rather than the fact that they’re targeted at you can help illuminate that the issue may be less about you and more about their feelings.

Keep Calm and remember to breathe. Whether you’ve been teaching for 25 years or this is your first semester, take a deep breath and try to relax. At the end of the day everyone has good semesters and bad ones, but if you want to pursue teaching at any level, you will be bound to receive some negative feedback. Don’t let it break you.

KeepCalm4getHaters