Looking back on the semester and forwards towards the JMM

Like many of you, I’m en route to Seattle for the 2016 Joint Mathematics Meetings. This is my first JMM without interviews or big workshops, and I’m excited about getting to enjoy a relatively low-key conference. If you happen to see me wandering around, I hope you’ll stop me and say hi if you’d like.

While I plan my week and my upcoming semester, I’m also taking a cue from Beth’s post and looking back at the fall. My goals were overly ambitious, but I’m still reasonably happy with what I accomplished as a new faculty member. Some highlights (and lowlights):

Goal: Finish (more-or-less) two papers. Progress: One down, one to go.

I’ve had a paper “almost done” for at least a year now, and I needed to finally rip the bandaid off. I’m calling this a success, but it’s not ready for submission yet. I need to have some people read it over before I’d feel comfortable sending it off, because at this point I’ve been working on it for so long that I’m not sure if it’s even readable to an outsider. Is there such a thing as mathematical semantic satiation?

The second paper is a different story entirely, and I didn’t give it the respect it deserved. I’ve been doing some work on the scholarship of teaching and learning, and gave a talk on my preliminary results at MathFest in August. I thought the rest of the data collection and analysis would be fast, and then the paper would be quick to write. I was wrong. Work continues.

Goal: Get observed twice and give mid-semester evaluations. Progress: Again, 50-50.

My chair observed one of my classes, and I signed up for a peer-evaluation program with a faculty member in another department. Unfortunately, his schedule didn’t allow us to observe each other this semester. Also, I gave mid-semester evaluations (well, three-quarter-semester evaluations), but I never actually read the results. Clearly I need to make my goals more specific next semester.

Goal: Read more papers. Progress: Pretty weak.

I read some papers as a part of the literature review process for this scholarship of teaching and learning paper. That was valuable for more than just references, since I’m brand new to the whole topic, and now I’m getting a feel for how these papers are constructed. But I didn’t read nearly enough in my own research area. I need to do a much better job of staying on top of my field.

Goal: Leave the office by 6, and don’t work at home. Progress: Started to fall apart the last two weeks of the semester, but good overall.

This goal sounded ludicrous to me the first time I heard it too. Let me explain by way of yesterday’s tweet from @AcademicsSay: “I’m very busy. On an unrelated topic, I have questionable time management skills and difficulty saying no.” I know from experience that bringing my work home without solving those two problems first is counterproductive, and this timetable forces me to work on fixing both of them.

I did work at home a couple of nights, mostly because I try to have a very short turnaround time on my exam grading. Of course I also check my email, though I turn off phone notifications from my work email account. I even give my cell number out so students can text me (which I’m a big fan of; more in a future post). But my husband and I lived in different states for the entirety of our postdocs. We suffered for our careers for long enough. When I’m at home, I don’t want to have one eye on the office.

Now it’s time to pick up where I left off and set goals for spring. But first, I’ll see you in Seattle.






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