Monday, May 9, 2011

The End of Year One Approaches!

I was so thrilled to be done teaching and taking classes on Friday, that I had a major brain fart this weekend and forgot to complete part of my GIS project. However, that is now turned in, and this weekend was worth it.

Friday I got my official confirmation that I will be on a fellowship next year. That means I'm getting paid to do my own research, not teaching. It's a welcome change of pace, I have so much I want to work on and write. Once I am done with all my grading and my last final exam, I'm going to start working on projects and enjoying my newly found academic freedom. Friday evening Jim and Felisa hosted a barbecue to celebrate the end of the semester, the new fellows, and new PhD recipients. It was a really nice get together, complete with a little bit of unplanned herping.

Friday was kind of a weird day and tiring day. I had the written part of my GIS project due, and my evolution essay was also supposed to be turned in. I managed to get that all taken care of in addition to my other academic responsibilities. It was also my turn to lead the Paleoecology seminar discussion, which is always a good time. On a weird coincidence, the entire Smith lab was wearing dresses/skirts and very similar footwear (all except Ian of course). We took a group picture, because it was so bizarre, it's not like we're all the type to dress girly in dresses, and we totally didn't plan it. I think the similar outfits resulted from such a beautiful day, it was sunny and hot, perfect dress weather.

Saturday Ian had a spontaneous cookout at his place. We had grilled chicken and veggies, and I supplied the margaritas. I had been in the mood for a margarita since Thursday, Cinco de Mayo, but up until then I had been denied by work and teaching duties. Earlier in the day on Saturday I went to go check out a rental house with Meghan and Jason. I just don't think we're on the same page for what we're looking for, I LOVED the house, but it doesn't look like it'll happen. It was roomy, and had a killer back yard. Hopefully over the next few weeks more good options will come on the market. I desperately want to move out of my apartment, I'd like to be able to garden, and I'm sick of my neighborhood.

Yesterday I more or less relaxed and graded. I've been grading for almost 2 days now, and I'm almost done. I just have two homework assignments left and I'm finished. I just finished all the exams. The lecture exam went fairly well, the average was much higher this time around. The lab exam was kind of a train wreck. I have a tendency to write them for my students who pay attention, study, and do their work. The average for my lab practical was pretty sad, but over all I don't think it hurt anyone too much. I really thought I had made it reasonable. I didn't ask anything super specific, and I was forgiving and gave lots of partial credit. The essay portion went well, most people did well on that part. Some people didn't, but those were the same people who have been out to lunch pretty much all semester.

I hate making generalizations, but by a month into the semester I can usually figure out who is going to try to do well in the class and who really couldn't care less about being there. It's sad really, so many people want to go to college, and space is at a premium, and yet I have seats that are sometimes filled with people who are taking their position for granted. I'm sick of the fixation on grades and the totally lack of caring about learning. I occasionally get a batch of students who only care about how they can finesse a passing grade out of me. What they don't realize is I am willing to work with them to learn, but I'll be damned if I'm going to just spoon feed them. That's not what college, or reality, is about.

I will say, however, that over all I liked my students this semester. Many were friendly, respectful, and bright. I had a lot of bright students, but I wanted to shake the ones who were obviously smart but just not applying themselves. Then again, I too was bright and lazy, back in high school. My parents were paying out the nose for me to be at Penn State, so I knew not to waste my time once I was in college.

I'm happy to see this year go, and I'm anxious (in a good anticipation way) about the summer and the upcoming fall.

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