Pecan Pie

Social Anxiety from the South

Welcome to the New Semester

I am super overwhelmed.

I, once again, took on as many classes as they would let me teach.  At $2300 per three hour class, I felt like I had no choice.  At this point, I’m going to have to do the same thing in the Spring, assuming they even want me back.

What if they don’t want me back?

After last semester’s devastating evaluations, I am afraid and desperately trying to find the balance between connecting with five classes of 32 students and holding true to my policies.

Due to family struggles, I don’t feel like I can teach fewer classes.  Due to those same struggles, I feel less sure of myself, much more anxious and borderline hopeless at reaching my students.

Then, I have a good day.  Thank Bob for those days.

I feel like I’m getting the hang of being a face-to-face teacher.  I’ve implemented the things I said I would (grade policies, talking to my students about how the class is going, being kind and understanding even when I have to say, “no”) and I’m succeeding at some of them.

I’m still struggling with names.  I guess I can’t get it all.

If you’re a student, please know that it’s hard to stand in front of a room full of twenty-somethings, sometimes with sweat stains, occasionally saying the inappropriate thing, driving difficult discussions about heated topics…and feel confident.

I love what I do.  I think I can be really good at it.  I just want to know that my new institution will give me the time to grow into that person…preferably while not driving me to the poor-house in the meantime.

Also, to my fellow adjuncts some resources:

Culture: The Urinal Game

Social Inequality: Cut-Throat Monopoly (yes, even more than the original game)

Please give me all your activity suggestions for Social Problems and Intro.

Written by thelittlepecan

September 13, 2013 at 10:31 am

Posted in atheism

Tagged with , , , ,

Facing How Others See You and Other Nonsense

Recently, I’ve been doing my best to support a friend going through a break-up.  At first, it was fairly straight forward.  Listen to the problems, try to give sound advice, attempt to maintain a friendship with both parties.

Somewhere in there, for a number of reasons, the “he” in that relationship decided I was a threat. Or something.  Even though I am very close to the “she” in this scenario, I’d like to think the feelings and advice I had about the relationship, subsequent make-ups and break-ups would have stayed basically the same.  Some people just become toxic together and the only way to deal with that, in my opinion, is to cauterize the wound.  Just cut the infection and burn the shit out of the traumatized area to seal it off from germs and further festering.

Easier said than done, right?

In any event, what was once a pretty basic friendly acquaintanceship with him has turned into something really ugly.

To be sure, I am not blameless…he irritates me and picks at me like a middle-school boy intentionally pulling hair and trying to bully a girl into crying.  A set of activities I generally feel should be met with sarcasm and “mouthiness” (which, quite honestly is some sexist bullshit, but whatever.)  

My point being, when drinking I have little ability to curb my comments.

Since this has turned sour for me as well, I’m being made aware of how this other person views me.  Vindictive, meddlesome, insincere, and rude.  

In general, I don’t think I’m any of those things.  However, if I put myself in his shoes, I can definitely see how he would think that.  I’ve given advice, advice that is in direct opposition to what he’d like to see happen, when asked by her.  I suppose that would be seen as meddlesome.  Maybe due to that advice and the closeness of my relationship to her the next logical step would be a need to get revenge on her behalf for wrongs I feel he has brought to bear on her entire mental well-being.  I’m not generally vengeful and I try very hard not to act on behalf of others unless they want me to…but maybe I do have ulterior motives.  I don’t think I do, but I’m willing to entertain the idea.

Insincerity is something I don’t have a lot of patience for, neither for rudeness.  Though, I will say, if I’m being outright rude, it’s generally because occasionally Southern charm takes a backseat to sincerity.

The problem is at this point, I’m completely incapable of objective opinion.  I can’t help her anymore without it being partially an attempt to help myself.  I can’t stand the idea of my name being in other people’s mouths, especially his.  At this moment, I can’t stand to talk about him anymore.

I’m not sure how I can continue to give anything but a sympathetic ear when I clearly have dog in this fight…as ridiculous and infuriating as that is. And to be honest, I’m not sure how sympathetic I even feel.  I feel slighted so I’m looking to project an expectation of loyalty on my friend…which really sucks.  I find the need to control others to be distasteful and usually fruitless.

In reality, all those things he rattled off about me are things I think about him and worse.  And since I can only view this situation through the lens of my own personal perception (which right now is colored with lots of trauma and anxiety and stress) he’s coming out looking quite like a pile of shit.  It’s real hard for me to take the opinions of those with no sense of personal responsibility seriously, except that in some way, he has the ear of someone I care for and now I feel threatened and that makes me feel weak.

Not sure how to move forward…guess I’ll take a note from my husband’s playbook and consider the possibilities of non-personhood for someone for whom I feel only contempt and loathing.

Now, doesn’t that paint a pretty picture of myself?

Written by thelittlepecan

August 24, 2013 at 11:55 am

Puppy Manslaughter

I just had the horrifying experience of killing someone’s pet. A tiny chihuahua standing in the middle of Gloster Rd. Those of you who have been to my home know the one. It’s busy and barely safe to walk on for humans.

I didn’t see it until it was too late. I’m distraught, the owner comes and scoops up the poor puppy corpse and just repeats, “It’s okay. It’s okay.”

Which of course it’s not.

All I can say is I’m sorry. I’m sorry over and over, tears streaming down my face.

No collar, no leash…actually comes with his other tiny dog without either and that dog almost runs in the road too. While a car passes illegally on a double yellow line.

I feel so terrible and really angry.

Protect your pets, people. That’s what you sign up for when you adopt one.

Written by thelittlepecan

July 27, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Posted in Universe

Tagged with , ,

I’m Allowed My Crazy, Too.

This entry is going to be intensely personal, probably not very profound and definitely clumsy. I apologize in advance.

Those of you who read my parenting blog (pecantheparent.com) know my family is really struggling. Those of you who read this blog know my issues with anxiety.

Anyway, I have a number of friends who are going through difficult patches; break-ups, make-ups, relationship working through-ups. Many of them also suffer from anxiety, some have PTSD and/or depression.

I have tried to be a good friend when my whole world feels like it is crashing down around me. I have invited friends to my home and tried to create a safe, but honest, space where issues could be discussed. I have a bad habit of taking on responsibility, pain, anxiety…that isn’t mine.

This week I knew, eventually, probably…certainly my own feelings were going to erupt. I tried to reach out and let my loved ones know that it was coming, it would be ugly and that I would be a hot mess.

My child is in a psychiatric facility and has been for a week. He assaulted me. He ran away for 24 hours. I haven’t run in 6 days.

Last night, at a party, it all came to a head…I was verbally abusive to my spouse when I became over stressed. I had a minor altercation with a new friend. Then, my attitude towards my husband became too much for him.

Needless to say, we left. On the way home, the badness ensued and I’ll spare the details…but the most painful thing of the entire night was being told I treated someone I care about like shit.

Not told. Berated.

Not my husband (who I had actually treated badly). But someone who has needed my friendship recently and I have provided that in all the ways I know how. If those have been inadequate, that moment was not the time…and anyway, I HAVEN’T been inadequate. I have been selfless. Yes, I’m going to give myself some props for that.

Because I’m ALLOWED that. It’s okay to say “I am a good person. I have done a good job.”

I’m not perfect, but I am a good friend and in my time of crisis I put my own mental health aside to be there for others. I’ve been yelled at (because I can “take it” apparently) at least three times by stressed out friends, I’ve been yelled at for not wanting to talk before I was ready, I’ve been told to calm down, to chill out, to “just breathe”.

Well, no. I told everyone my day would come and all my shit would surface and it would ugly and I would need that support. It came, it was ugly and instead…I got whatever last night was.

I am fortunate to have the spouse and many friends I do who have reached out today.

But, I will NOT apologize for something that not only did I not do, but even if I had done would be completely forgivable, given my current level of personal crisis and the number of times I’ve allowed others to work through their own crises with me.

Fuck. That.

I’m allowed a little bit of crazy, too.

Written by thelittlepecan

June 30, 2013 at 9:15 pm

Oh RLY, Well, Let me Just Tell You How *I* Feel: Student Evaluations and the Demise of Respect

I’ve actually had to wait a couple of weeks to write this.  Even thinking about this subject basically started me on the spiral downward into the hell that is a panic attack.  Mine are mostly silent, categorized by heart pounding, profuse sweating and “evil moths in my stomach.”

I’ve taught for three semesters now, but one of my universities is notoriously tardy on things like student evaluations, so I’ve never actually seen any of them from any of the classes I’ve taught.  I doubt it would have helped much.  It’s invariably easier to keep it together and avoid lots of situations that cause ugly comments on evaluations by teaching online.  There’s a format for organization, grading is easy and my students are in almost constant contact with me.

I really hadn’t considered what my students might say.  I figured there would be some good, some bad and some benign.  I hadn’t thought to look up how other professors had to learn how to grow a thick skin, or deal with the sexist, racist or homophobic vitriol that was written…I just assumed that most of it would be constructive.

And it was.

The problem is that it’s the ugly comments that stay with you.  Comments about your body, how you dress or even how you deal with more personal issues (like anxiety) cut right to the heart.  In a world where students are used to using technology as a shield to say whatever they like to whomever they want, online evaluations provide a platform to do the same.

The worst part about it is that it’s so final.  There’s no way to respond.

I researched student evaluations for days.  I agonized over whether or not these comments were going to get me fired.  I (still) have no idea how much, if at all, these evaluations matter to my superiors.

But, I blog and so the finality is limited.  I can respond here, consider my reactions to constructive criticisms and maybe give some support to other adjuncts (especially) who are dealing with harsh student evaluations.

1. The Good: Most of the comments were good or constructive.  My early class had great participation (n=21 out of 27 students).  On a scale of 1-4, my average responses for most measures was around 3.4.  For my first semester teaching face to face, I thought that was good.  Well above the mean into the positive range.

2. The Bad: There were several comments about organization.  I wish I had the opportunity to explain to students that I wasn’t adequately supported by the institution.  I had never taught the class before and was hired roughly two weeks prior to the semester starting.  I did not receive the text until approximately a week after that.  While I understand that students deserve a quality experience regardless of these challenges, they are legitimate challenges nonetheless.  Since I had almost no time to prepare (and no time to find out what resources were available to help me) I wound up doing lesson plans the day of or night before class.  Not a good way to do it and I agree.  I was often frazzled or unclear about exactly what material to cover.  I supplemented a lot with media, which I thought the students liked, but I think they felt I was phoning it in.

What I’ve Done About it: Since the semester ended, I have set up each unit with a slideshow, an activity or discussion question and an optional piece of media.  I know how I will run the class based on what I think the format of the class will be (a 2.5 hour class session once a week.)

I have also made clear policies that I hemmed and hawed about during the year.  I had a difficult time sticking to my guns.  Students don’t respect that and it won’t be a mistake I make again.

3. The Ugly: Wow. I had no idea students really talked this way to professors/instructors.  After receiving the following comments and basically falling into disarray, I looked up other instructor experiences and find I am not alone.  Here are my favorites and my responses:

Presentation coming from a professor is key. This professor started out on day one of school, by teaching with her shoes off. When your in a professional atmosphere, yout tattoos should be covered. This professors has tattoos on her breast, back, leg, hand, it seems like their every where. I understand everyone has tattoos, especially in a college setting, but I don’t expect to see them all over a professor body, when the professor is in a professional teaching atmosphere. The professor Sssshhhhhh the class, which we are not children. 
 

Yes, I often teach with my shoes off.  I also sing and present at conferences with my shoes off if at all possible.  It helps me to feel more stable.  I don’t expect everyone to understand, but I also don’t expect anyone to really care.  Yes, I have tattoos.  One of the reasons I went into academia is to be able to be who I am.  I have tattoos everywhere (but not on my breasts and quite honestly, bringing that up is incredibly sexist and totally inappropriate) and you can expect to see them.  They are part of my body and I wear what I wear regardless of that.  I don’t actually care what you expect to see, since this is college and you should expect to see lots of things you’ve never seen before.

I won’t “shhh” you if you don’t talk in class like a bunch of children.  You know, like during movies or when I’m talking? Also, your writing skills are seriously lacking. kthxbai.

The above was the only negative comment for that class.  The other criticisms were fair and I took them to heart.

Ms. Berry is a very laid-back and nice person but I have to admit that she is very unprofessional. She always shows up to class after the students have already arrived, after class has started, and she would wear 5 inch heels and then takes them off during class time because it hurts her feet (the same with regular shoes). She doesn’t cover up her tattoos and is regularly wears shirts that shows cleavage. Her lectures are unorganized. I understand that the syllabus can change with the teacher’s discretion, but she would tell us that it’s a win-win b/c it’s less material for us to study for our final exam.

There’s a lot to cover here, some good, some bad, some inappropriate.  First, I was never more than 2 minutes late.  The difference between a student leaving class and an instructor leaving is that I’ve always got students needing my attention after class.  I try to keep a handle on it, but many times it was impossible.  I never dawdled and I often ran.  I wish the university had scheduled my classrooms nearer to each other, but there wasn’t anything to be done about that.  Though…in a class where regularly there were 5+ students who never made it to class on time, I’m skeptical of this comment.

I don’t even own a pair of 5″ heels.  See above for taking my shoes off.  Again, bringing up my breasts…not appropriate.  I always dress casually or professionally and never lewd.  If your delicate sensibilities are that…well, delicate, move on.

Notice how this comment is so similar to the one above?  Coincidence? Maybe. I’ve heard tales of students banding together to make negative evals.  Of course, it’s just rumor.

That last comment isn’t exactly what I said…but okay.

She was never ready for class and alway got there late, complaing that she has to walk from B to A, when I walk from C to A and make it there four minutes before noon. None of the power points were hers and this caused her to rush through and not know half the stuff that was on the screen. She was not helpful when it came to review time, responding to questions with”it’s in your book” and “like i said before” making you not want to do any work at all. She was just really unhelpful and pretty rude.

I’ve covered the lateness.  Again, within the margin of error on a clock.  I realize students may not know or care why this is, but there is a reason and it’s a valid one.  No, many of the presentations weren’t mine (but many were), I was counseled to not “reinvent the wheel” when that’s just more work.  Good instructors use good resources wherever they can find them.  I used the presentations that go with the book or from other, more experienced instructors.  I can’t imagine I didn’t know what was on them.  It’s an intro class and I’m pretty sure I know most of the book without looking.

“Never ready for class” is of course, completely untrue. An over-exaggeration from a student who was overall unsatisfied with the class.

Yes, I often said “like I said before” and “it’s in your book” because I did (multiple times) and it was (probably you should read).  This remark is coming from a class that had multiple ‘F’s’ including on the final where all questions came from quizzes available to them online. I gave a crossword puzzle for fun, but prepping for an exam is the student’s responsibility…

I know. I’m very mean.

 

4. Lessons Learned:

  • Ask for help if I’m not getting the support I need from the school (i.e. classroom distance.)
  • Be VERY clear about policies for grading.
  • Preface the class with a disclaimer: you might be offended, you might not like how I dress or that I take my shoes off, but you will learn some shit you didn’t know.
  • Grow a thicker skin
  • Make a better effort to connect with my students.
  • Don’t teach more than 3-4 classes again until I’m more experienced.
  • Take control of my classroom.

In all, I learned a lot and I really look forward to putting those lessons into practice this fall and have an improved semester with my next class!

 

Written by thelittlepecan

May 23, 2013 at 11:29 am

Before and After…A Work in Progress

I got some really awesome swag from Athleta today, including another running skort (my new favorite piece of running gear!) and a new bathing suit that I can exercise in!!

I tried on my stuff, they all fit great, very true to size.

When I put my tankini on, I was pretty shocked.  I had been cussing about how I wasn’t making any progress.  The scale was moving down, but I just wasn’t seeing it. It was frustrating.

So. Well, thanks, Universe.

Before (Spring 2012)

Image

 

After (Today May 2013)

This is about 37lbs or so. Plenty more work to do, but I’m feeling like I’ve made progress!

#runnerforlife

Written by thelittlepecan

May 6, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Just Let Me Brag a li’l Bit

Program Summary

Plan
Goal Lose ½ lb per week
Start date March 6, 2011
Goal date January 13, 2015
Daily calories 2,055

Weight
Starting 230 lbs
Current 194.4 lbs
Goal 150 lbs
Weight Loss 35.6 lbs
Percent 15.5%

This report was generated with Lose It!

My friend Margi gifted me a 5k app from lolo about two years ago. Around that time I found Lose It! and began tracking my progress.

Since then, I have run a 5k, a 15k, a 10k, a virtual 10k, and a half marathon. I have lost 36lbs (after losing and gaining back about 40 plus some in the 2 years prior).

I have registered for my first marathon, convinced my husband to begin running, encouraged my mother to go from walking to running and watched several friends developed what Big Peach calls P.A.L. or Pedestrian Active Lifestyle.

I know I will run for the rest of my life and will continue to reap the benefits for as long as I continue to put forth my best effort.

Written by thelittlepecan

May 1, 2013 at 8:04 am

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