October 2009


I applied for an apartment on Thursday. The location wasn’t 100% perfect and it is small, but it will do for now. I always take apartments with a grain of salt. You can’t have it all, unfortunately. The important part is that it meets my basic criteria. I’m also glad to be finished with the struggle that is apartment hunting in Boston. I can’t imagine what apartment hunting in NYC is like, since I imagine it may be worse. Boston has a competitive market that is very expensive. Chicago apartment hunting was a walk in the park compared to here.

My Halloween plans aren’t much of anything. I get to grade :(. My firm final date for late labs was Wednesday. Not only is it a huge workload for me to keep grading labs from way back when, but it also not beneficial towards the students. They can’t improve their writing (in principle) if they receive no feedback whatsoever. I noticed, even when students are mad about lower grades on lab reports, they eventually become better writers if only for the grade.

Have a safe and happy Halloween everyone!

Tomorrow my students have their first midterm. Some of them were thankful to have a practice, some of them- well, not so much. Unfortunately, I’m afraid some of them won’t take the tips and advice that I’ve given to them to heart (I have a few “too cool for school” types). These are actually things that I noticed affect some people near and dear to me or things I’ve learned the hard way.

  • Study ahead of time. No brainer, but I’ve seen this happen numerous times
  • Do your homework. You just create extra stress by trying to learn things a few days before the exam when you should actually start learning the concepts when they’re introduced.
  • Actually do the physics problems like you would on the exam. Just looking over doesn’t help matters. You have to actually figure and struggle a little. Watching the teacher do examples is not learning. I find some students think that watching me repeatedly do examples will make things click. It more than likely will not. I probably could do examples until my hand bleeds and I die, and there’s a good chance that they would not learn the topic at hand that well. Note taking, in my opinion, can be passive.
  • Sleep well before an exam. Cramming the night before (or period) rarely helps matters and just adds to stress.
  • Try not to worry too much after you take the exam. It is literally out of your hands, and you more than likely need some time to recover and work on other schoolwork.
  • If you are concerned now about your grades, speak up! I think grades are like financial debt. It is bad when you are in bad places with them, but you cannot do anything about it until you acknowledge that. Also, like credit card companies or loan people, most professors/teachers are willing to work with students and help them figure out what to do and how to improve their grades. However, they aren’t going to be favorable with that if you are doing this last minute.
  • Believe you can succeed. Thinking you can’t do something is defeating, because you have already convinced yourself of that. Try to think that you can weather the class/exam.
  • There is light at the end of the tunnel. As much as I hope people enjoy school and class, I recognize that people end up taking classes that they don’t like, either because of requirements or because the class turned out differently than expected.
  • You have to keep your eye on the proverbial prize. You may hate the class/professor/topic, but you’re in a class and you should at least be concerned about passing so that you don’t lower your GPA/not meet requirements to graduate/etc. At the end of the day, your lack of progress in a class only affects you.
  • Be nice to those around you. Professors and teachers like helping people who have a good attitude, not the students who are hostile or apathetic. You don’t have to be genius to be liked by many people; effort and the right attitude means a lot. Even if you don’t love the person, you should definitely be nice. Yelling at them, treating them poorly, etc. is really just unprofessional (would you yell at your boss?) and doesn’t help your case for getting help or advice. No one likes dealing with nasty people.

Does anyone else have tips to succeed at school? I know to some people these sound corny, but I think you have to keep all these things in mind.

It seems like nothing will pan out. The short of it has been:

  • The realtors have often behaved as though they’re doing me a favor. I think my time in Chicago has made me expect really good customer service; it was a sticking point for many people I knew.
  • My employment is an issue. That is to be expected, since I only am employed through December.
  • According to some people, I have no significant rental history. I find that perplexing, because I have 3 years of renting faithfully.
  • No one wants to negotiate. In Boston, the rental season starts in March and goes through August/September. If you have not rented a place out, it becomes much harder. Realtors have been offended if I ask if they would remove/negotiate the fee or lower rent by $100. I actually had one tell me that the landlord would rather see the apartment sit empty than lower the price. That doesn’t make sense to me, because they have to pay for heat anyway.

I need positive vibes for this one. It feels like I’m climbing up a 90 degree hill at times.

I filled out paperwork for an apartment that I’m interested in today. If all goes well, I should be on my own again by November 1st and back with my cats. It is really time, since I’ve been essentially living out of a suitcase since the end of August. When I get my stuff back, it’ll be like Christmas early.

The place I want is a bit bigger than I need, but I figure it’ll be a good excuse to make a dance studio or home office. With all my moving, I’ve really gotten down to crucial basics and don’t own a lot besides books and cooking gear.

Positive thoughts for me getting a place soon!

My week has consisted of getting my students ready for their midterm. While my boss is fine with me delaying exams, I want to get them used to my exams as well as get them motivated to learn the material. I find it odd being on the other side of the table. Making problems up that are thoughtful, interesting, and not too difficult is a challenge. Writing my first equation sheet was a challenge as well. I have fairly good notes of my own that cover what we’ve done, but  I wanted to make something clear for the students. I don’t think they’re used to using an equation sheet, and it is a skill to learn prior to the exam, not at the exam.

Speaking of my students, they are slowly warming up to me and how our classes are. They were used to not having a system, so I think they appreciate that there is consistency, even if I’m still learning. What I like about my boss and everyone at the school is that they understand that I’m still learning. I know how to teach physics on some level, but I’ve never had to worry about assigning work, creating exams, etc. No one taught me how to do that, either. I’m somewhat of a perfectionist, but I’m trying not to be hard on myself. I feel like I am improving with each day.

The job has been quite a bit of work, which is to be expected. I’ve been fitting in my thesis editing (working on that after I finish writing here) and job searching. To clarify, my contract is only good for this semester. While I think I have a decent chance of getting more work, nothing is secure so I feel that it’s necessary to still search. I’m not sending out my CV as vigorously as before, but I have sent out a few applications. I would be more than happy to continue working at the school,  but since I’m not guaranteed work beyond this semester, I have to keep looking.

My first week teaching was a bit of a challenge, but I think that things will shape up as time progresses. The students and I are establishing a relationship. It’s difficult for them, because they haven’t had a steady instructor. It’s difficult for me, because this is my first lecture and they have hadn’t much of a time at school. Because of having so many different instructors, they’re all over the place in terms of what they know and don’t know; I’ve heard they were up to a certain point, but they are not quite there. Unfortunately, the previous instructor never handed back graded work, so they have no idea where they stand in the class. We’re at midterms, which is a scary time for many students, since they are quickly approaching the time to drop a class.

I like my students, though. They are adjusting and seem dedicated to learning. It feels good to have some place to go each day other than my computer to get on Craig’s List, Indeed, HireCulture, etc.

I’ve been apartment searching. On one hand, as many have pointed out, my job is only good through December. On the other hand, I’ve been living out of a suitcase for 2 months or so and no job right now is really secure. I think I’ve found a place, but I have to work a few monetary things out. I’ll be glad to be settled again (for the time).

Yesterday, I bought my first real set of work clothes. I’ve never had a job that I had specific work clothes. Lab work never required anything fancy and even when I had an office job, I was allowed to wear nice jeans and a nice top. While it was never explicitly stated to me that I needed business casual clothes, I observed most people who work at the school dress that way. I went out with my good friend to go shopping for good quality but cheap pants. I have a fair number of nice tops, but I am a jeans or gaucho pants kinda gal. Thank goodness for Frugal Fannie’s and sales.

I am nervous about starting Tuesday (I’ve been preparing today and will continue to do so tomorrow). Students don’t trust new people; I learned that from substitute teaching for labs or just simply starting out the quarter with a new set of kids. I’m also concerned about having enough material. Teaching at my grad school was nice, in some respects, because we were handed everything that we needed. I’m coming up with original material.

Of course, I am also searching for a part-time job. I have an interview tomorrow and many applications out. At this time of year, I’m not sure how lucky I will be with finding a part-time job. People have suggested seasonal work to me, but as much as I need the money (and I do), I hesitate to give up my Christmas. I’m not from MA, and I want to spend Christmas with people, especially in light of my father’s death. I couldn’t justify leaving on Christmas Eve and then taking an early flight back for a seasonal job. For my own sake, I need to have Christmas be somewhat relaxing. With a holiday job, I would inevitably have to work Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas.

As per usual, wish me luck.

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