Friday, August 12, 2005

Five questions

I saw this over at b*'s blog. The rules: If you want to participate, just post a comment here, and I will email you five questions. You then answer the five questions on your own blog. (oh no, does this mean I have to turn on my computer this weekend? ack!)

So here are the questions that b* sent to me, along with my answers. (thanks, b*!)

1. What is your earliest memory of using a computer?
My first memory of using a computer has to be playing Atari at my friend's house down the street. I was totally fascinated by the Atari, and sometimes I'd even get distracted while playing the games, wondering how the heck it worked! My favorite game was Kaboom!, the one where you had to catch the bombs in the water buckets, but I also really liked Pac-Man.

My first memory of programming a computer was in 7th grade on the TRS-80 (or, as we affectionately called it, the "Trash-80"). We actually had a computer class once a week, with a real live computer scientist as a teacher. I still remember some of the assignments (and the term paper we had to write, on the history of computers). I found it lots of fun. Looking back, that was one of the things that started me on the path to where I am now. I was never a "tinkerer" as a young child, but I became a tinkerer after taking that class.

2. What are you most looking forward to about the upcoming school year?
Summer vacation? Just kidding. I'm really looking forward to a few of the classes I'm teaching this year---more so than usual, I mean. One of the courses is my absolute favorite course to teach, and I have a few new ideas that I'm planning on trying this year to make it even better. One of the courses is the one I've been revising all summer, and I'm really excited about the changes I've planned---I think the students will get a lot of out this course, and I've worked really hard to integrate real-world problems and scenarios into the course---and blogging, too!

Most of all, though, I'm looking forward to not being the most junior person in my department anymore. Being the "young'un" was fun while it lasted, but I'm ready to step out of that role, to be taken seriously, to start furthering my own ideas and growing into whatever type of faculty member I'm going to become. I have some idea of what that is, but not a complete I'm looking forward to wherever that particular path leads me.

3. What are you least looking forward to about the upcoming school year?
The workload and stress. No doubt this is going to be my busiest and most stressful year yet. I'm teaching an overload in the fall, overseeing a major project, and going up for my mid-tenure review. The review is the scariest of the three, since tenure guidelines are not at all clear at my school---I think I'm doing ok, but who knows what my department will say? Or the tenure review board? Plus, the mid-tenure decisions don't come down until late in the school year, so I get to be stressed out all year. Yippie!

4. What do you do in order to jumpstart yourself and motivate yourself to work?
I start working. Seriously. Most of the time, once I sit down and start working, I find that I can keep working. Of course, the challenge is getting myself to sit down and start working! Sometimes I tell myself that "I'll just work for 20 minutes", or 30 minutes or whatever. After that time, if I'm truly not motivated, I'll stop and do something else. If I'm under deadline or something, I'll take a quick break and then get back to it. Recently I've gotten much better about using small chunks of time to do something (anything)---this is a trick I learned from The Now Habit. Before, I used to say "I only have 15 minutes, so I'll just surf the web". Now, I am more likely to say "I have 15 minutes, so let me respond to that email/read the intro to that article/sketch out that next program".

My biggest barrier to working is fear of failure. I deal with this by telling myself "well, this project/paper/program might very well suck, but let me finish it anyway and maybe there will be a redeeming quality in it when I'm through." And usually, when I finish something, I find that it's not all that bad after all.

5. Out of all of the blog posts you've written, which one is your favorite and why?
Wow, is this a hard question to answer! I think that this one is my favorite so far. It's certainly not the best thing I've written nor the most insightful (hmm, do I ever get insightful on this blog?), but writing it was very therapeutic for me. I wrote this post during a rather difficult time last spring---I was questioning myself and my place in my department and institution; I had a series of frustrations and minor setbacks; I was not feeling very happy with myself or my job; and I was very, very stressed out. Writing that post helped me to remember what I do like about my job and my students, and that what I do *does* make a difference. Remembering the comment from the senior professor that I referenced in that post is especially empowering to me. Someone in the comments suggested that I return to that post whenever things get rough---and I have (and will continue to do so).


Turtle said...

The Trash-80 was my first computer. Took it with me to college.

You can ask me questions, but I don't know where I'd post my answers...

Any luck with the software problem in the previous post?

Congrats on not being the newest faculty in your dept :-).

Hope you and Mr. Jane have a great weekend!

BrightStar said...

I like your idea for getting started. My other blog friend named Jane has a similar strategy.

Thanks for doing these questions.

I'm pulling for you about your mid-tenure review!

Jane said...

Thanks, b*! I really enjoyed your questions. (And aren't you going up for review this year too? Maybe we should start a support group!)

Turtle, I got caught up in other things on Friday so I didn't make any more progress on the software problem. Maybe tomorrow night when/if I have some time. I'll email you some questions, and you can either answer them via email or answer them (without citing the source!) on your blog....sound good?

BrightStar said...

support group sounds good. :) I pretty much consider the blogosphere a support group.

my review is like a second year one -- pretty much everyone gets renewed. the fourth year one is a little more dicey.... that's when they tell you things like, "uh, we'll renew your contract if you want, but you're probably not going to get tenure, so you should probably start looking for another job..." you don't get told such things at second year review -- I don't know the point of it! Just to stress me out? I guess....