Monday, February 18, 2008


A post in three unrelated (?) acts.

Baby Jane is trying her best to communicate with us. She is very vocal, which means that she spends a lot of time either babbling to herself (or her toys) or to us. When she babbles to us, she is very intent: she makes eye contact, she modulates her voice, she changes her inflection and her syllables. Clearly she has something very important to tell us! If only we could figure out what it was.

We have been signing to her for months now, and finally, she is signing back. Sometimes her signs are crystal clear, like the day she signed "Daddy" when Mr. Jane came home from running errands. But often they are a bit ambiguous. "Milk", for instance, is her general sign for "I'm tired and it's time for bed" (we breastfeed her as part of the bedtime ritual). Still, it's an exciting time: we know that she understands us, and finally, finally, we are starting to understand her.

Since returning from sabbatical, I've found that I am more direct with my colleagues. Maybe it's because the time away from my colleagues brought me a greater understanding of the ways in which we communicate poorly with each other. Or maybe it's because I have no time and am thus forced to be direct to save what little time I have. Whatever the reason, being direct is proving wildly successful. For instance: there's this particular thing that I've wanted to do for ages, but my chair always offers/delegates it to someone else. In the past, I've talked to my chair about getting a chance to do it, but for whatever reason, nothing ever changed. Which just led me to stew and be unhappy and complain. This time around, I decided to just tell my chair outright that I want to do this thing. No beating around the bush, no trying to find the "right" words, none of that. No, I just went to my chair and said "You know, I should do X this year." And he said "OK, that sounds like a great idea! You're on!"

How much time and energy have I wasted worrying about not being a pest or a bother, and thus not asking for what I want?

Dear Dr. Jane,

I am worried about my course grade. Could you please let me know if I am in danger of failing?

Stu Dent

Dear Stu,

Yes, you are in danger of failing. I don't know why it took you this long to get in touch with me. I mean, it's not like I haven't been begging, pleading, and cajoling you to meet with me since, oh, day 1 of the class since it is abundantly clear that you are so, so lost. I don't know how much more direct I can be with you, since I've written on every single quiz and assignment that you are NOT doing well and that you MUST come and see me ASAP so that we can stop the bleeding. I am always willing to help students, particularly with this subject matter, since it's not the easiest stuff in the world. But I can only help those who want to help themselves. You've dug yourself a hole that's pretty deep. I can help you dig out: I can loan you a shovel, and I can get you started. But ultimately, you're the one that has to do the digging. And frankly, I don't see that willingness in you.

Dr. Jane

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