Welcome to the first ring of Hell

I’m going to send in a couple of job applications for biology teaching positions at community colleges. With some 200 credit hours of college education, I’ve been exposed to enough teachers to know that I teach better than some of them. I’ve had a course in college teaching, over a decade of teaching continuing education (designing my own courses, content, handouts & my own photography), and have been tutoring biology for several years.

But of course I’ve not actually applied for such a job before. So here I am re-doing my teaching philosophy, checking over my resume, chewing over application letter drafts and whatnot.

Like everyone, I’m really nervous about the prospect of interviews. Unlike a lot of people, I have particular difficulties with interviews, such as the prosopagnosia. This means not recognising people from one day to the next, at least not until I’ve been around them a while. I hate it when people drag you around a building and introduce you to a gazillion people. I can barely mentally file away some vague identification characteristics for one interviewer, and even then I never know which details will prove to be the useful ones for recognising them in the future. Yes, I know … I spend an hour talking with someone, and then (aside from the name on the business card) I truly can’t remember who the hell they were the next day. It’s awful.

During the actual interview process, I’m running mental circles around the auditory processing difficulties, fidgety-scatterbrained ADHD issues, unconsciously suppressing little motor tics (I shouldn’t have to theoretically, but it’s ingrained habit under such situations), concentrating on trying to make “enough” eye contact (whatever the hell that is), concentrating on speaking clearly and avoiding stuttering, ignoring the tinnitus and joint aches (and hoping against migraine). And being nervous is bad enough without those damn menopausal hot flashes!

Of course all that detracts from the amount of energy available for composing brilliant answers. So my usual interview plan is to anticipate interview questions and then prepare and practice answers. I spend days ruminating over and practicing my short “scripts” while in the car. Fortunately, I can never remember my answers verbatim, so they don’t come off as sounding “canned”.

Unfortunately, for all I have a large vocabulary and am a well-practiced writer, I’m less able to produce clear, concise answers to unexpected questions. It’s not that I can’t think of what to say, but rather that all the details of things come to mind at once, and I can’t prioritise and sequence them easily, nor compose paragraphs and then remember them all the way through.

So … anyone out there have specific tips for teaching interviews? (I’m good on basic interview stuff like professional wardrobe.) But this is a new kind of interview situation, and I don’t know what sorts of questions are likely to be asked, nor what sorts of unspoken conventions are typical for such a process, or what committees look for.

Advertisements

Cross-Cultural Communiques

David recently posted the following conundrum in an essay:

How do you best convey experiences of living with a disability that are so alien to so many people? Where do you start? How do you convey challenges that people have never even considered?

This insightful — and sometimes “incite-ful” post, because it made me thoroughly annoyed on people’s behalf — reminded me of a handout I’d found while cleaning out old files. One of many available to university tutors, it was yet another authorless 12-point gem. (If someone does know the source, kindly let me know!)

The page refers to the assumptions we mentally trip over when working with people from other national, religious or ethnic cultures. I rather doubt that the author(s) considered how broad the cultural spectrum can be. One doesn’t readily think of the various Deaf cultures, but of course, there they are. I’m almost certain that they were not thinking of disabled people. Good heavens, even people studying various aspects of disability politics and history can’t agree on whether there is a “disability culture” or what it’s comprised of. Given the vast differences, definitions quickly break down into things like “autistic subculture” and debates thereof.

But nonetheless, this is still a spiffy list, so I’m sharing it with you all to mull over and run off with for your own purposes. This is the delight of blogging: cross-pollinating one’s brain with all sorts of novel combinations of ideas!

Cross-Cultural Relationships

1. What seems to be logical, sensible, important, and reasonable to a person in one culture may seem stupid, irrational, and unimportant to an outsider.

2. Feelings of apprehension, loneliness, and/or lack of confidence are common when visiting another culture.

3. When people talk about other cultures, they tend to describe the differences and not the similarities.

4. Differences between cultures generally are seen as threatening and described in negative terms.

5. Personal observations and reports of other cultures should be regarded with a great deal of skepticism.

6. One should make up one’s own mind about another culture and not rely on the reports and experiences of others.

7. It requires experience as well as study to understand the many subtleties of another culture.

8. Understanding another culture is a continues and not a discrete process.

9. Stereotyping probably is inevitable in the absence of frequent contact or study.

10. The feeling which people have for their own language is not often evidenct until they encounter another language.

11. People often feel that their own language is far superior to other languages.

12. It probably is necessary to know the language of foreign culture to understand the culture in depth.

 

Liberation by Disability: the paradox of Competency and Inclusion

“Because there is no way for good people to admit just how bloody uncomfortable they are with us, they distance themselves from their fears by devising new ways to erase us from the human landscape, all the while deluding themselves that it is for our benefit.”
~Cheryl Marie Wade

Disability is usually defined by what a person cannot do. But outside of the normative social realm, disability is really about how a person does things differently.

Within the cultural status quo, the onus of being “acceptable” for consideration to being included by others, is placed upon the person in question, rather than by those who are creating the standards and are choosing to accept or not. Frequently, inclusion must be “earned” by first Read the rest of this entry »

An unusual house guest

I had hoped to get some garden clean-up done this weekend, but it snowed a bit:

Given the winter weather, you might wonder how I could be doing another insect story, but right now I’m hosting an extra house guest. Read the rest of this entry »

Not helping my blood pressure

I went to the pharmacy to get some regular prescriptions refilled. Hubby has a new employer, which means we’re under a new insurance plan, which means sharing the newest insurance information with every one of our regular doctors and with the pharmacists. Oh the joys of paperwork – not. This time instead of a co-pay for prescriptions we have a (really, really big) deductible to meet before the insurance pays for things. I can sure vouch that the co-pay system with the previous insurer was a lot less stressful on my blood pressure. OMG the sticker shock!

My $9 blood pressure medication was no big deal. Getting just four migraine pills for $89 was alarming, especially as the kid takes two at a time, but the pharmacist explained that this insurance company only lets them fill four pills at a time. A month’s supply of ADHD meds was $109. (Yes, I’ve tried going without, and were I coping with just ADHD things wouldn’t be as bad, but you don’t want to hear about all the forgotten appointments and scorched pans et cetera; meds are just a part of my coping strategies.) Dang, that was a big check for all that.

Then a couple days later I went back to pick up some meds for hubby. I’ll refrain from details except to mention that when the pharmacist began to ring up his meds, she paused to ask “Do you still wan to fill these ‘scripts for the asthma medsRead the rest of this entry »

10-Q

(Thank you)

Things I’m thankful for: our eldest’s honey was able to get out of the hospital to have Thanksgiving dinner with us. Not only does this provide us with a new resource for stories (the joy and annoyance of families is the oft-repeated stories), but also someone else to talk with about science and science fiction and gaming and politics, or watch episodes of CSI.

Having a guest means that the all my cooking seems even more worthwhile, and the food gets eaten up more effectively. Having someone extra also provides the necessary impetus to motivate the others in the household to pick up and clean, which I appreciate, even if no one else does. And of course, having a guest means that the four cats have no lack of people to bug for attention, including door-opening service.

With as many computers as people and wireless access, there’s nearly always someone online at some point or another. This is normal for us. Of course, with this holiday-sanctioned break from schoolwork, the kid has been online reading boards or gaming a lot of the time. This morning I was serving up breakfast casserole, and suggested, “Come eat at the table with us; be social.”

Aspie kid’s reply came from the other side of the big computer desk chair, “I was social yesterday.”

This is true; last night the normally-reticent kid’s verbal output nearly matched that for the entire week. So breakfast chatter isn’t on the kid’s menu. That’s okay; there’s still fun social activities like going to the bookstore or a movie. Dunno if that’s what other people do for Thanksgiving, but we’re having fun in our own geeky way. Happy holiday to the other Americans out there!

OMG the Paperness …

There comes a time in every academic’s life when they must pack up all their crap and move. It’s a dread time, and not just from the whole physical hassle of boxing and schlepping and unpacking. The actual hard part is making all the damn decisions: will I need this again? How long should I keep these data sets/ copies of journal articles/ contracts/ professional reviews/ semi-legal correspondence? Bug Girl also did this recently, and I noticed that she never did post her final analysis … hmn!

I’m not really moving right now, at least not residences. But when I moved off-campus a couple years ago, a lot of stuff simply got crammed into available spaces and has sat there since. Plus, there was years of other stuff piling up, as paper is wont to do. My ADHD packrat qualities vie with my OCD-like* organisational quirks, resulting in Read the rest of this entry »

A Week Too Long

It’s been a very, very l-o-n-g week. The kid was off school for two days with a migraine that required IV meds to break. I got rear-ended in a three-car pile-up while waiting at a red light (I’m okay, and so is the car, structurally). The kids at school have been super-squirrelly, as only 30 students (all of whom have major emotional & behavioural problems) can be, so the staff are stressed. It’s also been cold in the mornings, and not surprisingly, NO one wants to crawl out of bed and go anywhere.

But, we’ve still one more day of the work week (two for me, as I’m tutoring on Saturday). So for everyone out there struggling to get going in the morning, here’s a sympathy picture. This is one of our cats, Spot, (named after Data’s cat, from Star Trek Next Generation, of course):

TURN OUT THE LIGHT!

“Innumerancy Taxes”

I once saw a bumper sticker that claimed lotteries were “a tax on the innumerate”, meaning that most of the people who gamble on such do so because they don’t really understand the mathematics of basic probability (chance). It does seem to be alarmingly true that a great number of people don’t have a good understanding of odds. Sure, some people simply gamble for the gaming aspect, but casinos aren’t getting rich off folks like my grandma who got together with friends at each other’s homes once a month to chat and play penny-ante poker — they’re in business to make money off those who keep thinking that they’ve figured out some kind of “system” or that they’ve some kind of special “luck” or who are addicted to gambling.

There are some really odd ways the human brain works against reality, especially when it comes to understanding probabilities. The brain likes to find patterns, even when they aren’t there. Read the rest of this entry »

ADD-itional News

While driving home, I just heard this latest ADHD news on NPR (link has text synopsis):  some children diagnosed with ADHD do literally grow out of the disorder by the time they are in their 20s.  Parts of the brain responsible for “the control of action and attention” experience about a two-year lag in these children, compared to their age-cohort.  The MRI study at the National Institute of Mental Health looked at scans of over 400 children (half diagnosed with AD/HD) taken over several years, to track the development of various areas of the brain.

Previous studies have shown that the AD/HD brain shows structural differences, as well as differences in the levels of neurotransmitters*.  Although some people continue to have these differences into adulthood, not everyone does.   Apparently this is sometimes merely a maturational delay, and sometimes a more permanent developmental difference.

* No, AD/HD is not “just an excuse” to cover up lazyness, or due to “bad parenting” (although poor parenting practices can certainly aggravate related issues), nor is it due to food colouring, sugar, et cetera.  There are a plethora of MRI scan studies out there demonstrating that the condition has a real, physical basis.

Argh

So here I am, still trying to find a way to make the job scene work.

Don’t get me wrong, I really like my college student tutoring, and special education paraprofessional, and noncredit instructor positions. It’s just that I’d rather have one job that paid decently, rather than three jobs cobbled together into something that leaves me overworked but seriously underpaid. (“underpaid” = $11/hr for someone with a MSc)

Lots of schools need teachers. No matter what employment resource I search, there are lots of positions for secondary science and special education teachers. School districts in every state need them, not just in the US but also in the UK. But to teach I need certification, and for certification Read the rest of this entry »

Model5

(For the less geeky, the post title is “Models” — a play on Numb3rs)

For someone who deals with statistics only when I absolutely have to (the formulae make my head swimmy), I still have a fondness for doing comparative measurements. Most of the online personality-type tests are an absolute waste of time (I’d much rather work out a Sudoku), but once in a great while one will catch my attention long enough for me to actually complete it, such as the nerd test. Okay, so at a 93% I’m not as nerdy as Bug Girl, who earned a “Nerd God” score of 99!

On the other hand, last time I took the AQ Test Read the rest of this entry »

a-Tunes

So last night the aspie kid, dad and I were sitting around the kitchen table, playing card games. We made a dent in some of the leftover Halloween candy, consumed a couple pots of tea, and generally had fun. Later on that night I was thinking over the evening, and I realised that there were some marked differences compared to similar evenings of my own youth. Read the rest of this entry »

Still Invisible

Bug Girl is citing a new report (pdf download link), “A National Analysis of Minorities in Science and Engineering Faculties at Research Universities”, in which 100 departments representing 15 disciplines of engineering and science (including social science) were surveyed. As we might expect, the results suck. Actually, the results suck even worse than the authors (Dr. Donna Nelson, supervising Christopher N. Brammer and Heather Rhoads) probably realise. But before I get ahead of myself, let me share some of what they had to say. Read the rest of this entry »