I’d always imagined that spring would simply blur into summer without me really noticing it. That’s partially true. While others were grading, going to meetings, computing grades, submitting grades, etc. — all the grimacing and grunting of the end of the semester — I was floating on the same boat as normal, at least for sabbatical. Now, though, there are summer projects. In some ways they all seemed to start today.
First, I had to get to campus. I rode my bike. The weather’s changing for the better and the season if finally really pleasant for bike riding. Fortunately, I haven’t had to keep that close track that I usually do; but I noticed that Dan (regular bike commuter in my department) didn’t switch from knobby to slick tires until just last week. Usually he switches around spring break. I use Dan’s tire switch as a sign of spring, like robin’s coming out or tulips blooming. Spring came late this year.
The first meeting was with the coordinator of a multidistrict grant that I’m a part of. I’m “delivering” material, as they say. I’ve stayed pretty disconnected from this, but now that I actually understand my role in the whole thing, I’m actually excited to take part. Yeah, still some work: develop the curriculum, buy some stuff, etc., and then actually “deliver” and follow up and repeat for the next three years. But it’s a good project.
Second meeting was with Charla, the student coordinator of our science-in-the-parks program. She told me that she brought a synopsis of all she’d done since finals. It was a blank piece of paper. I told her this was exactly as much as I’d wanted at this point, and then we continued on with talking about the rest of the staff, where to go from here, and when she might have the drumbone finished.
I wrote a few things after that. Email, notes, and some to-do’s. Then I went to meet with my Chair and my Dean.
It was one of those meetings where I could say, “This is the way I think things really should be.” And, everyone basically agreed that the way I think things should be is a potentially good direction to go. But there are these issues: pay, space, faculty, politics, etc. But then we went on and talked about if/how/what/when. it boils down to: figure out the mission of the College at this point; see if a graduate program in science education fits into that; use said graduate program as the vehicle to do lots of other things (e.g., hire other faculty, unite departments across the College towards science education initiatives, host collaborations with school districts and researchers from other places).
All of these things felt like they were leading towards something, rather than just turning a crank that runs the machine that bails the water out of the boat. This seemed to direct the boat forward a little bit. I need to now design a curriculum, write some job descriptions, and design a master’s program to keep the boat going forward, but at least I know what direction to steer.
A complete aside and/or counterpoint to productivity: Here’s the coolest toy/software/educational-thingy I’ve played with in a long time, probably ever. And it’s free. And it’s someone’s graduate work — a master’s thesis. (I also wrote a little bit of computer code for my MS . . . this makes my work look, well, pathetic. Or worse.) And it works on three operating systems, at least. Basically, you can just “draw” a bunch of stuff, press play, and let physics take over. I’m sure I’ve already been distracted for hours by it; I convinced the girls that they needed to play with this (on Karyn’s faster computer — even better) and they too thought it was magical.
So there I am, on a boat with a direction and some oars, and then distractions. Wonder what I’m going to do as soon as I finish writing this sentence?