Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Middle School Suicides Double As Common Core Testing Intensifies

theatlantic.com

Here’s a high stakes testing statistic you won’t hear bandied about on the news.

The suicide rate among 10- to 14-year-olds doubled between 2007 and 2014 – the same period in which states have increasingly adopted Common Core standards and new, more rigorous high stakes tests.

For the first time, suicide surpassed car crashes as a leading cause of death for middle school children.

In 2014, the last year for which data was available, 425 middle schoolers nationwide took their own lives. To be fair, researchers, educators and psychologists say several factors are responsible for the spike, however, pressure from standardized testing is high on the list.

In fact, it is a hallmark of other nations where children perform better on these tests than our own. In our efforts to emulate these countries, we’ve inadvertently imported their child suicide problem.

In South Korea, one of the highest performing nations on international tests, youth suicide is a national epidemic. According to the National Youth Policy Institute in Korea, one in four students considers committing suicide. In fact, Korea has the second highest youth suicide rate among contemporary nations.

For several years, the Korean school system has topped the roughly 70 member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) educational league, which measures 15-year-old students’ knowledge through the PISA test, an international student assessment exam within OECD member states.

However, the system is roundly criticized for its emphasis on memorization and test prep with little real-life application. In fact, 75 percent of South Korean children attend “cram schools” where they do little else than prepare for standardized assessments.

Likewise, Chinese students suffer similar curriculum and rates of child suicide. Though Shanghai students have some of the highest scores in OECD, abuse runs rampant.
According to the China Daily, teachers at Hubei Xiaogan No 1 High School in central Hubei province actually rigged their students up to IV drips in the classroom so they could continue studying after being physically exhausted.

Brook Larmer of the New York Times reports visiting student dormitories in Maotanchang, a secluded town in Anhui province, where the windows were covered in wire mesh to prevent students from jumping to their deaths.

In the United States, education “reform” hasn’t reached these depths, but we’re getting closer every year. Efforts to increase test scores have changed U.S. schools to closer resemble those of Asia.Curriculum is being narrowed to only the tested subjects and instruction is being limited to testing scenarios, workbooks, computer simulations, practice and diagnostic tests.

A classroom where students aren’t allowed to pursue their natural curiosities and are instead directed to boring and abstract drills is not a place of joy and discovery. A school that does not allow children to express themselves but forces constant test prep is a lifeless environment devoid of hope.

But that’s not the worst of it.

American students are increasingly being sorted and evaluated by reference to their test score rather than their classroom grade or other academic indicators. Students are no longer 6th, 7th or 8th graders. They’re Below Basics, Basics, Proficents and Advanced. The classes they’re placed in, the style of teaching, even personal rewards and punishments are determined by a single score.

In some states, like Florida, performance on federally mandated tests actually determine if students can advance to the next grade. Some children pass their classes but don’t move on purely because of test scores well within the margin or error.

The results are devastating.

Marion Brady tells a gut-wrenching story on Alternet about a 9-year-old Florida boy who tried to hang himself after failing the state’s FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test) by one point. His mother explains that he had to take a summer remediation course and a retest, but still failed by one point. She couldn’t bear to tell him, but he insisted that he had failed and was utterly crushed.

After a brief period where he was silent, alone in his room, she became apprehensive:
“I … ran down the hall to [his] room, banged on the door and called his name. No response. I threw the door open. There was my perfect, nine- year-old freckled son with a belt around his neck hanging from a post on his bunk bed. His eyes were blank, his lips blue, his face emotionless. I don’t know how I had the strength to hoist him up and get the belt off but I did, then collapsed on the floor and held [him] as close to my heart as possible. There were no words. He didn’t speak and for the life of me I couldn’t either. I was physically unable to form words. I shook as I held him and felt his heart racing.
“I’d saved [him]! No, not really…I saved him physically, but mentally he was gone…The next 18 months were terrible. It took him six months to make eye contact with me. He secluded himself from friends and family. He didn’t laugh for almost a year…”
The boy had to repeat the third grade but is haunted by what had happened as is his mother. And this is by no means an isolated incident.

According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, the suicide rate for 5- to 14- year-olds jumped by 39.5 percent from 2000 to 2013. The rate for 15- to 24-year-olds, which was already 818% higher than for younger children, also increased during the same time period by 18.9 percent. That’s more than 5,000 children and rising each year taking their own lives.

Again, high stakes testing isn’t responsible for all of it. But the dramatic increase along with a subsequent increase in high stakes testing is not unrelated.

The Alliance for Childhood, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that advises on early education, compiled a report from parents, teachers, school nurses, psychologists, and child psychiatrists noting that the stress of high-stakes testing was literally making children sick.

On testing days, school nurses report that their offices are filled with students complaining of headaches and stomachaches. There have even been reports of uncontrollable sobbing.
In 2013, eight prominent New York principals were so alarmed by this increasing student behavior that they wrote a letter to parents expressing their concerns:
“We know that many children cried during or after testing, and others vomited or lost control of their bowels or bladders. Others simply gave up. One teacher reported that a student kept banging his head on the desk, and wrote, ‘This is too hard,’ and ‘I can’t do this,’ throughout his test booklet.”

And they’re not alone.

In fact, student anxiety is so common on test day that most federally mandated tests include official guidelines specifically outlining how to deal with kids vomiting on their test booklets.

School counselors note increasing student anxiety levels, sleep problems, drug use, avoidance behaviors, attendance problems, acting out, etc. that increase around testing time and during test prep lessons. This is a major contributor, they say, to the unprecedented increase in the number of young children being labeled and treated for psychiatric illnesses ranging from learning disabilities and attention disorders to anxiety and depression.

And the psychological trauma isn’t limited to the students, alone. The adults also suffer from it.

In 2015, Jeanene Worrell-Breeden, a West Harlem elementary school principal, took her own life by jumping in front of a subway train to escape a standardized testing scandal. Under intense pressure from the federal and state government to improve academic achievement, she had allegedly instructed her staff to change students’ answers on a new Common Core aligned high stakes test.

But the trauma isn’t always so dramatic. Teachers and principals often suffer in silence. And when it affects the adults in the room, imagine what it does to the children. It isn’t that teachers aren’t trying to teach or that students aren’t trying to learn. It’s that the expectations and testing are developmentally inappropriate.

Middle school children’s brains are still growing. They are only physically able to learn certain concepts and skills, but we’re forcing them to deal with increasingly advanced and complex concepts at younger ages. And when expectations and high stakes consequences come crashing down on children, they can feel there is no way out.

This is why thousands of parents have refused to allow their children to take high stakes standardized testing. This is why there is a growing grass roots movement  against these sorts of assessments and other corporate school reforms. 

It’s time the media connect the dots and report these sorts of stories in context. Don’t just shrug when reporting on child suicide rates, if you report it at all. Give the microphone to experts who can point the finger where it belongs. And the rest of us need to make sure our representatives at the state, local and federal level know where we stand.

High stakes testing is child abuse. We should not emulate other nations’ scores especially when they come at such a cost. The fact that we don’t engage in the worst abuses of Asian schools should be a point of pride, not jealousy. We should cherish and nurture our children even if other nations sacrifice theirs on the altar of competition and statistics.

How Much is Enough When Writing a PhD Thesis?

studioincite.com
So you’re working away on your thesis, trying your best to keep your eyes open, get the words down and meet the deadline.
But there’s that nagging doubt… how do you know whether what you’re writing is good or not?
How do you know if your arguments are deep enough, or if you’ve covered enough of the literature?
There is no number. There is no magic formula. Everyone’s PhD is different, and so all you can do is tell your own story.
But there is one element that you cannot live without, and which will help you to know what to include and what to leave out.

Insight

Insight is what separates you, the PhD candidate, from the undergrad student just following instructions or rote learning.
It’s not the same as technical knowledge. It’s the way you think about the subject, the way you interpret and explain the results.
Being factually correct isn’t enough. The examiner wants to see something they don’t already know; not just in terms of results or concepts, but they also want to see your perspective.
They want to see how the technical detail and the literature background informed the decisions you made in your research and how it relates to your analysis.
This is why it’s so hard for anyone to tell you exactly what’s required, because you can’t put a number on how much insight is enough.
They don’t want a bibliography with 1000 papers in if they aren’t relevant.
The examiner isn’t going to care whether your thesis is 130 pages or 150 or 300… In fact if your writing lacks insight, they would probably prefer it to be as short as possible.

How to show insight

  • Stick mainly to things you know about
  • Avoid including random facts for no reason
  • Show how the ideas in the literature informed your research and your analysis
  • When writing, spend time thinking about exactly what you want to get across
  • Try to find the key concept that runs through the section or chapter to tie it together
and
  • Tell your own story. Because ultimately, it’s all about you.

Monday, July 17, 2017

How I Created an Edited Volume in Record Time: Less Than Two Years from Idea to Print

Tanya Golash-Bozer
by Tanya Golash-Bozer, Get a Life, PhD: http://getalifephd.blogspot.com.au/2017/07/how-i-created-edited-volume-in-record.html

Many academics will tell you to steer away from creating an edited volume. Yet, judging by academic catalogs, clearly, some academics continue to create edited books. Why would any academic pull together an edited volume?

The reason is that there are some cases when creating an edited volume makes sense. I recently edited a volume for Oxford University Press and I will explain in this post why I did it, how I did it, and why I am extremely gratified to have edited this book.

I decided to create Forced Out and Fenced In: Immigration Tales From the Field because I had an abundance of rich stories from my research with deportees that I wanted to share. I thought about writing a popular book that highlighted deportees’ stories, but I did not think that I had enough stories to fill a book. Moreover, I had just published a book based on deportees’ stories and did not want to try and spin another book out of that research. I did, however, want to reach a broad readership with the stories.

As I thought about how to get these stories out to a broader audience, I asked myself if other researchers might also have stories that needed to be told. It turns out they did! When I reached out to my colleagues, I received an enthusiastic response both regarding the desire to tell these stories and to hear the stories of others affected by immigration law enforcement.

In this case, it made sense to edit a volume as opposed to writing a monograph because I wanted to highlight a broad range of stories of people affected by immigration law enforcement, and I wanted a combination of historical and contemporary stories. This kind of project requires a team.

It is also critical that the team was excited. This book gave the contributors an opportunity to share parts of their research that may not fit into a typical academic article or even a monograph. Forced Out and Fenced In highlights people’s stories. The argument and historical context form the backdrop. The contributors were excited about the opportunity to try a different kind of academic writing.

This enthusiasm then translated into what might be the most seamless production of an edited volume in the history of book publishing. Forced Out and Fenced In: Immigration Tales From the Field was created in what must be record time due to the enthusiasm of the contributors and the extraordinary efforts of the team at Oxford.

This volume took only a year to put together—practically lightning speed in academic publishing. In early September 2015, I sent a note to Oxford University Press editor Sherith Pankratz to ask if she might be interested in an edited book on immigration enforcement. She said she was. In mid-September, I sent a query out to twenty-five scholars. By mid-October, twenty-one of them responded and said they were willing to contribute essays. The other four politely declined. I wrote a full proposal and sent it to Sherith, along with a sample contribution. She got back to me with reviews in mid-December 2015. By January 2016, we signed a contract.

I then reached out to the contributors and asked them to send me their contributions by mid-March. If you have ever worked with academic authors, you will find the next sentence surprising. All of them sent in their chapter drafts on time. We sent the full manuscript out for review, asked the authors for revisions, and they consistently met every single deadline multiple times. This is practically unheard of in academia. By mid-October 2016, every single author had sent me the final version of their chapters and we were able to get this book into production by the end of November 2016.

The book was released in June 2017 – less than two years from idea to publication—which must break all kinds of records for edited volumes in academia. I was fortunate to have secured contributors who are not only at the top of the field, but are also timely and responsive.

In case you are curious, the Table of Contents is below. If you are in the humanities or social sciences, you will see that I was able to recruit an amazing group of folks!




Foreword - Roberto Lovato
Introduction: Forced Out and Fenced In - Tanya Golash-Boza

Part I: Migration Histories: How Did We Get Here?
1. Wong Foon Chuck: Making Home in the Borderlands between China, the United States, and Mexico - Elliott Young
2. Lost in Translation - Mae M. Ngai
3. Rebel, Deportee, Governor: The Life of Antonio I. Villarreal - Kelly Lytle Hernández
4. Mexican Migrants, Family Separation, and US Immigration Policy since 1942 - Adam Goodman
Part II: Families Torn Apart: How Do Deportation Laws Affect Families?
5. Becoming American - Lisa M. Martinez
6. ’Til Law Do Us Part: Immigration Policy and Mixed-Status Family Separation - Ruth Gomberg-Muñoz
7. Double Jeopardy: Deportation and the Life-Course Rituals of Twin Sisters - Kara Cebulko
Part III: Living Without Papers: How Do Undocumented People Navigate the Challenges They Face?
8. The Law Doesn’t Care About Love: Intimate Relationships in Cities with Restrictive Immigration Laws - Angela S. García
9. “It’s a Strange Condition”: Being in College Under a Cloud of Uncertainty - John S. W. Park
10. How Will I Get My Skull Back? The Embodied Consequences of Immigrant Policing - Nolan Kline
Part IV: Seeking Refuge: What Does It Take to Get Asylum in the United States?
11. “Is This America?”: Asylum-Seeking in an Era of Humanitarian Decline - Sarah M. Lakhani
12. When American Dreams Are Shattered - Tanya Golash-Boza
13. The Power of Law: How Immigration Policy Shapes Salvadorans’ Experience of Family and Motherhood - Maya Pagni Barak
Part V: Gendered Exclusions: How Are Deportation Experiences Gendered?
14. Gendered Exclusion: Three Generations of Women Deported to the Dominican Republic - Yolanda C. Martin
15. Caging Paloma: Illegality and Violence Along the United States–Mexico Border - Heidy Sarabia
16. The Ripple Effects of US Immigration Enforcement: A Young Mexican Deportee’s Story of Isolation, Precarity, and Resilience - Christine Wheatley
Part VI: Deporting DREAMers: How Do “American” Youth Navigate Their Lives in Mexico after Deportation?
17. I Used to Believe in Justice - Juan Carlos Guevara, Angela Stuesse, and Mathew Coleman
18. No Place Like Home: From High School Graduation to Deportation - Alexis M. Silver
19. Call Centers, Transnational Mobility, and (Neoliberal) Citizenship - Jill Anderson
Part VII: Returning “Home”: What Happens to Migrants Who Return to the United States After Being Deported?
20. No hay otro: An Ecuadorian Tale of Repeated US Immigration - Nancy Hiemstra
21. Barred Por Vida: María Inez’s Battle to Find Health and Well-Being - San Juanita García
22. Sergio Rodriguez’s Dream Deferred: Illegality, Deportation, and the Long-Term Impacts of Lives in Limbo - Roberto G. Gonzales
Epilogue

Brain Fitness: Why You’re Losing Out if You’re not Learning Another Language


commons.wikimedia.org
Most people in the world speak more than one language, suggesting the human brain evolved to work in multiple tongues. If so, asks Gaia Vince, are those who speak only one language missing out?

Listen to or download an audiobook of this story on SoundCloud and iTunes.
In a café in south London, two construction workers are engaged in cheerful banter, tossing words back and forth. Their cutlery dances during more emphatic gesticulations and they occasionally break off into loud guffaws. They are discussing a woman, that much is clear, but the details are lost on me. It’s a shame, because their conversation looks fun and interesting, especially to a nosy person like me. But I don’t speak their language.
Out of curiosity, I interrupt them to ask what they are speaking. With friendly smiles, they both switch easily to English, explaining that they are South Africans and had been speaking Xhosa. In Johannesburg, where they are from, most people speak at least five languages, says one of them, Theo Morris. For example, Theo’s mother’s language is Sotho, his father’s is Zulu, he learned Xhosa and Ndebele from his friends and neighbours, and English and Afrikaans at school. “I went to Germany before I came here, so I also speak German,” he adds.
Was it easy to learn so many languages?
“Yes, it’s normal,” he laughs.
He’s right. Around the world, more than half of people – estimates vary from 60 to 75 per cent – speak at least two languages. Many countries have more than one official national language – South Africa has 11. People are increasingly expected to speak, read and write at least one of a handful of “super” languages, such as English, Chinese, Hindi, Spanish or Arabic, as well. So to be monolingual, as many native English speakers are, is to be in the minority, and perhaps to be missing out.
Multilingualism has been shown to have many social, psychological and lifestyle advantages. Moreover, researchers are finding a swathe of health benefits from speaking more than one language, including faster stroke recovery and delayed onset of dementia.
Could it be that the human brain evolved to be multilingual – that those who speak only one language are not exploiting their full potential? And in a world that is losing languages faster than ever – at the current rate of one a fortnight, half our languages will be extinct by the end of the century – what will happen if the current rich diversity of languages disappears and most of us end up speaking only one?
I am sitting in a laboratory, headphones on, looking at pictures of snowflakes on a computer. As each pair of snowflakes appears, I hear a description of one of them through the headphones. All I have to do is decide which snowflake is being described. The only catch is that the descriptions are in a completely invented language called Syntaflake.
It’s part of an experiment by Panos Athanasopoulos, an ebullient Greek with a passion for languages. Professor of psycholinguistics and bilingual cognition at Lancaster University, he’s at the forefront of a new wave of research into the bilingual mind. As you might expect, his lab is a Babel of different nationalities and languages – but no one here grew up speaking Syntaflake.
The task is profoundly strange and incredibly difficult. Usually, when interacting in a foreign language, there are clues to help you decipher the meaning. The speaker might point to the snowflake as they speak, use their hands to demonstrate shapes or their fingers to count out numbers, for example. Here I have no such clues and, it being a made-up language, I can’t even rely on picking up similarities to languages I already know.
After a time, though, I begin to feel a pattern might be emerging with the syntax and sounds. I decide to be mathematical about it and get out pen and paper to plot any rules that emerge, determined not to “fail” the test.

© Nadine Redlich
The experience reminds me of a time I arrived in a rural town a few hours outside Beijing and was forced to make myself understood in a language I could neither speak nor read, among people for whom English was similarly alien. But even then, there had been clues… Now, without any accompanying human interaction, the rules governing the sounds I’m hearing remain elusive, and at the end of the session I have to admit defeat.
I join Athanasopoulos for a chat while my performance is being analysed by his team.
Glumly, I recount my difficulties at learning the language, despite my best efforts. But it appears that was where I went wrong: “The people who perform best on this task are the ones who don’t care at all about the task and just want to get it over as soon as possible. Students and teaching staff who try to work it out and find a pattern always do worst,” he says.
“It’s impossible in the time given to decipher the rules of the language and make sense of what’s being said to you. But your brain is primed to work it out subconsciously. That’s why, if you don’t think about it, you’ll do okay in the test – children do the best.”
The first words ever uttered may have been as far back as 250,000 years ago, once our ancestors stood up on two legs and freed the ribcage from weight-bearing tasks, allowing fine nerve control of breathing and pitch to develop. And when humans had got one language, it wouldn’t have been long before we had many.
Language evolution can be compared to biological evolution, but whereas genetic change is driven by environmental pressures, languages change and develop through social pressures. Over time, different groups of early humans would have found themselves speaking different languages. Then, in order to communicate with other groups – for trade, travel and so on – it would have been necessary for some members of a family or band to speak other tongues.
We can get some sense of how prevalent multilingualism may have been from the few hunter-gatherer peoples who survive today. “If you look at modern hunter-gatherers, they are almost all multilingual,” says Thomas Bak, a cognitive neurologist who studies the science of languages at the University of Edinburgh. “The rule is that one mustn’t marry anyone in the same tribe or clan to have a child – it’s taboo. So every single child’s mum and dad speak a different language.”
In Aboriginal Australia, where more than 130 indigenous languages are still spoken, multilingualism is part of the landscape. “You will be walking and talking with someone, and then you might cross a small river and suddenly your companion will switch to another language,” says Bak. “People speak the language of the earth.” This is true elsewhere, too. “Consider in Belgium: you take a train in Liège, the announcements are in French first. Then, pass through Loewen, where the announcements will be in Dutch first, and then in Brussels it reverts back to French first.”

Friday, July 14, 2017

I am Rebecca Gelding and This is How I Work

by Eva Lantsoght, PhD Talk: http://phdtalk.blogspot.com.au/2017/07/i-am-rebecca-gelding-and-this-is-how-i.html

Today, I am interviewing Rebecca Gelding for the "How I Work" series. Rebecca is a PhD student investigating music cognition, specifically what is going on in the brain as people imagine music. She began part time in Feb 2013, as she was also looking after her 2 small children. Said children are both now at school this year (hooray) and so she's changed to full time. 

Prior to starting a family, she worked in the finance industry, but realised when she had kids that life is short: spend it doing something you are passionate about. She told me: "I've has always loved maths, music and the brain and now I get paid to discover and write about it every day, whilst still enjoying being a mother. Best of both worlds." 

Current Job: PhD Student in Cognitive Science. Aiming to submit mid-2018.
Current Location: Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia.
Current mobile device: Samsung Galaxy S7
Current computer: Acer Aspire V5-431

Can you briefly explain your current situation and research to us?

I’m just over half way through my PhD which investigates what is going on in the brain as people image music; specifically imagining pitch and rhythm. To do this I use a technology called magnetoencephalography (MEG) which measures changes in magnetic flux from the outside of people’s heads. From this we can get an understanding of what brain regions are doing while imagining music compared to listening to music. It’s compelling research because while the experience of imagining music is universal, there is still a lot we don’t yet understand in the dynamics of our brains as we imagine. 

What tools, apps and software are essential to your workflow?

I use Word and Endnote for writing, and a variety of software packages for analysing and presenting data (BESA Research, MATLAB, R)

What does your workspace setup look like? 


This year I’ve begun some new routines to try to develop writing as a habit, and I have three workspaces. Each morning when I arrive on campus around 9:20am after school drop-off, I will order a coffee from the brilliant coffee shop at the bottom of my building, and get out my laptop. While I savour that coffee, I’ll use my phone timer to do one pomodoro (25mins) session of nothing but writing. 

Then I’ll head upstairs to my university desk and try to either do a few more pomodoros while I’m on a roll, or attend to whatever other work I need to do. I have a computer on campus which I will sometimes use, but for portability, most of my writing is done on my laptop. 

I leave campus at 2:25pm to pick up the kids, and spend the next few hours with them, doing normal afternoon / dinner routines. Once they are off to sleep around 8pm, I’ll head to my home office (AKA desk in the corner of the lounge room) for a couple more hours of work. As it’s the end of the day I normally don’t do anything that is mentally taxing, but try to allocate tasks that are necessary but easy to these evening timeslots. 

When need be I’ll use the analysis computers at university as well, but most of my work is on my laptop (and backed up on portable hard drives).

Rebecca's desk at home

Rebecca's desk at university

Rebecca's work setup at her favorite cafe

What is your best advice for productive academic work?


Work out how you work best. One of the biggest benefits of academia is flexibility. Use that to your advantage, to discover exactly when you are at your most alert, then organise your day around those times. Over Christmas last year I read “Rest” by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang and he discusses of a whole bunch of ways in which to increase productivity without working longer hours. Unsurprisingly prioritising rest was one of them. 

How do you keep an overview of projects and tasks?

I love the idea of a bullet journal but I’m not disciplined enough to keep at it. I generally have an everything notebook that I keep in my compendium and take everywhere. For every major project on at a given time I’ll list the tasks that need to be done on each one. At the start of the year I did a term by term break down of the goals I wanted to achieve, and a weekly plan for this term. Each Sunday night I try to have a look at that to see how I’m tracking (eek…. I’m already behind due to unforeseen set-backs….) and to map out a rough guide for what I want to achieve in the coming week. I try to spend the bus ride on the way to university reviewing and planning for that day as well. 

Besides phone and computer, do you use other technological tools in work and daily life?

Not really.

Which skill makes you stand out as an academic?


I’ve inherited an optimistic outlook on life, which will usually see me putting my hand up for opportunities thinking, “what have I got to lose?” While an attitude might not technically qualify as a skill, in academia where rejection and setbacks are part of the landscape, it takes skill to maintain a positive attitude! During the PhD candidature, there are plenty of chances to do things outside of the direct “thesis” work. I’ve tried to make the most of these chances (eg three minute thesis competition, science communication outreach, writing for various outlets, teaching, blogging, etc). Some of these things have a snowball effect and bring more opportunities, but I think it has all stemmed from my optimism. 

What do you listen to when you work?

I love the environmental noises of the coffee shop, or a noisy storm outside, but I can’t stand any music on when I’m trying to work – I just get too distracted, probably because I’ll want to sing along. Can’t have the TV on either when I’m working at home. I prefer to work in silence. 

What are you currently reading? How do you find time for reading?

I’ve just started Steven Pinker’s “A Sense of Style” and I love it. I’m making a conscious effort to improve my writing. After all, if I’m going to be an academic, then I need to get a handle how to write. An obvious way to get better at writing is to read good writing! Funnily enough, now that I am full time I find I have more time for reading, as I’ll allow myself time on the weekend or some nights before bed to read for pleasure. 

Are you more of an introvert or extrovert? How does this influence your working habits?


I find being around other people energising, so I’d say extrovert. I love making it to the department morning tea each Wednesday, and would sit and socialise through a whole hour of lunch if I could. But with such short hours on campus each day, I have to restrict myself and get back to work. It also means that the days I spend working from home are super lonely for me – even if it’s just 6 hours. 

What's your sleep routine like?


I’d love to be in bed by 10pm, but usually its more like 11pm. As part of my new year routine I set the alarm for 6am and get out first thing for a half hour run each week day morning. (Having said that I don’t think I’ve managed any week with 5/5 runs, but the intention is there!) I generally try to get at least 7 hours sleep. On the weekends I’ll get a bit more as my husband and I take it in turns for a sleep in (which is ~8am), while the other one gets up to make breakfast for the kids. 

What's your work routine like?


In addition to the routine I mentioned with the workspaces, once a week I’ll work from home for the day. That usually involves planning a series of chores that need to be done and allocating them 15 min slots during a break time. (ie writing for 45 mins, mop kitchen for 15 mins, writing for 45 mins, hang out washing & put another load on). It's efficient, but quite tiring. 

The main difference I’ve found from going part time to full time, is that now I have more time to work, I need to make sure I keep working smart so I don’t burn myself out. I allocate my hardest tasks (normally writing) for the first thing in the morning, and then between morning tea and lunch I’ll do something that requires attention to detail but not as hard. After lunch I’ll generally do administration tasks and other stuff that has to be done. Sometimes I find when I come to sit down in the evenings I’ve come up with a solution to a problem earlier in the day purely because I’ve had time to think (usually unconsciously) as I’ve been doing other things in the afternoon with my family. I am more tired as a full timer than a part timer though, so I’m making sure I spend quality time resting on the weekends, to be fresh for a new week.

What's the best advice you ever received?

The best academic advice I have ever read came from twitter:

“We are all smart. Distinguish yourself by being kind”. Anne Galloway was quoting Prof Charles Gordon, then Head of Department, Sociology & Anthropology, Carleton University.