Teaching Psychology Undergrads

(Thursday, September 22, 2005, 6:56 p.m.)

copied from Myspace blog

Two weeks before this semester began, I knew I would have my hands full with teaching, but I had no idea how full. Well, it appears 70 hours / week is becoming the average.

I figured somehow that having to deal with over 60 students, I would somehow be less lonely, but I'm not sure it's working out that way. (Lonely and overworked: now there's a combination I haven't experienced often, though maybe some of you were there during quals this summer.) These students are mainly burdens to be dealt with, not bright young minds eager to learn to be researchers in the behavioral sciences. (Okay, a few of them seem sharp and are good participants, but most would probably rather stub there toe on the kitchen table than be in my sections. I can't blame them; I sometimes feel the same.)

And for my part, I'm not sure if I'm doing a good job of conveying the material to them. Truly, having me teach these guys behavioral research isn't an ideal arragement for anybody. I don't even work with animal subjects, much less human subjects. I've spent most of my career in and out of academia programming computers and studying artificial intelligence. Most of these guys are more interested in counseling and therapy. I can encourage them to think critically and try to be more analytical, but I've not walked down the road they're going down, so I can't connect with them all that well, or tell them what lies ahead.

The worst aspect of this (other than the obscene workload) is having to police absence and late homeworks. I've lightened my policy in the syllabus to try to be more accomodating, but it's still a lot of unpleasant work being an truant officer for these guys. And they often seem incapable of following the most clear, explicit directions (like double-spacing their assignments or choosing one of several options rather than them all). It's been awhile since I was a freshman, but I can't remember if I was that dense at the time. Maybe it's that I was a computer science undergrad...

It's going to be a long road this semester. I no longer feel like I going to my execution when I step into the class (which is, undeniably, a good thing), but I'm not getting anything else done and have no life to speak of. Every day is devoted to my sections. When I sleep, I often dream of lecture materials (never in a useful way as far as I can tell). I have a Monday section to teach and I almost always finish my lesson plans late Sunday night. I've had no day off since the semester began. This is far worse than quals ever was for me, though actually not the longest hours I've worked. (I worked up to 100 hours / week (at demo time) programming video-games, but that was actually more consistently kind of fun.) During my quals summer, I worked around maybe 56 hours a week early in the summer, and I think the time tapered off as the summer wore on.

The good news, I guess, is that I'm almost through Week #4, and this lesson plan should be more light-weight than the previous ones. My homework I just collected will probably be the most difficult to grade, however. I'm hoping that other people are right about the time required dropping once I get into the final projects. For me that will begin Week #9, sooner, I suppose, than it may seem.

One question that is resurfacing in my mind, though, is: "Is this what I really want to do for the rest of my life?"

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