Working Mom

In conjunction with my personal blog, I’m posting about my summer  work schedule.  This entry focuses on the “Working” aspect of being a professor who is also  a mother (i.e., a MoFessor).

Academics know that the summer is supposed to be our most productive working time, even though many of us are not paid for it.  Because my children have been young, they have usually been in daycare during the summer.  Some academics  take their children out of daycare during the summer, but with young children, I haven’t seen how that is possible. Because our youngest (i.e., the twinnies) are starting kindergarten this fall and, thus, we don’t need to hold their daycare spots, and  because it  saves us  $4800 tax free, we’ve pulled them from daycare.

But, um, I’m still supposed to be  working.

Anticipating this schedule last spring and also teaching a grad course on how  to  write well and be  productive, I started a “Rise at 5″ schedule for  my research.  When a GREAT DEAL of the research and personal accounts of being a  productive writer converge on daily devoted time for writing, usually first thing in the morning, I think we ought to pay attention to it as a valid data point.

And honestly, it works  out  very  well for me, too,  I decide before I go to bed what my primary task will be.  And on my best mornings, I  roll out  of bed and even before I have my first cup  of coffee, I  start working.

I wish I’d figured this out years ago.  I am truly getting more  work done now than I ever have in my life.  And I like it.  It’s fun to get the hardest part of the day  out of the way first thing.  Writing is still hard.  And there is still all that self-doubt associated with it.  But it’s so rewarding to start to tick off tasks and projects.

There is one problem. The reason I wasn’t writing first thing in the morning before is that I was running.  It was great and it ensured that I exercised every day.  Now, I’m prioritizing writing  first thing in the morning.  But I still need to exercise.  Health is on the same level  as  work productivity in a fulfilled life.

Once I figure that out, I’ll let you know.

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Online Classes

I would love to start a discussion of online classes in this post (so I must remember to turn on comments).

So, I just finished my second online class.  Despite being someone who studies online groups and who has been on email since ((gulp)) 1984, I have not wanted to teach online.  Why?  Because I think the teacher and students lose the informal social interactions that are least 50% of what students get out of the courses they take.

Nonetheless, I decided to teach an online course  in the spring, mainly because it would allow me to teach one in the summer.  I am pragmatic; I have three children.  I need the summer salary and the face-to-face classes are having problems getting student enrollment.

So, I have been pleasantly surprised at the whole experience.

First, my students have scored WAY  HIGHER (for the most part) on their assignments in the online class than the FtF  class.  Like 5 to 7 points higher on tests I’ve been using for years. Why?? ACTIVE LEARNING. I don’t lecture.  The kids have to read the book.  I have a few “lessons” in which I walk/coach the students through some tough topics using written text, but they have to do the work themselves.  Even the final  paper, in which many students in the FtF do not get how to do it, the online class ROCKED IT.  I’m going to have to start grading harder and/or giving harder assignments to keep my overall grade distribution from going up—because the students are actually learning more!!

The second surprising thing is that my classes *do* have more social interactions than I thought they would.  This summer in particular, about half the classes has posted in our “Howdy Do” forums.  YES, I am a big  geek and I have a discussion forum called “Howdy  Do” where each week folks can post what they are doing.  YES I AM A GEEK AND I KNOW THIS ALREADY.

In the spring, only a few folks posted.  But this summer, over  half the class has checked in to let us know what they are doing.  I LOVE IT!  I miss seeing my kidlets in class, so I actually really love hearing from them on this forum.  And I know that because this is summer school, it’s more appropriate to post in the forum that you are checking in to class from the beach, or heading to the Grand Canyon with your family and finishing up the classwork in hotels on the road.

No, the social interactions are not the same online as FtF.  Lots of research and experience support that.  But having my students perform better AND working out better ways  for us to get  to know each other better during the class?  That sort  of rocks.

I  would LOVE to hear what other folks do who teach online courses.  Comments on this post, emails, tweets, Facebook messages.  I’m open to it all.  I’d love to learn what you do.

PS: And yes, I  do know that one  my characteristics (strengths or weaknesses, I do not know) is that my online interactions are pretty dadgum similar to my FtF interactions.  Whatever the textual version of waving one’s hands around and walking across the classroom while talking, I  do that in my writing.  At least, I  think I do.  You may not.  But now I am pensively reflecting with my eyes looking up and toward the left.  Soooo….. Um, yeah.

TELL  ME WHAT YOU DO!!!

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Writing By Hand

So  sometime during the last semester, a study came out demonstrating that taking notes by hand (i.e., writing) helps students retain more information than typing notes on their keyboard.  I posted that to both my undergrad and graduate class online pages.  But it ended  up sparking a discussion a few weeks later in my grad class when one of my students shared that she was getting SO MUCH MORE out of the readings of a very difficult course by writing her notes instead  of typing them.  And later in the semester, she and I had a research meeting in which she had brought in her handwritten notes to an article I had annotated online (through Mendeley) and her insights into the paper were remarkable.  This was a paper, I’d read and cited several times, but she  was able to get something new out it.

 

WOWZA.

 

So I’ve started writing by hand my notes from articles again, my notes in meetings, my to do lists.  I’m printing off my students’ papers and reading them and writing on them.  Bless their poor little hearts because my writing mimics that of an MD, not a PhD.

 

I feel like I have gone back to the future.  But  I also feel like I’m getting a great deal more  out of my work.  I wrote everything by hand in grad school.  (Back in the stone ages)  I finally felt like I was getting  with the program when I typed my first draft on the computer.  I always did my serious editing by writing.  But I’ve been trying to even stop that.

 

No longer though.  I’ll Mendeley for storage  of the documents I read and also for their in text citing.  But I’m going  back to note cards  for my notes.  And  I will ride my horse and buggy to campus.  I notice a difference.  It could be that I’m an old f@rt and so that works for me.  Or  it may be that  all those  multiple  cues of  touch and movement encode these thoughts deeper.

 

I’d  love to  hear what you do.

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Writing and Thinking and Theorizing

So I’m teaching my Writing And Thinking in the Organizational Sciences graduate class again.  (Wow!  My academic blog is two years old.  I really need to post more often)  This is a course that I took with Allan Wicker many years ago and is based upon Allan’s (1985) paper on getting out of one’s conceptual ruts.   The gist of this course is to help the students think deeply and creatively about their research topics while also discussing issues of writing and working effectively.

I have to be honest:  it’s an amazing class (if I do say so myself).  I can see the intellectual growth among the students.  In this last exercise, in which the students conducted a analysis of their major concepts, I could actually see the wheels turning and the Deep Thoughts Being Thunk.

Here’s the other things that is quite exciting to me:  Allan was quite prescient in his Conceptual Ruts paper.  It took 30 years or so, but some of the A level journals (specifically Academy of Management Journal and Academy of Management Review among others) are starting to advocate some of the exercises to their authors, even though they neglect the origins of these ideas in Allan’s paper.

I also realize that I might be able to better publicize this class–and what we’re doing in it–as “theorizing.”  That’s certainly the approach that AMJ and AMR are taking.

I would love to turn this course into a book for other social science graduate programs to use to help their PhD students develop and apply theory to their research.  ((I’m waiting for the next sentence to jump into my head and out of my fingers to conclude this essay.  I’ve been waiting a long time.))

So let’s just finish it here by adding that the other parts of the class are on WRITING and secrets to PRODUCTIVITY. Because all the great thoughts (and book ideas) don’t add up to diddly squat until we get our booties in the chair and put the words down on paper.  And then edit them.  And re-edit them.  And edit them again.  And have a few friendly (or not) reviewers tell us where our thoughts and writing don’t make sense.

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New and Old Media

Well, we’re waiting for the Winter Storm of the Decade to arrive. The kids are still asleep.  The husband is not yet driving nurses all over the county in scary weather.  And I’m not prepping for class because i’m pretty sure the University is going to be closed tomorrow.  Sounds like a prime opportunity to take advantage of the time to update my academic blog.

During the build up to this storm, I’ve become a big fan of Brad Panovich’s Facebook page.  And I am not the only one.  A few days ago, he even updated his status expressing amazement about all his new “likes” had come from and could they explain how they got there.

I have my own ideas about why he is so popular.

1)  He’s funny.  He has great graphics about when it’s time to buy bread and milk and when it’s time to buy a sled.  We in the South raid the grocery store for bread and milk at 1″ of snow. It’s funny.  He even introduced a new graphic about how many loaves one should buy to weather this storm.

2)  He’s informative.  The graphs are cute, but I think he’s figured out the formula of using Facebook to inform us about the weather and promote his “real job” as head meteorologist at the local NBC affiliate.  He posts youtube videos about his interpretation of the weather models.  And he does from home early in the morning, at night before he goes to bed, and yesterday in between TV broadcasts.  In these, he briefly talks about his family and going to pre-school parent-teacher conferences and then he teaches us about what he sees in the variety of models he uses to make his decisions.  I feel like a student.  And like a student, sometimes I have no idea what the hell he is talking about.  But when I do get it, I feel like an insider on the weather forecast. He even explains why his forecast is different from others and it  makes sense to me.

3) He makes the audience feel like an insider.  Academically, this is interesting to me.  I refer to him now as “Brad” around the house.  (The husband* is confused.)  It feels intimate for him to be explaining to *me* about the weather and tiny insights about his family. He wears a t-shirt on YouTube and a suit on TV.  I recognize his voice before I recognize his appearance.  I prefer his t-shirts to his suits.  His jokes are funny feel like insider jokes between him and me.  Between him, a couple of 20,000 other people, and me.

I think this could be one path to the future with traditional and new media.  I have started watching the TV broadcast this week because of him.  That said, I’m COMPLETELY prefer his videos.  But I am watching the TV.  (I never watch TV during the day and never local broadcasts, I suppose that is saying something.  Well, it also says the kids are home and the Olympics are on)  I’m wondering whether and how other traditional media could use this.  It could be that his example only generalizes to particular developing news topics. I love Kathleen Purvis’ column and blog on The Charlotte Observer, but I don’t know how she could incorporate a video into her weekly news.  That said, if she did sit down and video tape her thoughts about food and cooking every week, I’d totally watch it.

I’m going to ponder this.  And I’d love to hear your thoughts about the intimacy of videos. I’m sure there’s been research on these media with Hollywood celebrities.  That bores me.  But old media become new media celebrities:  that sounds interesting.

 

*Yes, I do realize it’s sexist to call my husband “The Husband” and I could use the abbreviation “DH” for Dear Husband, but that seems too precious for an academic post.  Plus, it’s kind of funny.

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Catcalls on a College Campus

I have no idea if this is indicative of being on a college campus, being in a progressive city, or being a professor of a certain age.  Nonetheless, I continue to reflect on the “catcalls” from the construction workers around campus this semester.

Example #1:

Construction Worker: You look really nice today!

Professor Me:  Well, thank you!

Example #2:

Construction Worker:  I really like that hat!

Professor Me: Thank you!

Seriously, I’ve never interacted with such nice construction workers handing out compliments that I would enjoy hearing from my family or friends.  I don’t know why, but I’ll attribute it to all three explanations above.

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Football at UNC Charlotte

So, a lot of disclosures here:

1)  I planned on writing this BEFORE I was chosen to be a faculty coach.  (read what that is and my personal thoughts about that here)

2)  These are clearly my own thoughts and not those of anyone else at UNC Charlotte.

I think football at UNC Charlotte is a great idea and I have thought so at the beginning.  Yes, there are plenty of faculty who don’t support the football program because they think it will take money away from academics, but I think they are misguided and/or wrong on many accounts.

First, what money?  Please tell me about this “money” thing of which you speak. We don’t get raises.  We get minimal money to travel to our conferences.  We don’t get paid for the summer research we are expected to do. Unless they start actually making us pay to work here, I can’t see how “less money” is an issue here.

Second, school pride.  HOLY FRIJOLES!!  I’ve been at UNC Charlotte for 12 years now (egads!) and I’ve never seen so much school pride as I do now!  Students are talking about the football games in class.  They are excited when they get tickets and bummed when they don’t.. The number of students wearing school paraphernalia (shirts, sweats, hats, etc) is noticeably higher.  I’m even seen alumni and faculty in my neighborhood flying UNC Charlotte 49er Flags off their houses!  The Charlotte Observer is giving the 49ers more explicit press than I’ve ever seen.  (And after last week’s game, it’s clear why)

Finally, alumni opportunities.  When I lived in Los Angeles and was head of the LA area UNC Chapel Hill alumni club, I met some of my best friends watching the football games with other alumni.  Basketball games, even for Chapel Hill, are too frequent to regularly get together.  But once a week football games on a Saturday are a reasonable way to interact with new people and old friends who have shared similar experiences.  I think it does a lot for alumni in job hunting and general networking, but also in keeping students tied back to the school.

So I think football here is a great idea.  And I think it’s exceeded everyone’s expectations so far.  And I had all those thoughts BEFORE I was chosen as the guest Faculty coach.  Now, I’ve completely drunk the kool aid and beyond gung ho about the whole idea.  I can’t wait for this weekend!!

 

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Doing the Right Thing

Seminar’s can have different themes and foci, even if you are ostensibly reading the same material.  Last year, in our Organization Science overview class, we focused a lot, especially at the beginning, at the problems of duality in research and how the next generation of research and researchers will solve this problem.

 

This year, the focus has been on organizational profits and employee benefits of management’s “doing the right thing” by and for their employees. Some of it is obvious, such as Pfeffer’s (2007) explanation of why investing more in employees provides more profit for the company.  Consider Sam’s Club vs. Costco, which about every single person making this argument does.  But even stewardship theory (Eddleston & Kellermanns, 2007) is arguing that managers can be co-interested in both their own good (i.e., profit) and the organization’s good (i.e., employee well being).

 

Some of our readings are less obvious about doing the right thing, but still suggest that respect and collegiality for one’s co-workers benefits the organization and the employees.  DeChurch et al’s (2013) article on focusing on positively managing the processes of conflict can make the inevitable conflict beneficial to all.  Even this week’s discussion the different ways our disciplines look at diversity issues shows the FINANCIAL importance of organization’s not being a jerk when it comes racism and sexism.

 

If I had one takeaway from this semester’s readings thus far, it’s that people want to work in ethical, moral organizations in which they are treated well and valued by their management.  Where management wants their employees to be secure and to share in the wealth and the profit of the organization.  It not only makes employees mentally and physically healthier, IT MAKES THE ORGANIZATION MORE MONEY.  This isn’t some lament from the 98% about not getting my fair share:  It’s a growing preponderance of the data.  (Maybe a slight overstatement, but that’s just my academic writer coming out in me.  I ABSOLUTELY believe it is the preponderance of the data)

 

So why don’t the ruling 2% of the organizational gatekeepers adopt this money making strategy?  I can only figure out that it’s because they are afraid that they themselves will not make as much money. So maybe they keep more money for themselves, but they lose more more for the stockholders and other folks interested in the profits of that organization.

 

I don’t understand that world view.  But maybe it explains why I am in psychology and not business.

 

 

DeChurch, L. A.; Mesmer-Magnus, J. R.; Doty, D. (2013) Moving beyond relationship and task conflict: Toward a process-state perspective Journal of Applied Psychology, 98(4), 559-578

Eddleston, K. A., & Kellermanns, F. W., (2007). Destructive and productive family relationships: A stewardship theory perspective, Journal of business venturing, 22 (4), 545-565.

Pfeffer, J. (2007). Human Resources from an organizational behavior perspective: Some paradoxes explained, Journal of economic perspectives, 21(4), 115-134.

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Facebook at Work

One of the newer areas of research that is getting a lot of attention is if, and how, people use Facebook at work.  Some of the negatives that arise is how employees manage issues of privacy (teacher’s enjoying a beer on their personal time) and impression management from sharing one’s personal information (do your colleagues really want to know about your children’s soccer games?!) as well as the positives that can occur, for example, Facebook could replace the water cooler for employees who are dispersed or who simply don’t have time to chat while they are at work.  The latter effect could increase social liking among co-workers who do not interact as frequently as employees who all worked face-to-face once did.This social liking could also have tangible outcomes related to productivity and/or employee satisfaction

There are a lot of research questions organizational scientists are interested in related to Facebook, and I am even conducting my own research on this topic.

This post, however, is about my own personal “experiment” in using Facebook with work colleagues.  I use the term “experiment” in the lay sense: I don’t have an IRB; I’m not conducting research on this and I’m not writing this up for publication. Instead, if you’ve noticed a lot more Facebook activity (spam!) from me recently then it’s because I’ve likely moved you from a work-colleague-who-doesn’t-see-most-of-my-posts to a work-colleague-who-does.

“Why?” you might ask.

Well, honestly, I like the connections I have made with my work colleagues who post on Facebook.  I like learning about their work and personal lives, their beliefs and hobbies, and whatever they find funny.  It’s easier to talk to them when I see them at conferences or when I have a professional question.  And basically, it’s easier to *like* my work colleagues on Facebook because I know more about them. (I like to like people; it’s potentially a character flaw)

I know I post a lot on Facebook and, much of the time, it’s usually some personal observation that HOPEFULLY is funny or, sometimes, thought provoking.  Or, lately, it is some disgusting picture from Instagram about my horrible running injury (which is itching like crazy at this exact moment).

Anyhoo, that’s why you might be seeing so much more of me lately. I don’t know if it will stay that way.  Certainly, if I show up at a conference and my colleagues start to point, stare and/or laugh, I might increase my privacy setting again.  But I’m hoping to start a trend of getting to know my colleagues beyond just their smartypants thoughts in research papers and also getting to see their funny, serious, family, pet, and home/garden related lives.

How do you manage your privacy settings and/or relationships with your work colleagues?  Reply here, or, optionally, on Facebook.

 

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Summer Productivity

During the school year, when I’m working nights and weekends just to keep up with teaching and service duties, I always think the summer is going to be full of butterflies and kittens while works of brilliance shoot out of my fingers into my laptop.  I imagine high impact papers flowing quickly and easily from my brain to the editor’s desk to be met with tears of joy at the recognition of the brilliance I have shared.  I also imagine happy children in a clean house with chores and crafts all checked off my list.

Clearly, I am delusional and have had either too much or too little coffee/sleep/food/exercise/wine.

In fact, I already put together my work and home “To Do” list for the summer and freaked out during finals week about “how far behind I was” and the summer hadn’t even started.

Nonetheless, I’ve already checked a few things off my list despite grading 150 undergraduate papers, attending the Organizational Science Summer Institute, and, unfortunately, discovering Candy Crush. If I can keep this up, I think I might actually have a productive summer.

There is no real secret here, except aiming for regular, smaller amounts of work with regular, scheduled breaks in the day.  I’ve put together a combination of tricks/habits I’ve gathered from How To Write a Lot, the Pomodoro Technique, and this article on the importance of rest and breaks.

Practically, what it means for me is that I have a list of things I plan to do each week, which I put on Evernote.  I divide them up into what I plan to accomplish each day, along with  check boxes (control-C on Evernote) that represent  30 minute time periods I will use to accomplish this task.   For the big research projects, I put 3 boxes, representing both the Pomondoro breakdown in work units and the advice on working for 1 1/2 hours and then absolutely taking a break. (I also have Focus Booster app on my laptop set for 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of break)  I plan for 3 one-and-a-half hour chunks of writing and research a day, with the rest of my time spent doing email/phone, administrative stuff, teaching prep, blogging, exercising and some gardening.

Doing that, one week into the summer, I am “two weeks ahead” on where I thought I’d be.  Of course, the process only works with my booty in the seat and a To Do list to guide me.  But I have a strategy and a plan and I am hoping to have a very productive summer. I’d love to hear what other folks do to keep themselves productive and sane over the summer.  We can all benefit from others’ experiences.

 

 

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