Wednesday, March 30, 2011

In my hot little hands. . .

I have a contract from CU.  It feels pretty damn good to finally get it in writing.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A third child

A few weeks ago, Wild Man asked me, “Mommy, are Bear and I ever going to have a baby sister?’  Wild Man has been asking this particular question for about a year now.  He is very interested in babies, and he is especially preoccupied with a baby sister.  His most recent interest in babies was prompted by the birth of Baby Minerva, the daughter of our friends. 

Wild Man loves Baby Minerva.  The few times he has seen her he has doted on her.  He displays a gentleness with Baby Minerva that he no longer demonstrates with Bear.  Now, Wild Man loves Bear, and Bear most certainly loves Wild Man.  Their relationship, however, is one of extremes.  Wild Man is either giving Bear his favorite car, or Wild Man is holding Bear’s favorite car over his head while saying, “Oh, is this the car you want, Bear? I found it first!”  Likewise, Bear is either bringing Wild Man books so they can read together, or Bear is smacking Wild Man in a vain attempt to get Wild Man to pay attention to him.  In other words, they are siblings.  One minute they are hugging, and the next they are fighting. 

In contrast, Wild Man was sincerely interested in helping care for Baby Minerva.  He brought her toys, he repeatedly found her pacifier for her, and he even wanted to help give her a bottle.  Now, I’m not na├»ve enough to think that Wild Man would display this level of interest consistently if Archer and I were to have a third child.  I am, after all, the youngest of three.  Of all people, I know how much a third child can disrupt the lives of older children.  In fact, my own sister still identifies the day our parents brought me home from the hospital as one of the most traumatic days of her life (I take that with a grain of salt, though, given that my sister is more than a bit dramatic. . . ).  Wild Man’s question and interest did get me thinking about a third child again, something that I haven’t given much thought to recently. 

In the wake of Wild Man’s question and his continuing interest in babies, I’ve found myself thinking about a third child.  Do we want a third child?  If I had asked myself this question a year ago, I think the answer, for me at least, would have been a definitive yes.  I would have said that having a third child depended on so many things, but I would have definitely said I wanted another child.  Now as I ponder that question, I’m no longer as sure as I was.

So, do I want a third child?  Well, yes and no.  I do want a third child for most of the reasons I wanted a second child—I enjoy being a mother, and I enjoy parenting.  Given my position at CU, I would now be entitled to a year-long maternity leave, something I wasn’t able to experience with either Bear or Wild Man.  I have also profoundly enjoyed watching Wild Man and Bear’s relationship develop.  But I also don’t think having a third child is the most responsible decision we could make.  Children are expensive, and having third child limits what we’re able to offer Wild Man and Bear.  This may seem like a materialistic way to respond to parenthood, but it is a fact, plain and simple. 

Given the nature of what we do, Archer and I will be traveling a fair amount through our careers.  I feel like we can afford to turn many of the research trips into family trips for the four of us, which means that Wild Man and Bear will experience a fair amount of the world as children, something I didn’t have an opportunity to do.  Our trip to Italy, for example, would have been exponentially more expensive if we had to buy a fifth plane ticket. 

Beyond cost, there are other factors.  I would like to sleep through the night before I’m forty, for example.  We’re also at a point where Wild Man is becoming very independent.  We no longer have to stand watch over everything he does anymore, and I can see that point with Bear in the not-so distant future.  I’m not sure I want to start all over again, even given how joyful I find the entire experience of having an infant.  Archer and I are also able to get out of the house at least once a month to have dinner together at a real restaurant.  Our ability to do that (and the simple fact that we finally have a reliable babysitter

So it seems that I’m coming to terms with the reality that it is very unlikely that we will have a third child, and while I feel like that is the best decision for many reasons, I also find myself a little sad.  I realize now that I always assumed we would have a third child, and I find myself mourning the loss of that assumed child, which is a strange feeling for me to comprehend and to describe.  This feeling is further complicated by the realization that a decision not to have a third child means I will not have a daughter, and surprisingly, that adds to the sadness I’m feeling.  It seems odd, to me, to be mourning something that I have never known. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

More meetings

Friday I met with Dr. Writing and Dr. English to discuss how I would work between two departments.  Tomorrow I meet with the dean to ask some questions about my contract (which I have yet to receive).  These meetings are equal parts exciting and unnerving. 

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Kindergarten Dilemmas

Kindergarten has become a hot-button topic in our house, at least for Archer and me.  We talk about kindergarten a lot.  We constantly ask ourselves:
  • Is Wild Man performing well in kindergarten?
  • Are we doing enough to help him learn all he needs to learn?
  • Is he learning enough? 
  • And most importantly, where will he go for senior kindergarten?
Right now Wild Man is in junior kindergarten, which is the American equivalent of pre-K.  Ok, so that isn't exactly right.  JK is, for all intents and purposes, kindergarten.  Wild Man is in a mixed JK and SK class, which means that about half of his classmates are in senior kindergarten.  This means that they all learn the same things, but the SK students do activities that build on the skills they learned in JK.  So while Wild Man is practicing writing the number from 1 to 10 his SK peers are learning how to do basic addition and subtraction.  The theory is that the SK students help teach the JK students and, thus, benefit from teaching their peers while the JK students benefit from modeling their behavior after their more experienced classmates.  I think this system has benefited Wild Man very well, and I'm really happy with our decision to send him to JK, which is optional in our province.  Now we have to decide where to send him for SK.

You see, Wild Man's school is out of our area.  It is affiliated with his daycare, so he goes to daycare in the morning and JK in the afternoon.  In fact, he and about 10 other children walk over to the elementary school, escorted by several of the daycare staff members.  We chose this option knowing that he couldn't stay in this school, but we chose it for a few reasons.  First, I'll be 100% honest--it is convenient for us.  If we had elected to enroll him in JK in our home school (which is walking distance from our house), our day would be crazy.  For example, C would have to drop Wild Man off at JK, then drop Bear daycare,  and drop me off at CU.  Then C would have to drive back across town to pick up Wild Man and take him to daycare for the rest of the day.  This didn't make a lot of sense for us, although we seriously considered it.  Second, this elementary school is one of the top 5 elementary schools in our province.  It is an excellent school.  It is also incredibly diverse, both economically and ethnically.  In fact, the school has diversity assemblies every month in which the kids learn about one of their classmate's home cultures (the school is so diverse in large part because it draws heavily on the international graduate student population at CU).  Wild Man knows about Ramadan and Chinese New Year, about saris and hijabs, and about all sorts of things he wouldn't have learned about elsewhere.  He now says things like, "Daddy, that wasn't a very accepting thing to do."  In short, he has learned a lot about the world due to his experiences at this school.  We've thought a lot about keeping him here for SK.  In fact, we've talked a lot about selling our house and moving into this school district so he can continue to go to this school through all the elementary grades. 

But we are also considering sending him to French Immersion school.  Essentially, in a FI school, Wild Man would be immersed in the language.  70% of instruction is in French, while 30% is in English.  Most students are fully bilingual by grade 4, and if we stay in Canada, given the nature of the Canadian job market* and government, I feel that it is really important that both boys be fluent in French.  We don't, however, like the neighborhood that our FI school is in.  The school itself seems to be quite good. In fact, Archer and I attended an open house there a few weeks ago and loved the kindergarten teacher.  But again, the neighborhood is not so great. 

So we're trying to decide what to do. If we want him to go into FI school, he has to start by grade 1, which gives us another year to make a decision.  But then he'll be in a room with students who have already attended SK at an FI school, so he'll be behind the curve a bit.  I don't know if this matters at that age, but I think it might.  I know he'll be discouraged with FI curriculum anyway.  The kindergarten teacher we met with told us to expect that.  She said even kids who love school will come home at some point in the school year upset and frustrated because it is different, because they will struggle with the language at first.  I'm concerned that frustration may cause him to feel discouraged about school, especially if we wait until grade 1 to start a FI program.   But part of me thinks, he is happy where he is.  We really like this school, so why not keep him there for another year? 

I'm really not sure what to do, and we have to make a decision in the next few weeks.

*Based on the news articles I've read and numerous conversations I've had with my own students, individuals who are fluent in French often have a much easier time getting jobs in our province.  For example, people who are fluent in French and who are applying for teaching positions are about twice as likely to get hired as those who don't speak French.  I am concerned that we may be putting the boys at a disadvantage if they don't speak French and we stay in CU Land.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Negotiating

Apparently I'm in a position to negotiate.  Who knew? 

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Reflecting

Now that I've been able to reflect on the interview, I'm not sure what I think.  My emotions ran the gamut both while I was at SLAC and while I traveled back to CU Land last Friday (a massive windstorm on the east coast of the U.S. kept delaying my flight, which meant I didn't get home till about 1:30 am).  Here is about how it all went down.

Wednesday evening: arrive in SLAC town, met at airport by head of department.  She took me to dinner and then to my B&B, which was literally across the street from the school.  She was lovely to talk to.  She was disarmingly honest, and she kept, it seems to me, feeding me answers to questions she seemed to know I would be asked on Thursday.  On more than one occasion she said, "Oh, that's great.  Be sure to say that to X tomorrow" or "I totally understand what you mean, but do not say that to Y tomorrow."  It was strange to say the least.  It was after 10 by the time I got to the B&B, and I was exhausted.  Still I stayed up a bit to do some quick research on the 8 or so people I met with on Thursday.  I didn't sleep that well, as I tend to not sleep well in strange places.

Thursday morning: breakfast on my own at the B&B.  One of the department members met me and escorted me to the college where I met with people in half hour intervals from 8:30 to 11:30.  It was exhausting, but in many ways it was fun.  It was nice to be able to talk about my teaching, to explain what I do, and why I think it is successful.  There is a fairly significant online teaching component to this job as they are a really small school (under 800 students attend classes on the main campus) and are trying to grow their online offerings (about 2,200 students take classes online, so it is a large program).  I have some experience in this and currently utilize online resources a lot in my classes.  I had some ideas that impressed them.  I'm becoming increasingly interested in digital humanities, so this is cool to me.  After my third (or so) meeting I was feeling sort of jazzed.  I was excited.  I was thinking, "Maybe this would be a good place for Archer, me, and the boys."  Then I met with a biology professor who is the outside person on the hiring committee.  He was great, very interested and interesting, and he was the first person to directly answer my questions about tenure requirements.  Up until the point, everyone had carefully skirted the issue (including the Dean of the School of the Arts).  He told me that he secured tenure after 8 years at the college with a stellar teaching record (I looked it up; it is, indeed, stellar) and 2 peer reviewed publications.  I experienced something completely unexpected.  My heart sank a little.  I immediately thought, "Two publications?  Seriously?  That's it?  That is what you produced in 8 years? You're a scientist!  How is that possible?" I'm not sure what i thought I would feel when I learned the tenure requirements, but I didn't expect to be disappointed that one can secure tenure with so few publications.  I began to realize that I would have very little time to do my own work.  I then met with some students, taught a class (that seemed to go well) met with the president of the college (a very, very odd meeting, indeed), and gave a talk, which I'm quite certain that most of the people in the audience didn't understand.  One of the history professors who attended, however, asked some very insightful questions, and I began to think, "Ok, maybe there is something more here."  Then the chair drove me back to my B&B where I relaxed for a while.  Then another committee member took me to dinner and a lovely restaurant with live music.  Both she and the chair were wonderful, and they are both people I could see being friends with as well as people I could see mentoring me a bit.  After dinner, I called Archer and then went to bed.

Friday morning: breakfast on my own.  I had a lovely conversation with the owner of the B&B about the town.  I had some time before the chair came to drive me to the airport, so I walked around on my own.  The town was lovely.  Really.  It is about 25,000 people, and it's primary income is tourism.  They've taken great care to restore the 19th-century buildings.  There is a growing arts and music scene.  I spent some time looking in the window of a real estate office and learned that Archer and I could by a recently renovated Arts and Crafts style house in the downtown with a yard for about $160,000, give or take.  It reminded me a lot of parts of Cambridge, MA.  I began thinking, "Are we small town people?"

Saturday morning: Archer and I talked a lot.  If I got an offer from this school and they were able to offer him a t-t position, would we take it?  I don't know.  In some ways, we'd be giving up a lot.  No grad students, no research money, lots of teaching for a lot less money.  In some ways we'd be gaining a lot.  Closer to family and friends, a small town lifestyle, less stress on us because the demands of the job are less (at least in terms of publication).

Here is where it gets tricky for me.  I could see us living in this place for a long time without a problem.  I don't know if I see either one of us being happy professionally for the long term.  I will admit that I've gotten spoiled first at Southwest University and now at CU.  I haven't taught composition in a long time (one of the things I was cautioned not to say), and while I don't mind teaching it (in fact, I do actually like teaching it) I don't know if I'm ready to go back to teaching basic grammar (yes, many of the students are accepted on a provisional basis and score lower than 450 on the verbal portion of the SAT.  On Wednesday night, the chair told me that she had given a lecture that afternoon on how to correct comma splices and that half of her class didn't know what a comma splice was.).  Since getting the news from CU, I've started to give myself the time to write a bit and to brainstorm ideas for new projects, and I've surprised myself how many ideas I have.  I can't complete most of the projects at this SLAC.  Several of the projects require travel to archives all over the country.  I wouldn't be able to fund that myself, and SLAC doesn't have the money to fund such projects.

So where does that leave us?  It seems very likely we'll stay in CU Land, and for the first time since we moved here, the thought of making this place our home makes me really happy.