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Shrink It & Pink It: Ask Like a Guy

Several days ago, Alyson Indrunas published a beautifully written and timely blog post that challenged me.  It not only made me think about the topic of grown up mean girls (and the way we suffer to respond – or not), but about the sisterhood of women in leadership, in general, and about writing our truth.

So I am taking a line “Shrink It & Pink It” from Alyson’s post, and claiming it for a cause.  That cause is the need for all of us ladies to share our experiences that challenge us, to open up the conversation, to be inclusive, to write more about it, to create a community of support. Shrink the problem and pink it up. Turn what was/is a demeaning marketing ploy into a call for action. I challenge others to take up the hashtag, find your voice, and blog/Tweet with it, too.

Let’s start something.


And now for my story…

Those who know me, generally don’t use words like “shy”, “timid”, or “lacking assertiveness” to describe me. For the most part, I’d agree.  I learned long ago to work through my nerves. I present a lot in my field, and I am pretty confident that I know my Edtech and eLearning stuff.

Yet a recent experience completing my year-end review made me question all that confidence – not from anything anyone said to me, but from my inability to express my own qualifications and what I wanted out of my career.

I’d completed the usual set of “rate yourself” prompts, and was working on the narrative summary that ends the review. I’d just written that I felt like many in my institution assumed I knew leader-type information I didn’t.  They assumed I was included in higher level meetings than I actually was…and this was hampering my ability to give the best advice and create the best strategies for my department and to provide the best service to other departments.

Then I got stuck.

I knew what I wanted to write – “I should be included in those higher level meetings” – but I just couldn’t bring myself to write it.

Me. Assertive-confident-know-what-I-am-doing-me.  I couldn’t bring myself to make such an outlandish suggestion.

(Feel free to insert your psychoanalysis here).

So, instead, I opened a chat window and proceeded to lament to a trusted male buddy of mine who works in a nearby department. I shared what I’d written so far for my evaluation summary.  The following is some of our exchange.  The italics are my post mortem as I write this now.

Me:  I think they need to bring me to the table…but they’d have to make me something that can respectably sit at the big boys’ table. (WTF – why is it a boy’s table?)  Can’t have a mere ‘coordinator’ at the big table, now can we? (Yes, he and I are #snark friends).

Him: Ha! Very true. So…will you say that? #elephantintheroom

Me: Not sure…I implied it rather heavily, didn’t I?

Him: Yeah, but I think when you are asked ‘How can I help?’ [as part of the evaluation process], it’s good to have something in writing.  Then your thoughts and comments are documented.  No one can come back to you and say, “We didn’t know” [you wanted that role]. It’s been vague too long.  It feels like the underlying goal is that this is a director position, but the more time that passes, your current situation becomes “institutionalized”.

Me: This is where I claim “Women suck at negotiating for themselves” in the workplace. (Or at least that’s my truth 😦 )

Him:  Ha! Want me to go for you? (How much of a chickenshit am I that I really wanted to reply “would you?”)

Me: I need a shot of testosterone!

Him: I can hear it now…”that position was ALWAYS a coordinator”

Me: Ugh. I need cajones.

Him: Go online…black market 🙂  (I did mention we were #snark buddies, right?)

Me: lol

Him: Give it some thought. Share if you want, and I’ll give you my thoughts.  Your first two sections are good, so don’t end there!!!!!!

Here I paused for a bit and tried to come up with a way to write what I wanted and just couldn’t get going.

Me: All right, you’re a guy…How do I tack that on to the end in guy speak?

Him: Ask.

(He makes this sound so obvious. So simple. So easy. My stomach tied up in knots just reading that one word.)

Him: Say, “I want_____ and here’s how to make it happen.”  Rationale and reason don’t play much of a role.

And yet that’s exactly what I did.  For 30 more minutes in our impromptu “coaching session”, I kept trying to rationalize, verbally hug, cajole, and softly tip toe my way into suggesting my employers might want to consider the idea of thinking about possibly looking into the fact that I am already doing twice the work my predecessor did for a lesser title and 2/3rds the pay.

A little backstory: To be fair, I’d leapt at this job when it came open.  I’d been languishing in adjunct purgatory with no chance at a tenure spot barring some unfortunate accident befalling someone in the English dept.  Everyone was youngish and healthy…chances were slim…(wait, that didn’t sound quite right).  Besides, the opportunity to run an eLearning department was what I’d been aiming for longterm anyway – I’d been working in the field, written a book, taught professional development in it – it was perfect. This was my opportunity to move into leadership!

The joke was on me when there was a suprise re-org  and the position was demoted just before my name was attached to the job.  So I was out of the adjunct pan and part time work, but I am now trapped in the exempt coordinator fire.

Him: Take the fluff out of that last line!

Me: But that’s my girly way of softening the blow [of the added cost of a promotion for me].

Him: Totally – take the girly out!

Me: I hope this doesn’t grow hair on my chest! #snark

A little more tweaking and I finally got there. Straight forward. No girly fluff. No pleading. No hyper-rationalizing. Perfectly reasoned and reasonable considering the history and circumstances. And yet I still cringed and closed my eyes when I finally clicked submit.

What will they think of me? Oh God! Too agressive? Too bossy? Too full of myself? Doubt! Panic!

It was so stupid to feel that way. And yet I did.

Do.

But, ironically, I would’ve coached any friend (male or female) to do exactly what my buddy coached me to do and not thought twice about it.   Yet I couldn’t coach myself down the same path. Assertive, confident me was a little old chicken.

Brawwwwwwwkkkk Brawwwwkkkkk!!

Pink Chicken

It’s no wonder women make $.77 on the dollar to men, when push comes to shove (or click), it’s very, very hard to click the button and just ask for what you want.

Like a guy.

No. Scratch that. Like a guy.

It’s hard to ask for what you want but not impossible.

Ask.

The worst that can happen is they might say ‘no’.

So shrink the issue down to size and pink it with some support. Own your courage to ask for what you want…

Like a lady.

Like a woman.

Like a girl.

Like a chick.

Like however you see yourself.

But, by all means, click submit.

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Finding the Right Road – Brick Yellow or Not

I’ve got a busy quarter going on, busier than my usual super busy.  I needed to refresh my time in the online teaching trenches. Too much time in the old administrator’s seat makes a gal forget what grading is like, I thought. (Quit laughing, I can hear you). I convinced the Computer Science department to let me take over an entry level course on Microsoft Office applications and proceeded to design the course in my style.No biggie! No sweat! Half of it is graded by Cengage! (Note to self: Exclamation points do not make it true!)

Holy crap.

Did you know redesigning a course from someone else’s style takes longer than if you just start from scratch? (Insert sarcastic eye roll).

Anyway, I managed to get the course together in time, in my style, and on January 6th we were off and running…on top of my overly full time jobby job (as Alyson Indrunas would say) as the elearning admin.

Holy double crap. You’d think I’d know better.

Flying MonkiesMoonlighting is hard – I don’t care if it is online. What the hell was I thinking?

For the first month of juggling my 50+ hour full time job and a new-to-me online course, I felt like Dorothy in Oz…there were flying monkies of chaos everywhere!

Flash forward a month or so, and I’ve kind of found my rythm on that brick road. Don’t get me wrong…I won’t do this  again for a long while, but it has been good for me to dust off my ruby teaching slippers (okay okay, I’ll stop now) and get back online with students.

In the past I’ve always taught composition, literature, or professional development classes online.  These were all heavy discussion-based classes and, naturally, building a strong community  was important to get the students talking both with each other and with me. Wanting to keep the community together, I’d always released modules (and their discussions) just one week ahead – so early bird students could get started on the assignments, but they couldn’t leave their discussion community behind.

This course, however, is more independent. It’s each student versus Microsoft Office 2013…a grudge match.  (Most students were winning the fight, btw, until the tag team of Excel and Access entered the ring…now it’s a toss up).

Because of the nature of the content and the sheer quantity of skills to be learned in ten short weeks, there is little time for discussion and no real time for group work. I decided to go against my usual style and I opened the entire course from the beginning.  There are due dates for each module, but there is nothing preventing students from working ahead…in fact I encouraged them to work ahead on stuff they knew, to give them more time to deal with the data brothers who I thought might give them a harder time…

My more Type A working style students have loved it – no one is holding them back.  My more Type B working style students are being pushed by regular deadlines to progress through the course in a timely manner.  For this content and these community college entry level students, this sort of differentiated pacing seems to be just about right.

As you may know I am participating in the Fedwiki Teaching Machine project – and while writing about SRA cards for that, I actually started thinking about my CS 110 class.  I loved SRA as a 4th grader (shout out to Mark Twain Elementary!) for exactly the same reasons my  students like the lack of closed modules in my online course– I didn’t like being slowed down to someone else’s timeline. I loved reading, and I liked the challenge in accumulating those little colored cards and moving to the next color! Other students needed the due date push — I didn’t. My teacher needed to accomodate all of us learners. With SRA we had flexibility. With other content, our community was more structured as the content and students dictated interactivity requirements.

We’ve changed a lot of things in education and ed tech, but in the end, the trick always has been about finding what works to get the content connected with the students, and the students with each other when needed.

And just like Dorothy, we’ve known what works all along.

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Muppets Revisted (Again)

muppets

If you haven’t read this already…consider it my Christmas-Chanukah-Fetivus-Thursday gift:

Confessions of Community College Dean: Muppets Revisted

You’re welcome.

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No Frogs Are Harmed In the Writing of this Blog

yoga pantsIt’s been a long time since WordPress and I have hung out regularly together. Back when I blogged regularly (view really old stuff here) I was a freelancer, self-employed and working from home.  I proudly wore the uniform of the online educator and contract instructional designer — yoga pants in winter, shorts in summer, and flip flops.  Work was flexible around my life, and I had time to be creative, collaborative, interative with social media, (and intermittently broke).  I loved the virtual world! But I missed the daily f2f interactions with colleagues and peers (and reliable paychecks), so eventually I made the decision to go back to punching a clock for someone else.  (In fact, getting my current job was actually a bit of a success story based on the work from that old blog).

I’ve moved into administration now. I now hire online educators and the freelance instructional designers I used to be. (Cue The Circle of Life soundtrack).  Instead of trying to solve the puzzle of improving learning in my own classes, I now work to solve the puzzle of improving teaching and learning across whole departments and the institution itself.

So many more variables.
So much more to think about.
So much more to learn.
So many more people involved.
So much harder to bring about change.
Which brings me to blogging again.

My undergraduate degree is in English.  I’ve always been able to clarify my thinking through writing.  Feedback from others just makes it that much better.  Reading my buddy Alyson IndrunasSpoke and Hub blog yesterday made me realize what I’d been missing this last year on the job.  Now as we embark on a collaborative Faculty Learning Community project that crosses the Cascade Mountains (did I just hear a collective gasp from both WSU and UW alumni?) virtually and at time physically, the blog will become an important vehicle of open thought process.

Waviging FrogSo why the frog title, Lisa?

It’s a metaphor people.  I like frogs. Really.  Ok, not really really.  I don’t want them hopping on me.  But at a distance, they are perfectly acceptable. But I digress.

The story goes like this.  If you put a frog in a pan of ice cold water, it just sits there.  You put the pan on the stove, and heat it up slowly…one degree at a time.  The pan heats up so slowly the frog never realizes it is being boiled alive albeit incrementally.  (Researchers assure us that real frogs will jump out of the pan).  The point is, as a metaphor, this is really useful — especially in higher education.

Paul Krugman summed it up, “The hypothetical boiled frog is a useful metaphor for a very real problem: the difficulty of responding to disasters that creep up on you a bit at a time.”  While Krugman was talking about the economy and I’m talking higher ed, I think the sentiment still stands. The problems that are in higher ed have been created over long periods. The heat has been turned up just one degree at a time.  When it is time to jump out – to disrupt the status quo via technology, unbundling, some other new idea?  – will we do it? Will we be able to? How will we know when to jump?

I have no answers — only questions I look forward to exploring here.  Join in the conversation.  Tell me I am right.  Tell me I am wrong. Tell me I am crazy.  Many do 🙂

 

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