Thursday, August 14, 2008

Things to climb on

In the sweet little town where we live and work, day care for infants is at a premium. There are very few providers, and thus not many options for finding one that is just so. It's more a matter of just finding one.

So when we found this nice in-home Day Care Provider with an opening, like, two weeks before I was scheduled to return to the office (despite months of prior searching), we were very happy.

And she is very nice. And she has a grade school aged daughter that Average Baby is totally enamored of; every day when we drop her off she looks all around for the little girl and will be sort of whiny and agitated until the girl makes herself available to be played with a little bit. Overall it's a good scene.

BUT, the DCP finishes her D of P-ing C at 4:30 pm. Ooosh, four-thirty is a real challenge when you're two working folks. Fortunately, my husband's boss let him do year-round "summer hours" of 7:30-4, and my schedule is flexible enough that unless I have to teach until 5 (which last semester I did, 2 days a week) I can leave at 4 also. So, we alternate pick-up and drop-off and on the day one is not picking her up, one can go to the gym or stay late at work. Still, there have been times when it's been an issue.

ALSO, on days when the DCP is unavailable (once she was stuck in a snowstorm out of town, once she had to have a little outpatient surgery, etc.) we are completely without care.

AND, there are times when the DCP herself is evidently unavailable for some reason, and when we go to pick up the bebe we'll find the kiddos under the care of somebody else - one of the DCP's high school or college aged daughters, or her husband. Fortunately they are all trustworthy and good people so this is a problem only in principle and not in practice (or, really, it's not a big enough problem in practice that we would care to speak up about it, considering the scarcity of other care options).

Sooo, several months ago when we were notified that Average Baby's name was drawn in the lottery for infant openings at the lab school on campus (pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity if we wanted her to go there), we immediately saw the opportunity to eliminate the above-mentioned problems in our day care situation (albeit at twice the cost). Plus, there was the notable advantage of being able to return to our former life of not driving every day, since we live within walking distance of campus and since Average Baby is always up for a nice stroll, weather permitting. It was more of an agonizing decision than I'm making it sound here, because the great advantage in our minds of the in-home DCP is that her place is so very homey. And she kisses Average Baby on the cheek when we drop her off. And that sort of thing.

The lab school, on the other hand, appeals to me from a research standpoint but as I tend not to think of Average Baby as a research project, I sort of prefer the kisses over the lit review provided by the lab school.

But we decided to take the opening, and Baby will start there later this month. Last night we had "parent orientation" and had another look at the room where Average Baby and her cohort will be, and it had all kinds of colorful things and foamy mats to climb on, which we think Average Baby will LOVE because at the moment she is all about climbing on things. She will also probably love that one entire wall is a giant mirror (it's for the one-way observation booth) because she also finds herself pretty interesting these days. So hopefully we'll all get used to it and she will find all kinds of fun there.

When we were in the midst of trying to make the decision to move her, I asked a number of friends who have kids in day care to chime in with their thoughts about their own and/or our situation. One of my friends said, "Don't discount the value of the educational emphasis in those highly structured programs. You know, the amount of stuff a kid is supposed to know and be able to do by the time they get to kindergarten is kind of intense."

Working with college students as I do, and knowing the extent to which many of them are NOT prepared for college in terms of stuff they should know and be able to do, this made me wonder if as a society we might have things a little bit backwards. Shouldn't we have sort of minimal expectations of kids entering kindergarten, and maybe not as minimal expectations of our high school graduates?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Maybe I'm bitchier than I thought.

Today the department Organizer of Everything (she has an administrative title that I don't know, but she pretty much runs all the everything in the department) came by my office. She said one of the offices down the hallw was being cleared out, and would I like to move?

That office is infinitesimally larger than mine. You wouldn't necessarily know it was larger by actually being in it, but you would see it was if you looked at the floor plan conveniently hanging in the hallway with the fire exit route marked on it.

I said yes, of course I will take the new digs.

I would not really like to move. Like I said, I don't actually care about office space.

But, you know, positioning and so on . . . I sort of felt like I SHOULD move, just because I had the opportunity, and because the office is technically larger than the one I'm in. (And maybe two people could meet with me and we'd all be able to see each other.)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Office Space

As a graduation gift when I finished my Ph.D. my awesome husband bought me a 10-inch tall replica of my favorite piece of art.

I keep it on a shelf next to my desk in my office. Twice in the first year that I was here, some student that was in my office to discuss homework or advising or whatever, looked at my little statue and asked me if I broke it.

(I tried to hide my surprise - the first time, anyway, since the second time I was actually not surprised. Not every STEM undergrad had some extra space in the schedule during their senior year of high school and were able to take an 8 am art history class. In terms of courses that were really valuable to me from high school, that class and the typing class I took sophomore year have proven to be at the top of the list. The other things - calculus, say - were also very important in the long run, but were things that my college curriculum would have filled in for me had I not had them already.) (Although my high school calculus class was far superior to most college calculus courses at the kind of university I went to for my undergrad.)

The little statue is one of the only personalized elements of my office. I also have a couple of framed art posters. I had brought them in after some of my colleagues commented on the starkness of my office walls, and I'd intended to hang them but I never got around to it, so for about 4 years they've just been sitting on the floor, leaned up against the wall as if I am just moving in.

And of course I have the obligatory framed photos on my desk of my cute husband and my cute baby, and also one of me and my three awesome and loyal girlfriends from high school.

But for the most part, my office is just a desk and some cabinets and some bookshelves and I kind of hate it but not enough to try to spruce it up. Also, it's just sort of an ugly space, so any sprucing would probably have limited impact anyway.

It's also small. My office has room for me to work without problem, and it has room for exactly ONE person to come to my office to discuss something. There is theoretically space for a second person, since I have two extra chairs besides my own, but the second person would end up kind of wedged in an awkward space from which they could not really see me. But, whatever. If I have to meet with more than one person, we just go someplace else, like the coffee room, or my lab, which has a nice conference table. So, no big deal.

HOWEVER. It is becoming increasingly apparent that colleagues don't all have the same laissez faire attitude about their own offices, because there's recently been a lot of jockeying and moving around within the building, which has resulted in a number of inequalities and screwball situations, most notably the number of essentially non-productive faculty members who have two offices. I guess my department head wanted to believe them when they said that what they really needed in order to get their programs moving was a bigger office, and not instead of but in addition to the one they already have.

I don't actually care about the office space situation. But I do care about the idea that I perhaps should be bitchier than I actually am just in order to make sure I am not shafted all the time, or that I am not giving the appearance to outsiders that my contributions to the department/university/world only rate one tiny office while other colleagues have multiple sizeable ones. You know? LAME.

But maybe it would me more in keeping with my personal and professional ethic to trick out my existing tiny office, to instead give the impression that I believe in doing fantastic things with a small but excellent footprint. You know, like I could hang my posters or something.