They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me

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It's Official -- Sabbatical 2.0

I'm adjunct. I don't get sabbaticals, unless I want to declare one.

So we've been talking about this for a while and today I did it. I am not going to teach for Spring (i.e. Winter) 2015. You might think it's a little late, but as per usual, adjunct contracts go out late.

You might think it's all about the weather. And that's a factor. I managed to soldier in last winter, except for the odd snow day and a vehicle failure, but that was when we thought the errant heel was healing.

So late last night I sent my boss the following in an email:
We haven't talked about 2015 courses since last summer. I think I commented at the time that we wouldn't know until December or January or so whether the bone infection in my left heel has been beaten back or not -- I am just finishing up the six months of antibiotics in the next two weeks. If they were going to have to amputate, I was happy to teach in Fall 2014 and take Spring (i.e. Winter) 2015 off.

Well, it's still too early, but we've already had a taste of a hard winter in November -- 31" in Grand Rapids or 40% of the whole 2013-14 snow season. While I soldiered in last winter, that was when we thought we had normal healing going on.

I think it's best that I "take a sabbatical" for Spring 2015 and keep off my foot as much as possible. And if they need me to have surgery, there's plenty of time for recovery and rehab. Otherwise I would still try to keep some weekly office hours, subject to weather, and whatever happens, I should be able to teach Summer I and Summer II 2015 if there are courses available ***. I really would hate to start teaching and then have my foot blow up and leave the department and my students in the lurch. Being pro-active and taking the time off is the best solution for all concerned.
Now most people would be bummed to not work and lose the money, but I'm not most people. First of all, with my long commute and its costs, it's not like I really make anything on my adjunct salary. So teaching or not is practically a wash for our budget. And I'm an optimist. Having the time at home AND not having to face the wintry roads for months will not only be nice, it's really nice for Mrs. Dr. Phil.

And I can really rest the heel. And if it goes? Well, I won't be missing anything.

So I have declared Spring 2015, my 69th semester of university work, as my Sabbatical 2.0. What shall I do with this time? The obvious thing is write. Have not done a lot of submissions in 2014, though I am writing up a storm on my YA series -- 113,000 words so far and counting -- which means I've written more this year that in the last several years combined.

But... while I was talking to my department chair today, he happened to glance at my PHYS-1070 textbook, Inquiry Into Physics / Vern J. Ostdiek and Donald J. Bord (7th Edition), and asked what I thought about it. The thing is, it's not a bad textbook for an all-of-physics-algebra-level-in-one-semester class. But Chapter One sucks. I mean, if you had a GOOD high school Physics or AP Physics class, the first chapter is a nice review. But I have to assume we are starting at ground zero and working our way up. I spend weeks bringing everyone up to speed on just the first chapter. And then I extend the material, so the students end up with the kinematic equations as we use in PHYS-1130 and the calc level PHYS-2050. This allows them to talk to other students or people working the Help Room and get help they can understand.

I once spent two hours talking to a company rep about exactly what was wrong with that chapter. Years ago. It hasn't changed.

I've taught PHYS-1070 and its earlier variants a total of 28 times now. Early on we were using Hewitt's Conceptual Physics, which is too light. And we've been using Ostdiek & Bord since about the 3rd edition, I think. Other professors have taught PHYS-1070 over the years, and no one has found a "good" textbook. There just aren't many suitable for this course.

I've even thought about writing my own textbook.

So I told my boss I was going to rewrite my syllabus over my sabbatical and that I was thinking of using the full-year algebra level textbook, especially as we are currently using a loose-leaf edition which means we can pull just the sections we are going to use. And then my boss points out that actually, PHYS-1130/1150 is switching to a new text, one available for free and published with a Creative Commons license. Huh.

Bottom line, during my sabbatical of six months or so, I will also be taking that online text apart and figuring out the sections we need for PHYS-1070. Perhaps get the authors permissions to edit down the PDFs. And so I'm penciled in for PHYS-1070 for the 29th time in Fall 2015, where I will field trial the new text.

And we'll see how it goes. (grin)

What. Fun.

Now, just need to make it through December 16th and the noon grading deadline, followed by half a dozen doctors appointments... (evil-grin)

Dr. Phil
Tags: classes, sabbatical, teaching, textbooks, wmu, writing
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