Volume 6, Number 2, 1997

Lesa Griffiths:

Caring for the students, the animals and, of course, the twins . . .

Monday, Dec. 2

I always arrive shortly before 8 a.m. and spend time getting ready for my 9:05 a.m. lecture. I really need the hour before class to think about how I'm going to teach, rather than what I'm going to teach. In a large introductory course, I think you need to be part teacher, part mentor and part entertainer. I also meet with the honors section of the course in the afternoon, and I spend a few minutes thinking about today's discussion.

After class, I work on the last letter from the department's Promotion and Tenure Committee, which I am chairing this year. It has been a long process, and to be honest, one that I am glad is about to end. We have a few loose ends to tie, but the committee has worked well together on a task that not many of us enjoy.

Shortly before noon, my graduate student asks for an hour to talk. She's balancing graduate school with parenting her 2-year-old son. In the best of situations, it is a delicate balance, but for the past two weeks, she's been sick with pneumonia. Needless to say, she feels lost and buried. We talk about how to get back in gear and are interrupted by a phone call from her co-adviser at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. He's willing to come to campus tomorrow to help her with some course material so she can begin to catch up.

I have approximately 45 undergraduate advisees and saw many of them last week, but I met with a few more this afternoon to finalize spring schedules.

Whenever I have a few minutes, I check e-mail. I encourage the freshman students to use e-mail and I am amazed at their willingness to talk over e-mail when it is so difficult to get them to talk in class. I try to get through all my e-mail and answer each student every day. I kept track of the messages this semester, and they have outgrown a three-inch binder.

By 4:50 p.m., I generally have to fly out of here to get to the day care by closing time at 5:15 p.m.

Evenings are reserved for family, and I try very hard not to break that rule. Twins Brian and Claire are in the midst of the terrible twos-times two. At every new phase of their development, I am increasingly despondent over the fact that they are growing up so fast. On the way home, they were arguing over whether a cow they saw on the side of the road was a Holstein cow or a beef cow. What happened to my little babies?

Tuesday, Dec. 3

I have some time this morning to begin to work on the pile of recommendations that have accumulated on my desk over the last few weeks. They range from UD placement center forms to graduate school and scholarship recommendations forms. I got all but one completed when I was interrupted by a member of the Animal Science Club, which I advise. The club meets tonight, and I can't attend the meeting because of another commitment-so I spend a few minutes printing up some material (stored in my computer) for them.

I have to make arrangements for the practical exam for the laboratory course that I coordinate. The course usually meets on the farm and I need to find a large classroom for the exam. After I get off the phone with scheduling, I quickly put together a handout with the date, time and location of the exam and send it to be copied for lab tomorrow.

I met with a colleague at lunch to walk. A beautiful day! We actually saw the sun!

I have class in the afternoon. This is a course I teach with Sherry Kitto in plant and soil sciences. We rotate our roles as coordinator-in-charge and, thank heaven, Sherry has the lead this semester. Our working relationship is rewarding and enjoyable-and based on an unspoken agreement to support each other in time of need. I tend not to worry about things when working with Sherry because things just get done!

We are in the problem-based learning portion of the course in which students work in groups on case studies. Sometimes, we have a brief meeting before class with our honors students, who serve as peer tutors for the student work groups.

This semester, for the first time, the course is being delivered to on-campus students and distance students, and we have even made some lectures available to the general public via satellite and our web page. Sherry and I would probably both describe ourselves as having a low level of multimedia knowledge, but with the help of numerous people, we got through the first semester of a multimedia blitz. Kathy Troutman in Media Services, Betsy Mackenzie in the College of Agricultural Sciences, and everybody at FOCUS and CTE have been outstanding supporters.

After class, I wait for my husband, Allan, in the parking lot so we can switch vehicles (i.e., car seats) so he can pick up the kids tonight. I am going to the Women of Promise Dinner in Clayton Hall with my student, Laura Gubbine, Delaware '98. This is an annual event, which I really enjoy. Not only does it give me the opportunity to recognize an outstanding undergraduate, but I always leave with a good feeling about myself and about the University of Delaware.

Wednesday, Dec. 4

Today is a busy class day with lecture in the morning and lab in the afternoon. This morning I have scheduled a guest lecturer from the Research and Education Center in Georgetown. I meet Dr. John Martin in my office and we depart for the main campus and class. After class, I spend some time organizing lab handouts and materials for the afternoon lab. I coordinate the lab course, but actually only teach one of the four labs that will take place today. I rely on other faculty, farm managers, graduate students and undergraduate TAs to assist with the other three labs each week.

For most of our students, this lab course is their first opportunity to work with livestock and poultry. For me, it is an opportunity to do two things I really love-to teach students and to work with the animals. This week, it is Equine Lab at the Livestock Arena. This is the first year I have taught the equine lab and it has gone remarkably well. When you put large, unpredictable animals and 30 undergraduates in the same room, anything can happen.

Thursday, Dec. 5

I spend most of the morning compiling questions, photos and diagrams for my lab practical exam next week. I receive a phone call from an advisee and promise to check her file and bring the information to class for her in the afternoon. I also meet with a student who just found out that the graduate program she is interested in requires a senior thesis. Trish Westenbroek, Delaware '97, is scheduled to graduate after the fall '97 semester and is concerned that she had missed deadlines and would not be able to apply for a degree-with-distinction.

I encourage her to take the information from the graduate school to the Honors office for interpretation and to ask for their advice. The Honors Program encouraged Trish to formally put together her research proposal and proceed with a degree-with-distinction. I agree to serve as her faculty adviser, and we discuss her proposal and potential faculty readers before she leaves to tackle her research proposal.

I put off action on the Farm Superintendent Search Committee (I am chairing) until the tasks of the Promotion and Tenure Committee are complete. I retrieve the former position description and put together a short memo for the committee members so we can move forward before the semester break. The individual that fills this position is integral to my teaching program, and I will interact with him/her almost daily during the semesters I teach on the farm.

I think this is a particularly stressful time during the semester. During the last few weeks, I have had many students come to me and express concern over their inability to focus and lack of motivation. They are frustrated and searching for a way to get back on track. I do my best to provide support and to point them toward the numerous support groups on campus. Many times, it seems that just talking helps. The rainy weather, cloudy days and omnipresent flu virus seem to have gotten the best of students this fall.

For me, the constant rain and the increasingly short days have dampened my opportunities to do what I do to relieve stress-get outside and work in the garden and with my horses. I am looking forward to the break to spend some time getting the twins on Snowy (their pony) and myself behind my old draft horse, Peg.

Friday, Dec. 6

Lecture in the morning, followed by trip to the college farm to visit with the farm manager, Scott Hopkins. Scott gives me a quick update on the upcoming calving and lambing seasons (which are part of my spring course) and on the plans for landscaping the new livestock arena. Scott and I also briefly discuss designs for a much-needed new cattle handling facility. Having someone as knowledgeable and enthusiastic as Scott on the farm has made it possible to integrate hands-on laboratory experiences in almost every phase of my senior-level livestock production courses.

I'm serving on the search committee for a new Computer Information Technology Associate position in the college and participate in a candidate interview just before lunch. I think I was probably asked to be on the committee because I'm so computer- illiterate that I'm one of the people most likely to need the support of the new person!

I meet Sherry for a walk at lunch, and we head for the Bookstore sale, where I made my first Christmas purchase. After lunch, I check my e-mail and meet with one of my advisees. By then, it is 4:45 p.m. and time for another sprint for the day care.

After dinner, Kristen Lewis, Delaware '98, (from the Animal Science Club) dropped off the groceries needed for their holiday party, scheduled for Sunday afternoon at my house. She volunteers to help cook, but since they only want chili, I think I can handle it.

Saturday, Dec. 7

More rain! We start the morning with a trip to an antique show to visit the booth of some very good friends. They had a hand-colored, carriage-driving engraving from the early 1800s saved behind a table just for me. Next, a quick stop to preview an auction and then home for lunch.

After the meal, Allan went to pick up the Christmas tree and I ventured into the attic to dig out decorations. The afternoon was spent with me putting up decorations as fast as the kids took them back down. At the end of the day, we are (almost) ready for the party.

Sunday, Dec. 8

The morning was spent cooking up a big, simmering pot of chili. After lunch, the kids take a nap and I run for the barn. I brush all 1,800 pounds of my new horse, Frank, who had obviously spent the morning rolling in the mud!

After Frank's hooves are cleaned and conditioned, I turn him loose and bring in old Peg. I'd promised carriage rides to the students coming to the party and I haven't had quite enough practice driving Frank. As the students arrive, I harness Peg and we make four to five trips around the neighborhood. By then, it is getting dark and cold so we head for the house and hot chili, warm bread and gifts from Secret Santas. The party lasts about three hours, and after a quick clean-up, the students depart.

Sometime during the party, Allan is called in to work. He feeds the cattle and horses on his way out so I don't have to bundle up the kids and venture out again. I pour a big glass of eggnog and two cups of milk and the twins and I settle on the couch for a reading of The Barnyard Dance. A nice way to end a week.