Monday, March 20, 2006

gravity pull

'tis true, indeed, it is upon take off that a rocket or a plane feels the most gravity. or so ive heard.

today, a colleague asked me about how the thesis issue worked out. i said it worked out fine, i stood by what was written in the guidelines. my wellmeaning colleague and friend gloated, though, for seeing the dean put in her place. that stopped me.

apparently, most people would tend to see it as a contest of power or egos, and it saddens me. it would be so easy for me, too, to go back and maybe gloat or continue bitching along with them; the dean isn't very much liked for what is perceived as her bulldozing ways.

but today, i stopped. i stopped my self just in time, and ended with saying something like "... uh, maybe she just forgot about what was in our guidelines", but it still bothered me because my friend went back to what she was doing still gloating.

i see now how terribly unkind and unfair that can be, picking on people or tearing them down behind their backs at that, just because we perceive them to be bad, evil, out to get us, deliberately tyrannical and insulting, etc., when in reality they are as human and vulnerable as we are and maybe doing what they do out of good and wellmeaning intentions.

i know now from recent and firsthand experience how our perceptions can be fed by others' incorrect perceptions too, and the way to change our own incorrect perceptions is to expand our realities to accommodate more direct experiences of alternate perceptions...

funny but i am actually feeling protective of my dean now. : )

Sunday, March 19, 2006

conflict transformation 101

it is amazing how very little shifts in perception and ways of behaving can dramatically transform a conflict situation into a life-affirming one. not only does all end well, the participants to the conflict are-- i'm sure of it, basing on my own inner experience alone-- transformed in some deep and life-enriching way.

...

so i wrote that polite but firm letter to the dean.

the next day i received a note saying the dean would like to meet me at 5pm.

my initial (and accustomed) reaction was anxiety, bracing my self for a potentially negative, face-to-face confrontation with her, based on what i know of her communication styles with others and in general.

so all throughout the day, it worried me.

but i remembered, too--actually, i made my self remember-- what i learned in my MA peace studies class--

1. avoid being drawn into two-way extreme polarities;
2. check and re-check your assumptions and perceptions;
3. always look for the third (or fourth, fifth, ...) alternative, creative way;
4. do "The Onion" technique, probe deep and go down to the needs and feelings level, instead of staying stuck in the positions and demands level.

so i fought with my self to treat this coming encounter as something new, not influenced by past perceptions of her and the way she handles conflict. i made myself come into a state of being where i anticipated the communication as a fresh start, a wonderful opportunity to change things for the better...

soon enough, two students came to me, still asking about what to do with their theses; but they shared, too, that the dean went into their class last night, almost in a begging manner, to ask them to submit their bound theses soon...

that quickly changed how i saw her. that she needs this thing to work out well, too, as much as i and the students want it to. that she actually might need my help and cooperation and support, and that maybe, that is the reason why she wants to meet with me privately later (and not to lambast me and put me down for talking back, as i was thinking)!

so for the rest of the afternooon, i felt lighter, actually looking forward to the private meeting with her. i made sure, too, to dress smartly and boldly for the day, looking good in my bright red blouse and tan slacks, to boost my confidence. : )

so when i came into her office, i was feeling and looking upbeat.

she started by saying that she's responding to my letter. i let her talk, but i kept nodding to let her know im hearing what she's saying.

of course, first, she talked about her position and about the university policies, and how the deadline is a collegial decision which the university administration accepts, and how it's in everyone theses guidelines...

then she waited for my response.

i started by saying that i understand her position and was in fact, even surprised to find that in our department's guidelines, there is no mention of the deadline that she says. then, i showed her the thesis handbook with the guidelines, and suggested that maybe it should be changed for next schoolyear, but right now, what can be done to avert a crisis?

it went on and on, our talk, but i took conscious care not to negatively react to her bait of sometimes insinuating that i have not been doing enough for the students, that i should know the APA format as well as she does, too. i let it pass as i was focused on the goal-- a positive resolution to the conflict, and saving the students from the next day's bound thesis deadline.

towards the end, she admitted that on a personal level, my letter struck her as if she was the one to blame for all the delay. i quickly and heartily agreed-- but in a way that i told her that was my and the students' perceptions, and that we may be wrong, but i felt frustrated, that's why i had to write the letter to clarify things officially.

and so, now, this was her opportunity to explain her side, and she said that she didnt see anything wrong in her asking the students to keep revising them as when we first submitted it, it was still in late january and early february anyway, so there was still time...

and i let her answer the unspoken question her self: now that there is very little time left, and given that it is not provided for in our thesis guidelines, what is to be done?

so a mutually acceptable settlement was worked out, that she wouldn't insist on the deadline as it's not in our guidelines, but that she would like to talk to the students to air her side, too, and that i will tell the students to personally come to her office per group to talk to her and renegotiate their deadlines with her.

i went home feeling good. i also appreciated her willingness to see the issue more clearly and to do what she can to solve it. i told her so by texting her, thanking her for her sense of fairness and consideration.

i think it made her feel good, too, because the next day, i heard that her talk with the students went well, and when she saw me briefly when i passed by her office, she smiled brightly.

...

my most significant learning from this experience, though, is my own self growth and change of perception-- that there is, indeed, more than just two polarized sides to any conflict; that our assumptions and perceptions do strongly dictate the way we approach a conflict; that there is always a third or fourth or more alternative and creative way; and that when you go down to the feeling level with another, you are just left with your barenaked human selves, and that is the ground for positive transformation to quickly take root and sprout more peaceful and happier ways of addressing a conflict.

heck, i feel so good even my previous growing angst and bitterness over administrative smallmindedness is completely gone! : O

even as im still intent on my decision to leave when it's time, i look on things here now with an affectionate, tolerant humor, even if outwardly, nothing much has changed.

and, most importantly, i think i might have even gained a staunch ally and friend in her now, too.

living, breathing, hard-earned inner-struggled peace in the truest sense of the word...

i feel so blessed.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

patience pays

today, all of us thesis advisers received a memo from her saying the students have to submit their hardbound copies by friday, the 17th, or else their names will be included in the list of failures, and stricken off the graduation list, "as per thesis guidelines".

ive long wanted to write her a telling-her-off letter ever since she first acted up on the students' theses by making it difficult for them to get the approval sheet signed, and thus, bookbound. but i kept my silence, recognizing that it wasn't timely to do that.

with the memo today, though, i felt it was time.

with the time elapsed since then, too (plus my recent other post), my head is cooler and my emotions calmer now.

so i wrote her a long official respectful letter clarifying that--

1. her stated sanctions are not in the thesis guidelines at all;
2. she has not signed the students' approval sheet, so how could they be bound? ... as per thesis guidelines;
3. their grades have already been given, how can she still strike them off the graduation list and include them in the list of failures?

seeing it all in print now, i am even more amazed at the illogic of it all! it boggles me how a person in her position and with her qualifications can blunder along like this, entirely clueless about the senselessness of her directives.

there must be more mix-up at work deep inside, for things to come out this convoluted.

i feel sorry, even compassion, for her now.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Dean

now she insists that this class has to have a Best Thesis, when she hasn't signed one with her approval. the students have stopped revising out of discouragement. good thing ive given them their grades already as soon as their defense panelists signed, so that won't affect their graduation.

i tell my Chair, through whom she coursed the message through-- how can there be Best, when the students haven't finalized their revisions for her and she hasn't signed but kept returning them back?

the Chair's lame excuse is that it wouldn't look good for the Department and the College not to have a Best Thesis, when it always had one for the past many years (under my tutelage, too, mind you.)

go figure how convoluted PhD minds work.

form over substance again.

i am soooo tired of this shit.

Friday, March 03, 2006

divine courage (a.k.a. venting with a will)

it's a friday afternoon, and i should be looking forward to a relaxing weekend to do with as i please.

but no, we have MA classes tomorrow, and i plan on doing the 3- or 4-part online assignment tonight and submit it before classes start tomorrow.

then, too, while driving home, the kids were asking me about my schedule tomorrow, as paolo has his taekwondo classes at 10am, while thea needs to go to school at 2pm for her club rehearsals. that means my going in and out of class to bring them to their activities and fetching them again, the usual multi-tasking routine. sigh. but thinking about it right now makes me feel tired already. so i'll think about it tomorrow, as Scarlett O'Hara would say.

or i wouldnt even think about it at all, and just do it, like Nike advises.

sigh.

im mostly feeling down going home because of a recent development at work. my thesis students keep coming to me complaining that our Dean is making it hard for them to get their theses signed for bookbinding, when their defense panelists and Department Chair have signed already. the Dean keeps telling them that she's not satisfied yet with their work so she won't sign, but she doesn't say specifically, too, which part she wants improved or changed, and how.

yes, this is the same Dean who made my administrative life hell before as a Department Chair, too, with her policies in progress which change according to whim, and her overly conscientious stickling for form over substance.

i am tempted to tell her off and get on with it, yet still, she is the Dean, because she is the one with the PhD.

so im feeling helpless and frustrated and mad.

her signing is really just for bookbinding; the students have earned their grades already since their panelists have signed their theses, so they're still candidates for graduation. i checked the thesis guidelines too; there's nothing there that says they can't graduate if their theses aren't signed by the Dean.

so maybe the wiser option is just to let her get entangled on her own web of confusion that she has created.

sigh.

this just strengthens my resolve all the more to get away from the university as soon as i can.

meanwhile, before writing this blog, i was spiralling towards the depth of another mini-depression again. but while writing this, realizing that even if i presently cant even muster my usual good cheer and faith in things turning out for good in the end, i still have my stubbornness, my steel will, to summon, in times like this.

ive read somewhere long ago that stubbornness is divine courage in so many ways. when all things point to giving up, when even your very cells say you can't go on with all the BS around you, you can still muster your last recourse and resource, your will, to push on ahead anyway despite of and inspite of what's going on. and when you do, divine grace comes to aid you in your resolve.

so that's what im feeling now, as i end this post. i will still go ahead with my plans for tonight and tomorrow and the weeks and the months to come anyway, and not let flies in the ointment like this, which are basically caused by the pettiness and smallmindedness of other people, to get me down, or to distract me from what i am about.