both sides now: tenure edition

Today I visited a tenure-track colleague to observe his class.

I sat in the back corner, taking notes.

I sat on the other side of the desk in his office.

I gave advice on navigating our quirky institution, and answered his questions about the tenure process.

We talked about the academic system and how so much of the process through grad school and during the tenure track years involves oversight and repeated demonstrations of one’s knowledge, whether disciplinary research or teaching, through defenses, oral and written exams, and teaching observations.

This semester, I feel lighter. I have fewer students, but I’m still teaching three different courses, four sections total. I’m still serving the campus and two departments in both minor and major ways. I’m still presenting at conferences, writing proposals, and generally connecting to my personal passion for my disciplines of English and Women’s Studies.

I know how fortunate I am to have had a tenure-track job and to earn tenure in a system that increasingly hires folks on a semester-by-semester and class-by-class basis. 

Today I’m grateful that I’m on this side. I feel a responsibility to help my colleagues, to be a resource, a guide. And, to advocate for all the talented instructors, and to not be one of those professors who gives tenure a bad name.


manic mondays: or, what happens after not-so-blue sundays

The downside of the weekend relaxedness I waxed poetic over yesterday is the increased chaos of Mondays. Cue the Bangles, please:

I try to extend weekend chill into Monday. I wake up at a reasonable hour. I practice 15 minutes of gentle yoga. I eat oatmeal and drink cafe au lait, and orange juice. I check email. I work for about an hour and a half, grading, reading, class prepping.

I walk, and take in such soul-restoring vistas:

As I walk, I listen to “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!” and laugh out loud at the limerick challenge and the far-fetched tales, one of which is always true.

I then get ready for work, eat lunch, and head to campus, where I make copies, review prep notes, chat with colleagues, and arrive in class.

My class is high energy. It’s large for a discussion-based, writing-intensive class (36 students). We learn interesting concepts (feminism, patriarchy, intersectionality, heteronormativity) via engaging content (Miley Cyrus, music videos, popular romance fiction, vintage ads).

I love this class, but it’s a marked difference from my low-key, mostly introverted, quiet weekend. It jars me back to faux-extrovertedness. Once again, I’m slammed with the frenetic rhythm of the work week and the competing external demands on my time (answer my question! can you tell me what we’re doing two weeks from now? here’s a new task you need to complete on a project you thought you’d already finished! can you lead this seminar that’s not really related to your field? this form is due. can I have an extension? can you travel across the state for a short meeting?) and more internal demands (read, grade, prepare, write, search for engaging content, adapt old assignments, create new ones, keep professionally connected).

On Mondays, these demands seem like an unstoppable flood, and I feel ill-prepared to even throw a few sandbags at the encroaching waters.

By Monday night, after teaching my evening class (smaller, more skills-based, less rambunctious), and after cooking dinner, I start to feel that once again I may find a way to accomplish the important tasks during the week. I may only miss a few emails (sorry!) and may need to lower my expectations for myself, but there’s a path. I will not be defeated by and on Monday.

So, readers, I’m curious. How do you ease the transition into Monday? Do you accept that it will be manic and blue? Do you trick yourself into Monday awesomeness? Having made progress shifting my weekend emotions, I’m eager to learn how to improve Monday.

I know how to best end the day: hot tea, soothing music, fluffy pillows, and a delectable novel.