Taking the Time When You Need It

Taking Time When You Need It {New Faculty}

I’ll admit it: I sat by the pool and went swimming this afternoon while the grad student I brought with me is doing stats homework. Amount of guilt I feel: NONE. I did that time. I earned an hour of pool time to swim laps.

The grad student and I traveled together to a three day conference in sunny FL. I am more excited to bust out my sandals than to sit in three days of meetings (oops, i was honest) but honestly, anywhere warmer and nicer is welcome for me. The temp was 83 when we flew in, a slight breeze, and only moderate humidity. Um, hello FL, I love you in March.

Back to my point. I feel zero guilt at present. I did read an abstract that a student texted me about because it’s due and I wanted to view it, but other than that, zero work today. ZERO. Why? Because as much as I know there’s always more work to do, today I give myself permission to: fly, eat, swim, lounge watching the NCAA tourney, and whatever else I want. I might even take myself out for a cocktail later. I know we just came off spring break, I’m not an idiot, but I also know I will spend the next three days solid being “on” and my introvert personality is already coping with this fact. And by coping I mean “panicking” in case you were wondering.

Due to my nature of planning, I knew I had to plan in some down time for myself. The week was productive, fruitful, and busy as always but there was no down time built in. I did this to myself but also knew it would be a doozy of a week after break.

So, to make a long story short: I’m taking the time because I need it and you should too!

Listen to your inner monologue and respect it.

Tagged , , , ,

Spring Break Meltdown: The Snow, Not Me

Spring Break Meltdown {New Faculty}

yeah, i took this pic!

Spring break sprung and I was struggling the week before. I was more than ready for a change of scenery, a change of pace, and a change in location for a few days. I’m missing ‘family vacation’ later this month due to a work trip, so I decided I’d go home and see my parents for a few days in good old, freezing as hell, upstate New York. I was warned, there was three feet of snow on the ground still and cold weather gear was a must.

I packed all the warm things I could, including the very nice winter boots I rarely wear down here because to me, it’s never really ‘that cold’ for long. We get ‘cold’ weather for a week or two, but nothing like the north. Anywho…I packed it and I shipped myself to the farm to see my parents, my dog, my friends, and my cows.

Don’t worry, I did a little work. But, the day before I was set to travel my mom texted me, “I have pneumonia.” Well, hello spring break. Not only have I gone farther north, but now I’m soup-making my way through it. Truth be told, I love cooking. I’ve never had a problem making meals for people and still haven’t mastered the art of “cooking for one” so it was perfectly ok that putting meals out was one of my tasks last week.

The snow was deep. Too deep for snowshoeing. Too deep to walk (ok, try) to walk through, and generally, it was cold. The weather was set for a warm up on Monday to help pack the snow down. I was set to conduct observations at a school that I’m doing research with so no love lost there on the weather.

All-in-all, it was a good spring break. I didn’t get a lot done. I made lots of meals, snowshoed almost every day with the dogs, poked around the barns, and generally enjoyed myself. I needed the respite. Even the 9+ hour drive each way was more tolerable thanks to a backlog of podcasts and audio books.

I share this with you not to brag (trust me, the to-do list did not dissipate during those four days), but to tell you that I knew I needed a break and it was the only way to get one. When I stay here in college town USA, I take small breaks, a day here, a day there, but rarely several days in a row. I think my brain still associates “work” with “this town” because I moved here to “work” years ago. It’s not a bad thing, but there’s nothing like physically vacating a space to also vacate some space in your brain.

Hopefully you were able to take a day or two off during your break as well. Even if you spent it doing things like making that meal you like, getting the oil changed in your car, being home for supper time with everyone, or whatever it was, I hope you took a moment to step back, reflect, and enjoy it.

Tagged , , , ,

Investing in Yourself: Additional Training & Professional Development

Professional Development {New Faculty}

source

I have taken full advantage of professional development since joining faculty. Even in my old position, there was very little I would say “no” to in terms of building and expanding my skill set. I know it can be a trap to say “yes” to too much, but when reflecting on it and strategically thinking about where I wanted to go professionally, I chose to take the attitude of “participate, don’t anticipate” and it’s paying off. I had always wanted to learn more about federal grants and sitting on panels for several years in a row really paid off. I had wanted to learn about how I could develop as a faculty and have been participating in a year long faculty development institute at my university. I was encouraged by my department head to get trained in KAI and recently finished training to facilitate KAI for organizations.

See the goal, make it happen.

Not all of the opportunities I’ve had cost me money, some have netted me some cash. I’ve had to agree to participate in research as a result, but I’m a researcher so I whole heartedly see why we need to do this. Building my own skill set has been a rewarding experience for me thus far in the young faculty member game and I’m glad that I said, “yes” several years ago to myself to get into these things. Each has been useful in a different way and each continues to serve me on many levels.

There’s a few things that I’ve had to work through to get myself developed professionally:

Buy in from my superiors. I have to say, I have an extremely supporting department head. I cannot say enough positive things about his attitude toward my development as a young faculty member. And no, I’m not saying that because this is on the internet. I’m saying it because it’s true. Hands down. He recently asked me during my annual review, “where do you want to go and how can we help you get there?” That kind of support is valued, appreciated, and amazing. I know that not all of my peers will have this kind of unwavering support and I’m grateful for it.

Support from my peers. My colleagues within the department and outside of it are more than supportive. Whether it’s filling on a class to guest lecture, excusing me from meetings knowing I’m doing this other “thing” or simply asking, “how did KAI go?” it means the world to know that they care enough to ask, cover, or excuse me. I’m not home watching TV, I’m working and I know I would reciprocate for them as well.

Time. In our society of “the busy contest” I don’t have any more or any less time than the next person. However, I give myself the gift of time to do these things. No matter what is getting in the way, I do my best to block my time and try to plan ahead. Life happens, but giving myself permission to spend four days reviewing grants or five days being trained or two hours on a day when grades are due getting some development is worth it later.

It’s a long-term investment. Sometimes, because I’m impatient, I have a hard time seeing the forest for the trees. I get ahead of myself and then I forget that spending a year in a program won’t pay off tomorrow, it might take time to see the effect. I might teach a course next year where I implement what I learned. My ROI is slow on some of the things I do but it is there. I just have to be patient.

Money. Some of my development has been 100% free and evens comes with snacks. Faculty professional development on my campus is pretty good. A few hours each month, a little homework, and a lot of great relationships have been free to me. My department supports this venture. Other things, like trainings, have cost money that I was asked to attend and therefore paid. Research PD has paid me in the end. It has actually evened itself out financially. Sometimes you gotta front some cash, but you always get it back.

In the end, spending some time and resources on professional development can be 100% worth it. I have more positive things to say than negative things on my experiences thus far. There are times that I’m the worst student you ever met (they say teachers make the worst students) and have absolutely no patience to sit for another hour at something, but I’m finding that when my ass is numb, my brain is usually full of good stuff.

Tagged ,

I’m All Ears: Listening in Academia

I'm All Ears: Listening in Academia {New Faculty}

source

People in academia like to talk. A lot. We like to hear ourselves talk. A lot. But sometimes we need to take a step back and listen. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Sometimes, we need to be smart enough to let our evolution take over.

I was stricken with a delightful head cold last week. Due to the amount of nose blowing I was doing, I wasn’t much for conversation. Mostly because it led to coughing and other delightful cold symptoms. I’d like to write a book about the “8236 stages of a cold” that will be due out for publication next year. Nothing like a good cold. And so much hand washing….

Amidst my mouth breathing and sudafed haze, I still kept my schedule. It was just a cold after all. It was a good reason to speak less and listen more. I was reminded of this several times throughout the week.

Chatting with grad students. While it’s our job to advise them, I know I can get mired in the business at hand: making progress. Not feeling 100% helped me sit back and let them drive the bus of their own learning. In between my coughs and nose blowing, students were able to work through their dissertation issues. Because I didn’t have much for a voice, I mostly nodded in agreement and let them keep talking.

Not talking gives other people permission to keep talking. Not talking makes some people super uncomfortable so they keep talking. Not talking and being with someone who fears silence is an excellent tactic in getting all of their secrets out. Just so you know.

Our department also hosted preview days. Potential grad students come in for a series of meetings and interviews spread out over the course of a few days. It’s a great opportunity to meet with potential students, listen to them discuss their future plans, and if our department might be a good fit for that. Along with this comes a lot of listening. Trying to gauge their interest, their maturity level, and their true motive for a graduate degree is a lesson. Paying attention to their body language is equally important.

Sitting back and listening can be a powerful medium. It gives the person you’re with the freedom to converse and it gives you the freedom to listen. No one feels obligated.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Be Willing to be Mentored

Being Mentored {New Faculty}

source

Being a grad student isn’t always glamorous. Sure, you get to do research and think about science (or fill in that blank appropriately) but sometimes, you’ve gotta walk that line and tow that mark.

Grad school is a great place to make mistakes, to learn, and to grow cognitively. In so many ways, school is for making mistakes. BUT, it’s also about learning from those mistakes. It’s about growth. It’s about becoming a better researcher. It’s about learning to become a better researcher from making mistakes. Righting the proverbial ship is of the utmost importance. You’re bound to make mistakes but how you handle yourself can make a world of difference.

Some have a harder time than others. Many students who come to a PhD program have worked before and are returning to school after years in the work world. Learning to be a student can be tough and boundaries can be hard to reign in, particularly for “adults” who’ve been out in the working world. I’ve heard of two cases as of late who caught my attention, but unfortunately for the wrong reasons.

My piece of sage advice for this week: Be willing to be mentored. 

I don’t know how else to spell it out. Saying  you’re willing and actually allowing the process to work are two totally different things. Assuming responsibility for your mistakes and your wins are both equally important. The relationships you make or don’t make with your faculty can mean everything and nothing very quickly. I’m not here to make anyone feel bad or to say that I didn’t make mistakes, but I think it’s cause for pause at this point to recognize that being mentored isn’t just about sitting down and listening to a senior faculty discuss theory.

It’s about putting those things into action.

I urge you to check in with yourself this week. Whether a grad student or young faculty, take a moment of pregnant pause to say, “how am i doing?” and if you have great pause about any of it, perhaps it’s time to take some notes. Being perfect isn’t the goal, but being better is. Checking in with yourself can avert crisis later on and set you up to be more successful. As our department welcomes in potential graduate students this week for interviews, it’s the number ONE piece of advice I’ll be giving to anyone who asks. Be willing and we will meet you halfway there.

 

Being the “New Guy”

Being the "New Guy" {New Faculty}

source

Being a new faculty member is hard. It’s tiring. It wears you out and wears on you. I know. I’m there. I come home some days and don’t move from my couch except for food, the bathroom, or to move to my bed and that feels like work. I feel you.

I’d like to make a case for getting out  and working after hours, weekends, or getting to know your fellow faculty at social functions that are outside of work hours. I know it’s hard. Many of you will have families and other commitments, but I’m going to encourage you to give it the “old college” try a few times. Hear me out.

I never like making a habit of working on the weekends. However, in this position, I find that if I give myself a few hours on Sunday’s to clear out my inbox, settle my calendar, and get myself organized, I have a much smoother Monday morning ready to jump into whatever I got myself into. Truth.

The awesome part about this is that many of my colleagues like working on the weekends as well. Sunday’s will find many of us in our offices working along quietly playing the never ending game of catch up. Before you get all “misery must love company” on me, the weekends are great for catching up with colleagues. There’s fewer students milling around, there’s no class to rush off too and generally there’s no formal meetings on weekends. Each Sunday I’ve logged has been useful to me in terms of productivity, but it’s also had the added benefit of getting time to converse with my colleagues. We don’t always discuss work, but we do talk. And, as the newest faculty member in the department, I think it’s important to have those conversations to set some context.

For me, it’s valuable time spent. As a self-identified introvert, I don’t do as well in large groups, faculty meetings are too busy with business for any chit chat, and walking into another faculty member’s office to strike up a conversation isn’t my forte. In fact, the last one makes me downright uncomfortable. The weekend is when the feeling is a little less formal, standing around for a few minutes chatting helps me get to know my peers and them get to know me. I’m “work new faculty” at work. I have things to do and tasks to check off. I’m guilty of not wanting to socialize much and I have a calendar full of things as well. Formal business hours are not the hours you want to get to know me in to get a good picture of who I am.

I’ve been told many times that I’m a hard person to know. I acknowledge that. I think many academics are. We choose academia for the solitude of research sometimes and it feeds our tendencies. Being aware that I’m not the most open, charming, naturally extroverted human helps me work within the boundaries that have been set by my personality.

Our faculty tries to go out to happy hour too. I don’t always want to hit the bar with my colleagues on Friday, but I’ve gone each time it was organized and I felt as though it was valuable time spent. I’ve been able to cultivate talking points as I get to know my colleagues. We rarely discuss work specifically, students and work do come up, but it’s more tangential in nature and non-specific. Again, my personality comes out in these settings since I can speak to people in a more social setting without the fear of students or other hindrances.

Can it be awkward? Of course. Entering an established group of peers is always a little unnerving, but maximizing your personality potential and being self-aware enough to understand how you’re situated in a group can be important. I don’t come out and say how much I love research, but the spouse of my colleague saw me design a course at faculty development this spring. He observed me working for days on it, had conversations with me about the topic, and learned how much I love research and undergraduate students. Because of that positive interaction, my name was brought up to plan a possible undergrad research certificate in our college. That’s pretty exciting to me. I learned this at the bar. I solidified my ability to do this during a hallway conversation on a Sunday. Over half of my interaction about this had nothing to do with M-F from 9-5.

Being the new kid on the block can be tough. It’s hard to know where you fit in the group. It’s kind of like being the last kid picked in gym class in middle school. It’s taken me nine months to order business cards. It’s also taken me nine months to get to know the people I call colleagues better too. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither have my relationships with my peers.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Office Politics: Low Drama, High Output

As a new faculty member, it can be tricky to navigate the professional and personal relationships in your department or unit or lab. You fill in that blank with whatever you’ve got. I didn’t get a feel for what was happening until my office moved to the same floor as my colleagues and I have observed some very interesting things. I’m not saying it’s all bad or all good, but there’s certainly a culture in the department among the faculty that I was unaware of.

I first noticed that there’s a segment of the faculty who are night owls. They work best from about 8 p.m. until last call per say. I’m not in that camp. They do it for a variety of reasons: kid schedules, partner schedules (or lack thereof & they can do what they want), or it’s their preferred time based on their circadian clocks for maximum work time with minimal interruptions from anyone. The night owls tend to be closer and go to each other first. I know lots of conversations probably take place that go beyond work and dive into personal stuff. It’s kind of like the old saying that “the majority of business takes place after hours (at a bar over drinks).” I stay once in a while past normal hours. One evening, I got caught talking with two of the night owls about research until about 8 p.m. Another evening, I came back after listening to a good talk about international development to research some points the speaker made and was in the office until 10 p.m. I slept like crap and was all messed up. I learned quickly that I’m not a night owl by nature and I’m better off getting up early to work.

Outside activities influence the social context. The biggest “outside activity” I can think of is church and there’s a small group of folks that go to the same church and are very social about things with each other only. I don’t get it. I don’t want to, but I also see how a great social network and community can form. I’m not against it. They’re always very friendly and they always invite me to church.

The people who all went to the same university. There’s a large contingent of the faculty in my department who all went to the same university for at least one of their degrees. That also includes me. In this field of work, there’s a few universities that have outstanding programs and my alma mater is one of them. I’m proud. Again, never over the top stuff, but it’s kind of fun to have a rivalry once in a while.

The weekend crew. I’m on the weekend crew. I usually come in for a few hours on Sunday afternoon’s to get ready for the week, map out my calendar, and take care of anything I’ve left from Friday. I avoided weekend time for several years in my old appointment, but started last fall due to teaching load and new responsibilities. The weekend crew is sparse on Sunday’s and we always say hello and chat for a few minutes. I try not to be too chatty on Sunday’s as I consider that “my time” and am very protective of it. One Sunday, I caught what I would consider to be a “very personal” conversation between two other faculty who are close and I actually turned on music so I didn’t have to listen to it. Unfortunately, they were next door to me, so it was hard to avoid in many ways, but I’ll be honest: Sunday is not social time for me. Sunday is “get crap done” for Monday time. I usually treat myself to a coffee from somewhere other than my house and go in for a few hours. I set myself a time to be done by and usually leave by then in order to enjoy the rest of my dat.

Other social factors influence navigating office politics in a big way. There is a culture in my department that is very student centered, very “low drama, high output” centered and I like it that way. These folks are like good neighbors and I appreciate their intellect and “good human” characteristics. There are times when I walk into a room or down the hallway and see colleagues having a discussion and I get the feeling I wasn’t supposed to “walk in” right then but on the flip side, perhaps they should have closed the door or not had the conversation in a public arena.

Plain and simple: there’s office politics. I think it’s unavoidable but you get to decide how you interact with them. I will admit, I have asked about some issues and educated myself. I try to keep any gossip at a very low level and generally keep socializing to “light” topics. I make a point to visit the grad offices to say hello and see if my students need anything. I think it’s important to remain a human being in this job. I used to get so frustrated for professors when they were totally unavailable that it’s made me conscious enough to be available when I can be. Visiting with them in their domain can be helpful to hear what’s going on in their grad student heads.

It’s truly all about balance in any situation. I cannot say enough positive things about my department. I’m really enjoying it. Within any group of humans, politics and office chatter are bound to arise and it’s important to be aware of it. Having other friends to chat with about whatever is happening is the way to go. I’m not talking about slandering anyone, but an outside source (or several) who can listen is always key. An outside person may also have an objective, non-biased opinion and you can surely benefit from that.

Whatever the situation is, navigating the social aspect of any department is an exercise. Don’t overdo it. Nobody wants to be “that guy or girl.”

Tagged , ,

Manuscript Meltdown: Submission Season

Manuscript Meltdown: New Faculty

source

The sound of the clattering keyboard is my favorite. Compared to the sound that I hear when my forehead hits the desk, it’s like music to my ears. Submission season is here! I love working up a manuscript, but only if I get enough time to do it.

Working with graduate students has rewards and challenges. Submission season has caused a small manuscript meltdown from one student this year due to time management. As someone who writes and submits regularly (like all of my colleagues), I cannot help but beg and plead with graduate students to manage their time in order to get timely feedback.

As a young faculty member who happens to love writing and research, I enjoy seeing my students make positive progress. No, you won’t get accepted 100% of the time, but if you’re improving, then you’re moving forward. As a faculty, I always remember to thank my students for their continual hard work. I know it’s a pain. I know it’s not always fun. AT ALL. But, I know why we’re all here. I’m here to help. I’m here to guide. I’m here to comment my face off in your word document in the spirit of improving. I often preface my first round of edits with, “I comment because I care” and I really do. Be worried if you don’t see any comments. Unless we’ve been working on this for a while, I’ve probably lost interest or didn’t give it the time it deserved.

  • Delegate your time in advance.
  • Send notes to your collaborators.
  • Know that it’s going to take much longer than you expected anyway.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for help (in a timely fashion).
  • Follow the submission outline.
  • Find a submission to the same conference or journal that was accepted and model it.
  • Edit, edit, and edit it again.
  • Be explicit in your language in the body. There’s usually not space for flowery innuendo. Be literal. Say what you mean.
  • Don’t expect help. I hate to be negative nancy on the whole thing, but sometimes, people don’t follow through. Sometimes, people are on your author list but don’t do work. Sometimes, you’re going to have to man/lady up and rock it out.
  • Understand in advance you can use the writing for something else. If this is ongoing research, you will likely be able to use it for other submissions or articles. Most conferences are moving towards abstracts for acceptance, but there’s still some laggards who want 10+ pages for a 20 minute presentation. I call this a “valuable lesson in patience.”

Understand that growth is what’s most important. You may not get accepted but did you manuscript improve from the previous submission? Becoming a better researcher is a process, it’s something I remind myself of daily. There will be days of frustration and there will be days of sheer triumph. Celebrate whenever you can. It’s always worth a little dance party in your office.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Syllabus Boot Camp

Syllabus Boot Camp {New Faculty}

source

I signed up for a course design workshop this year. I’m teaching a new class in a few weeks and really wanted to give it the time it deserved to plan the darn thing. Yes, deserved. Instead of tossing things around in my brain and trying to spit things back out on paper, I gave myself 2.5 days of time. Our pedagogy shop sponsored the workshop and provided everything from coffee and snacks to lunch to meaningful and useful advice on instructional goals, assessment, and flipping the classroom if we were interested. It sure beat the half-ass approach I took in the fall.

On that note, my teaching survey’s came back. Not bad kids, not bad. Some of the feedback was very odd, some of it made NO sense, but some of it made PERFECT sense. I had been handed a stale class, pumped some life back into it and forgot to update the syllabus and organize things in a more coherent manner. lesson learned. Not all the feedback was bad and many of the comments were valid for positive and negative reasons. As hard as we try, we do take some of it personally. One of my colleagues tanked on the survey and was pretty upset about it. She also attended the course design workshop. Her ATTITUDE was: if I screwed up, I can get better. She spent her 2.5 days thinking about her class for next year already. I admire her tenacity to not let it get ahead of her.

It was an easy decision to go to this workshop. Even with the random pile of stuff that I had to plow through to get ready for the semester, I could not have brought the course to life without the time, space, and permission to do so. I encourage anyone reading this to also seek out those resources at your university. They have the knowledge. They have the time. They will offer suggestions. If you don’t have this luxury, call on your “team” to help you out. This has already made the semester less painful. Now, if all my grants would get funded and manuscripts accepted.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Academic Collegiality: Offering the Proverbial Cup of Sugar

A Lesson in Academic Collegiality {New Faculty}

source

It’s the most wonderful time of the year in the hallways of my office. It’s annual reporting time for all faculty. A grad student swung through, saw one of my computer screens and observed, “almost every faculty I’ve seen today has that on their screen.” Let me tell ya kid, we’re really all in this together.

It’s my first faculty reporting season on this job. It’s a totally different form/page/requirement list than my old job. I was thankful to get a tutorial from a more senior faculty member this week and a crash course provided the broad strokes that I’m going to need to finish mine. There’s one more relatively new faculty member in the department and she and I visited about it a few times as well, making sure that things like “objectives for 2014″ were missing for both of us since we never put in objectives last January because we weren’t employed by said department/college. A sense of camaraderie has been nice in that respect. It’s more like, “you struggling?” “yup.” “Oh hey, me too.”

I began this job in May so it’s been about seven months on the job. Needless to say, there are times when it feels like I’ve spent a lot of time working but don’t have a lot to show for it. That’s my self-efficacy monster to wrestle with. Knowing I have a colleague who also feels that way softens the blow a little bit. Neither of us have gone up for any external funding yet. Hell, I just moved into an office around Thanksgiving. Can I report that?

The colleague who was nice enough to give me the tutorial-she also got a tutorial on hers from a tenured member of the department since she’s going up for tenure this year. See how this works? You never know when you’re going to need a good colleague to show you the ropes.

As I work through this first year of the process, I’m humbled by what I have done, by what I haven’t done yet, and by my colleagues. I cannot stress the importance of having good colleagues who are willing to take a few minutes of their day and help me out. Willing to admit they’re struggling or when they’ve figured something out and are willing to show me has been an invaluable asset to me. Small? Yes. Important? Absolutely.

I have continued to be overjoyed to be back in agriculture. I know I’ve discussed it here before but this would NOT have happened in my old appointment. It just wouldn’t have. As much as I know that my job is just my job, it’s also important to me to be happy, to be able to be social, and to feel like an equal member of the faculty. I do feel that way now. It’s not just getting help on my annual report, it’s small things like joining the other faculty for a happy hour, engaging with them over casual conversation, and not worrying that every little thing I might say is being put under a microscope-there’s room for error. HBR ran a piece about how your colleagues should be like good neighbors, willing to lend a hand, a proverbial cup of sugar, but also know you’d reciprocate if ever asked. It just so happens that I brought back some NY goods for one of my colleagues as a kindness. I didn’t have to, but I wanted too. Who doesn’t appreciate good maple syrup? Pancakes for everyone!

If my car broke down on the side of the road and I had to call one of these folks for a ride, I think they would answer the phone AND also come get me if I asked. I hadn’t had that feeling of collegial security since 2011. It feels pretty good.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 572 other followers