Monthly Archives: November 2013

On Being Thankful

On Being Thankful | New Faculty

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It’s the last big push of the semester. Thanksgiving break (if you really want to call it that like us American’s) is upon us and the last few weeks of the semester following the holiday will be nothing but a blur of deadlines, students, and my favorite: administrivia. If there was a sarcasm font, that last sentence would have been typed in it. Just so we’re clear.

But, there’s a lot to truly be thankful for.

  • Employment-there are so many who are able bodied and want to work that are still out of work.
  • Free thinking-we can work and think our own thoughts freely. We have the luxury of being able to research things without **too** much red tape.
  • Stretch our student brain space-as long as there isn’t too many bubble sheets, we have the freedom to push our students cognitively. By asking them to think constructively about their thoughts, how they form them, and what they want to do with them in the future, we encourage them to stretch their legs early on.
  • The ability to become educated-we take for granted our ability to get up, get dressed, and teach or go to class. So many people in our world still don’t have that. Whether it’s right outside our backdoor due to an access and equity issue or it’s across the ocean in a country with leadership who doesn’t value education or because of war, we have been fortunate enough to earn our education. It’s something that is truly precious.
  • Gathering to openly discuss our ideas-even if we think our colleague is a bit nutty, at least we have the freedom to have that opinion.
  • Our family and friends–who tolerate us as we drone on and on about _______ (fill in that blank) research, publishing, ‘that student’ who makes our hair turn gray, etc….they love us and support us, even if they don’t understand all of the words we use or when we have a king size rant about something they don’t even know about like why APA is so awesome and dumb all at the same time….
  • If I were being a bit glib, I’d also be thankful for: wine, sleep, alone time (hey, i’m an introvert), movie day or half day, grilled cheese sandwiches, my grandmother’s lessons on how to rock a full turkey dinner that she taught me, my brain & body that move me physically and cognitively, and fleece lined pants….no joke on the pants.

As we Americans carve up our turkey, try and kill each other in black friday shopping lines, thus ruining our turkey, and for the rest of us: hide out and try and enjoy life, I hope you’ll find a moment or two this week to give thanks for the ability to think, learn, teach, and grow…It is a privilege each and every day.

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Location, Location, Location-Where You Write

Location, Location, Location-where we write | New Faculty

**my dual monitor system**

Academics have the ‘luxury’ of being more flexible about where they work. Unless you’re teaching a face-to-face class, then you’re in a space. The amount of writing and scholarship that we undertake can be done from almost anywhere we choose and most of the time, it’s a really nice perk of the job. I find myself vacillating from my home, to my office, to the local starbucks, to another local coffee shop most of the time. I never get too cozy in one spot because the moment I do, I hate it–my productivity decreases and I’m rotating my writing spot once again.

All spring: Starbucks. Solo.

Summer: local coffee shop with a writing group

Start of the semester: office. Solo.

Currently: home or a studio space that I have access too. Solo.

I found myself reflecting on this cycle this morning. I spent several hours editing an article from my couch. Thanks to our ‘off campus sign in’ feature, I can sign into the library from anywhere and have access to the millions of scholarly publications the university pays for. (thanks big university). I had the tv on for the ‘white noise’ effect spewing old episodes of Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix and before I knew it, it was lunchtime, time to eat, time to move so I could take care of some stuff on campus and get out to schools.

Not a bad gig.

Now, to play my own devil’s advocate-this amount of space can cause problems too. Leaving work at work takes on a whole new meaning and just like grad school, the work is always there….calling…echoing….nagging….and that’s not always a good thing.

Having the permission to work almost anywhere can be a huge distractor too. Working from home is a great thing but what happens when that TV gets too distracting and you get sucked in? The same can be said for any location. There’s always a distraction around the corner. It’s ok to tell yourself that you just can’t work from home because other things are too distracting. One of my former roommates “tried” to work from home all of the time, but usually ended up at the office. It just wasn’t going to happen. My faculty friends all have their favorite spot, but some of them have hectic schedules, so they just take the time and whatever space they’re in and use it.

This kind of freedom also means we must be more disciplined about our work. It’s easy to say, “I’m working from home” and then not do a single thing- remember some of those yahoo employees who never logged into their VPN accounts all those days? However, we should also know ourselves well enough by now to know how we like to work. Do we need to clock those eight hours a day every day? Not necessarily, but we better be turning out what we promised in the mean time.

As the frenzy of the semester hits (or hit several weeks ago), it’s always nice to do a ‘check in’ and see where we are cognitively. It’s ok to admit we need a change of pace, a change in location, or assess that things are going well. We don’t always have the luxury to choose where we work, so taking advantage of the time, space, and permission is key for some.

Where do you like to work and write?

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To Be or Not To Be: First Author

Being First Author | New Faculty

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My calendar year is quickly coming to a close and while I’m sure yours is too, it’s always nice to take some stock of the old CV and see where I’ve been, what I’ve done, and what I’d like to do for myself in terms of beefing it up for the upcoming calendar year. Why do I do calendar years instead of academic years? I like giving myself the extra time during summer to publish! 🙂 There’s really no other rhyme or reason behind it so if you were looking for some philosophical answer, you’re not going to get one.

After reviewing my personal benchmarks, I’m pretty pleased with how the calendar year progressed for me, both personally and professionally in terms of my CV. I cannot complain at this point, unless I can say one thing about the amount of leftover side effects two weeks of the flu/sinus infection are having on my body. Can it just stop already?  Spending almost two weeks in sickness dormancy gave me lots of time to sleep, watch netflix, and review things that I’d let fall to the wayside. This was one of them.

Other than that, I’m in good shape on paper. The three boxes of tissues I’ve used the past two weeks would disagree.

First authorship is something that you’ll be required to fulfill if you enter a TT position in academia. The number of publications you’re required to be first author on will vary and the weight they carry will also vary. If you’re second or third author, many universities will also consider that on your T & P packet, but ask first. In my old job, being first, second, or third author counted/was weighted the same across the board, so it was perfectly ok to be third author sometimes. I liked this system. It encouraged scholarly work but also kept things in the realm of realism: it’s impossible to be first author on every thing coming out of your intellectual shop.

Understand this other new faculty: YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO FIRST AUTHOR ON EVERYTHING. and if you can, email me and tell me your secret.

Working with undergrads and grad students to publish will afford you more opportunities to publish, but it will also inherently increase your workload. While my researchers are great, the polishing and checking/editing at the end is largely up to me. They do the bulk of the work though and I couldn’t be more pleased with them most of the time. I share my satisfaction with them by giving them first authorship in many cases. While I know this is often frowned upon and some ego’s cannot handle giving it up, to me it’s important. Many of my students are also looking at graduate programs for themselves and what better way to apply to grad school than with at least one publication already under your belt?

Perhaps my view is skewed on the subject, but the nature of my current position doesn’t leave me worrying about my T&P packet too very often due to the major fact that it’s soft money funded, but for my NEXT job, I’ve been busy publishing and setting up my CV for committee’s and potential employers. Eyes on the prize right?

Being first author can be great but can also be a huge burden on your workload. It’s MORE WORK. Plain and simple, you’ll spend more time editing, proofing, making sure every little thing is APA formatted, uploading/downloading, dealing with potential edits once the article is accepted, and numerous other tasks involved in writing on a team if you have collaborators.

I’ve been on writing teams of all sorts. From one pole to the other: extremely organized to extremely disorganized, I’ve contributed in many ways. If you’re getting ready to write on a team for an article, book chapter, or other kind of scholarly work, it might help to know these things:

  • what kind of worker are you? do you like tasks or a list to complete?
  • what kind of workers are you writing with?
  • if you’re not the lead, how does that lead author lead? last minute? two weeks ahead?
  • are there clear expectations for each contributor?
  • does it fit with your current research work? or is it a direction you’d like to head in?
  • best case scenario? worst case scenario?
  • how will your employer view this in your packet? is it worthwhile?
  • do you actually have the time?

Publishing can be rewarding but it can also be extremely frustrating and while open access journals are becoming more popular, journals that have index ratings are still slower than molasses in many cases. I had an article accepted in 2010. It finally got published this year….better late than never right?

Publishing is a game that can be managed. As you look after your own academic career and future, know that you can still thrive without having to sacrifice it all. Check with your university about authorship. Good luck on your next manuscript!

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