Let Summer Read 2016 Begin!

copyright 2016, U of Toronto Press

Happy July, true believers! As promised nine days ago, the shiny new Teaching Prof in Progress Book Club is launching an inaugural Summer Read virtual book discussion. And everyone who teaches (or cares about teaching and teachers) in higher education is invited… So let’s get this party started!

4thofjulyspeedodude

promise that guy will not be there.

Our first Summer Read will be a discussion of Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber’s The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy (2016, University of Toronto Press) on the Goodreads social media site. And getting involved is super easy:

Participation will also be easy.  I will post discussion questions on the Book Club’s page, and we’re off! You can respond, post your own discussion questions, and engage one another throughout the month of July until August 8 as your summer schedule allows — flexibly, on your own time.

To give you a teaser of what we’ll discuss, here are the questions for the Introduction to the book — a tad provocative, if I do say so myself? [And sorry, but no page numbers for the quotations… I’m reading the Kindle edition.]

(1) The Introduction points out the familiar 1-2 punch that motivated the authors to write the book:

  • “Flexibility of hours can translate into working all the time, particularly because academic work by its very nature is never done.”
  • “When we look at studies of academic stress, we are struck by how many situations identified as sources of work stress are about lack of time.”

Let’s start the conversation by addressing the elephant in the room: is this problem, ultimately, unfixable? What have been your experiences with this dilemma? Thoughts?

(2) At one point the authors observe, regarding policy change at our institutions,

  • “A surprising common thread in studies of the corporate university is an emphasis on change being in the hands of individual professors.”

Potentially empowering, sure, but adding to our stress? What kinds of related observations and/or experiences have you had? Thoughts?

(3) What else struck you as important in the Introduction? Observations? Questions for the group?

Intrigued???? Hope so!  Come join the club, tell your friends, colleagues and grad students about it (and the TPP blog, and the Facebook and Twitter platforms), and let’s meet in the salon!

Slowing down… feelin’ groovy? or delusional?

Sometimes tourist traps really get the job done.

So, how has your summer been so far? I have been pretty good about taking it easy and refreshing myself. While I have only very recently started back on working out and getting back in shape (only a month behind my resolved schedule), I just wrapped up a fun family vacation to Branson, Missouri — a few days of amusement park-ing, tacky-tastic touristing, and time in the pool with my kids and on the town with my best girl.

I haven’t been all lay-about idle (as my summer school prep and recent relaunching of this blog attest)… but I have been slowing down, and feelin’ groovy.

Alas, the incursions of the real world inevitably intrude as they will — time-sensitive e-mails about administrative matters from colleagues and students, and the realization that summer school will start all to soon, meaning summer school prep Must. Be. Finished. Soon.  I want to feel groovier more consistently, but sometimes going slower makes me feel anxious and guilty — not very groovy at all. Sound familiar?

[A potentially useful response for all of us after the jump!]

Continue reading

Where have I been? Just truckin’ along…

Robert Crumb, http://www.trippystore.com/robert_crumb_keep_on_truckin_black_light_poster.html

 

Welcome back to the blog, new readers and true believers. Lately it occurs to me, what a long, strange trip it’s been.

 

Some of you might have little tickles in the back of your brain, vague memories of my last post on August 24, 2015. I was preparing to begin the next career adventure: a new faculty position in the University of Missouri’s Department of Communication. For the new fellow traveler, or for those needing a reminder, click here for the post.  The first day of school is often a time of verdant optimism — it always has been for me. And so there I was, anticipating with enthusiasm my regular blog updates, chronicling this pivotal year of transition, reflecting on the challenges, rewards and discoveries of the sea change from tenured full professor and part-time administrator at a small liberal arts college to non-tenure-track teaching faculty at a flagship public research university.

And then life happened.

Doesn’t it always?

 

(Find out what happened after the jump!)

Continue reading

Thoughts on starting over on the first day of school.

Last week my two kids started the school year in a new state, in a new town, in new schools. Today, it’s my turn.

Well, for the most part. There have been a number of preliminary moves up to this point: acquiring the new office and the new e-mail address, meeting with my new department chair, attending start-of-the-year orientation meetings and barbecues for faculty. But today brings Zero Hour. After spending fourteen years at my previous small liberal arts college, departing as a tenured full professor with a slate of class preps in the can and administrative experience, today I begin the next stage of my career as a non-tenure-track teaching faculty member at an R1 flagship state university. I’m doubling my teaching load from last year, with courses I haven’t taught in over a decade. Even the calendar of the academic year is different. And I’m shaking in my boots.

Continue reading

Help Your New Faculty (Re-)Launch Their Careers!

As I relaunch this blog, I am also relaunching in other ways as well.

My family has recently relocated from our home of ten years to a new home in a new state. That means my kids are starting new schools and starting to make new friends. And my wife and I are starting new faculty positions at a new university. As my partner is starting a career as a newly minted Ph.D. on the tenure-track, I am relaunching my career from one of tenured full professor at a small liberal arts college to one of NTT teaching faculty at a large R1 university. And today I will participate in an orientation for a multi-section course (in a subject I haven’t taught on over a decade!) with new doctoral students, some of whom have never taught before. So, obviously, restarts and new beginnings are pretty salient for me right now.

In my previous position as a faculty developer, I co-led a new faculty orientation program and a year-long group mentoring program for first year faculty. This morning I’m remembering the excitement and anticipation of those folks, as well as their questions, concerns, and anxieties. They are very real in my home this year, as they are in the homes and offices of new faculty everywhere. Folks who are relaunching their professional lives, either as brand new faculty or as experienced faculty in new institutions, are relaunching their personal lives as well. It’s important, then, for faculty colleagues and administrators to make sure that they (we???) have the resources and support for a successful launch and a safe, productive flight into new skies.

Tanya Golash-Boza from the University of California at Merced provides the following useful suggestions in this morning’s Vitae (which, especially if you are new faculty, is a great career development resource to follow). These are easy things that faculty leaders and institutions can provide that can really make a difference in this crucial period for new faculty.

If you have additional thoughts or suggestions, please share in the comments! And do feel free to “relaunch” this post and the TPP in progress to the new faculty and faculty developers you know!


10 Ways to Support New Faculty

August 13, 2015

As we near summer’s end, many colleges and universities are looking for ways to support new faculty members arriving on campus. Administrators and senior professors often realize that the old system of de facto mentoring — with older faculty casually showing their new colleagues the ropes — has its limitations.

Institutions usually start upgrading their faculty mentoring in two basic ways. First they formally assign a mentor to each new faculty member. Second,they set up a series of workshops on how to be successful on the job.

The system of assigning a mentor to each new hire is an important baseline. However, it has some of the same pitfalls of the de-facto system in that not all senior professors are good mentors, and many times they do not relate well to the challenges faced by new faculty. And it’s unrealistic to expect one faculty member to meet all of the varied needs of a junior colleague. Likewise, workshops on “How to Write Your First Book” or “Getting Your First Grant” can be indispensable, but many new faculty need support beyond a few one-hour, one-shot seminars.

Those two approaches are certainly better than nothing. However, there are many other, more creative ways of mentoring new (and older) faculty. I offer the following list of 10, none of which cost more than a few thousand dollars, and some of which are practically free.

  • Organize family meet-and-greets in a campus gym.

New faculty with small children often find it difficult to attend an evening event, and are also interested in meeting other professors with kids. Organizing a family-friendly meet-and-greet in a fun place like a gym can be a great solution. Make sure there are organized activities for the kids or even a few giant yoga balls to toss around.

  • Offer small grants to junior faculty to travel for off-campus mentoring.

In addition to on-campus mentors, newcomers to the profession often need to build their network by finding mentors and advocates outside of their home institutions. Departments can help by setting aside money to help faculty members defray such travel costs.

  • Give small grants to new faculty to invite senior scholars to campus.

The idea here is to ask visiting scholars to critique the work of new junior faculty. This often takes the form of a “book workshop” where a new faculty member invites three other academics to campus to discuss and critique the junior scholar’s book manuscript. I know faculty members who have done that, and found it a very valuable experience.

  • Sponsor campus discussions of books on writing and good work habits.

There are tons of amazing productivity books out there that new faculty should read, such as How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing. Even better than just reading a book is to get together with colleagues to discuss the book. That not only ensures that the book doesn’t just sit on the shelf; it also gives people the opportunity to share pointers, work through challenges, and hear about other helpful books.

  • Reward stellar on-campus mentors.

As I mentioned, not all faculty members are capable mentors. By establishing a mentoring award, the university can both honor people who are good at mentoring and establish role models for other faculty who would like to be better mentors.

  • Create training workshops for faculty mentors.

Many faculty members have no idea how to be effective mentors, but they can learn. In training workshops, award-winning mentors can provide tips on their most effective mentoring practices.

  • Hold monthly problem-solving lunches.

A free lunch is an inexpensive, easy, and much-appreciated way to get academics together. A monthly lunch for new faculty gives them an opportunity to both make friends and talk through common challenges.

  • Organize writing feedback groups.

All academics need feedback on their writing. It can be challenging, however, to find people to critique your work. One way around that problem is to organize small writing groups with four members who meet four times during the semester or quarter. At each meeting, one person gets feedback on their work from the rest of the group, so hat by the end of the term each participant has gotten their work critiqued.

  • Organize writing accountability groups.

Writing feedback groups can be great when we need critiques, but sometimes we just need encouragement and support. Institutions can help faculty members by organizing four-member writing accountability groups that meet once a week for an hour. That helps motivate the group members to keep writing and also gives them a place to talk about productivity challenges and successes.

  • Provide a faculty-only writing space on campus.

Many academics have trouble writing in their offices because of constant interruptions. One solution is to create a quiet space on campus where faculty members can go to write. If the space has coffee, even better!

At many institutions, a cultural shift in mentoring practices is needed. A place that has long had a de facto or nonexistent mentoring program can be transformed into one where a positive mentoring culture exists. Mentoring programs will not be successful if they are “one size fits all.” However, by offering a variety of options, colleges and universities can support their faculty members and build community while they are at it.

Tanya Golash-Boza is an associate professor at University of California at Merced.

– See more at: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/1097-10-ways-to-support-new-faculty?cid=VTEVPMSED1#sthash.5FJRJFtR.dpuf

Avoid the facepalm: Take charge of your online personal brand

Anyone who has ever been on a big job interview or in a faculty review hearing may have had bad dreams or anxious imaginings of  a nightmare scenario: just as things appear to be going well, the interviewer asks you about an embarrassing or compromising situation from your past — anything from a brush with the police or your attendance at a drunken bacchanalia to your former affiliation with a questionable group or ill-advised public performance. Luckily, you remind yourself, such skeletons in your closet are matters of the past that this employer or panel of evaluators could never find out about… right?

As we learn more every day in our increasingly ubiquitous digital landscape, the twin pillars of online data searching and social media make it easier than ever for potential employers or merit reviewers to discover the details of our lives, be they laudable or loathsome. The controversy over the revoked appointment of Steven G. Salaita at the University of Illinois in reaction to his inflammatory Twitter rhetoric is perhaps the most high-profile example of online presence affecting an academic job search. It is easy to imagine far more mundane discoveries happening earlier in the search process resulting in unfortunately negative perceptions of one’s online persona.

While many of us in academia might chafe at the notion of “personal branding” and self-marketing from the business employment world, the fact remains that higher education is no different than any other industry in its capacity and potential interest in mining social media for information about potential hires or promotions. In addition, internet searching is a common-sense way to vet potential guest speakers or other folks that might visit campus — if this could be you, it’s definitely a good idea to ensure that the “you” that emerges from a Google search is the you you want to present. That’s why taking your “online presence” as a key component of your personal brand is important.

Kelli Marshall from DePaul University wrote the following piece for the Chronicle last week. It provides some helpful advice and links to resources for helping you take proactive steps toward having the kind of online personal brand that will help rather than hinder in your professional life. Avoid the painful facepalm!

For additional insights into creating an online presence for your personal brand, check out Lesley McCollum’s “A Beginner’s Guide to Establishing an Online Presence” in Inside Higher Ed.


January 5, 2015

How to Curate Your Digital Identity as an Academic

If you don’t manage your online presence, you are allowing search engines to create it for you

How to Curate Your Digital Identity as an Academic 1

In 2009, anyone who searched my name on the web would first encounter the opinions of a disgruntled Midwestern undergraduate who lambasted me for being an unfair, unprofessional, and essentially ignorant professor.

Oddly enough, the student was angry because I had begun incorporating Twitter into the classroom. I was among the early advocates of using the social-media site in teaching, especially in large lecture-based courses. While many of the 120 students in my introductory film course embraced the Twitter assignments I devised, a handful revolted, including this particular student. He took to the Internet to express his belief that social media had no place in the college classroom, and any professor who thought otherwise was not only oblivious to Twitter’s intent (It’s for socializing, not learning!), but also graded her students unreasonably. In his diatribe, he called out my name, school affiliation, and the classes I taught.

Because I attended a graduate school focused on technology and digital media (even for those of us in the humanities), I’ve had an Internet presence since 1999. Teaching assistants in my Ph.D. program were required to, at the very least, post their syllabi online. Our advisers also encouraged us to have our own websites (or pages), which we rudimentarily made via software like Microsoft FrontPage (1996) and Netscape Composer (1997). So I’ve been aware of the need to shape one’s digital identity or online persona for quite a while now.

But of course, the Internet changed significantly between when I left graduate school in 1999 and my student’s public critique of me in 2009—see, for example: Google rankings, social media, sitemaps, shifts in search algorithms, robots, crawlers, and search-engine optimization in general. The Internet has changed even from 2009 to today. Suffice it to say, that undergraduate’s tirade is now buried deep in the web. Nowadays, the first item to appear when anyone plugs my name into a search engine is my personal website, followed by my social-media presence, and then direct links to the mainstream publications for which I’ve written.

So how might academics—particularly those without tenure, published books, or established freelance gigs—avoid having their digital identities taken over by the negative or the uncharacteristic?

Continue reading

Don’t just write a teaching philosophy… paint a picture.

Writing a thoughtful and compelling statement of teaching philosophy is hard. It’s crucially important, and not merely for securing a faculty position, or making your case in a faculty review for tenure, promotion or merit. The process of self-reflection and articulation is an important exercise we all need to revisit periodically in order to (re-)discover the core of what’s important to us in our pedagogy and the outcomes we want for our students. But such self-examination can be awkward — where do I start? How much is it OK to toot my own horn? And more fundamentally, how do I put the basic instincts I have about what’s important to me into words that aren’t broad, abstract platitudes?  How do I get past “I want my students to be independent learners” and “active learning is important” and “I’m a guide on the side, not a sage on the stage?” (Those cliches may be true for us, but they’re deflating to write and tedious to read.)

The Teaching Center at Washington University in St. Louis has a wonderful set of resources for helping one compose a teaching philosophy statement, including links to lots more online resources.  Iowa State University’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning has a useful site on writing a teaching philosophy statement, providing some simple but powerful question prompts to drive your philosophical invention, as well as a helpful video featuring Susan Yager, who frequently teaches in ISU’s Preparing Future Faculty Program:

But what the Wash U and Iowa State sites might not provide as clearly is a sense of the core of a really unique, definitive teaching philosophy: the concrete texture and experiential detail of your classroom, described in ways that help the reader get a vibrant sense of what it’s like for your students and for you as the teacher.

Here’s where Mary Anne Lewis from Ohio Wesleyan University comes in. In her recent post on Vitae (an essential blog site to follow if you’re on the job hunt, or even just interested in ongoing faculty development at your current place of employment), Lewis describes how she discovered the notion of a teaching philosophy as a “self-portrait,” and in doing so rediscovered and was able to articulate her personal joys of teaching and learning.

Be sure to check out the original post on Vitae — at the end is Lewis’ own teaching philosophy statement in an embedded document file… and it’s really worth the read!

_____________________________________________________________

Full_10032014-_albert_camus

October 3, 2014

Image: sketch of Albert Camus, by Petr Vorel

Just two years ago, I was in the same position that many of you are in now, namely on the academic job market. The fall semester is under way and, in addition to dissertation work and teaching obligations, you have to write and revise some dense documents for your job applications. Those documents, far from conversational in tone, have to represent your past five to eight (or more) years of academic work in a clear, compelling, articulate, elegant way that demonstrates your unique contributions to your field. And you should have finished your other dissertation chapter. And your dishes are dirty. And you have run out of socks.

I found crafting a “statement of teaching philosophy” particularly elusive. What is it exactly, I wondered, and how does one write such a statement? Should the tone be philosophical, practical, entertaining, or some combination of all three?

Continue reading