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!

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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!]

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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!)

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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.

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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?

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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!

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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?

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Go ahead… “rush” into networking!

I don’t know about you, but I always feel a bit nervous about situations where making conversations with total strangers is part of the point.  You know, what some folks call “schmoozing.” I have typically felt weird about schmoozing. I think many of us introverts who are drawn to academia feel this way. Part of me is afraid this will happen:

There are a couple of important realities about the schmooze, however. One is that it is usually a lot less like rushing the Omega House than you might imagine. Another is that conversation for networking — be it for a job search, promoting a scholarly project, making inroads for your student advisees with other institutions, or personal development — is a vital professional skill. As I prepare for a number of conferences and off-campus meetings over the next couple of months, I’m finding myself nearing a number of potential networking moments that I don’t want to waste.

Just in time for the conference season, graduate student career consultant Christine Kelly  offers this valuable advice in Inside Higher Ed.  Check it out!  Then, if you’re thinking you’re ready to take your schmoozing game to the next level, check out these power networking tips “for people who hate networking” from Eric Barker in The Week.

Then you won’t need to worry about being stuck in the corner with Kent and Lonny… er, Larry.

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September 29, 2014

I attended a conference recently and stayed at a hotel that required me to take a shuttle to get to my events. On my first shuttle ride back to the hotel I chatted with another hotel guest who was attending a different conference and also not staying at his conference hotel. We chatted about a variety of things before we got to that pivotal point where I was very glad I chose this particular hotel.

It turns out he worked for a company not far from where I work, and when I learned that piece of information my next question was, ”Do you hire graduate students?” I told him I worked with graduate students at the University of California at Irvine and would love to help his company connect with our students. We exchanged business cards and when I got back to work I sent him an email and information about our Career Center and reiterated that I could help his company connect with students. Since then I’ve also been able to introduce students to his company. This happened because I ignored what my mother told me and I talked to a stranger. As we approach conference season I want to encourage graduate students to talk to strangers and I offer this primer to those who hate to network.

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