Sunday, June 3, 2007

Blogging the Transition

Warning: For those of you who know me in RL, you may well find this the most self-indulgent blog post ever, so you may want to skip it.

In the last few days I've been very upset over Mr. Tabby's increasing health problems and have felt overwhelmed, even when making plans, like my upcoming visit to the Fam. But even before that, I've found that I have no patience for waiting for anyone -- if someone important doesn't call or email me within 24 hours about a time-sensitive matter, I'm pretty annoyed. Despite a totally self-indulgent lifestyle in which I wake up basically whenever I want to, it's obvious I'm pretty stressed. Actually writing the last two blog posts and keeping up with the bloguniverse about grad school has actually been wonderful because it's kept me focused about something I felt I know something about.

But I've been staying in my house away from people because there are so few people I would actually want to see that SO had to remind me that of course I am short-tempered and stressed because I am going through two major transitions right now. (SO is totally my biggest fan. Big shout out to SO!) And though I think SO meant writing the dissertation/getting done with grad school and then moving to my new job, I think SO is right on target. Somehow in this summer where I'll graduate weeks before I start teaching as an assistant professor at a totally new school in a totally new environment, I'm supposed to make the transition from grad student frantic about dissertating to assistant professor. And this is a big transformation. Since Adjunct Whore's recent post focused on the transformation out of grad school, I thought the internets would be a particular good place to reflect on that, especially since I know a number of people in my cohort who have not gotten jobs, though usually they have other kinds of resources to fall back on and, like me, went on the job market early.

So, like Horace's call for posts on required reading for grad student survival, I'm calling for posts and resources that discuss the transition to the first job. (I'm going to go through blogfriends' backposts, like Dr. Four Eyes's and Post-Doc's, but please do send me other resources too!)

Here are the thoughts flitting about in my head. Do these people realize that they've hired me? Did they have a dearth of applicants? Like so many other pieces of advice out there, are Boice's suggestions just not for me and I need to find a different way of getting research done? (When it comes to actually getting the good writing done, I do best when I can stop juggling a bunch of balls in the air and really devote myself to one task.) Will I ever be able to keep my big mouth shut, remembering to figure out what's appropriate in this new space before I start gabbing? Will I like this new space? How will I be able to transform my teaching for the aims of these much more structured courses? How do I make the most of working collaboratively with other teachers? How can I get involved in research, service, and outreach opportunities that will really make the most of this cool two-year opportunity? What if I just like totally suck at all of this?

Have I mentioned that I still haven't done anything about my readers' comments on my dissertation? (I know, big surprise.) I'm thinking that after I've wasted another hour or so browsing the blogosphere, I'll go to Caffeine Corporation and get a coffee and look at the ton of comments I have to tackle. Even a half-hour today would be good. Small goals.


Tiruncula said...

Excellent idea to collect posts. (And I'm with you on responding to feeling overwhelmed by withdrawing to my anchorhold.) I've posted a link to this over at BloggyU.

Sisyphus said...

What's good about these discussions of grad school is that they are making me look back on all the other hoops and milestones I have made it through --- as Adjunct Whore put it, when we worked on our prospectus our seminars looked easy by comparison, when we were stuck on our chapters the prospectus looked easy, and so on and so on. We don't know how to do something until we've done it, and then, unfortunately, or fortunately, we have a new and different challenge to learn about. If we did the same thing over and over we wouldn't be growing as scholars. I know, fuck personal growth, right? But there is something there.

Most importantly for you, you can look back on your first year of grad school and see how overwhelmed and confused and uprooted you felt, but you know the happy ending to that story! You made it through! You're getting your degree! Whoo-hoo! So, if you can make it through _that_ transition, surely you can survive this one.

PS I went and had another orange mocha last week, this time at home city, and I am more ambivalent about them ... didn't like the first one so much and was willing to write off the whole idea, tbis time it was much better. So, do I like them or not? I need someone else to do parallel research.

Tiruncula said...

Mmm, orange mocha?! My favorite Ben and Jerry's ice cream flavor, long discontinued, use to be an orange-chocolate one called Orange Cointreau Chocolate Fudge, uel sim. Where is this orange mocha of dubiosity to be found?

Also, to add to sisyphus's substantive remarks, putting together job apps looks easy after you've put together your tenure file. Sigh.

gwoertendyke said...

good grief, tiruncula, that is terrifying right now. but i just want to second how great an idea this is, ee, and also to say that you are clearly not only deeply intelligent but also a *real* person, which is to say, your new colleagues were smart enough to jump on you before someone else did. remember this--people want to work with good and smart people (at least that is what i hear from my friends, all of whom are either almost tenured or tenured since my partner is ahead of my in academia). you'll be great....i can't wait to read your blog as you make this incredible transformation into ass. prof! so keep writing.

Earnest English said...

T: Such a good idea. I don't know why I didn't think of it, except that I know why. I'm not thinking right now. =) On orange mochas, Starbucks, I'm afraid.

Sis: Maybe T can take up the challenge of corroborating your research. Here's the thing: I'm not a huge fan of orange in my chocolate. I'm really really particular about what goes in my chocolate. But I think T's your wo-man.

AW: Thanks for the kind words. I'm going to have to do something about the blog when I make this transition, because it would be completely obvious what U I was at. So I have to think about what to do, though I'm seriously thinking of doing what T does, which is have a controlled-access blog, which all y'all would of course be invited to. And I'm daunted by the whole tenure thing (though this is a not a t-t position) too. But I noticed that once I was in the job market stuff, I was ready to write the kind of stuff that people wanted. So I've decided for my own mental health right now that when it comes time to put together that tenure file, I'll be ready. AW, you managed to write a dissertation that won the department award! I managed to write a dissertation that made official readers give me a pretty substantial pass with a couple revisions during their first read. (We'd move up the defense date, but scheduling that has been nightmare enough.) So we can do it. I know we can.

medieval woman said...

I will very much look forward to your posts about the transition into your new job (this is the one in Adventure City, yes?) - I'll be chronicling the same thing this year as will Hilaire, I know. So we can all hold hands and walk the swinging bridge together!

Professor Zero said...

This is a great idea and I would love to post on it and have thought of writing a book on it, actually. But if I speak at length right now it will be self indulgent and a procrastination device. However, I'll say:

1. It was awful and I wish I had been warned. I of course had impostor syndrome - couldn't believe I was really, finally, a professor - and yet/also could not believe how flaky the school I was working for was compared to any I had studied at. So I had this double doubt going on: can I really be a professor? and also, are these people really professors? We all seemed fake to me, and yet the school took itself so seriously.

2. The job was at a very different kind of institution than any I had studied at, and I could not understand those people or their priorities. Very genteel, but not all that intellectual - it seemed more like a fancy high school and I could not believe the parochialism.

3. One is treated with more trust and respect in graduate school than as an assistant professor.

4. Sexism and racism rear their ugly heads more for faculty than for graduate students.

5. Taking an academic job usually means moving to a place with a lot of Americana in it. I wasn't against that in principle but have since discovered that I really don't fit in that well with or enjoy the regular old United States. Suburban houses, lawn care, dinners at Chili's, etc., which seem to be satisfactory and normal, it turns out, for many professors, just don't do it for me. This was and is a major problem.

6. I had had a great situation in graduate school - e.g. the teaching load was ONE course. Suddenly switching to teaching 3 courses at once, some out of field, and having all of these committee responsibilities besides (I had, and now have again, very heavily scheduled days) meant drastic changes in ways of preparing, managing assignments, grading, etc. I considered that I was doing a terrible job, and it was demoralizing, but with only 24 hours in the day it was all that could be done. It took a long time to realize that it was OK to streamline, that the situation I came from had been very opulent, and that I was not expected to reproduce it (especially in the absence of the means to do so).

7. In sum for now: learning to believe you have really become a professor is hard. Deciding to award *yourself* the authority you need is hard. Learning the culture of an alien institution is hard. And working in a place without a lot of intellectual ferment when you come from places that do have it and you thought that was the definition of any school, is *very* hard.

Earnest English said...

Prof Zero, I know what you mean about Americana: that's the way Grad City is. I've developed a certain appreciation for it, but I still know that these are not my people. Luckily for me, this is not the case with Adventure City -- at all. And my teaching load will be 3/3 but with a low student cap, so it's pretty comparable to the 2/2 I've been teaching at Grad City U. However, the attitude toward research? The sense of intellectualism there? How collegial people are? I've heard rave reviews, but who knows? I'm most worried about shooting myself in the foot by being defensive. Thanks for your comments here. I'll keep you posted about all this.