Monday, June 06, 2005

Intro and more related comments

HI all -- like NK, I've linked my intro here. And really, I'm not nearly as bitter as I sound. And my apologies for getting perhaps too self-reflective. I'm sure it'll go away ;-)

I think one of the things I find most interesting about Hall's introduction is the assumption that we all have an academic self-identity. I'm not sure that that's been true for me up to this point. That is, I've always thought of myself as an academic, or as an academic-in-waiting, but it's always been somewhat disconnected from the actual academic life that I realize I have lived and will (touch wood) live again more successfully.

I think my own grad school preparation was such that I, and many of my cohort, were so focused on getting through the next hoop that I never realized that I was actually a functioning, if still very junior, academic. But where Hall finds an advantage in his claim that,
Indeed, many of us, perhaps the happiest of us, employed at "teaching schools" have found that as we move into our post-graduate school careers, we have not become "like" our graduate school professors; instead, we have remained "like" we were in graduate school ... (xxi)

I do not see that as advantage. This is purely me, by the way. Hall's advantage seems to be rooted in his having had that self-identity. I don't know that I ever stepped back enough to separate the two, either to realize and address my shortcomings (a tendency to procrastinate coupled with a need to put other people and their issues, including service and collegiality ahead of my own productivity -- likely because I want my colleagues to think of me as useful) or to acknowledge to myself that I really was successful in any academic terms. Unlike Hall (apparently) I never realized that, by combining coursework/research/writing, teaching, and service, I really was a functioning academic. This is despite the fact that Southern Soda U didn't let us teach till we had our MAs, which meant that we were as qualified as any community college prof and even some of the older university profs!

It is Hall's call to us to re-think our ideas of success that really put me in this frame of mind. Part of this is that I think I do implicitly accept, at least for myself, some of the "common definitions of success" he pland to question. (xviii) What are my definitions of success? Ultimately, a tenured- or continuing-contract position, here in the US or in a select group of foreign countries. But it's only lately that I've realized that my idea of such a position includes all the things I've been successful at in the past: teaching well, contributing to committees that make a difference (as a grad student, I served in student government, dealing with disciplinary and budget issues regularly), research and write, preferably with a bit of outside funding, and attend conferences (hopefully as a presenter in most cases). I think that promotion and tenure are just the external validation that I need to know I'm a success. Sad, but true. I don't know that Hall would approve. We'll see.

Thinking about the whole success thing, though, has been helpful in helping me to re-frame my own thoughts and attitude towards myself on the job market and as a colleague, even one in the hell of adjunct land. Many of you know I've been struggling with this question for a while ("oh. my. gosh. Important Senior Colleague treated me like ... a colleague! what can she have been thinking?"). But reading what y'all have written and Hall's chapter have helped me to better articulate my goals to myself. This was especially true when I read the bit about his interview question (at the beginning of the next chapter, it appears) about what kind of department and setting candidates were looking for to fulfill their goals (2). My ideas of success are closely tied, I realize, to the kind of department I want to work in, and to the kinds of colleagues I want to work with. But that's the next chapter, I guess. Oddly enough, for now, as much as I want a T-T job, I can finally start to see my (possibly successful) academic self even without that happening this year.