End of Term

The end of the term is nearly upon us. Which means I have almost made it through my very first term as a “real” professor.

Upon reflection, I am much more comfortable teaching now than I was at the start. I do still occasionally feel butterflies before a lecture – but mostly now I feel bewildered and like it’s ridiculous when that happens. What do I have to be anxious about!?

On the whole, my classes seem to have been well-received. Though I certainly have my share of notes on how to improve them.

And not much time to feel comfortable. Next term will start soon enough and I have 2 new courses to prep for that as well. Keep moving forward!

My People

Let’s see if I can explain this generically. I earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in one field. Shall we call it Field A, for lack of imagination? My PhD was actually in a closely related, but different field, Field B. Because I’m creative like that. While I love the topics of both fields, I have to say that I truly found my People in Field B. I like the way they think better, I guess.

Now, at some schools, Fields A & B are sometimes combined in one broad department. Sometimes they are each their own department. It depends on the school. Sometimes they are in the same physical building; sometimes not – and that doesn’t seem to necessarily correlate with whether or not they are in the same department. For instance, where I earned my bachelor’s they were separate departments, but housed in the same building on campus.

Which brings us to my school. Where Field A and B are organized in separate departments and housed in separate buildings. However, my particular specialty – usually associated with Field B, is actually part of Field A’s department. Are you following this? It’s not completely unheard of – but it’s a little unusual for a school with 2 separate departments, that my specialty would wind up in Field A instead of B. Generally if they’re separate, my specialty lives with Field B. So, it’s kind of like the atypical divorce proceedings where the kids wind up with Dad. Not unheard of. Just atypical.

So, while I live in Field A’s department building and I am a Faculty of Field A – I have close ties with Field B’s department by virtue of what I do. And as such they invited me to their department meeting recently.

And while both departments are all male (except for me – just lovely), I have to say…Field B is still my people.

It does give me pause for thought…that perhaps I would have been better served finding a school where I could live with Field B. Or where the departments were truly combined so I could still rub shoulders regularly with my people. To be clear, I am not unhappy with my current arrangement. On paper it is the perfect arrangement to feature my diverse background and strengths.

It’s just something I’m thinking about. And some days, I do miss my people.

Current State of Affairs

I’ve wanted to post on here more regularly. To better capture the daily thought processes as I transform from a young doctoral student to a young professor. Unfortunately, as a young professor I seem to be rather busy. And I keep getting sick. But that’s neither here nor there.

Some random thoughts thus far:

* I am rather youthful looking. While nice in some ways, it’s annoying when I go to a professional meeting and introduce myself and say I’m from My School University and most people assume that means I’m a student. Nice. I guess I should lead with DR. before my name? Sounds way too pretentious for me.

* I love smaller class sizes and being at a school that emphasizes teaching. I do not love having to come up with alternative assignments to support students who missed the first half of the term and then suddenly show up expecting to make up half of the labs. What? How is that possible?

* While everyone is certainly friendly, I haven’t yet really made any friends. This is hard. And partly impossible because I’m so busy. Everyone’s so busy, in fact. On the plus side, I’m a bit too busy to be bothered by the lack most days.

* My office is finally done and I love it. Well, I should say the remodel is done. I still have organizing to do. Wall art to hang. That sort of thing. But it’s my little kingdom and I love it so.

Germs

It can be complicating, I think, to start a brand new tenure-track job with 2 kids in tow. Everyone’s life has complications, of course. I’m just sharing about mine, which tend to center on the two tiny spawn I brought into this world. These wee little bastions of germs. They’re cute, yes. And they go to daycare.

And when my son first started daycare in Old State, we were ALL three of us sick for a good 6 months. Daycare germs have a bad rep for a reason folks. It was pretty horrid.

Well, we got through it, and all of our immune systems were stronger for it. And then we moved to New State. New State, new germ biome. And the kidlets started daycare and guess what? We’ve ALL 4 been getting sick. The wee one almost constantly as this is her first go at daycare.

And it’s been especially challenging because some of the illnesses have come about on days I cannot really miss. Or I could, if someone would cover my attendance/participation-based course. But…twice now, no one will. It is AGGRAVATING. The first time I brought my sick son with me. He had pink eye. Yeah. The second time this happened, I had strep throat. And was still contagious. NO ONE would cover. And it wasn’t made clear to me until later that I could, in fact, just outright cancel the course. It was couched in a way that it sounded like that wasn’t an option.

And all that would be frustrating enough. But then one colleague has to go on and insinuate that I’m flakey or perhaps just goofing off and then calling off. No folks. Legitimately sick. This is what happens when you have young kids. You all did 20+ years ago. Try to think back, remember, and have some frickin compassion.

I am NOT a flake. It’s not because I’m a woman. It’s not because I’m a bad mom. It’s because we moved to a new germ community, and we’re going to get sick.

I just can’t help but think, if I didn’t have my two little disease carriers, it would be a bit less of a problem. So add that to the list of potential complications with having kiddos during the early years of your PhD: you get to go through the daycare blues at least twice.

The “Impostor” syndrome

I read several articles during my time as a PhD student about “impostor syndrome.” Evidently it’s a common frame of mind for PhD students; especially female PhD students. I was no exception. Basically it’s the sense that you don’t actually belong, you’re not actually good enough, and it’s just a matter of time before everyone figures it out. I feel this way…all the time. About everything. My teaching. My research. My parenting. Everything.

It’s not exactly the most mentally healthy state to be in.

And at present, it’s not so much that I feel like I’m an impostor – it’s more that it hasn’t fully sunk in. We’re halfway through the term, more or less, and it still feels more like I’m playing at being a professor. It astounds me on a near daily basis to remember…this is it. This is the real deal. I did it. I AM a professor.

It’s just weird still. I find myself often in disbelief. Not like the, awe, so amazed, cannot believe it’s happening to me kind. More like the, huh…so…I did it? I’m really doing this? And I’m getting paid to do this? And this is my job? I have a real job? After all these years of a school…a REAL job? With benefits and everything? Amazing.

It gets better

It’s been a rough week, actually, but I’m not hating life like I was 10 days ago. Two of my lectures bombed. One more than the other. They weren’t total horror shows or anything, but weren’t up to my standard either. I can’t get my grading done. I didn’t think it was possible, but I must be more busy than I was before. I’m finding I can’t even respond to personal emails as timely as I used to (same day previously, several days now). My personal family blog is neglected.

But, we DID go on a weekend away, just me and my husband. That’s part of what’s causing my time crunch, I’m sure, but it was WELL worth it. First time since our son was born 4 years ago, actually. We should probably do it more often than every 4 years.

No insights today. Just a quick: I’m alive. It does get better. Keep moving forward.

Dream My Foot

Today I hate my life. I hate myself. I hate myself sucking at my life.

My son has pink eye. Unfortunate to begin with. Meant I took him took him class with me yesterday. That was…fun. He was supposed to be able to go to school so I didn’t ask my husband to take the day off. Should have.

He couldn’t go to school today.

By the time I realized, Husband couldn’t get a sub.

Take son to work Day 2.

It’s kind of hell. I haven’t been able to get jack-shit done.

I feel like a total and utter failure. The STRESS I’m under from this I can’t even describe. And I’m making the whole thing 1,000 times worse than it has to be because I’m so fucking fed up. Yelling at my son. SCREAMING in frustration when the damn door closed on my finger.

This is surely a circle of hell.

It feels temporary

Maybe it’s because I moved 5 times in the last 8 years. (And am looking at at least one more move in the near future, hopefully to a house of our own!) Maybe it’s because I spent the last 5.5 years unsure what the future would hold in terms of what job I would have and where it would be.

Even though we’ve been here for nearly 2 months. I’ve started teaching classes. I have an office on campus. It still all feels temporary. I had a dream last night where I was a tenure-track professor and was getting used to the new job (it was different than real life, just a generic tt job) and when I woke up I was thinking, gee, I hope I get to be a professor one day. It took a few minutes before I remembered…I am. I already am a professor.

It still feels temporary.

Coming together

Things are starting to come together. The endless meetings…well, I’m sure they will be a part of my life for a long time now. But I’m getting used to them. One of my computers is scheduled to be delivered to me tomorrow AM! Yay!! I am so excited about this!

I feel it like a kick in the gut when people mention other people (former students for example) getting jobs that pay so much better than what we make. I definitely still have a personal issue to work out on that front. I never realized money was so important to me. Maybe it’s kind of like how a starved person, once given food, values that food beyond anything and wants it all. Clearly I’ve never starved. I think actually it’s just immensely frustrating that making ends meet has been a big concern for most of my life…and because of the job I chose…will continue to be. There are compensations for that though (quality of life, for example).

I have one syllabus more or less prepped. One class website pretty much set up. 2 more to go!

One realization: I’ve never been formally trained in curriculum design, assessments, pedagogy. None of it. That…might have been helpful in my new line of work. I did a teaching demonstration as part of my interview, and one of my new colleagues (who was on the search committee) made a comment that from my demonstration it was clear I was aware of some of these principles – he wanted to know if I was self-taught or where I’d picked it up. Glad to hear I’m doing the right things, despite no formal training!

First Impressions

Update on the Pukegate: my husband did stay home. It seems it was, in fact, okay. There is some question if he might have to fore-go pay for the day, but that’s fine if that’s what it takes. It turned out to be the right choice having him stay home – he texted me midday saying he was “managing fine” but could I please come home at my earliest convenience? He thought he *might* have a slight fever. Since he’s the kind of man that doesn’t go to the doctor until he’s deathly…I was pretty sure it was serious. So I left after my required activities and took over while he napped the entire afternoon away. It *appears* (knock on wood) that we’re back on track as all parties of the Academic Dream family have gone to their respective schools today. Fingers crossed.

So, First Impressions.

I’ve now had the opportunity to interact with other new hires, more established faculty and staff, and to interact in “workshops” put on by the University highlighting various programs and support options available on campus to students and faculty alike. This has led to the following impressions, in no particular order:

  • Everyone seems very friendly and happy to be here. It does seem to be genuine. This is a new feeling for me to witness and potentially experience.
  • It’s becoming more clear that I was definitely trained to be an R-1 Professor. I earned my Ph.D. at an R-1, and while I sought out extra teaching opportunities at community colleges that certainly will help me in my new job at a small teaching school…it’s just becoming clear to me that I was very much trained and prepped for a different pace and style of collegial participation. That’s my confusing way of saying…I never really thought I had it in me to be an R-1 Professor, despite my advisor telling me so several times. Now, I see that I am probably quite capable of performing at that level. Does that make me disappointed in my current position? No! Hell no. I came back to get my Ph.D. because I do, in fact, love teaching. And I’ve heard from many quarters that my new position should afford me the opportunity to have a family AND a career, and not have a total stressed out meltdown attempting to do both. I’ll be busy, sure, but I can do both. Work/Life balance is good here. I am optimistic. If true, I definitely made the right choice for me. It’s just…flattering I guess. An ego-boost? To realize I am probably capable of a level I hadn’t previously thought I was capable of.
  • Because most of my teaching experience took place at the community colleges on my own time…it felt kind of like a hobby and kind of like a dark secret. Much like having a family felt in my old department. While everyone knew, it was not to be spoken of. (it was technically against the “rules” to take a position at the c.c. while also working as an RA or TA. However, it was encouraged behind closed doors because: great teaching experience.) It’s a new feeling that my ACTUAL JOB. The main important part is teaching. Prepping classes is no longer some dark weird hobby I’m harboring in a closet. It’s my job!
  • I found a neighborhood I want to live in. Pretty sure. Also, pretty sure it’s too expensive. Life is hard sometimes.