Technically I am now on summer “vacation”. Off-contract, as they say. But I am finding it very hard to take a break and relax! I’ve been go-go-go for the past 1.5 years really, when you consider the mad rush to finish my dissertation upon finding employment. I think I forgot how to relax in that time…
I made it! I have completed Year 1 on the Tenure Track as an Assistant Professor.
It’s been quite the ride. I can tell you that.
When I think about this time last year I can see how much I have grown and changed in just one short year. One short year that feels like a decade long at least. So much growth and change. Moving states, new climate, new culture, new responsibilities, new routines. A lot of new can change a person.
And I’ve long since realized that you learn the most by teaching; this past year was no exception.
I am glad to have it behind me though. And boy am I glad I’m not where I was 1 year ago (dissertation writing hell). I am SO glad to have that behind me. This new gig has its PILE of stress. But I much prefer it.
As a wee undergrad I attended a few regional meetings and presented my research in poster format. I won some money this way and seemed to impress folks, so overall it was a pretty positive experience. I always felt so out of place though. And I was painfully aware of the limitations of my project and would often emphasize these when explaining my work. It puzzled me that this seemed to only increase my audience’s enthusiasm for the project.
NOW I get it. My thorough understanding of limitations and ability to explain it helped clarify the entire project. Limitations are not necessarily a bad thing. Not understanding a project’s limitations, that. That’s not good.
Anyway, I muddled along into grad school and as a young master’s student I managed to attend exactly 0 conferences. I attended a regional meeting of professional folk in my field, presented a talk on my thesis, shared a resume, and got a job. Pretty much just like that, in that order. Pretty hot stuff, right?
That job didn’t last long. Sexual harrassment. Down economy. So I went back to grad school.
As a fancy PhD student, I finally attended my first national conference. Very big. Quite the affair. I attended that particular conference twice as a PhD student – once in my second year and once when I was ABD. I attended that same conference this year as an Assistant Professor. And I thought it might be worth reflecting on how the experience has changed at each of these stages.
Now, the first two times I went I had a baby with me. The very first time my son was 7 months old and still nursing. He and I flew to the conference together, my mom met us there to babysit, and I basically did my presentation, went to ONE networking thing at my advisor’s request to meet folks, and had a nice time at the hotel with my mom and baby. To be followed up with a flight from hell with my son to get back home. But I digress.
I recall the logistics of traveling with my son definitely caused a lot of anxiety and made the entire experience a challenge. Trying to find something professional to wear was another challenge. I was very nervous for the presentation itself. Having to pump before-hand was stressful. I definitely had prepped the slides by about 2 weeks in advance. I had rehearsed what I would say quite a few times before traveling to the conference and in the hotel the night before and morning of. It was stressful.
So, while it wasn’t a smashing success, I got my toes wet in the national conference scene.
Fast forward to my second attendance. This time the baby I brought with me was 15 weeks along in my uterus. And…I hadn’t told anyone yet. So, again I had to shop for clothes. This time trying to find professional wear that would disguise my baby belly. The good news is, those tops still fit since I haven’t *ahem* shrunk back down to my pre-baby size. (sigh) I’m just saying they were a better investment than I knew at the time.
I was stressed out about my advisor finding out I was pregnant. Or anyone really. It made socialization difficult, as alcohol is usually a common presence.
I was more comfortable with the public speaking aspect, but still pretty nervous. I definitely had my slides prepped in advance and had rehearsed it a few times before travel and at least once in my hotel. I attended more presentations and networking events, but also used some of my time to just lay low and take in the city. I traveled and shared a room with my office-mate, which was mostly fun.
Which brings us to my most recent venture. Now I’m a fancy Assistant Professor. I didn’t buy any new clothes this time – I have business casual for my usual work attire so I was all set. I did not be travel with a baby. Though…leaving my babies behind for the better part of a week was both stressful and wonderful in a very confusing way.
I prepped my slides…on the airplane on my way to the conference. I finalzed them the night before and went through the talk once. The talk went totally fine too. Experience can do that for you. I spent most of one day at sessions relating to teaching in my content area. I spent half of one day exploring the city. I definitely revelled in having my own hotel room for 3 nights.
I should have done more networking, but my travel funding is limited, the city this year was expensive and the result was I simply did not have enough time. Better luck next year I suppose!
A definite new wrinkle was the stress of planning my classes to run without me while I was away that week. It worked, but it wasn’t altogether pleasant.
So there you go. My 2 cents on attending a national conference as a grad student and then the same conference as a brand new professor.
Back in grad school I distinctly recall a couple of tenured professors chuckling to themselves over grad studets thinking they were “busy.” “Wait until you’re a professor,” they chortled. And I hoped maybe the real issue was they waited to have children until they were professors and THAT was why they were busy. Because I felt pretty damn busy in grad school.
But here I am. A professor. And yes, I have even less time. Even more to do. And now I know that the reason many of the Academic Mom type blogs I like to read have posts so infrequently is because we truly have no time for it. Much as we’d like to post more often, it just isn’t possible. At least not for me. Not at this juncture.
But the term is coming to a close here soon. My first year nearly complete. Maybe I’ll manage some reflective posts over the summer. I make no promises though. My “break” is rapidly filling with work-related to-do items and I expect to be nearly as busy.
That’s the dream, right?
I submitted one of my dissertation papers last fall, right after starting my new job as a professor. It dragged through the review process and I just got word tonight that it was rejected. Soundly.
This is the second time I’ve submitted a paper from my dissertation to have it rejected (different topics each time).
It makes me feel like it might be a DARN good thing I got myself a teaching position instead of a research one.
I know, I know. This comes with the territory. Revise and resubmit. Can’t let it get to you personally.
I won’t in the long run. Probably.
But tonight I am wallowing in self pity.
I think I have “arrived” as a professor. I am consistently getting through 20 or fewer slides in my 50 minute class. I remember the rule of thumb as a grad student was to spend roughly 1 minute talking per slide in a presentation. I was also raised, as it were, to use slides to present pictures and very few words. Which means for every picture I put up I’m talking at least 2 minutes. That kind of long-windedness is the true hallmark of a Professor, is it not?
I’m on the quarter system, so Spring Break was a welcome time between Winter and Spring quarters. We opted for a staycation which gave me some time to prep for my 3 new classes next term.
I’ve given up on writing my own labs – it was a nice idea, but far too time-consuming. And with three new classes this next term, I couldn’t possibly keep it up.
I am excited for my advanced class – they’re going to do research posters for presentation at a showcase at the end of the term.
It’s strange to think I’m 2/3’s the way through my first year. I’m certainly more experienced than when I first started, but feel like I only just started!
Here’s a new thing (something I didn’t encounter as a grad student, but have as a professor): having to spend money. Maybe “have” is the wrong verb, but I got allocated my own little share of department funds to spend on course-related materials. And I’ve been buying a bit here and there, but it has been a bit haphazard. It’s new! And in my daily life I am cutting back and budgeting and trying to save!
Well, saving is not the name of the game at work! If I don’t spend the money, it gets re-allocated – so if I want resources for my classroom, the time is now!
To that end I’ve been making a Wishlist that identifies potential purchases, how much they cost, and which courses I would use them for. Then prioritizing it so that I can make purchases more thoughtfully.
It is fun, in a way. But…also another time-sucking activity I don’t exactly have time for.
And it’s definitely new!
Last night I had another dream that felt so real and left me feeling anxious and bewildered upon waking. I don’t have these dreams every night, but frequently enough I suppose. They seem to happen more at times I’m especially stressed – I’m sure that’s no coincidence.
The dream last night was similar to the rest: I dreamt I still had to defend my dissertation and felt immense panic at the prospect and a boatload of anxiety that it wasn’t done already. Then, the dream shifted and I was confused. Trying to figure out what I had been doing all this time if I hadn’t already defended my dissertation. I realized (in my dream) that I must stil lbe a student! And suddenly I was terribly worried for my future and where and when and IF I might find a real job.
I woke up at that point stressed out, anxious, and fearfully confused.
I don’t want to say grad school gave me post-traumatic stress syndrome, because people who have that usually had truly horrible things happen to them. But…evidently grad school gave me some post-traumatic style nightmares and an unhealthy dose of lingering anxiety.
It may be time to seek medication for that…
I bought a small coffee pot for my office. Pretty sure I’m unstoppable now.