Some company released a top 50 list of research universities in Canada this week and my university (the one I work at, not the one I study at) was ranked number 48. I was proud to share this with friends, family and colleagues. It’s kind of like saying, I feel like I won the lottery, but please don’t envy me, you wouldn’t want this position anyway. I am also happy about this because the university doesn’t have insane expectations for productivity, so you can be a professor and have a really great work-life balance. I have already mentioned the teaching load that feels very reasonable to me, but there are also minimum yearly requirements for research, service, and administrative tasks. For example, I need to be working on two research projects at all times and have 2 “communications” a year (that’s a paper or a conference presentation!). Like I said, I feel like I won the lottery. But, this week I submitted an article, and am working on another 2 articles and a chapter. I’m part of 2 grant submissions (as collaborator or co-researcher), I was officially invited to be a keynote at an international conference (OMG! In 2017, but more on that some other time), I’m preparing for 2 conference presentations in Europe during the next month, I’m guest editing a special issue of a journal, I’m organizing a couple of conference events, I’m preparing another conference submission, I’m being interviewed on the radio…that’s three years of minimum requirements right there (not all of it is research, some is service, but still). Now I understand that October is a busy time for researchers in Canada (maybe elsewhere too), but I stopped and asked myself what I’m doing all this for? Yes, yes, I like doing these things, most of them were my idea, but am I doing it all because I am contributing to something larger than myself, or am I hooked on recognition? One of my professor friends is super critical of the whole academic rat-race, ad particularly of the self-congratulatory posts on department websites – so and so published a book, so and so was interviewed in the newspaper, so and so’s grant proposal was ranked number 1…He asked me if I craved recognition like that and quickly answered for himself that of course I didn’t, but I’m not so sure. What I am sure of is that I don’t want to do things for the wrong reasons. I don’t want to publish or present just for recognition. I want to share my work because I have something important to say, but then, is it the work I want recognized, or myself as a scholar? And what about all those academic social media sites, academia, research gate, even this blog – do we do them to network and keep up with what colleagues are working on, or to check how many views and downloads we get? I am off to spend my Saturday revising my book chapter – more existential reflections later!
Maybe it’s the years I spent coordinating a research group, or as a student rep sitting in on faculty meetings, but the reality of life as a professor has not come as a shock. I’m lucky, I only teach 4 courses a year (and have 2 course reductions over the first 2 years) – this semester I’m teaching the same course to two groups, so it’s only 1 planning, that I’m sharing with a colleague teaching the same course on a different campus. This is actually less work than I did as an instructor. One of my colleagues taught 6 courses during one semester last year, as an instructor, at two different institutions, so this is definitely an improvement. The other thing is, I get paid for all the volunteer time I used to put in – service and admin are part of my yearly task, so I actually get paid to organize conferences, review papers, and attend meetings. But still, I have a tendency to be too hard on myself, to want to do everything perfectly, especially teaching. I wish I cared less about whether or not my students enjoy my class and find it useful, but it’s my biggest source of stress (well, that and the looming deadlines…). This blog post is the one that has stuck with me, the mantra I repeat in my head when the guest speaker I invited did not live up to my expectations, or when I rush through things that I wish I had more time to do properly. Some highlights:
“Your job is not to advance the academy. It is not to change the academy. It is not to improve the academy.
Your job is not to win a teaching award.
Your job is to make friends with other junior faculty in your department and in other departments, and go out to coffee or lunch with them on a regular basis.
Your job is to find a trusted senior colleague as mentor, and to meet with that colleague at least twice a semester.
Your job is to maintain some semblance of a home life and a relationship with the important people in your life.
Your job is to maintain a hobby or outside interest that feeds your soul.”
I’m working on a workshop on this subject with a couple of colleagues, and wanted to use the blog as a place to fiddle around with ideas. As I have no time at the moment, here are a couple of blog posts/articles on other sites that are helping me adjust to my new double life:
Survival Guide (don’t read the French version, it’s abridged)
I’ll add more in the next few weeks…