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Long Time, No Blog

29 September, 2006

Long Time, No Blog

To quote my favourite historian, “A great many things keep happening, some of them good, some of them bad.” I have to say, it’s been interesting that I’ve seen that particular quote in several places of late. It’s about perfect for a historian, in that there’s never a time that it could be wrong. I’m happy to say that most things are good these days, I think.

Term is about 1/4 of the way down. I’m surviving, which is a good thing. I was pretty sure I would, but there are many times that I worry about the fact that I am just surviving. I’m trying not to worry — there are a lot of new faculty members, some of them even more experienced than I am, and they all are feeling overwhelmed, too. I know a lot of this is not unfamiliar to many of you, but I really am surprised at how different a T-T job at a SLAC is from a visiting job at a CC. Last year, I did try to act like a well-rounded academic, and produced a conference paper and a couple of book reviews. But this year, even though I’m in the classroom a little less (last year was 12 hours a week plus online discussion, this year, 9 plus online discussion), it just seems harder. OK, so the preps (two) are both new, and one is not in a field in which I have had any significant coursework at all — and it’s the upper division class. But …

I have two days a week that I don’t teach. All I’ve managed to get done that isn’t related to teaching is a single book review and an abstract that I finished so late that I had to submit to the general sessions. Let’s hope they like women and land transactions in my place and period of expertise. It’s got a pretty good title, at least! Actually, I am really looking forward to writing it, just as I’m looking forward to trying to expand the paper I wrote last year into an article. That’s one of the biggest changes, I think. I don’t ever remember resenting not having the time to write before. But then, I never had to write before. The pressure of being on the market has been replaced by the pressure of keeping my job. Somehow, I thought I’d feel far more secure this year. Hmph. How did I not see this coming?

Just so you all know, this job is good. The move was kind of hellish, and adjusting from pretty cool big city to really small town — which I now dub, “Dabbaville” in honor of my grandfather. The town is about the same size as the one my grandparents lived in for almost 60 years, where my dad grew up and where I lived when I was really little. Since school started, I haven’t gone anywhere where I haven’t run into someone I know. My colleagues are all pretty cool. There are politics, and I’m still trying to get a handle on some of the dynamics, but I’ve been told I’m fitting in. I got here early enough that I’d started to meet some people outside SLAC — neighbors I could go out to a local pub with. I liked the idea of separate friends, but Dabbaville is so small that it only took one evening out with a couple of colleagues, and the two groups met — and were already connected through mutual friends! Even in the big city there were some really interesting ‘small world’ experiences — neighbors being close friends of people I knew in an entirely separate way, etc., but this is a different type of small. All of my colleagues are on boards of various charities, or active in churches, or in the Rotary or some such … it’s kind of expected. And yet I haven’t run into any students when out on the town. Of course, most of my younger students are too young to go out to the one club in town and are too young to drink anyway. My older students mostly live in the surrounding communities, so aren’t likely to go out on the town in Dabbaville. Still, one of the non-colleague friends isn’t so lucky. She’s a middle-school teacher who regularly runs into ex-students.

And the students … can I just say that they aren’t all that different at the freshman level? Skills-wise, they’re about the same. The differences are in attitude — more of a sense of entitlement at SLAC — and neediness. My students are a lot more demanding and want a lot more hand-holding than I’m used to. On the other hand, they are cool in the same ways. They ask for help, and really do try when they get it. And I like it that they ask. OK, so I wish they wouldn’t ask me things I wrote in the assignment and repeated in class … twice! But even though they’re killing me, I really like them. And I have athletes in my classes. All of a sudden I feel obligated to pay attention to how the various teams are doing … and I am going to my first Homecoming game ever. SLAC’s ways are not our Earth ways, but I think they might be ok. I just want to get some damned writing done.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. 29 September, 2006 8:46 am

    I’m not familiar with the quote: who’s the historian? Glad the adjustment is working out well. I’ll let other folks talk about the writing/teaching balance: I’m all about imbalance right now….

  2. 29 September, 2006 1:43 pm

    Gregory of Tours. It’s at the beginning of the Historia Francorum

  3. 29 September, 2006 2:45 pm

    I think balance is nigh impossible in the first year – even though you have tons of experience in other contexts, it’s still a big adjustment. Next summer will really be the time to get back into the research saddle, I think. (Though what do I know?)

  4. 29 September, 2006 6:06 pm

    I dunno … Professor “I’m writing my book right now”!

  5. 30 September, 2006 4:34 am

    I’m glad things are going pretty well, and I think that NK is right that balance just does not happen in the first year on the job.And speaking of Dabbaville…I’m in the midst of family holiday negotiations, and I may be there over Thanksgiving!

  6. 30 September, 2006 1:47 pm


  7. 30 September, 2006 2:10 pm

    Be patient with yourself. It was a good idea to move there prior to school year starting. I’ve watched more than one colleague wait until absolutely the last minute (sometimes it’s beyond their control) and it takes them all year to play catch up. Pat yourself on the back for making some social connections so that you are not just reliant on your job for meeting new people – an easy habit when we’re so busy at work. Remember even good transitions have bumps in the road as you adjust to the new settings. And, I believe you are seeing what most of the literature shows about the differences in students (or lack thereof) between the different institutions – at least the differences aren’t usually what we expect.

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