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Friday, 4 March 2016

Week 9 Profession, Job, Hobby

A couple of weeks ago, Good Enough Woman wrote that one way she could explain her interest and dedication to her research to her husband was to compare it to his hobbies.  Her story got me thinking about the place of scholarship in the academy, especially on the fringes that I inhabit, having done my time as a contingent and now as a librarian, which is often not a faculty position.  There have been many times I have found it hard to keep my writing in the TLQ, because it was not part of the “job,” but more of a hobby.

The other piece of my rumination is an article from the Chronicle a few months back, where a professor wrote about how he had found his loyalty to his institution was misplaced, and had moved it to the profession, more specifically his teaching and his scholarship.  I had my own rude awakening about misplaced loyalty last fall, which has fed into my rumination. For example, I am not trained to write or teach in the germane disciplines for my STEM institution, so my loyalty is to the profession and the discipline in which I was trained. The downside of this position is that because I write about subjects that are not of interest to my institution, I have to provide all of the impetus to keep these TLQ projects on my radar, and have to justify the subjects on which I write.

We’ve looked at the external distractions of email, the demands of grading and teaching, and internal resistance, but I wonder how much the culture of a particular institution impacts our work, especially our scholarship. Personally, I find this online group provides the support my institution does not, but is that just me?  Or the fact that I inhabit the fringes of academia?

If you’ve missed a week or two, and your goals are not listed below, please feel free to jump in. Report in with the usual format for goals for last week, new goals, and discussion, if desired.

Allan WIlson
1. Exercise with more mental commitment, 4x
2. Fix guitar
3. Begin map making process
4. Letter - and send off MS

Contingent Cassandra
1. Try to keep up/build on the exercise habit
2. Try to keep up the bedtime routine
3. Freeze soup; grocery shop as necessary

1) Finish last bits of paper 2
2) Start putting together conference data for upcoming talk with photographs and descriptive stuff
3) Get a little ahead in teaching prep for the next couple of weeks
4) Take "revise and resubmit paper" out of file and look at it to see how bad the rewrite is going to be, and make a plan.

And for fun, go buy Sharpies if I get the paper done!
Use that as notes and outline for paper

Locate the books my advisor recommended to me
Start reading daily again
Write fiction at least three times

Earnest English
1. Research: Work on galleys, without fail! Otherwise, dip a toe into Big Project, either through writing or reading.
2. Health: Call doctor and schedule an appointment for this week. Supplements, baths, eat, take good care of self, don't stress.
3. Family: Call piano teacher. Homeschool when possible. Keep on top of things.
4. Gardening/herbalism: Seriously: blueberries? Starting salad seeds in basement?
5. Work: Get on top of grading this week. Keep up with zillions of service projects.

Elizabeth Anne Mitchell
1) Finish each day with a short planning meeting for the next day.
2) Revise footnotes for 15 minutes a day.

Good Enough Woman
1) Print, read, and plan revisions for Chapter 1.
2) Write 500 words for intro.
3) Read 50 pages of primary source material.
4) Read 2 articles/chapters
5) Have (and help) kids do major room cleaning next weekend. And also plan something fun for us to do (in addition to cleaning) if hubby is ends up going dirt biking for the weekend.
6) Maintain boundaries with the sudden emergency service work for the department.

Heu mihi
1) Finalize, ish, the talk
2) Actually start Article S
3) Read a chapter of CS

4) Read for next week's seminar

1 Write to important contact fearlessly
2 Organize notes for conference panel
3 Read one chapter or essay for lit reviews

1) sleep at sensible times, eat better, be nice to my foot
2) three hours working on a paper with DrVisit (it's back on my desk for a complete rewrite, but a full draft exists, and it's a nice coherent set of data with a simple, useful story to tell), one hour on Picky Paper.
3) two days OFF at the weekend, without TLQ or TRQ, but hopefully with reading, napping, housework and soup-brewing to set me up for a healthy and productive Reading Week…

1. map out revisions to acronym report
2. tackle a pile of marking that I've put off
3. finish sorting out the craft stuff in the spare room

1. Finish prize book
2. Send revised prospectus to another press
3. Read ILL book that needs to be returned
4. Exercise 4 times

5. Look at essay that needs to be revised and plan revisions


  1. This is definitely germane for me, since research -- either in the subspecialty of literature in which I got my Ph.D. or in the one in which I teach, composition, which has always been and is more and more becoming a separate field, to the point where I occasionally worry that at some point I'll be deemed unqualified to teach it -- is not an official part of my job description. At all. As in I get to list any publications (up to and including a book, which is not an issue for me, but has been for several contingent colleagues) in a category labeled "uncompensated activities" in my annual report, and the chair isn't really supposed to mention them at all in the resulting letter (though (s)he usually sneaks them in in a paragraph at the end, on the excuse that they feed my/our teaching, which they do).

    Add in the facts that I've always taken a more historical approach to literature -- I can claim expertise in several "studies" fields that draw mostly on a combination of lit and history -- and that I've got an interest in digital humanities, and that, since I probably won't get any professional advantage out of producing a monograph (i.e. tenure book), I might want to try writing for a general audience, and I haven't even mentioned the collection of curricular materials -- open educational resources -- that a group of colleagues and I have begun planning, and grant-writing for, this semester,a project which might even have some at-least-indirect professional rewards (e.g. a way of pushing back against pressures to standardize sections of the large, many-sectioned course we teach, and, well, some of this, in addition to the real need to concentrate on "infrastructure," and the fact that I've been teaching every summer for the last 5 or 6 years, might explain why I haven't been writing much lately.

    I definitely want to get back to it, but it's hard to decide *what* to write, and which projects to tackle in which order, and how. So I'm thinking about all that, and thinking seriously about whether I should be writing more about teaching-related subjects (after 20+ years in the field, I've got some things to say, though I'd need to go back and figure out the scholarly conversation and where my ideas fit), and trying to figure out whether my planned monograph is a good use of my time (and/or whether it could be an interesting portrait of the time in which the author on which it concentrates wrote), and so on. And I've even got a second book project in mind, so perhaps I should work on that instead? And/or maybe I should start blogging about teaching, and perhaps other things (probably under my own name rather than Cassandra's)? And would any of these activities be more likely to attract funding than others, since I'd really like a sabbatical-equivalent, but the only way to do that is to get a fellowship of some kind (but to take advantage of many of those, I'd need to be able to sublet my apartment, which brings us back to infrastructure and getting that in shape to house someone other than me).

    I think I'm getting closer to the point of these being productive musings that might lead to decisions and priorities and such rather than round-and-round perseverating on questions I can't answer, and I think I might be able to buy myself a summer to have a bit more time to think soon (not this one, but maybe next), and that that would be worthwhile investment, but I'm definitely not at a deciding point yet.

    And I definitely don't have a word to describe what my writing and research are or should be -- unacknowledged/unrewarded but nevertheless real part of my present job? hobby? vocation? insurance against job loss/the need to job hunt? self-indulgence when I could be doing something more useful (but what? there's only so much that I'm good at, and writing is actually one of those things).

    1. Last week's goals:

      1. Try to keep up/build on the exercise habit
      2. Try to keep up the bedtime routine
      3. Freeze soup; grocery shop as necessary

      1. Not at all
      2. somewhat
      3. yes

      Analysis: participating in the search for my new boss (which is hopefully now concluded; at least the list of candidates to whom to extend offers has been constructed, and it's now up to others to work their way down that list and hope for the best) took up a lot of time this week, as did working on the grant proposal mentioned above (the good news: we learned of a new possible source of funding; the less-good news: it has a very tight deadline). These were both things well worth doing, because they have the potential to make my present job better, or at least keep it from becoming worse. But they did take time, and I'm tired, and behind on grading. But I did also get the paper done for the conference I'm pretty sure I won't be attending, and emailed the session organizers to warn them that I might not be attending.

    2. Which brings me to the major source of distraction, or underlying anxiety, or preoccupation, or whatever you want to call it: my father is declining rapidly, to the point where the hospice nurse thinks he's within the last week or so of his life (and hospice personnel do apparently develop an instinct about such things). The situation is still not taking up much of my time in any direct way, thanks to family complications, and may never do so, which feels very strange, but also more or less okay (basically,it's a situation he chose, and re-chose over the years by not trying to change it, and I've done what I can under the circumstances, and am feeling at peace with that). His quality of life is also quite poor at this point (he's slipping mentally as well as physically, can't really converse, etc.), so it seems like it's time for him to go, and I can accept that.

      It's also spring break, a period for which I'd saved some tasks (partly under the assumption that Dad would make it through this week, but might not make it through April/the end of the semester). And of course there's still a good deal of uncertainty about the timing of his death, and therefore of the burial, funeral/memorial, etc. (which also won't, objectively, take up much time, but will certainly take up a good deal of energy, emotional and otherwise, and of course his actual death may well hit me harder than the anticipatory period has. Or maybe not. It's hard to tell, and I don't think I have any way of knowing until it actually happens, and maybe not even then. Grief, like the exact course of cancer, is unpredictable, so I guess I'm trying to be prepared/leave room for unpredictability).

      A few things do seem clear for the moment: exercise would be a good idea (though this is not the time for wandering too many minutes' walk from the car, even if I have my phone with me). Eating well is definitely a good idea, and I've got the refrigerator stocked (with more frozen dinners and less homemade food than I'd prefer, but good enough). And sleep is a good idea, but I'm having some trouble with that (especially with waking fairly early no matter when I go to sleep, so I need to try to keep to an early bedtime when possible).

      Most of all, I'm dealing with a situation where plans and priorities may change at a moment's notice. My main concern is to take care of myself and others, while not losing track of any truly vital TLQ or TRQ threads (teaching, necessary financial stuff, doing my part or at last handing off responsibility for my part of the group project).

      So, with all that said, goals for the week (very much subject to change) include:

      1. Exercise when possible
      2. Keep to a routine that maximizes possibility for decent sleep (knowing I'm almost certain to lose some for various reasons in the weeks to come)
      3. Contribute what I can to the grant proposal for the group project (not an official TLQ goal for the semester, but definitely TLQ-ish in the ways described above)
      4. Try to catch up on grading (TRQ, but necessary, and in some ways scratches the "need to be doing something useful" itch)
      5. Realize that none of the above may in fact be possible, and regroup/delay/apologize/delegate as/if/when necessary.

    3. Sending strong and positive thoughts your way. Making inroads on some nice boring but useful grading sounds like a good use of time, and part of a sensible self-care routine.

      I hope you all find peace in this very difficult time.

    4. I'm so sorry that you're dealing with all of this. Even if it's not consuming as much energy as it might, it's still a fairly awful thing to go through. Take care of yourself.

    5. I'm so sorry that you're dealing with all of this. Even if it's not consuming as much energy as it might, it's still a fairly awful thing to go through. Take care of yourself.

    6. I'm so so sorry. And yes, the hospice people have a good sense, because dying follows a pretty standard path. Sending prayers and good thoughts your way, as this will probably not be easy.

    7. It sounds as if you've still been very productive, just struggling to focus on self-care. Best wishes, CC, as you continue through this process.

    8. And when I said "productive" I was referring to last week's goals. :)

  2. Cassandra, what you describe happens so much in the profession, and you have hit on much of my pondering as well.

    As for your last statement about doing something more useful, doing things that fulfill us and that we are good at is important, both for ourselves and for what we can offer others.

  3. Also, many healing thoughts to you as you face your father's end of life. It is difficult at best, so be as gentle with yourself as possible. Big hugs.

  4. Topic

    I don't know. I mean, it's TRQ in many ways because research is the most measurable thing we do, and we have blanket set objectives for each year in a way we don't for anything else (at least £x in grant applications, 1 potentially REF-able journal article), and we have to report the results all the time. Teaching is immediate and necessary, admin is highly personal as everyone has different tasks and obligations, so research stuff becomes TLQ more because of the greater scale of the deadlines - once a year someone will care if I didn't do this, no-one will care THIS WEEK. So it's important work-wise.

    But being a scientist is quite an important part of my identity and scientists communicate. Writing papers is my best chance of escape to a different university. It's also something I owe past funders, the tax papers, the people I work with and the students/post-docs who I've mentored. But also it's very complicated and I'm not well placed to think about it articulately at the moment, so might come back later in the week...

    goals for last week
    1) sleep at sensible times, eat better, be nice to my foot ish. Until Saturday...
    2) three hours working on a paper with DrVisit (it's back on my desk for a complete rewrite, but a full draft exists, and it's a nice coherent set of data with a simple, useful story to tell), no one hour on Picky Paper. yes
    3) two days OFF at the weekend, without TLQ or TRQ, but hopefully with reading, napping, housework and soup-brewing to set me up for a healthy and productive Reading Week…ish. I had a couple of days of thinking about work but not doing any, but I didn't do much else - I was really tired for no good reason, a bit 'getting a cold' snuffly and headachy, and generally fed up so I holed up with my phone and a book or three, napped a lot, and didn't eat well, do the planned house chores or really do anything else productive.

    Tomorrow is another day...

    This coming week I have only 2 hours of classes, but expect a lot of interruptions from project students, and have a busy following week (visitors, one for software training, one for discussions of Problem Child research project, so I have to prep for them both), so not expecting an amazing amount of progress.

    goals for next week:
    1) try to stop being in a funk - February is over, days are getting longer, and things really aren't that bad...
    2) get all up to date on grading for statistics classes (about 100 students, 5 weekly tests to sort out, all sorts of lates and problems with the VLE autograding that need manually checking and that) - it's not REALLY TLQ, but getting it all done will be very satisfying, it's a good task to do when feeling fed up, and it will clear the decks for a focus on my own research around Easter. Or on New Admin Job, depending.
    3) one hour on Picky Paper, three on DrVisit paper 1
    4) sleep, fruit and veg, being nice to foot (which is slightly better but not happy overall stupid foot)
    5) being kind and patient with dissertation students. actually, thinking about it, I spent a HUGE amount of last week being positive and enthused and kind and patient with students who were busy having minor crises over trivia or insisting it was toitally unreasonable to expect them to know stuff covered in class the previous week because it was a week ago. That... may even be enough to explain the unexpected tired/greyness, coupled with very changable weather - both are emotionally draining. Because I am a wimp, but still...

    1. JaneB, you've hit the nail for me: being a scientist (or in my case, a medievalist) means communicating, so whether it matters once a year, or not at all on the institutional level, it matters to me to continue to call myself a medievalist.

      I am in a complete winter funk--the lack of real winter here means it was March for months, and I hate March in this part of the globe I hope the funk departs, the foot is better and the students not as whiny!

    2. JaneB, you worked on Picky Paper! That's great!

      And even though my research/writing is not necessary for my job, I can't imagine not continuing on even after the PhD is finished. I really want to put a few articles out there, and I want to continue my engagement with the community of scholars who care about some of the things I care about.

  5. I'm sure some people would be offended by my describing my research/writing as a "hobby," but such language seemed like a good way for me to explain the work to my husband, regardless of whether or not that's how I see it. This week's topic makes me think about it a bit more.

    I started my PhD after I already had tenure at my two-year community college, so it was in no way necessary for my job. But it was also something I always thought I would do, and when I was pregnant with my second child, I worried I might never have the chance. I started to investigate options, and rather quickly a door opened, so I stepped through it. (I'm now in my 9th [and last!] year of the PhD. I have a submission deadline in December, and I'd like to submit in September.)

    I also felt that as a mother of two young children, I needed a reason to have time for myself. I suppose I shouldn't have needed a reason (for me or for my family), but it seemed like having a reason would help, and I believe that it has. The PhD justifies the time I take to read and write.

    But it also robs my family of time from me, and that sometimes bothers them. But, so far, it hasn't really taken up any more time that my husband's sports activities, trips, and "guys' nights," so I think it helps for me to make that comparison when I talk to him. It might also help him realize that I will still want to go to conferences, etc. even after I've finished.

    For me, it *is* more than a hobby. My research and writing has made me a better teacher, and I think I would be incredibly burnt out if I had not pursued this path of professional growth. I feel sure I will maintain my connection to my speciality field (c18 literature) throughout the rest of my career, despite the fact that such work is not required by my institution.

    That said, I have a lot of anxiety about my ability to finish the dissertation in the next few months. This year might be hard on the family, but it's nice for all of us to know the most difficult time should be short lived. But my commitment to the work will not end when I'm done.

    Last week's goals:
    1) Print, read, and plan revisions for Chapter 1. DONE.
    2) Write 500 words for intro. WELL, I wrote 300 words I probably won't use.
    3) Read 50 pages of primary source material. YES! I finished the damn book.
    4) Read 2 articles/chapters. DONE.
    5) Have (and help) kids do major room cleaning next weekend. And also plan something fun for us to do (in addition to cleaning) if hubby is ends up going dirt biking for the weekend. YES. Their room and their closet are in GREAT shape now.
    6) Maintain boundaries with the sudden emergency service work for the department. YES. Totally. I was helpful but kept boundaries that were (bonus!) respected by my department chair.

    Analysis: My introduction to the dissertation is freaking me out. I'm having a terrible time trying to write it. It's going to be a longish intro that includes some lit review stuff. To some degree, I know that I know what I need to know (I sound like Rumsfeld), but when I sit down to write it, everything is rather vague in my head. Perhaps I need to review the research and develop some bibliographies to help me focus on the different sections. I wonder if maybe I'm not quite ready to write the intro, but I think it would really help me (in so many ways) to have a draft in place as I continue to review the chapters.

    This week:
    1) write 1000 words of the intro
    2) read 50 pages of primary source material
    3) read one chapter or article
    4) do yoga 2 or 3 times to help with developing neck problems
    5) help daughter publish her magazine (i.e., take her to copy shop)
    6) stay on top of grading so that it doesn't become too TRQish and disrupt TLQ efforts

    1. Intros are a bear, and there's a good reason most people really write them at the end, not the beginning. FWIW, what I tend to do is draft *something* that says, this is where this is going, but then when I have a full draft I can say, OK, I need to talk about these issues in the intro, because they frame the whole thing, but I can do these as I get to the issues in chapters...

    2. GEW, I certainly understand your describing research as your "hobby" to your husband, for time and relaxation and interest comparisons.

      I also understand wanting to pursue research not required by one's institution. My dean flapped her hand at me, saying now I can write all that "medieval stuff" that I keep talking about, but I would keep writing it, even if it were viewed even more negatively.

      Finally, I am having the exact same problem with my introduction--the "goldurned" (to quote my father) thing will not come out the way I want it. Susan has a great suggestion--I am doing better now that I have lines like "The manuscripts show blah-blah-blah." LOL

    3. I thought more about this "hobby" thing while I was at the grocery store the other day, and I realized that I used that word partly because it served to defend what my partner might consider to be a "selfish" pursuit--something that doesn't "benefit the family," so to speak. So I compared it to something he does that doesn't benefit the family.

      Last Thursday night, I stayed at a hotel to work. Last night, he went up to a ski area so he could ski today. Same same. :)

    4. And, Susan, thanks for the commiseration and encouragement on the intro!

  6. Well, having come from a 4/4 cash-strapped SLAC to a 2/2 R1 (also cash-strapped, but relatively less so), I can say that institutional context absolutely makes a difference, even on the tenure track. My research was absolutely optional at my previous institution. I was praised for it, but, in the absence of merit raises (ever), I wasn't paid for it, and my tenure did not depend on it. (To get tenure, you had to be "involved in your field," but such "involvement" could simply mean attending some conferences--without presenting.)

    Now, however, I need to publish. I'm not actually working less than I was at the 4/4, but I am managing to put a lot more time into writing (as I should be); simply having the priority *there*, and compensated by my light teaching load, changes things significantly. I'm also around people who are writing. I have a writing group (two, actually, not including this one). And I'm able to make contacts in my field with ease--something that was definitely not the case before.

    Of course I knew that context mattered, but I'm surprised by how much it matters, and in how many different ways.

    Last week's goals:
    1) Finalize, ish, the talk - DONE
    2) Actually start Article S - DONE
    3) Read a chapter of CS - NOPE, NOT EVEN A LITTLE
    4) Read for next week's seminar - HAD TO GET DONE, AND DID

    The talk is this week! So that will be done soon. This week, then:
    1) Give my talk (a goal that it's almost impossible not to meet)
    2) Finish up S
    3) Read a chapter or so of CS
    4) Do at least two 15-minute free-writing sessions on the R&R
    5) R&R to-do list for spring break

    1. I changed institutional contexts about 8 years ago, and I'm still adjusting! But yes, being at an R1 changes your professional profile, even when you haven't changed.

    2. Heu mihi, I have also found that being around people who are also writing is a complete sea change. And I agree with Susan, that being at an R1 changes the context.

      I assume the talk went well, and hope you had some time to throw at the other goals.

  7. Like EAM, I work at specialist college in a, what is for them, general education field. I don't feel very supported in my scholarship by my department or my institution. My department and the institution can be pretty different, as you might imagine. Both value research, though don't have much of a culture of support and collaboration except around Specialist focus. The work I want to do is in my Secondary (but first love) Field, which is often not as valued as Primary Field. There are ways to explain in annual reviews and sabbatical applications that the work I'm doing in Secondary Field has bearing on Primary Field and courses I teach. I could probably explain the work in another way that would make particular sense to the institution rather than the department. My recent toe in the water experience with my Secondary Field Project/Magnum Opus suggests I better get cracking on that sabbatical application. (Earlier this week I was thinking that I probably should consider what my next article will be because the Secondary Field Project work is too unpredictable in terms of tangible outcomes. Maybe I'm the one who needs to read the argument I write in order to be convinced.) That would be a great project actually because I'm thinking again about the Sabbatical application, though now I'm thinking I have to delay it by a year. But I figure I should write it and get it established now; I can work for a couple years with the promise of a sabbatical out in front of me. At the same time, I'm not sure I'd want more community around this work. I don't engage with the opportunities that are available already. I just wish I had more dedicated time. And my family really is deserving of as much of my time as I can give them. And so the project is caught in the cross-hairs. I hope to get something done in the summer.

    Last Week's Goals
    1. Research: Work on galleys, without fail! Otherwise, dip a toe into Big Project, either through writing or reading. DONE AND DONE!!!
    2. Health: Call doctor and schedule an appointment for this week. Supplements, baths, eat, take good care of self, don't stress. AM STUPID ABOUT SCHEDULING DOCTOR'S VISIT.
    3. Family: Call piano teacher. Homeschool when possible. Keep on top of things. MADE GREAT STRIDES HERE THIS WEEK.
    4. Gardening/herbalism: Seriously: blueberries? Starting salad seeds in basement? NOPE. I ordered some books though that should inspire us.
    5. Work: Get on top of grading this week. Keep up with zillions of service projects. YADDA YADDA YADA.

    This was an easy week in a lot of ways with Spring Break. The race to the end of the quarter will begin imminently. (Oy!) Scary actually. I'm just going to have to take great care of myself and grade proactively and not in panic mode (which is why I list it on TLQ, by the way -- because thinking of scheduling grading in ways that won't make me crazy as TLQ helps me, gives me a better attitude about it).

    This Week's Goals

    1.Toe in Secondary Project pool or in sabbatical drafting.
    2.Health: Hullo, stupid! Make a doctor's appointment already. It's not rocket science -- you pick up the phone and dial a number you've looked up on the internet a zillion times and you ask to make an appointment. Capisce? Otherwise, take good care of self. Packed week ahead.
    3. Leave a message with the piano teacher. Have a good Thursday with Spirited.
    4. I have no expectations.
    5. So much work and so much grading and how will it all get done? The slow steady plod. Don't look up; don't look around. Just keep going. Smile occasionally. Give self little gifts. Move like water, determined tortoise.

    Hang on everybody!

    1. Update: A late-night reconfiguring and recommitment to my project resulted in firm goals: writing 3x.

    2. Ha, determined tortoise! I love it! I also had to make a dreaded doctor's appointment (which I did not thirty minutes ago, so yay!), so I completely understand that.

      Your description of your primary and secondary interests sounds exactly like mine. My college accepts my primary field, which is on the fringes of the discipline, but still in the framework. The medieval studies "stuff"? Way, way off the ranch! Too bad--I had years more training in that, and it is still my first love.

      Here's to moving like water, determined tortoise!

    3. I have calling-the-doctor issues, too. But I'm going to call the dentist about my problem tooth as soon as I type this. And, you know, it seems like the calling should be easy, but I think there are complications that stall us out. The biggest one for me is that when I make the call, I'll have to make an appointment. And making that appointment involves deciding which of their open slots I can take. In other words, I have to decide which of their slots will have the least impact on my very delicately balanced and busy schedule. That is enough to stop me in my tracks, especially if I'm experiencing "decision fatigue."

    4. Just called the dentist and made an appointment to have my tooth checked at 9:00am tomorrow. *pats self on back*

      I hate dealing with teeth. Glad I have them though, and it could be worse.

    5. GEW, That's what it is - it's the scheduling. There just is no time. I found a tiny slot -- I went to the doctor. What I thought was a recurrence of an old problem is actually a whole new problem, perhaps brought on by old problem. Loverly. I still have to get through tomorrow. Still. Glad I went. Hope your tooth is okay. (Going to the dentist=yuck.) Hope it was okay.

  8. What an interesting question. In some ways, my writing, like JaneB and Heu Mihi's is not a hobby but a job requirement: I'm at an R2 with R1 standards, and a culture of continuous review which is kind of crazy making to me. And because our unit incorporates the whole humanities, I have colleagues who publish lots of articles and books, but they don't get what I do. So while there is a culture that values writing and publishing, I don't have many colleagues who understand my work. Part of that is that intellectually, I'm not well connected -- most people here work on the Americas, and mostly in the 20-21 century, so someone who works on Europe four hundred years ago just doesn't compute. And there are lots of people who focus on (and justify things by) our very ethnically diverse group of students -- again making Europe seem very conservative. So I'm intellectually isolated. I've also found the transition from a place where my research was an advantage, but not actually required, so I did it at my pace, to all this pressure and measurement very difficult. And I get cranky, which doesn't help.
    Which is a long way of saying why this group can be so important to me, because it is supportive without being involved in any of the less functional institutional stuff.

    Anyway, last week's goals:
    1. Finish prize book YES
    2. Send revised prospectus to another press YES
    3. Read ILL book that needs to be returned YES (well, looked at it, then bought it)
    4. Exercise 4 times YES
    5. Look at essay that needs to be revised and plan revisions NO

    Fortunately, my mother is out of the hospital, but her discharge was handled badly, and one feature of me right now (that I don't like) is that I get really smoke out the ears upset really fast. And the day I dealt with the messed up hospital discharge, I realized that a committee had done a sloppy job on their task, which also got me cranky. So I fumed more than I should. And because I wasn't sleeping (lots of anxiety), I wasn't productive. On the other hand, over the weekend I have almost finished clearing the dining room table, which has had junk accumulating since Christmas, and I've gone through piles of mail and pulled out what I need to pay/deal with, and what gets recycled or shredded, and which of my mother's bills need to be paid. All very useful. And tonight I cooked a meal, which will last several nights. This cooking a real meal at least once a week is a big deal for me.

    Goals for this week:
    1. Start work on short paper
    2. Do one chapter of footnotes
    3. Read one journal.
    4. Exercise 4 times
    5. Finish clearing dining room table.

    1. I'm glad your mother is out of the hospital, and sorry that the discharge was stressful. My sister had to handle a discharge like that last year with my father--it was not pleasant.

      And yes, while I am not in the Arts and Sciences College, there are humanities scholars about, still hiding in the recesses between STEM colleges, but while there are a handful of Europeanist history scholars, the language departments have been decimated. The last medievalist retired when the French department was closed--not that I blame her. It is difficult to explain the vagaries of studying the 15th century to 20th and 21st century scholars, and I finally gave up.

      I need to clean my dining room table, and was going to cook one of my signature meals when the stove in our rental house kicked the bucket. Sigh.

    2. Susan, despite the challenges, you seemed to have been very successful with your TLQ goals for the week.

      My dean has used the word "boutique" to talk about the general education classes that relate to my field (for many of the reasons you discuss above).

  9. Institutional culture…
    Oh this is a good one!
    I’m at a small primarily undergraduate university, with apparently no money (just like all the other ones!). It has a history of being a college for most of its life, which then turned into a “real” university a couple of decades ago. As expected this created a permanent division between staff – some are the original teaching-only faculty, the “newer” ones are more traditionally teaching/research faculty. This is a real and tangible divide, and very few days go by that one is not reminded of this. The teaching faculty do not value research at all and a lot of the administration are ex-teaching faculty. If only they really cared about their teaching it would help, but we frequently comments like “Oh I couldn’t work as little as you guys, how do you stand it?” and “Your summer off must be nice” (They have NO concept of field work.) or “you must get bored only doing 3 courses a term” and “why did you update your lectures? I still us my old overheads from when I started that I inherited from the guy who taught me here”…
    And when one announces good things like new grants of projects one gets questions like “Are you sure you want to do that?”, or “It sounds like a lot of work, can you cope with that?” or “you should be getting more sleep” or “why don’t you take it easier? You have a child right?” or the perennial favourite of those of us who travel for work “I could never leave my child for three whole weeks… You must be so devastated when you leave…” When a colleague of mine first arrived and talked about research plans she was actually told by a senior member of her department to “not overdo things” and that “here we strive for comfort”… We laugh about that now, but it is draining and demoralizing to hear that sort of crap everywhere and still push on with real research and publication and scholarly activities like reviews and societies and all those things.
    The only way to counteract that is to have a circle of colleagues who value research and want to do all parts of their jobs well. I have a great group of friends who do just that, we meet regularly, write together, and celebrate success instead of “striving for comfort”. Online groups like this one also provides fantastic support!
    Last week’s goals:
    1) Finish last bits of paper 2 SO CLOSE!! I'm going to have Sharpies by Wednesday :)
    2) Start putting together conference data for upcoming talk with photographs and descriptive stuff DONE
    3) Get a little ahead in teaching prep for the next couple of weeks DONE
    4) Take "revise and resubmit paper" out of file and look at it to see how bad the rewrite is going to be, and make a plan. DONE, it is not as bad as it looked at first glance…

    This week’s goals:
    1) Conference talk and paper outline
    2) Send off samples
    3) All research accounting before end of week
    4) Do something fun with friends

    1. Daisy, it's good that there are enough of the "new" people to band together and support one another. I find the lack of support is the worst part of the whole experience for me, but this group helps immensely.

      It sounds like you will be getting those Sharpies very soon indeed! I also applaud your looking at the paper again--the revisions are rarely as bad as I thought once I've calmed down.

      I especially like goal #4!

    2. I'm sure I am quietly judged by many people because I'm doing the PhD while working and mothering. Hell, I judge myself.

      It is amazing (as I noted in my own comment) how much my research and writing stimulates and improves my teaching.

    3. GEW, I think we all second-guess our decisions, but I also hang tight to how my research makes me a happier person, and that my family benefits from that. Even if I am not around quite as much, I'm much nicer to be around. :)

      Also, research (even in a far-flung field) informs our teaching. It's almost as though it creates neural pathways that help us explain concepts to others as well as ourselves.

    4. THIS^

      For me, I think that the ultimate goal of university education is to enable students to develop their thinking and learning 'muscles' and toolkit, which they will use throughout their lives in contexts we can't possibly imagine, at work and play and everything in between.

      So whatever our content, it's in some ways immaterial, because what it is is something to learn ABOUT and think WITHIN, a space to practice construction of knowledge and knowledge acquisition. Ultimately we don't teach facts and theories, we help students learn how to find facts for themselves, to fit the things they encounter into wider frameworks or thought-maps or conversations, to thoughtfully and effectively identify mis-matches, and to have some idea what to DO about those mis-matches, whether it's more study or framework-expansion or mis-match critique...

      To teach something well, we need to be doing it, so that we speak from a place of experience and comradeship, from the same path, not from some peak above the fray (or fossilised dungheap). So whatever it is we choose to study, to learn about, to think long and deeply about, to converse about - the processes we use are those we want to share with our students, even if THEY use them on things like picking the best eldercare options for a relative, working in human resources for a company, or becoming a world expert in an obscure TV fandom.

    5. I guess what I'm saying is, the saw 'those that can, do; those that can't, teach' shouldn't apply in HE - I want students to be taught by those that can and do!

    6. Perfectly put, JaneB--that is exactly what I was imperfectly trying to express! That is why I despair at the decimation of the humanities as useless. It is important to show someone how to think using something that interests them, whether it be art, music, history, science or engineering!

    7. Exactly. I mostly teach writing to scientists, health workers and engineers (and, somewhat less often, social scientists, and considerably less often than that, arts and/or humanities majors), so it would seem that my doing my own very humanities-focused research would be irrelevant, but I enjoy both activities precisely because I enjoy thinking about how people in various disciplines claim to know what they know, what makes an argument original in various disciplines, etc., etc. If anything, I probably sometimes get along with the scientists and social scientists better than some of my same-discipline colleagues because a few of them (only a few) don't really want to think about why they choose the methods they do, and how those methods affect their results.

      It probably also helps that, as I mentioned above, I'm trained in a couple of "studies" fields that represent quite different and sometimes even contradictory perspectives (let's just say intersectionality is not a word I learned in grad school, though we were beginning to talk about the concepts), and that also differ significantly from more classical/canonical approaches. All of the above was a real headache when I was trying to write the introduction to my own dissertation (yes, those are very difficult), but prepared me pretty well for what I do now.

  10. I've heard from a number of colleagues that the simplest thing to do when one doesn't like the institutional culture is to keep your head down, get on with your stuff and wait. The cycle of revolution will kick in and bring around a culture you prefer soon enough. I remain unconvinced. I like the idea of reconsidering where loyalties lie however, seems like a far less frustrating way of working to divorce loyalty from institution.

    Last week
    1. map out revisions to acronym report
    - yes done, and a good chunk of new words written (around 1500)
    2. tackle a pile of marking that I've put off
    - in progress, have started tackling the tricky buts
    3. finish sorting out the craft stuff in the spare room
    - not really but I did buy a nice shiny new trunk to keep 'stuff' in.

    This week
    1. Keep on with the acronym report, need to remove around 1500 words to make way for what I wrote last week.
    2. Keep marking
    3. Tidy the house...there are plans afoot to paint walls so I want to tidy.

    It's another week full of the usual stuff really.

    1. Maybe I'm not patient enough, KJH, but the institution has never changed quickly enough for me to wait for it to support me. I have happily transferred my loyalties to medieval studies, as well as mentoring library science students (while subverting them to be rare book scholars as well, bwahaha).

      Oh, getting a new container for tidying sounds very useful and lovely! And painting--what fun!

    2. Yay for shiny new trunk! And yay for 1500 words, too.

  11. I am tenured at university that is struggling with its identity, being a teaching-intensive institution that wants excellent teaching and in your spare time, you should improve your research profile so you can bring the university a more prestigious stance. I teach a 4/4 and am expected to produce *some* research. Like heu mihi’s former university, mine is one where you could tenure and merit points simply for attending a conference.

    I decided to pursue a doctorate because I wanted to write, and that commitment to writing has little to do with the university. I believe the university has absolutely no loyalty to me whatsoever, and I try not to let that factor into my reality as well as I can avoid it. One of the very frustrating experiences I’ve had recently is not being able to get any funding or course release to finish my book manuscript. But on we go, nonetheless.

    Last week
    1 Write to important contact fearlessly: yes, and she wrote back quickly and kindly!
    2 Organize notes for conference panel: yes, although I fear this was too easy and there will be more
    3 Read one chapter or essay for lit reviews: yes, but reading in bits and pieces instead of whole units

    Week ahead
    1 Write essay for interested/interesting journal that extended submission deadline
    2 Reorganize writing schedule for book manuscript (I am behind on the original schedule)
    3 Reply to important contact and begin data collection

    My spring break is next week, and I am hoping for some serious writing and reading retreat time!

    1. Humming42, your comment about "spare time" hits home for me as well. I am expected to work a 40+ hour week, with no time set aside for writing, or for that matter, national service commitments, both of which are required for tenure or promotion to higher ranks.

      The lack of support for your book is familiar, too, although I suspect that your book aligns more closely with your teaching than mine does with my duties, so I (almost) understand my shop's disinterest.

      My object lessons with institutional lack of loyalty go back to 1991, so I have struggled with the problem for a long time. I think the Chronicle article gave me a way to honor my commitment to my primary and secondary professions without being a doormat. I will keep doing research and writing in medieval studies, and I will keep doing everything I can for library science students (who are becoming rare, but that's another topic).

      Hurrah for writing the important contact--I need to contact someone like that, and your success helps me gird my loins to do it.

      And sometimes bits and pieces of reading is all we can manage--it's great that you are getting it done.

  12. Last week:
    Locate the books my advisor recommended to me
    -I know where to find them, but haven't actually got them yet
    Start reading daily again
    -do recipes count?
    Write fiction at least three times
    -only twice

    This week:
    -Have a little library tour and get new books
    -Do something for the thesis every day
    -Work on fiction daily

    This week's topic resonates with me because I am a working student. Supposedly my profession is being a researcher and my job is to teach for a living, but too often it seems that teaching becomes my main activity and research more like a hobby. Partly because I do not always have enough energy or drive to keep the momentum going, and partly because teaching is so immediate and involves other people's needs.

    1. Oh, and the conference proposaI which I wrote last month has been accepted, yay!

    2. Danne, I'm totally with you, so you have my sympathy and empathy.

      Congrats on the conference proposal!

    3. Danne, congratulations on the conference proposal! Your "Do recipes count?" made me laugh--thank you, I needed that.

      I think your point about teaching involving other people's needs is a very important one. So often, we are socialized to put others' needs first, and teaching is completely other-oriented. That orientation is part of why it is such an expanding and hard-to-manage task.

      When I was a PhD student, I was teaching 1-2 classes solo,not discussion sections following a lecture by a professor. I was also expected to write a dissertation in my spare time. I wasn't the only one, nor was my discipline the only one that worked that way. Then the chair would wonder why our dropout rate was so high, and why it took so long for us to finish the degree.

      Sorry for the rant! Like GEW, you have my empathy.

    4. Many thanks for your comments! It's good to know we share similar experiences - too often it feels like I am the one with difficulties while everyone else is moving along smoothly.

    5. I replied to this last week but my comment's not here... I'm having lots of issues with commenting on this website, probably because I don't have a google account

  13. Topic; Well, I’ve said my thoughts in the comments on everyone’s replies, so I don’t have a lot to add. I think my problem with my current job (and most of the jobs since my Ph.D. candidacy lapsed) is that I don’t seem to fit very well. I did teach medieval studies courses at two of my institutions, which helped immensely in one way, but served to make me visibly different in another. Concentrating on my discipline and the few students I can mentor helps me deal with the dissonance.

    Last week’s goals:
    1) Finish each day with a short planning meeting for the next day. A few days of success, and a lesson learned. I need to leave my cube to get this done without interruption.
    2) Revise footnotes for 15 minutes a day. Yes! I often spent more than 15 minutes, with the bonus that many of the textual footnotes are now in the introduction or commentary.

    Next/This week’s goals:
    1) Clean kitchen so that we can ask the landlord to fix the stove.
    2) Declutter the area around my writing chair so I can find things with less stress.
    3) Keep up the 15 minutes of footnote revision a day.
    4) I have minor surgery on Friday--be kind to myself.
    5) Move like water, float like mist.

  14. First, I love that you have "writing chair." Also, regarding the "planning meetings": sometimes I wonder if we have to do things like that in our cars just to make sure we can focus.

    I hope the procedure today went well!