Monday, January 09, 2006

5 lessons I learned in 2005

A bit of introspection for the year past, a bit late.

1. There is value in letting students see a bit of my life outside the classroom. It's hard to figure out where that line should be between me and my students, but this past year I let down my guard a little more, and it was fine. Students actually enjoy hearing about the paper deadlines I'm rushing to meet, the mishaps in the lab, what I'm listening to--things that make me more human in their eyes. I think they trust me more as a result.

2. Sometimes, the smallest of actions can have the most far-reaching consequences. This applies to both good deeds and unfortunate mistakes. And sometimes, once the damage is done, there's nothing to be done but wait it out.

3. My work is interesting and relevant. People in my field find value in my research and look forward to my results and insights.

4. I am the only one that has my best interests in mind. Until I get tenure, I will have to keep my guard up, measure my words, and sometimes keep my mouth shut, particularly in front of certain people. People often say one thing but do quite the opposite when push comes to shove. Luckily, this past year I also learned whom I can trust, and that I do have people in my life who will listen without judgement and help me navigate the sharky political waters of academia. I appreciate these people more than they will ever know.

5. Sometimes, the things I fear the most actually turn out just fine. Too much energy is spent worrying about things that never come to be or that are out of my control. (I hope that this is true about my review this year!)

10 comments:

academic coach said...

Great list. I think I'll quote #4 to several t.t. folks.
#2 made me Very Curious.

academic coach said...

p.s. my crystal ball says your review will come out fine - so I agree, don't worry,

BrightStar said...

I'd like to know more about what you mean about letting students know about your life outside of the classroom. At the end of the semester, after the students turned in their evals, I told my students about my pending divorce. They were really affected by this, some cried. They were particularly affected by it because they wished I would have shared this with them sooner. This confused me -- why would they need to know? I only told them because my last name was going to change and they might need to find me in order to ask for a recommendation letter (since I was teaching seniors this past fall).

pjm said...

My Operating Systems prof was very good at #1, mostly along the lines of how far behind he was on paper-submission deadlines. But sometimes he would sneak in colorful metaphors--"Ignoring concurrency issues is like riding a bicycle through Cambridge on Mass Ave without a helmet!"--so you knew he wasn't living entirely inside the server stack.

Astroprof said...

Sharing a little of your life outside of the classroom with students lets them see you as a real person, not just someone standing in front of the room talking to them. They connect more, and that is good for them. This doesn't mean baring your soul to them, of course. I had a prof who kept a running tally of the antics of his new kitten, and though it did not relate to the course, it made class more fun.

ScienceWoman said...

I think number 5 should be posted somewhere where you can see it when you are stressing. It's certainly something I need to remember more frequently.

Jane said...

b*, I meant #1 along the lines of what Astroprof and pjm said. I haven't been sharing anything earth-shatteringly interesting with them :), but I did spend 10 minutes one class period talking about the third-year review process, and tenure, in response to a couple of student questions, and they were strangely fascinated by the whole thing. The whole professor thing is so mysterious to them that I think they do appreciate hearing that we are, in fact, human, and that we do have lives outside of class. I think sharing the divorce with your students took a lot of courage, and I think it's wonderful that they were so supportive of you when you did!

AC, I wish I could share more, but I'm not comfortable doing so on the blog. Which is a bummer, because I think blogging about it might have helped me....ah well, one of the drawbacks of having a pseudonymous blog..... (and thanks for the kind words about the review!)

Psycgirl said...

#4 is something I struggle with every day I swear. I'm so glad to see it in someone else's concerns/lessons

PowerProf said...

I'm late to this... excellent lessons. Can I steal a couple? :)

Jane said...

go right ahead, PP! :)