Friday, May 28, 2010

Teaching VERSUS Research?

As a new semester begins, I am feeling the familiar pull of a common dichotomy: Teaching versus research. Already I have sat through hours of advising and registering to face classes which are overflowing and the rigors of daily summer classes for the next nine weeks. After two weeks of productivity on articles, research, and transcribing it is amazing how quickly the familiar TUG of the two areas of teaching and research start to pull on my time. Today my schedule included creating course syllabus and calendar for two on-ground classes and beginning to structure the modules for the online course. Somehow, the time is already flying away with the student communication and course needs. And so, I find myself wondering if my research goals will take the back seat to my teaching load this summer. I continue to struggle with the balance of my time between these two worlds and have developed several strategies that I am employing with vigor beginning the first day of the term:
- I will only check my email twice a day to avoid being pulled away from research work in "non-teaching" blocks of my time
- I have already scheduled (in my day planner) hours where I will be focusing on research. I will protect this time, making sure I don't schedule meetings or other work in those time frames.
- I will remain accountable with a research journal and by keeping "motivators" around me, other junior faculty who are striving for tenure. We will keep one another focused on our bigger goals.
- I will track my progress continuing to use my organizational grids for each semester.
- I will check in each week to see where I stand and to modify deadlines and dates if necessary.
- My office hours will be kept for teaching tasks (if no students attend) and answering emails to avoid excessive work at home.

Let's see how it works out...

Friday, May 14, 2010

Delayed gratification: researching and publishing

It has been a year since the first draft, but news that an article will be published has come! Any academic loves to hear their work has moved into publication-phase, but it had me considering the fact that research (and service and teaching elements, too, I suppose) in academia is really not for those seeking instant gratification. This article in particular had a lot of time both in research and writing/revising, and patience is difficult when eager to see the fruits of our labor. There are a lot of steps to tackle before finding success in this tenure-track world, which makes time management all the more important skill for those of us with heavy teaching loads and the requirement to also make a name in research. It is also interesting to see how the news of acceptance for publication can make all of those hours of research and writing melt away to a misty memory and amp up my energy to get MORE before tenure review.

Balancing the duality of research and teaching continues to be an ongoing lesson for me after three years on the TT. In fact, this past year is really the first time I have felt myself becoming more equalized in the realm of research and teaching time. As Lang (2005) commented, life on the tenure track is about finding a personal ability to manage different responsibilities and research takes a lot of mental space. After a year on the tenure track he wrote, "I still haven't mustered the intellectual energy to work on my scholarly articles. The prospect of paging through all the critical articles and works of scholarship I have assembled in order to top off the pile with my own small insight doesn't seem as intellectually invigorating as it did in graduate school" (p. 158). I latch on to the "intellectual energy" component--after teaching 5 sections of class and attending committee meetings all week, that energy can be difficult to find and even more challenging to direct into multiple projects. But, the TT does not wait and those of us trekking along that track seem to find a few tricks that work to help cope with the various demands on our time.

I may have mentioned my organizational grids created at the beginning of each semester which chronologically lists the research and conference projects on the agenda for the upcoming months, breaks them into stages, and lists by date what needs accomplished. Though it can change, the structure has been a real motivator this past year and it is exciting to see things in the "pipeline" finally finding their way to publication.

In the end, delayed gratification is better than no gratification -- so with the good news of a publication comes the renewed energy to keep the next project moving forward and to allow the research wheels to continue to spin.
Lang, J. M. (2005). Life on the tenure track: Lessons from the first year. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.