Monday, August 8, 2011


I spent a glorious week away from academic work. [Well, not technically "away" as most of us know the work seems to somehow seep into our lives and brains no matter where we are, particularly in these pre-tenure years.] This past week I spent most of my time hanging out with my 7-year old nephew and realized two things: 1) I am getting too old to sleep in forts made from sofa cushions and sheets, and (slightly more relevant) 2) I am beginning to find a better balance with this faculty life thing.

Sofa cushion fort (and nephew)
How do I know the balance is improving? I am less frantic, better able to shuffle tasks to  maximize productivity, and I don't panic quite as much as before. I attribute these improvements to self-reflection.

As long-time readers know, we've had many discussions in this blog centering on the pre-tenure precariousness that can drain energies and bubble over into home life. I have spent my time as a pre-tenure faculty member seeking a balance (side notes: does this balance exist? is it it a self-created dichotomy between work/faculty life?). In part, this blog began to better explore concerns about balance and the surrounding feelings/issues that creep into faculty life. Because of this blog, I have learned a lot about myself through self-reflection and reader emails/comments. Perhaps the biggest reflective nugget: I am an educator first. This is no surprise, but upon reflection this knowledge informed the ways in which I work. As I see myself as an educator first (and researcher second), I tend to work on my teaching/courses with first priority. Then, I feel comfortable to move on to my research/grants. Knowing this self-perception helps me to plan for my workload and manage my tasks during busy times of the semester (for example, I don't schedule/accept research deadlines during the students' biggest speech of the semester as I know student meetings/emails/etc. will come first and the deadline will go unmet or I'll have extra stress to meet that deadline).

I am continually seeking new avenues to manage faculty life (and the stress that sometimes goes along with it) as I embark on my (hopefully) last "pre-tenure year" before going up for tenure review in August 2012. I thought it would be helpful to begin exploring more about this balance as I move into this last (we hope!), and all-important, year of my pre-tenure life. Today I tweeted, "Juggling publication deadlines and a new edition of this text (which means a revamping of my entire course. No vacation here! #facultylife" I think I will begin to put a few more thoughts on Twitter to aid self-reflection (and shamelessly solicit others' advice, experiences, and coping mechanisms) this year using the tag:  #facultylife. Are you on Twitter? Consider joining in and by adding your thoughts using #facultylife in your tweets. I think it could be a fun way to hear what others think about the sometimes roller-coaster-like journey that can make up this faculty life.

You can follow me on Twitter: @lhelviemason.

Image for #facultylife created by Lora Helvie-Mason using Picture of sofa-cushion fort courtesy of Lora Helvie-Mason (and her nephew's fort-building skills). 

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