Thursday, April 19, 2012

Finding the intangibles

This career is one where we must embrace delayed gratification. We await decisions on research articles that can take months, we pursue service activities that are on five and ten year plans, we advise students knowing it will take years before they cross the graduation stage, and we seek grant funding for ideas that can take years to materialize.

There are some days, however, where the typically intangible and elusive rewards of faculty life can come rushing at you. I simply adore such days. Yesterday I had one of THOSE glorious days that began with a former student stopping me on campus to tell me he was graduating, that he not only remembers my class but uses the skills we explored in his "regular life" -- AND that he felt he got his job because of the skills we covered in a class activity he found particularly memborable. It made me forget all of the stress (temporarily) as I waltzed toward my next class feeling puffed up with pride for the student's success and for my tiny part in his amazing journey. This little encounter made me feel that the sometimes (okay, OFTEN) stressful, and generally (okay, MOSTLY) strenuous activities of the faculty world were somehow all worthwhile.

It wasn't long however (in fact, the exact time corresponds to my morning review of my task list for the day) before I was feeling defeated and deflated again. I missed that puffed up could I get it back?

The lesson of the day was simple. Find, no matter how challenging, the rewards of faculty life each day. Is it in your research, a collegial conversation, a grant idea, an effective meeting where your idea was successfully voiced, etc.? It could be anywhere! You don't have to go through the day bemoaning the problems (although I certainly do my fair share of internal ranting) or trudging along waiting on the delayed gratification to finally arrive. Find the sometimes buried rewards in your tenure track journey. Explore the little successes when the larger ones are too far away to have a meaningful impact.

Read also:
 "Delayed gratification of faculty life" - May 2010
"Focusing for a fresh semester" - January 2012

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