Musings on children's and YA literature, the academy, and the relationship between them, from an English professor and mother.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Goal Setting, Research Productivity, and the Associate Professor Survey

A friend asked me yesterday if I had goals. Not just "things I'd like to do some day," but articulated, specified goals. With a timeline.

In short, no.

All the career advice I've ever read suggests that goal-setting is an essential part of an integrated, successful career. And I do have "things I'd like to do some day," don't get me wrong. But writing down goals...well, for whatever reason, I haven't done it. One reason, I suspect, is that I'm a little uncomfortable with taking myself quite that seriously, with putting myself forward, in the way that goal-setting suggests. When I write it down here it sounds ludicrous, but there it is.

But here's the thing. I spent some time yesterday with the MLA's Associate Professor Survey, and I wonder if I'm not alone. The key finding for me, that women in private independent institutions (like my own) spend on average 9.6 years at associate professor before advancing to full, was sobering. (Especially since I'm already right at that mark, if not a little beyond it.) But even more telling was the paired statistic that in the same institutions, men are advancing on average three years more rapidly. (That's the largest gap between men's and women's advancement that the survey found.)

I wonder if women are less willing to label themselves career-focused than men are. I wonder if those women aren't articulating their goals, aren't naming them, and are therefore falling behind on them. I think in institutions like mine this could be a particularly insidious trap, as we are sought after and rewarded (up to a point) for our service and our teaching, and can make a pretty good career on them alone. So I wonder if when women like me say, "I'm too busy for my research," they really mean, "I haven't made it a priority." I wonder if they haven't made it a priority because they see that it's not really that highly valued, or because they truly prefer their teaching or service work, or because they have trouble carving out time for it at home. I am not at all ready to discount institutional and/or systemic discrimination against women, either--I know that the research work I do is, on occasion, measured and found wanting, at least in part because my field (children's literature--a female-dominated field) is not taken as seriously as, say, Renaissance literature. But such discrimination may fall into a larger pattern of discounting women's work that women themselves participate in. What would it take for us to claim our own work, our own value?

Or, on the other hand, are we choosing the saner course by pursuing more integrated lives? Sometimes that's what I think, and it does make sense. I have great autonomy in the classroom already; I do the research that interests me in the time frame that I can make work for my family, and that means an emphasis on conference papers and articles rather than on a monograph. (Psst--I prefer to read articles anyway, and suspect that they're more influential in most cases. But that's another story...maybe.) In my essay for Mama, PhD I call for us all to insist on the value of our work, to hold our senior colleagues and administrators to account when they pay lip service to teaching and service and then reward only original scholarship. I do think the work I do is valuable, but a small voice inside me also says, "you're not doing enough research." Maybe if I put some goals in writing I could measure my work against them and silence that voice. Maybe.

We think of these things when the semester ends and the research program hasn't quite ramped up again--or I do. Here's what I wrote yesterday about that survey, taking things in a slightly different direction:

Mothering at Mid-Career: The Associate Professor Survey - Mama PhD - Inside Higher Ed

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Note: when I went to post this, I wanted to tag it for future reference and discovered that I have never used a tag for either "research" or "scholarship" before. Hmm.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

McSweeney's Internet Tendency: Internet-Age Writing Syllabus and Course Overview.

All semester I've been chairing a committee to review and revise our first-year curriculum. One big part of most universities' first-year curricula is, of course, some kind of expository writing course. Maybe this one?

ENG 371WR:
Writing for Nonreaders in the Postprint Era

M-W-F: 11:00 a.m.–12:15 p.m.
Instructor: Robert Lanham

Course Description

As print takes its place alongside smoke signals, cuneiform, and hollering, there has emerged a new literary age, one in which writers no longer need to feel encumbered by the paper cuts, reading, and excessive use of words traditionally associated with the writing trade. Writing for Nonreaders in the Postprint Era focuses on the creation of short-form prose that is not intended to be reproduced on pulp fibers.

truly, read the rest. I find myself guilty of several days on the syllabus...

McSweeney's Internet Tendency: Internet-Age Writing Syllabus and Course Overview.

Posted using ShareThis and first seen, of course, at The Miss Rumphius Effect
(I'm sending you to her main page rather than to this specific link because I want you to see all the fabulous poetry-makers she's featuring this month. It's a treasure trove over there, really!)

McSweeney's Internet Tendency: Classic Nursery Rhymes, Updated and Revamped for the Recession, as Told to Me by My Father.

McSweeney's Internet Tendency: Classic Nursery Rhymes, Updated and Revamped for the Recession, as Told to Me by My Father.

Try this one, for starters:

Humpty Dumpty

Sure, in a perfect world, we'd all help put Humpty Dumpty back together, whether we were on the king's payroll or not. There's no question about that. But the world isn't lilacs and lollipops anymore, kid. I can barely afford all your mother's pill ... pillows, all the pillows she insists on sleeping with at night.
[it goes on...]

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first seen at The Miss Rumphius Effect

Monday, April 13, 2009

watch the president read

President Obama read Where the Wild Things Are to children at the White House egg roll. OK, so maybe there are better Easter picture books, but it's one of the best read-alouds of all time, and he looks like he had fun doing it. What a great moment!