Being Faculty

So the first week of the semester in PFP, we had to quickly write down what we thought it meant to be a faculty member.  Looking back at it, I must have really been in a bad mood:

A faculty member at a college or university is a person who wears many hats.  Through the course of your day, you are a teacher, an advisor, a committee member, a researcher… just to name a few.  A faculty member is someone who better have a pretty strong ability to balance multiple projects at once.  It is not a 9-5 job—some days you work from sun-up to sundown.  Summers aren’t “Free Time” like so many non-academics believe.  Every vacation ends up involving your research at some point.  Being a faculty member means not seeing your family from Thanksgiving to Christmas, even if you’re actually home every night.  It’s constant, lifelong learning.  It’s never quite growing up—you’re always around young people, and your job still involves going to school every day (and being excited about snow days, in spite of what you may tell your students).  It’s fighting with the administration for your students, knowing that gaining opportunities, funding, and time for your own students may end up being detrimental to other departments (and feeling incredibly guilty about that—usually).  It is fighting with sports for the “real” reason students should be at college.  Spring isn’t March Madness—it’s job talks and committee meetings.

After that, I ran out of time to type.

First off, wow, this is pretentious and horrible.  I swear I haven’t doctored it in any way (clearly–look how bad it is!).

But there are some points in there I still believe are true, even after this semester.  As faculty, we really are people who have to “switch gears” constantly, balancing home life and work life; teaching and researching; faculty committee member and student mentor.  Through all of these switches, we have to stay up-to-date on our fields.  We can only emulate the importance of lifelong learning to our students if we ourselves remain active learners.

I think I was probably a little on the administration in my initial write-up.  Many things happen at the higher admin levels that as individual faculty, staff, and students have no concept of.  We have talked a lot this semester about ethics and standards, and faculty members should always stand up for what they think is right.  As Dean DePauw reminded us all spring, it is important to know where your ethical lines are before you enter a situation with a student, fellow faculty member, and even the administration.

My “being faculty” statement is not as comprehensive as I would like, but I think that’s OK.  If I knew everything there was to know about “being faculty” at 26, having not yet officially been a member of any faculty… well, that would be pretty ridiculous.

PS:  I still get excited about snow days…

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2 responses to “Being Faculty

  1. I think I understand where you were coming from with your initial being faculty statement. Sometimes its easy to get caught up in the political side of higher education- dealing with paperwork and departmental meetings and people looking over your shoulder. But I feel that there are parts to any job that people don’t enjoy, even if you love what you are doing (and maybe that is even more pessimistic of me). I try to find the parts that I can get excited about make them the focus: that’s why I’m here and doing what I’m doing. The rest is just the stuff I get paid for.

    • I think you’re absolutely right. I was also in a pretty intense headspace at the beginning of this semester–extra departmental meetings, four (FOUR!) faculty hires in our department that I was involved with at varying levels. I didn’t have a “normal” week of this semester until about 7 weeks in… so yeah, clearly my negativity was coming across. I hope the second part of the post proved that I am being a little more circumspect.

      Of course there are always parts of a job that you hate. You just hope that the rest of the job makes it worth it!

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