This coming week marks the end of my first academic year teaching in the Higher Education program at the University of Maine. It's hard to believe that nine months have passed since I began my position in September. I have been so lucky to have gotten such a warm welcome from wonderful faculty colleagues, bright and engaged students, and dedicated administrators.
In my first year as a full-time faculty member, I've learned some really valuable lessons - some of which I'll share here.
"Time becomes a four-letter word."
I recently was at a workshop for individuals either interested in faculty positions or who themselves are early career scholars, and one of the senior scholars in attendance said, "Time becomes a four-letter word." That quote resonated deeply for me. Between my teaching, research, and service obligations, I struggled to find a rhythm, especially in the Fall semester. I would try to designate a day a week to write, but instead, I would find myself responding to e-mails, scheduling meetings, or just having a lack of motivation to write on that designated day. I learned from that experience and adjusted some of my practices this semester. I held myself to certain boundaries around my time. I used downtime in between meetings to write or think, and I adjusted my schedule to allow for more time at home or at the coffee shop as I've just not been successful writing in my office. I've felt more confident in tackling all aspects of my job more and more as the year has unfolded, and I'm excited for year two.
Brace Yourself for the Unexpected
As I've "grown up," I've become much more comfortable with the idea that life is messy. It's become a running mantra at this point. But there have been some unexpected issues that have come up for me throughout the year. Sometimes those issues have been challenging for me, personally and professionally. Luckily, I've also been able to turn to colleagues, friends, and mentors to help me process those moments and assist me in moving forward. At the end of the day, I've found that acting with integrity and being true to the intentions I have set is the only thing I can do.
The Power of Critical Reflection
I often tell my students that the reflection that they're asked to do during graduate school doesn't always continue after they're working full-time and to be sure to figure out ways to do that on their own. Likewise, I feel strongly that I need to be reflective as well. Luckily, as a qualitative researcher, I have to be reflective of what I'm hearing, what I'm thinking, what I'm viewing of the research data I'm obtaining. Likewise, after every class I teach, I have set aside time to process through the experience - what did I do well? What could I change for the next class or the next time I teach this course? What are my areas of improvement? The ability to think deeply about my teaching, my research, and my work is transformative in terms of my professional practice. Now with an hour and a half commute to work (one-way), I find myself using my drive thinking about work and by the time I get home, I've sufficiently worked through things in my mind. It also makes a long drive go by pretty quickly!
Again, I'm grateful for my experience at UMaine. It has been gratifying being a part of the community there. To make a contribution to the program, the College, and larger University has been a great experience, and I am so proud to be a part of my students' lives. As many of our students graduate this coming Saturday, I'll be sitting there beaming with pride. I hope that I've taught them something that they'll use in their personal or professional lives. I know that they