Monday, October 5, 2009

Freaking out a little

I sent an email to my editor today asking if there was any news about my book. He wrote back to tell me that there was yet another delay, but that I should know something within three weeks. Okay, fine. Then he says:

So, are your revisions done?

I almost lost my lunch. I haven't been doing any revisions because I was waiting to see what the board says! But, as I learned from a subsequent email, it turns out the board just says yes or no, and you can pretty much do whatever you want with the final version.

So I could have been doing revisions for the last two months, an hour or two at a time, but now I have to try to do them all within the next three weeks.

I'm now in panic mode, trying to get together a plan for how to proceed. I do not work well under pressure--I like to have a plan and a reasonable amount of time to accomplish any given task. I now foresee late nights, long Saturdays in the office, other projects getting pushed back, and at least 10 pounds of weight gain.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Know-It-All Student

I have a know-it-all student this semester. (Well, I usually have at least one, but this one is especially obnoxious.) I don't know what to do with him. He is clearly very intelligent, but also very socially awkward. Here is the list of his offenses:

1. He raises his hand several times every class period, sometimes to ask obscure question, sometimes to add information that he thinks is important. (It usually isn't.)

2. Last Wednesday I asked a question and he was the first to raise his hand, as usual. I said, "someone besides C___." He sighed dramatically, and picked up a book and began to read.

3. Sometimes he makes little comments to his neighbors, which I can only assume are jokes, because it causes them to giggle.

4. On Friday we had a discussion of a text. It was student-led, but he still tried to dominate. I mean, he sat on the edge of his chair with his hand in the air like he was a fifth grader who needed to get permission to go pee.

I hate situations like this. I can't decide if he knows what he's doing and he's trying to annoy me or show how much smarter he is than everyone else in the class, or if he's really that socially awkward and doesn't realize what he's doing. I have the feeling that he wouldn't behave this way if I were a male, but I might just be oversensitive about that.

So far my strategy has been to ignore him whenever possible, but I think I might have to try something else. Ugh.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Stop asking me about my book!

Dear colleagues, friends, and family,

As you know, my book manuscript is currently under review at a university press. It has now been at this particular press for 17 months. Yes, I am aware that 17 months is as unbelievably long time to wait for a book contract. Yes, I have received two readers' reports. Yes, I have responded to them. No, I haven't heard from the editor in the last few of weeks. He said that he would get back to me soon after Labor Day. Yes, I know that Labor Day was 3 1/2 weeks ago. Do you think that I haven't been checking my email constantly since then? What good will it do to send him another email? Is it my fault the editor's wife died of a long and horrible disease at the exact moment my book was under review? Is it my fault this editor seems to be abnormally slow and clueless, even accounting for his personal tragedy?

When I finally get the book contract I will shout it from the rooftops. I will post it on Facebook, and dance through the halls of the building crying tears of joy. But until then,

stop asking me about my book!

Thank you,

The Untenured Professor

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Images of Professors

Last night I finished Dan Brown's latest book, The Lost Symbol. I know, I'm lame. Sometimes the writing was so bad I almost quit reading. But then I would remember that I spent $23 on it and that when I sell it to the used book store I'll probably only get 7 bucks for it, and then kept reading just for economic reasons. But I digress.

The worst part of the book was Brown's description of Robert Langdon teaching a class at Harvard. First of all, it was a class on symbology, and 500 students were in the class. That alone is ridiculous. I doubt Harvard has any 500-student classes but if they do it certainly wouldn't be in symbology. Beyond that, the description of Langdon's lecture and his students' responses was embarrassingly awful. No students speak or react the way those students do. But what I find really disturbing is that REAL students read descriptions like this and they think that's the way their classes should be. Langdon makes a big deal about the fact that he is entertaining his students. He purposely leads them in different directions so that he can leave them speechless at the end of the lecture. He's not teaching them--he's giving them useless and esoteric trivia. I can't teach like Robert Langdon, and I don't want to teach like Robert Langdon. But sure enough, one of my students this semester told me he wanted my lectures to be "riveting."

Thanks a lot Robert Langdon. I hope Tom Hanks keeps playing you in the movies because he isn't really riveting either.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My biggest professional problem

I don't work enough. If you think about a professor, don't you imagine someone staying up to all hours of the night, reading and writing to the glow of a tiny lamp or a computer screen? Someone who talks with students and colleagues all day and then only sleeps for four hours at night so they can still get their latest article written?

That is not me.

I love to sleep. Especially in the morning. I think I would be happiest if I went to bed at 11 and woke up at about 9 every day. Most days I manage to force myself out of bed at 7:30, which means I can start work by 9:30 or 10:00 if I don't waste too much time on the internet.

I haven't always been like this. In high school I had a church class at 7 am and I always got up on time. I almost always had a class at 8 am in college. When I taught high school for a couple of years before grad school I was at my desk by 7:30. But then during my nine years of grad school I never had to be on campus before 10:00 at the earliest and the trouble began. I think most students adapt by staying up late and working, but my brain shuts off by 6:00 pm and the only thing it's good for after that is television and the occasional novel.

Don't get me wrong--I still average about 42 hours of work per week (I keep track of all of my hours, just for my own information). I work on Saturdays and sometimes Sundays, but that just isn't enough to be successful in academia. I need to figure out some way to work more without losing my sanity. Every day, after hitting the snooze for at least an hour and usually two, I sit up in bed and think: I hate myself for not getting up on time. The days that I do get up at 6:00 (which are few and far between) I'm not miserable. But the part of the brain that remembers that doesn't seem to be operational most of the time. Is there a pill for this? Somehow I doubt it's that easy.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I don't have any grand intentions for this blog. I just started my fourth year as a university professor, having recently passed the first hurdle toward tenure: third-year review. My book is under review at a press and hopefully they will accept it soon. My teaching is going well overall, although it takes more of my time than it probably should. I have great colleagues in my department--some really great friends and some interesting characters. Some days I love my job, other days I hate it. Some days I feel right at home as a professor, and some days I wonder what the hell I'm doing here. So I guess this blog is about all of that.