Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Advice for New Faculty

I've finished the scrapbook project, and put it in the mail.  So now I can see my desk again, and it's back to more usual stuff.

We have some new colleagues coming in this year, and I've been thinking about what I want from them, and of them.  This little list isn't meant to be complete, more just what I've thought of off the top of my head.  Please add!  And also, please think some about what new colleagues need from more experienced colleagues, and I'll post some thoughts on that soon, and ask for more help.

1.  Teach the students we have.  Yes, they probably aren't the same as the students you taught while in grad school.  They may not be much like the student you were.  But they're good folks, and they'll rise to your expectations.  Take some time to get to know them a bit, and you'll find they're good to work with.

2.  Do NOT sleep with, have sex with, or party with students.  Don't abuse students.

3.  Do your job.  Show up for classes.  Have a syllabus and assignments ready.  Prepare for meetings.  Take service responsibilities seriously.  (And if you haven't already, finish your damned dissertation.)

4.  Don't believe everything the other faculty folks tell you.  Mr. Voice of Experience?  He might just be a sexist, serial adulterer.  Ms. Crazy might be paranoid.  Or I might just tell you that she is, but it's really me.

5.  Keep your eyes open and ask questions.  We're mostly pretty willing to share assignments, help with bureaucratic stuff, and try to make your adjustment work.  Ask for help when you need it, rather than waiting and hoping problems will go away.

6.  Try to believe that we really do want to tenure you (if we've hired you to a TT position).  Hiring takes a huge amount of effort and energy, and we want everyone we hire to do great work and earn tenure.  We'll try to help you with that, too.

7.  Don't be a grad student; be a colleague.  It's fine to remember your undergrad or grad programs fondly, but we don't need to be reminded constantly that we aren't the big time programs those were.  And once you get to know us, you might find that we aren't actually schmucks, but hard-working, reasonably smart, decent colleagues.

8.  Take a deep breath when you read your evaluations, both from students and from colleagues.  Your yearly evaluation is important, and worth reading carefully.  It's supposed to let you know what you're doing well, what you're not doing as well, and how to improve.  Use it.  (And yes, read the faculty handbook and ask questions, too.)  (Corollary:  When you're writing up your self-assessment stuff, realize that you're probably writing to an audience that doesn't know your specialty well.  Use your rhetorical skills to help your colleagues understand what a good job you're doing.)

What would you like to add?


  1. #7 is great advice. I think that's something two of my younger colleagues really struggled with this year. Since I had been an adjunct for so long, I felt competent enough to feel like a colleague, but the two people who were hired right out of grad school didn't know how to act.

    Much of the rest seems self-explanatory. I regret that it's necessary to say not to sleep with students. That's just not okay. I'm guessing that you wouldn't have included it if there hadn't been some sort of precedent. :(

  2. This is a good list. I'd add to it a bit of advice to respect your health, physical and mental. Too many new hires burn themselves out in crazy rounds of work that leave them exhausted and ill. You're of no use to anyone if you're a crispy critter.

    Sadly, too few colleagues really see the signs of burn-out. You can't wait for someone else to tell you to step back and stop work for the night. You have to learn to impose those limits yourself!

  3. As a postgrad student just starting to get into teaching and #1 is a great reminder, especially because I am working at a university with a reasonably high proportion of non-traditional undergrads. Kind of shocked that numbers 2 and 3 need to be stated, though!

  4. Thanks folks. And yes, #2 needs to be stated. I bet just about everyone who's been teaching for a while knows of at least one colleague who's slept with a student.

    I'd add a corollary, on thinking about it: Think really, really hard before having an affair with someone in your supervisory position (chair, dean) or even another colleague. Think even harder before sleeping with a married colleague or cheating on your own spouse.