Aeron Haynie became a mother the year after she received tenure at the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay (and exactly one day after she turned 40). Formerly chair of English, she is now on sabbatical and relishes each day.
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April 14, 2010
Last week a colleague and I gave a talk to new faculty on work-life balance. It is part of series of forums for first year tenure-track faculty sponsored by our Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning. While I was flattered to be asked, I was also a bit nervous. Like most of us, my ability to juggle work and life varies from day to day. Yet I was also shy to admit that there are times when I am, gasp, not working. Academia fosters a culture of workaholism, and folks who challenge this hegemony are often labeled less serious. “Competitive martyrdom,” a friend calls it.
April 1, 2010
I’ve never considered myself an administrator. I’m a teacher first, a scholar second, and committee member/service provider third. I doubt that very many professors begin their careers intending to become chairs, deans or college presidents. After all, the duties of an administrator — dealing with paperwork, making pragmatic decisions, being politic and worrying about the fiscal well-being of the institution — is quite different from the isolated pursuit of truth that most of us sign up for.
March 18, 2010
One of the challenges of teaching is negotiating students with severe psychological conditions — of which we teachers are sometimes informed, but never trained for. Sometimes these students are disruptive (as in the case of a student with Asperger’s who offended and alienated other students with her socially awkward comments) but often they just suffer quietly, withdrawn and/or mysteriously absent from class.
March 4, 2010
Last night I attended a meeting of fiery radicals intent on reforming society at the most basic level: moms at my daughter’s elementary school who want healthier school lunches. (Interestingly, no fathers attended, although there was one precocious 12-year old young man.) We met for the reason many parents are meeting around the country: we are appalled at what our children are fed at school. For example, today’s breakfast is “French toast sandwich” while the lunch is “cheesy chicken bake,” or mac ’n cheese, each served with breadsticks.
February 17, 2010
I called in sick today for the first time in 18 years of teaching (not counting when I had emergency surgery). If I had an exam scheduled, or student reports, I would have crawled in to work, no matter how crappy I was feeling. As an academic with a relatively flexible schedule, I’ve always tried to get sick on my non-teaching days, or on holidays. But as I sat at my desk grading papers at a snail’s pace, getting increasingly bad-tempered, it hit me that I was feeling, well, sick. Yet the idea of cancelling classes horrifies me.
February 4, 2010
We received our fall semester course evaluations on the first day of the spring semester. The timing seems akin to going to therapy with your ex-boyfriend immediately before setting out on a blind date with a potential new one. A strange analogy, but you get my point.
January 21, 2010
Monday our semester begins and I’m struck once again by how fortunate I am to begin again, to start over. How many professions offer the chance to start fresh twice a year? Unlike most years, I haven’t spent my whole break obsessively planning my courses. I’m trying to focus more on my own scholarship and writing, so I decided not to start working on my syllabi until the weekend before. In addition, the recent horrific events in Haiti have made it difficult to focus on much else.
January 6, 2010
This week, after much discussion and soul-searching, my husband quit his job. A stoical guy who has worked full-time since he was 17, my husband needed lots of persuading to believe that his happiness is more important to our family than a paycheck. While he intends to begin his own photography business, he will also take over more of the household and parenting duties, giving me more time to devote to my own career.
December 9, 2009
We woke up this morning to a world caked in white — big draping sheets of snow hanging from our garage, soft blankets of white where our lawn furniture used to sit, and large puffy flakes falling down. My five-year old daughter’s eyes were wide with amazement, even though she’s seen snow before. I too feel that every year it’s a miracle, a revelation how quickly the landscape can transform. All city schools were closed, even the college where I teach (in an unprecedented move, the governor cancelled classes at all Wisconsin universities).
November 18, 2009
At this point in the semester, my students – who once seemed an amorphous blob of Kaylas, Kyras, and Karas — have emerged as distinct, complicated, and often intriguing personalities. As always, the courses I’ve carefully planned on paper fail to take into account the living, breathing people who comprise them. And while I challenge myself to design courses that engage and inspire every type of student, it is of course the students themselves who define the course’s identity.