I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about my teaching this fall since sometime in June. Looking at my poor site, I realize I haven’t posted anything since January and we’re almost halfway through September. I may be taking slow blogging to a new level.
Too much has happened to try and write a post about it. I’m going to just jump in and talk about this semester.
I spent a lot of this past summer recovering from a fall I took the week before graduation. The short version is I stepped on a rock in a university parking lot, sprained my ankle and planted my face (and unfortunately front teeth) in the asphalt. I’m mostly recovered, but am still doing physical therapy and will be having laser treatments (!!!) to remover an “asphalt tattoo” from my upper lip. Worker’s comp paperwork is no joke.
But I also spent the summer thinking a lot about my classes for this fall. I’m teaching an online class on US ethnic literature, a face-to-face Saturday class on US ethnic film, both of which I’ve taught before. And, the first Harry Potter class, called “The Worlds of Harry Potter” to be offered at CSUDH.
The Harry Potter class is a new thing for me, not only because I’ve never taught it before, but because I’m teaching the material to students who, for the most part, already know and love it, in fact, may know it better than I do. They’re also students who are, in all but one case, taking a class outside their major, purely as an elective that fulfills no GE requirements.… Read the rest
(Oooo, new WP. Let’s see how this goes.)
2018 was my first full year in a tenure-track job. I think I’ve finally gotten out of the job search mindset, though I’m going to MLA again this year to give a paper, so maybe not so much as I should.
A huge number of things happened this year, most of them positive. But the biggest thing wasn’t about me. And it generally wasn’t positive. In late November 2017 my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer and given two to three months to live. In January she started chemotherapy and an experimental drug trial. At Thanksgiving 2018, we “celebrated” a year since her diagnosis. The drugs are working in that they’re keeping her alive and shrinking the tumors. Going with her to her weekly chemo sessions has taught me a few things. First is that the people who work in oncology are pretty much endlessly compassionate in the care they provide. And the second is that chemotherapy sucks. Really sucks. Those Monday chemo sessions and my mom’s reaction to her treatment have been the most significant thing in my life this year and have been the lens through which I experience everything else. I’ve appreciated every hour I’ve had with her and my dad. The best thing about my job (which has a hell of a lot of best things) is that it’s in Los Angeles and affords me the flexibility to be there for her doctor appointments and infusions. This is a privilege that neither my brother or sister have and I am super grateful.… Read the rest
Thank you for the introduction.
Being selected to give this plenary here at the Ford Conference is a huge honor. Receiving the Ford Predissertation Fellowship was a turning point in my academic life. The community of Fellows and what I learned from them is the reason I stayed in graduate school and why I have my current position.
The topic of my talk today is mentoring. Specifically, how mentoring and being mentored are a source of academic joy. Are what makes our success worthwhile. We don’t use words like “joy,” “generosity,” or “kindness” very often in academic circles, instead favoring words like “rigor” as though they can’t all be connected. I know mentoring and the giving of kindness and generosity have been more important to my life as a scholar than any course, archive, or theory. It is my experience with mentoring that has taught me the most. I know the importance of mentoring because of spending six years on the job market, and five as contingent faculty.
During those years I was an adjunct lecturer, I taught at four colleges and universities for seven different departments. One of the chairs I worked for, Chicana feminist scholar Dr. Karen Mary Davalos, (I say her name here because giving credit is important) mentored me on the job market. Over those years, with her support, I applied for more than 200 jobs across the US and internationally. I had more than 20 interviews, and several campus visits. Five years sounds like a long time and it was.… Read the rest
The MALCS 2018 Summer Institute at the University of Texas El Paso is over. I’m sitting in the lobby of the Hilton next to the campus waiting in the blissful air conditioning for my shuttle to the airport. I’m tired and will be glad to be home. But I also am so sorry this year’s institute is over.
Most years I attend 4-5 conferences and/or institutes. In 2018 I will have attended MLA (Modern Language Association), NACCS (National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies), MALCS (Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social), Ford Fellow Conference, and ASA (American Studies Association). All of them are important to me and I attended or tried to attend as an adjunct faculty member, despite having to pay all costs myself. Now that I’m tenure-track my university will pay travel and hotel for two conferences a year where I’m giving a paper. Of all of them though, the one I look forward to most is MALCS. This year since the conference was in Texas and I wasn’t giving a paper, I was happy to self-fund.
MALCS is different from the other conferences in several ways. It’s held on a different or college university campus each year. It’s for community activists as well as academics. And it’s by and for Chicana, Latina, and Indigenous women and gender non-binary people. If you haven’t experienced it, I can’t fully explain what it’s like to walk into a space and see rooms full of women who look like me. Representation isn’t everything and it isn’t utopia.… Read the rest
One of the things I didn’t know when I became an academic is that as one I would write something, it would be accepted, and then it would be months, or more often, years before the work was published. I also didn’t understand that submitting work for publication is a process, that it will be edited, come back to me, revised, sent back and that this process could repeat multiple times.
Being edited is hard for me. Like many academics, especially women of color, I carry with me a huge amount of impostor syndrome, generally believing I’ve gotten this far by somehow tricking a lot of very smart people into thinking I’m smart too. So when I get feedback on my writing, my first impulse is to believe this is the moment — I’ve finally been found out. That’s only my first reaction though. After I take a deep breath and read over editor comments I tend to think things like: “Wow, I’m so glad they caught this” or “They’re right, this could be clearer/longer/shorter, etc.” Good editing and good peer review is a gift from one scholar to another.
I’ve been fortunate in my editors and peer reviewers. With some, there’s been a feminist ethos of editorship that’s been focused on encouraging writing with constructive criticism delivered in a supportive manner. With others, it’s been an open peer review process where I’ve worked with the reviewer to revise something until we both agree it’s ready for publication. In all cases, the editors (including ones where my has been rejected) have been kind people who edit with generosity.… Read the rest
I left Facebook in January, deactivating my account, and then deleted it entirely two weeks ago, a process that’s finally complete. I feel relieved to be gone.
This is not because I don’t care about the people I know there, many of whom I know in other spaces like Twitter or face-to-face. I had a rule I would only be friends with a person I’d be happy to meet for a cup of coffee. My friends and family generally had politics I agreed with and lead interesting lives and are a pleasure to interact with. But nonetheless, however much time I spent there, it was never a space I felt entirely comfortable.
I don’t think this was because I was unnerved by the vast data harvesting of our lives that FB does, although, seen through the lens of Cambridge Analytica it is unnerving. I’m aware that Twitter, which I feel fine with, is busy gathering data too. My unease with Facebook was a combination of things.
First, I’m not a picture-oriented person. I was a late adopter of Facebook for this reason. I like reading much more than looking or watching. Facebook’s focus is on images and so it appeals to me less than a text-base space like Twitter or blogs.
Also, generally speaking I don’t like using products where I’m not the customer. I like being able to call / write and complain when something isn’t working or when it behaves badly and have my problems listened to. This is not just because I want my concerns taken seriously but because putting energy into writing is work, pleasurable work, but work.… Read the rest
What we can do instead of gaslighting by telling adjuncts ‘it was ever thus.’
As those of you who’ve been reading along (all 5 of you) know, I received my Ph.D. from USC’s English department in spring 2011. This past fall 2017 I started a tenure track job in interdisciplinary studies at California State University Dominguez Hills, my dream job, teaching a student population I love in my home city of Los Angeles. Between 2011 and 2017 I was an adjunct at Los Angeles area colleges and universities.
Because I got a tenure track job, at a place where I’d been contingent faculty, a friend suggested I write a blog post or even CHE article on getting hired from part-time adjunct into a full-time tenure track position. I demurred, in part because I think contingent faculty who want to move to the tenure track are far too likely to blame themselves and feel like they’re failing. I don’t want to contribute to that by enumerating the things I did or tried to do to stay in the job market as if doing those things is a path to success. I have my job because I was lottery-level lucky.
Here’s a few of the ways I had a lot of luck. First, I finished my Ph.D. in English in Los Angeles. Los Angeles has a large number of colleges and universities that don’t have their own Ph.D. students. This means it’s not that hard to break into the adjunct pool and it’s possible to get enough work across universities to keep body and soul together.… Read the rest
Just writing that subject line made my head spin a bit. After five years on the job market, fall without letters to request, job lists to study and applications to send out feels odd. Wonderful of course, but odd. I hadn’t realized it, but being on the job market had become part of my identity.
What else is strange? Not telling people I’m an adjunct lecturer, something I thought about today as I revised an article where I identified as an “adjunct instructor.” Likewise, it’s only been a few weeks since I took my Loyola Marymount faculty ID out of my wallet. My car still has a parking permit for West LA Community College on its windshield.
I think this strange feeling of not entirely believing I’m an assistant professor now is partly due to how long I adjuncted and partly due to my having been hired at a place where my status was “part time temporary” for two years. For years I’ve told myself and my family that being hired into a tenure track job would mean relocating, that my partner and I would be moving. But here we are, in the same Santa Monica apartment we lived in when I was a graduate student, thanking the gods for rent control. In addition, I worked in my program coordinator job at CSUDH until the Tuesday of my first week in the new gig. That crashing sound, I think, is me changing gears.
I’m almost moved into my office now. Just need to hang some pictures and for the bookcase to get fastened to the wall (earthquakes) so I can load my books into it. … Read the rest
First off, the weekly review. I did it, it was good and it only took two hours this week so things are improving. I’ve gotten some work done on the book review and in starting to package up my current job so I can hand it off cleanly to my successor in mid-August. Things are getting done in pretty much every area of my life. So that’s good.
Along those lines, I read about a system called ZTD (Zen to Done) on Robert Talbert’s blog as something that he uses to enhance his GTD practice, so of course I went and read the little book. It raised some interesting points about habit formation that I hadn’t considered before and made me think about how I tend to try and change many habits at once only to revert to my old ways when I’m under stress. There’s a lot to unpack there and much good content that I’m still thinking about.
it was the last point in the book, “Find Your Passion Habit” which said that if you make your passion your job then you’ll find doing work easy that I had an issue with. Because I am passionate about my job — both teaching and researching and yet I procrastinate about my writing my research, even though there’s nothing that interests me more than the work I do on Chicana feminist writers and editors. Despite (or perhaps because of this love) sometimes, oftentimes, I struggle when it comes to sitting down and writing my ideas.… Read the rest
GTD. Getting Things Done. I first heard about it on Bonni Stachowiak’s podcast, Teaching in Higher Ed. It’s a system to manage all the many things (tasks and projects) in one’s life. It’s been around for a while. I’m late to the party.
So first, why am I blogging about this when there are so many great bloggers who’ve used GTD for years, including Robert Talbert (another person I met through Teaching in Higher Ed) who’s written some great work on using GTD in academic life? It’s definitely not because I’m setting myself up as some sort of expert on the topic. In fact, I’m writing these posts about the process, or at least my process, of setting up a GTD system at the same time I’m transitioning from five years of adjuncting into a tenure track position as someone who’s new to the system and flawed in her execution of all things requiring habit and structure.
What motivated me to do this? I first heard about the system last winter, read the book and made a stab at it. It helped briefly, but I wasn’t committed enough (habits come hard for me), I didn’t trust the system to work, I tried to use too many new tools (yay tech!) at once and things fell apart, though I will say at least I never had hundreds of emails in my inbox again. But this past spring, just as the semester ended, something happened that shocked me and made me decide I needed and wanted to commit to GTD and its idea of a trusted system to Hold All the Things.… Read the rest