Thursday, August 9, 2012

… hello

It was 3 pm on a Sunday afternoon when I finished the last part of my class preparation for the following day. Looking at the clock, I felt almost irrepressibly excited; I had finished early enough to go grocery shopping AND clean the bathroom!

… it was shortly after this that I realised I was failing at life. 

Arguably, the cat-biscuits-in-the-rice-cooker incident was an earlier indication but I've never been one for dwelling on events. 

I was planning to write long, insightful posts about my experiences as a first year faculty member. They were to be filled with thought provoking statements about the balance between research projects and teaching commitments; the rewards and difficulties, the pain and the pleasure. It would undoubtedly be nominated for a Nobel Prize and become a white paper for future developments in higher educational resources. 

... if only it were possible to move a touch further away from the odor of RAW HYSTERICAL PANIC that filled my mind each time I attempted to rationalise my situation into coherent thoughts. 

Guys. It comes down to this:




Who knew? Well… teachers. But who believed them? No one. 

I am now half-way through the year (Japan is a half-year out of sink with the West, so I've completed one semester and taught one course and still have a second semester and a second course to go) and have been sent a cheerful reminder that my first tenure-track assessment will be next month. 

Picture the gateway into Mordor.


Because one must teach a class. Then, the gateway is behind you, that small box in the top left corner of the form is ticked and the rest of the assessment will be on the WORLD CLASS RESEARCH YOU'VE SURELY DONE TO FIND THE ONE RING TO RULE THEM ALL.

Frankly, I'm holding out hopes for big marks allocated for keeping on top of things to the extent of not posing a significant health risk to the rest of the department.  

The saving grace is that I WAS in fact told life was gonna be this way. I was assured that first year faculty was tough but --unless you had the grievous misfortune of teaching a different class the following year-- the second year was significantly better and you might actually get to do research. Or shower. I'm hoping this means my review committee have seriously low expectations. 

Meanwhile I have six teaching-free weeks. I'm thinking 6 research papers. Or 60. Aim for the stars! Because if you fall short… I'll be doomed because I'm an astrophysicist. Darn. 


  1. Hi, Elizabeth.
    In my 18-year experience as a faculty in universities/institutes,
    teaching is hard, but NOT a HARDEST PART of duties in Japanese universities. It should be, but in reality we are exhausted by other much more rubbish non-scientific jobs/discussions/meetings.
    Be away from these as possible as you can:)
    Good luck for your six teaching-free weeks!

    1. So, basically, I should be grateful for my lot? Got it!!

  2. At least you have a Kat to stroke. This is supposedly calming enough to preserve your sanity. Good luck with your planned regime for the next 6 weeks: my money's on you completing 60 papers!

    1. I do have a kat to stroke and she considers any moment she is not being petted as a moment wasted, so I do that a fair amount of the time!

      Bring on the papers! I think I'll make my students write 30 of them.

  3. I am happy to see you back. I hope you do well in your assessment.

  4. I'm on Africa time, but here I am, one week later.

    Yes. Teaching is hard. Or rather, it's hard work to be a good teacher.

    Then one day you get an email from a student you've actually already forgotten about, and he tells you that he's now studying/working at X, and he's really enjoying it, and it's thanks to your support and help and inspiration.

    I don't care how soppy this sounds, but at that moment ... at that moment it's all worth it.

    Enjoy your holiday!

    PS: So how many research papers have you finished since writing this post? :p