Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mid-Career Mike on Loving the Grumdop Unicorns.

I hope you get a lot of mail concerning Silverback Soren's (belated) admiration for his junior faculty colleagues.

There is a lot of mean-spirited stuff on RYS (and that's why we love it so), but Soren's was a nice palate-cleanser for all of us who toil in departments with a wide variety of folks.

Myself, here at the lovely SodaPop College - with its lovely breezes coming in my office window that I can actually OPEN - I find myself roughly in the middle of the department, with a handful of folks senior and junior to me.

Like Soren, I confess I have spent my time in the faculty lounge bitching about those folks who come for a first year on the t-t only to escape quickly when they find a "better" job or a "better" college, or just a job near their grad school pals. But how is that different than any profession?

What I thought was most instructive in Soren's note was his realization that his young pal Hector was actually - unbelievably! - doing a better job in the same class. This is something all of us "aging" academics need to recognize. New folks come in with the latest training and theory, and as they get their feet under them as teachers, this new information often helps them make new inroads into whatever discipline they teach.

For me, though, it's the ambition that I love in younger faculty. Pre-tenure, they are truly striving, and although this page has often made fun of that notion - me included! - that ambition can rub off if you'll let it.

Sure, silverbacks like Soren (and me, in about ten minutes) have got a wealth of experience, and that has to be valued. But I've learned to love the "gumdrop unicorns" in our junior faculty. I learn from them, and if they're smart, they'll learn from me, too.