Superman never made any money for saving the world from Solomon Grundy

Monday, June 27, 2016

A tip of the hat

So, I was interviewed the other day as part of someone's PhD. research into the influences upon and decisions of deans in workforce education (which is what I do). I was heartened by the researcher's telling me that a lot of what I said seemed to echo themes in the works she had read in compiling her (admittedly meager) literature review; it seems that in the space of one academic year, I have made a pretty good transition from the academic transfer side higher education to the workforce side. Besides this little bit of affirmation, the encounter also got me thinking about what it means to be a dean, this weird hybrid of educator and administrator, with all the pitfalls of middle-management to deal with, and how different it is from being a classroom instructor.

Perhaps only coincidentally, while looking for something else entirely in the vast warehouse of my hard drive, I chanced upon this little grid:

I think this dates from 2005 or 2006; in any case, it is from my time as a freeway flyer, a part-time faculty member teaching (according to this chart) five sections of class at three different institutions. That was a way of life for me for three years: a car full of books, a bag full of papers, multiple brown bags, multiple passwords and many, many student names to remember. Looking back, it seems awfully busy from a teaching perspective, but extremely simple from an administrative perspective.

There's a lot of work represented in those colored rectangles, but it's all prep-teach-grade, prep-teach-grade, lather-rinse-repeat. No projects, no meetings, no reports, no budgets, no supervision. A certain kind of bliss. When I look back on those salad days, it is through rose-colored lenses, I imagine - it can't have been that idyllic, and the decanal life is not so rough as to suffer unduly in comparison and does have its own advantages and rewards.

One inarguable benefit of teaching v. deaning is this: Summers. Off. And if not totally off, then reduced so much as to almost make no nevermind. And having this remembrance, along with finding that grid, leads me to a realization. I have been feeling a little off, a little askew, a little unsettled, and I think I have put my finger on it:

For the past three years, I have had summer off, or close enough; this year, graduation has come and gone, and I am still heading to my office every day.

Further, each of those past three summers had it own Summer Self-Improvement Scheme™.
In 2015, it was Decem Septimanae Aestatis.
In 2014, it was W.A.R.M.E.R.
In 2013, it was Around Walaka in 80 Days.
Not all of these schemes had an actual grid (although at least one did) but they all provided a structure to the summer - a planned series of activities and undertakings designed to keep me creative, productive, relaxed, and happy, and to Build a Better Walaka. I think I feel the need for some of that structure now.

This year, as a new dean in a new school, has been a handful. I think I have had a fair share of successes, but the challenges seem to have grown like Topsy, and the demands on my time rose and peaked in Spring quarter with long, long days. The pressure is off a bit now, with graduation behind us and both faculty and students gone - but I don't have the summer off to launch a new SSIS. I might have the need for some focus - my own creative work, my blogging, even my reading have slid into the background lately - but obviously a new solution is in order.

Well, all right then. As the Marines say, Adapt, Improvise, Overcome:

Welcome to HAT TIP -  the Half-Time True Improvement Plan!

Since HAT TIP is a part-time plan, instead of trying to do all summer in a day each day, as I have in seasons past, I will at least make sure that I do something everyday. Whether it's blog, or write, or work on the long-delayed art project, no matter how fagged out or distracted I am when I get home, something creative is going come into being. That's the deal.

I'll post a grid later.

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