It's been a weird semester and this is going to be a weird post. I'm trying to work through how I made a mess of it, and doing that publicly is odd... but it fits with how this blog has helped me develop as a professional. I shared my portfolio at the beginning of the semester, which I put together to make a case for promotion to full professor, and I've been turned down for that by the college personnel committee and our dean, after a positive but slightly contentious department vote. The reason for for the no was no peer-reviewed publications. Serves me right, many say, applying for full without any.
At Grand Valley they hired me to be a math educator, in what I still consider to be a minor miracle. What were they thinking? I didn't think too much of publishing then because I was really just learning the field, and then I just never got around to it. I was also changing (hopefully growing) so fast that it felt weird putting something into print - who knew if I was still going to be doing that in a year or two? Plus work in the schools with students and with teachers in professional development was so much more satisfying. That led me to blogging, as a way to share resources and post materials for teachers, and blogging led me to writing. (Such as it is.) It was ephemeral enough that I didn't feel chained by it, and informal enough that I could share my process and stream of thought, which I value over product.
Then I started getting positive attention at work for the blog. I had long accepted that the way I went about my job meant never being a full professor and I didn't mind at all. Several friends convinced me to consider applying for promotion, and when my chair mentioned to my wife Karen that I should, it became a home discussion, too. I decided to try; I could be a test case, since I didn't really care. But a funny thing happened on the way, and as I put together materials and considered the college criteria, I really convinced myself that I did fit the criteria. The one thing missing: peer review. I decided that my department would be the peers, and made the process about asking them about the quality of my scholarship. They felt it met the requirements, though some felt like that was the wrong question, and the right question was publishing. But our criteria don't require publishing.
So when the negative decision came, it was totally depressing. The dean made it clear that it's a "technical requirement," and, I'm sure he thought kindly, "if you had one paper accepted..." Which to me sounded like you're right, your work is deserving, but sorry, you forgot to check a box. My negative reaction to this makes me feel foolish beyond measure, because my life is a constant stream of blessings. This is so totally a first world problem. It made me feel unappreciated at work, despite the great support I received from many people. Karen suggested my reaction came from a lack of previous failures, and that is part of it, too, I think. It really mired me in negativity.
I went from doing what I love because I loved it, to caring what someone else would say about it. And now I probably will try to submit for publication, though every obstinate bone in my body says to hell with it. Because it makes a financial difference for my family, though I hate that this matters. Which takes me back to having been so fortunate that I can be such an idealist at this advanced age.
Then it finally connected to me both how we do this to students all the time. Care about the grade! And how this is parallel to the new and developing teacher evaluation programs. With much higher stakes, where a no means you're out of school or out of a job. It's a nasty proposition, having to manage your professional life or academic life with someone else's criteria and interpretation of those criteria hanging over your head.
Sympathy for the people really subjected to these extrinsic measures is helping me come out of my funk. Plus to still be doing the job I love, with the constant amazing work that students do when genuinely learning. Two #mathchats on math games this week! A new batch of student teachers to mentor next semester. I want to re-evaluate how I'm trying to motivate students, and to be honest about it.
It's a Wonderful Life, when measured by what actually matters.