Thursday, August 21, 2008

Taking Stock

As usual, I underestimated the mass of work that slams me during the first school days. I tried to have as many things done ahead of time as possible, syllabi and so on. But some things you can’t foresee. Xavier is about to undergo accreditation, an event that takes place every ten years, and which takes several years to complete. That means updating faculty vitas (resumes) and filling out many other forms. We also have to turn in an annual (but more extensive now) update sheet that basically tells the university administration everything important we’ve done in the past academic year—from August to August.

The areas in which our updates are made in are: Teaching, Scholarship, University Service, Public Service, and Collegiality. We also have a section labeled “Other Pertinent Information,” for things that don’t fit the big five categories.

For teaching, I list courses that I’ve taught and any new developments for those classes. For scholarship, I count non-fiction pieces only, and only those that have some relationship to the areas I teach in. I count writing articles, for example, since I teach “Writing in Psychology,” but a piece on “Sword & Sorcery” wouldn’t count. As for fiction, Xavier, as does most universities, looks askance at fiction and poetry publications for anyone outside the English Creative Writing Department. I have been known to mention some of this stuff under “Other Pertinent Information,” but I doubt it’s ever helped me. In fact, I’m sometimes convinced it works against me. Maybe I’m not working hard enough at my career if I have time to write a novel, for example.

For University service, I mention committees I serve on, particularly the Internal Review Board (Human subjects committee), which I’m chair of. And for public service I mention public lectures that I’ve given on various issues related to psychology, or writing, or evolution, or dreams. I do list the talks here that I gave at Babel Con and similar venues.

I’ve actually never minded much doing these updates. It gives me a chance to take stock, to put into writing the things I feel I’ve accomplished over the year. As a person with a streak of OCD, I rather like making lists, and updates are kind of like lists. Just expanded ones.

How about you? How often, if ever, do you “take stock?” What categories are important in your life? Your career?



Cheri said...

Good luck with all that...

There is so much to running a school (I work in the administration) and I never had any clue! Right now I'm picking up on writing content for the website and advertising and it's a big, heavy load. At least I get to do writing, right?

=D Keep it up!

laughingwolf said...

as long as you enjoy it, and it means continued employment, keep at it, charles!

one forced to retire early [chronic tendinitis in both hands], i do pretty much whatever i want to

awaiting a new imac, and animation software, atm, but will continue my writing as well....

Lisa said...

Blogging has helped me to periodically stop and assess what I'm doing in my life and it's helped me to measure my progress (or not) toward my goals. It's also helped me continually re-examine my priorities.

As for my paying job (I'm smiling now), this scene from Glengarry Glen Ross defines my world:

No -- it's not that bad, but the only measure that matters to my company as far as what I do is what I closed and if I met quota. Easy peasy. :)

Steve Malley said...

If I ever slow down, I might look back at where I've been. Mostly, I'm building momentum for the next big jump.

Lana Gramlich said...

I take stock in my life's happiness (inc. you, our lovely home, all of the critters, etc.,) every day. That takes precedence over anything else for, without happiness, what's the bloody point?
Library "career" (if it can be called that,) I must admit that I only tend to take stock only when my annual review comes around, so I can make my point for as large a raise as possible (although my employer so far has not disappointed me.) The art "career," now in its 3rd incarnation, is too young for much stock to be taken yet. Perhaps at the end of the year I'll look back.

Sidney said...

Funny how an achievement is an achievement until it isn't.

Everything you do affects and enriches everything you do, just not on paper sometimes.

Shauna Roberts said...

When I make my writing goals for the new year, I look at the past year's goals and see how I did and think about what I accomplished that wasn't a goal. I don't spend too much time on this. I'd rather look forward to what I'm going to do than uselessly berate myself for what I didn't get done.

Travis Cody said...

I take stock every 4-5 years, sometimes on purpose and sometimes when forced to by a job change. I enjoy it, especially when I discover the positive growth I've made.

Good luck with your updates.

Rick said...

I try to take stock both before and after I finish a major writing project. Thought provoking question.

Charles Gramlich said...

Cheri, thanks. Good luck with the writing.

Laughingwolf, it's not a bad job as jobs go.

A lot of jobs/businesses say they want a family kind of atmosphere. Most of the time that's a lie, of course. It's what have you done for me lately.

Steve Malley, I think I have to stop periodically and catch my wind for the next jump.

Lana, your art and photo stuff really seems to have taken off here lately.

Sidney, oh yes, it's often arbitrary how one thing is considered an achievement when other things might be more important in the long run.

Shauna, there was a time when I tended to castigate myself on what I "hadn't" accomplished, but I tend not to do that anymore. I'm just happy if I've made some decent progress.

Travis, I know I tend to take stock after major life changes, like a job change. It helps ground you, I think.

Vwriter, that's a good time to do it. It's what I'd most likely do if I weren't kind of forced into the timetable I use by my job.

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

Oh goodness do I feel the beginning of semester pain! I am scrambling so badly! Good luck with everything!

X. Dell said...

Hmmm. Take stock in. Good question. I have to admit, though, that I don't really care to "take stock," insofar as I understand your meaning of it. I have to constantly review what I've done, and summarize it to strangers to explain who I am. But my past is so present there's really nothing nostalgic about it.

Bernita said...

"I'd rather look forward to what I'm going to do than uselessly berate myself for what I didn't get done."
"Berate" is what I'd do.
Thank you, Shauna for the "out."

Monique said...

Take stock? Good question. Regularly I guess, with all the writing I do.

Taking stock with MD is mostly important as I have to remember who's who in what relationship with what friends/enemies etc, to avoid mistakes.

I actually looked up okra in the dictionary.

Paul R. McNamee said...

You can take stock in Swords of Talera. I finished reading it and it is a solid piece of work, Charles. It's as good as any sword'n'planet out there and better than alot of it.

Granted I haven't read much in the sub-genre, but you avoided all the plot conveniences that ERB constantly used that would always fail to suspend my disbelief.

Good work!

Anonymous said...

I probably don't take stock enough. Or maybe I do, but feel guilty about it. Law vs. writing. One is relatively guaranteed success. One is relatively guaranteed failure (or small success). Yet, my priorities are what they are.

Heff said...

I think Mel Brooks said it best.

"Work, work, work, work work work work."

Charles Gramlich said...

Ello, it's kicking my ass.

X-dell, sounds like you keep a sort of running evaluation.

Bernita, I tend to be a dwell in the past sort of guy a lot of times. More in the last couple years I've been able to look forward.

Monique, I do keep an updated bibliography of my writing. Otherwise I'd never be able to reconstruct it.

Paul, thanks very much. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I really loved writing that book.

Jason Evans, I understand. I'd make more money for sure if I'd focus more on my academic career, but I just have to get in the fiction or else I don't feel whole.

Charles Gramlich said...

Heff, the only quote I remember from Mel Brooks is: "It's good to be the king."

Anonymous said...

I assess my progress as I go along. It might be interesting to take stock over a longer period of time to see what I have or havn't accomplished. But, then I might be disapointed. That won't stop me though.

Good luck with the process. It's a large undertaking.

Stewart Sternberg (half of L.P. Styles) said...

I am forced to take stock each year when the cuts come and once again I am not sure what the staffing will be like in the coming year, and if I am even going to have a program. I then take stock again later, once school has commenced, and I am scrambling to figure new strategies to impact my students and their learning.

Erik Donald France said...

Good luck!

I agree, it's good to take stock from time to time in all areas.

On the other hand, bureaucracy can be tiresome from time to time, too.

BernardL said...

It's an on going year after year upward learning curve as cars and trucks envelope more and more space age technology. In life, holding onto a solid value system proceeds with fervor and sometimes failure. :)

Chris Eldin said...

I hope you get these ends tied up quickly so you can move on to what you enjoy...

Donnetta said...

Hi, Charles: I've really been taking stock lately. This is my last year of working--going to retire July 1, 2009. Well, I had the private practice (speech-lang path), worked in children's clinic, out patient diagnostics in a hospital, compliance/complaint coordinator for the state department, and speech-lang path in school. Time to focus on writing. Look forward and glance back. Hope I've done some good and hope I can do more. We'll see. Donnetta

Travis Cody said...

Hey Charles - I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the Talera books. I finished Witch this evening. I was ready to go back to the beginning and start them over.

I loved the non-stop action.

SQT said...

I have a friend who always says to have an "attitude of gratitude" and I try to remember that when I feel overwhelmed. Right now the only accomplishments that matter are about my kids. I'll get to myself when they don't need me as much. Well, when I'm not blogging. ;)

JR's Thumbprints said...

I no longer participate on committees because they tend to be coffee and donut sessions. In fact, I think the other committee members are glad to see me gone. I'm rather curt with my suggestions and answers, thinking we'd gathered to solve problems.

As for accreditation, I have to provide documentation showing that we are meeting the American Correctional Association standards. It's nothing but busy work. Here, administration watches what assignments they give me. For instances: at one time they had me document how personnel checks for updated teaching certificates. Wrong move on their part. I documented how they mistakenly thought my certificate had expired; I included their threatening memos.

I'd rather spend my valuable work time teaching instead of following a paper trail.

FANCY said...

"take stock - career?"

This is deep. The investment in my self I try to do everyday both in work and on my free time. My thoughts about this is more like can we be motivated to much and be addicted to have goal in every thing we do created from others and from our self - Or is it to be confirm of what we have have done who lead us to the goal who get us stressed up?

Your today writing get me into this thinking ;)

Charles Gramlich said...

Jack, sometimes when I'm disappointed in my progress that means I'll really start working harder.

Stewart, I'm glad I teach in the private sector most of the time. Although we have lean years, it doesn't feel the same as when the state mandates cuts that you know are harmful all around.

Erik, my hidden shame is that I'm actually a very good beaurocrat, even though I hate to be in charge of other folks. Sigh. I guess it's the German in me.

Bernardl, you're right on, and it gets harder every year.

ChrisEldin, me too. Paperwork is very frustrating.

Donnetta, definitely a time to take some stock. I'm a ways from retirement but about to turn fifty so this next year may be a year of taking stock and seeing about new directions.

Travis, thanks so much for the kind words. I'm really glad you enjoyed them. I definitely wanted an increase in pace and action across the trilogy. I love to read action and it's the most fun to write, at least for me.

SQT, you've got the priorities right with your kids. Definitely the most important role that any of us can play. I still have to keep an eye on my boy, even though he's 21 now.

JR, I've been called to be on fewer and fewer committees over the years and I think it's my crotchety approach, along the lines of, couldn't we be being productive instead of sitting here in a meeting. That kind of paper trail, which I have to do as well on occassion, though probably not as much as you, is indeed a waste.

Fancy, increasingly I find it difficult to separate out my career and my life. They really seem to have melded together.

writtenwyrdd said...

I always feel like I'm beating myself up when I do a taking of stock. The OCD tendency to think it's not enough. Glad to know that the listmaking thing I have is typical.

ivan said...


Accustomed to the world of "publish or perish", I was astounded when I went to work in an Ontario community college, that my fellow profs had published nothing at all...Oh, yeah, there was this guy who had a letter published in the East Jesus Intelligencer or something--which gave him a mandate to teach journalism!
I swear the department was full of thugs who had somehow found a back door to education...And they soon showed it. "We can hurt you."
Guess they could, but I managed to knock off as many of the enemy as I could.

Professor Lauren Peter:
"Competition in education is so high because the stakes are so low."
In my elitist way I am conviced that there was a reason for a PhD requirement for tertiary education.

These clods had nothin'. Some of them hadn't even finished high school; the requirement was professional achievement--oh yean, one had been a disk jockey....Qualified him to each Radio and TV Arts.
But then I just had a slim B.A. and had stuff printed regularly in the local paper.
Guess it's vanity, but I think it should still be "publish or perish."
The kind of clods they used to hire to mess up the minds of the young.
And some of them couldn't even spell.
They retired as deparment heads.

Undergoing accreditation? Never happened.

Bitter? Just a bit.

Mary Witzl said...

My husband used to have to do this too. He resented the amount of time he had to put in listing all his professional developments or embellishing them in some cases; inevitably it took away from teaching time.

One of my colleagues used to work with someone who was a big name in EFL research. This man brought all sorts of kudos to the university, but he virtually ignored his students because he really hated teaching. Those are the people who really ought to be worried...

cs harris said...

An interesting concept, taking stock like that. I think I'd be depressed if I had to do it, though! I seem to do the same things, day after day, without getting very far very fast.

Charles Gramlich said...

Writtenwyrd, making lists comforts me. Makes me feel like the job is managable.

Ivan, the problem with publish and perish is that too often the students are the ones who suffer. I definitely agree that faculty need to keep working professionally and do scholarship to keep up to date, but if you are going to perish because you don't publish, you will spend "all" your time publishing and none of it teaching. The old adage that publishing more makes you a better teacher just isn't true. I know too many faculty who ignore their students. On the other hand, I know those who don't do anything in scholarship and eventually their teaching suffers because their knowledge becomes outdated.

Mary Witzl, there is definitely an element of time wasted in it. I think taking stock is important for me, but it would be better to let me do it on my own time rather than forcing it. That is not particularly good for morale or for accomplishing the job of teaching.

Josephine Damian said...

Charles and Ello: If it's any consolation, my prof sent out all our lesson assignments/term paper info several days before the semester even started! Aaaaargh! This grad student is taking stock of not just a thesis to finish, but another class w/homework & term paper. I look at the calendar and say, Holy crap, how the hell am I going to accomplish all that?

Josephine Damian said...

Yeah, I have an eraser board in my kitchen w/monthly to-do lists written on it - it helps keep me on track.

4 months till I graduate (assuming I finish everything).

Charles Gramlich said...

Josephine, you are closing in on the brass ring now. Hang on. Sometimes this time gets the hardest. Good luck with everything.