OK, so regular readers know that I've been on the committee that evaluates annual faculty reports and handles T&P. Of course, despite being a member of that committee, I knew what to expect on my own annual evaluation, even though it was my first full year (which is the big advantage of having junior faculty sit on this committee), but I didn't know how the language was going to come out.
It's funny, in her comments to my last post, Tenured Radical said, "I promise to be 100% supportive." And I think that I too was expecting--even dreading--something I myself hadn't thought of, something that would mean I'd need support, or that, like my grad evals, this report would phrase something that I knew about in a way that I hadn't been ready for.
But the news was shockingly, almost embarrassingly good (not so embarrassingly that I'm not going to report it here, though). I received two evlauations, one from the chair and one from the committee. Both offer three descriptors each: on Research, Teaching and Service. And from each I received "Excellent, Excellent, Good," respectively. And I'm hardly miffed at the "good" for service because it's hard to get that much service in your first year, even if you're looking for it (as I, masochistically, do), and since I'm all but guaranteed and excellent for this years service cycle.
But it gets better. The chair writes that the work I've produced in that last year "suggests that he will soon emerge as one of the department's strongest researchers" and that he was "impressed with his thoroughness and dedication as an undergraduate teacher."
The committee itself "congratulates the indefatigable Professor [Horace] for the success of his research endeavors," and my favorite: "One . . . student does complain that Professor [Horace's] tap dancing skills are mediocre, but apart from this grievous failing, he is clearly delivering the goods."
So I'm excited. I'm thrilled actually. I've been waiting for this level of affirmation my entire career, but have never actually been the rockstar of my peers at any level: always very strong, going to go places, doing good work, bright, etc. But I've never worn the mantle of expectation the way that I read these comments as offering.
And frankly, as much as I am thrilled, I am also terrified and deeply confused. Several posts, notably Flavia's and Tenured Radical's have addressed the need for young scholars to figure out what sort of career they hope to carve out, and work toward the conditions that will best facilitate that sort of career. And also, at the same time, I am put to mind of another post from TR about a junior colleague who received good students evals, and then felt paralyzed by the heightened expectations.
I am three and a half years beyond the diss, in my second year on the tenure track. By the end of the summer, I will likely have enough material accepted and forthcoming to secure the minimum tenure requirements, even though my critical year is 2010-11. The hurdles are, for all intents and purposes, cleared. Sure I want to get my book published, which is not required, but would be great, and sure I want to continue to inspire and educate my students. But generally, the space is wide open to become the sort of academic professional I've always wanted to become, which is . . .
I have no idea.
Up until this point, I've defined myself against the hurdles, with more attention devoted to clearing them than to landing gracefully. These evaluations suggests that I'm clearing the hurdles just fine, and they expect me to land and keep running. But which direction? Toward respected theorist and critic? toward cult-followed undergrad teacher? Toward dynamic and beloved department chair? Toward innovative dean? Of course, one of these may be actively attainable, and I may also choose to pursue multiple trajectories here. But for the first time since I started my M.A. the act of running is easy, but the direction is unclear.