Dear Committee Members...
In the form (if not the spirit) of Julie Schumacher's side-splitting epistolary novel (Dear Committee Members), I humbly submit a short thank you note to my Post-Tenure Review Committee, who met with me yesterday.
Dear Committee Members,
Thank you for participating in my post-tenure review yesterday. This was the third time I have gone through this... this what? Check-up? Ritual? Ceremony? Has it really been 15 years since I was tenured? In any case, I really do appreciate the time and care you put into reading and responding to my portfolio, which admittedly ranged in tone from manic ranting to morose introspection to prickly self-justification. Somehow you saw through all that and found a way to affirm a professor a little past mid-career who is still struggling to be an effective teacher and a good colleague to his peers.
Thank you. No, really, thank you.
In The Courage to Teach, Parker Palmer describes how easy it is to take the off-ramp after 20 years in Higher Ed. He writes, "It is not unusual to see faculty in mid-career don the armor of cynicism against students, education and any sign of hope. It is the cynicism that comes when the high hopes one once had for teaching have been dashed by experience."
The downside to life post-tenure (LPT) is not that it prompts professors to become lazy or to stop being productive. It's simply that LPT tends to coincide with middle age, a time of second guessing. It's also a time when you've been kicked around a bit by the thing you love. It never seems to love you back in quite the way you hoped.
So it's really quite gratifying every few years to have your colleagues take the time to affirm your work and contributions to the cause. It means a lot, especially when it comes from those who actually do the job day in and day out. So thank you, Josh, Kristin and Ross. Your kind words were just the tonic I needed for the end of another term and the start of yet another five years.
And so we beat on...