Archive for August 4th, 2009

HowTo: mentor yourself

August 4, 2009

Mary Jane Hurst has some suggestions: the last tip, for example, is about meticulous documentation:

It is important to understand the institution’s mission and to know the rules and procedures within the department, college, and institution. Read the faculty handbook and be familiar with the official policies and procedures. Know the written and unwritten rules. Keep your ears open to discussions about tenure or promotion cases in the years ahead of your own review. Ask to see examples of successful teaching portfolios or tenure dossiers. Take advantage of whatever information sessions or workshops are offered to help newcomers learn the ropes.Once a person knows what he or she needs to do, then the next step is to document everything related to completing the expectations and requirements of the job. Maintain a folder for every class taught, keeping the syllabus, course information handouts, assignment sheets, tests, and other materials. Preserve clear grade records for every class and be ready to explain and defend, if necessary, every grade assigned. Keep numerical records of and examples of teaching evaluations done by students. For every manuscript, grant application, or work project, keep copies of drafts at each stage, maintain meticulous bibliographic records, and save every letter from an editor, publisher, or agency. Keep conference programs and travel records proving that you attended a particular conference and gave a particular presentation. Keep copies of offprints. Keep letters of appointment and letters of thanks for committee work. Keep copies of the annual report, of a chair’s or review committee’s annual evaluation, and of any peer teaching evaluations. Keep everything, and, ideally, keep it well organized.

At some institutions, a faculty member may be expected to present all such materials for an annual review, probationary review, or tenure review. At other institutions, a person may be expected only to provide a summary of one’s work, but, even in such cases, it is important to have the documentation available should it be requested.

While it is necessary to keep paper records in good order, it is also critical to keep electronic materials well maintained. One’s vita, syllabi, or other professional material should be stored electronically as it exists at a particular point in time, labeled clearly with a date in the title (as in MentorEssay20May09). Then, when the document is updated, it can be stored as a new version with a new date (as in MentorEssay15July09). Especially for long-range projects such as book manuscripts that may take years to complete, keep multiple copies of clearly labeled drafts. Store an extra disk, CD, flash drive, or other portable device with the latest copies of one’s most important materials in a safe deposit box or other secure location. This may sound overly obsessive, but no one wants a flood, fire, hurricane, tornado, computer crash, theft, or other unexpected loss to wipe out months or even years of work.

When it comes to maintaining professional records, it is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Even award-winning teachers have students complain about them. Even eminent scholars may be wrongly accused of misrepresentation. So, build a reputation for competence and integrity while building a record of success – and have the documents to prove everything.

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