Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Mentoring Rules

We have three new tenure-track faculty in the department this year and it's my responsibility as associate chair to mentor them. This involves classroom observations (at least two over the course of the first semester), orienting them to department culture, answering any questions they may have, and especially adding department-specific information to the university-wide orientation that's spread out over the entire first semester (and maybe year). Oh, and presenting their reappointment files to the rest of the tenured faculty at the end of the first semester. (Yes, we have a crazy schedule. Doesn't everyone?)

Because I was away last year, I had nothing to do with the searches on which these new colleagues were hired and knew nothing about them when I arrived back in the States. So mentoring them has been a great way to get to know them, and, through their questions, reacquaint myself with everything I managed to forget about the department and university during my Fulbright year. I'm pleased to report that from my conversations with them about their teaching and research, our institution, and the profession, as well as my first observations of their classes, I've come to the conclusion that once again my colleagues made wise choices during the hiring process. Each of the new hires brings a very different set of interests and approaches to the department while contributing to our existing strengths. I'm not going to go into specifics here or now, but the best thing about the mentoring relationships we've already established from my perspective--someone whose first semester here is still quite fresh in my mind and who is in the middle of transitioning back to a familiar place after being on quite unfamiliar grounds for the past year--is the chance to see our institution through a variety of fresh sets of eyes. I'm at a place in my career where I can actually look back and note patterns in it, and so be relatively dispassionate about the costs and benefits of some of the choices I've made. So I can provide some context and perspective on choices my new colleagues are currently facing--and see where their situations and issues differ from the ones facing me when I first arrived here.

Sure, it's a lot of time and a lot of responsibility, but I can't recommend it highly enough, particularly to other newly tenured professors at teaching institutions.

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