The Little Professor critiques the “tempt[ation] to represent one’s own experience as not just normative, but also universal.”

I think there needs to be more awareness of a particular style of decision-making. Much of the critique of unprofessional academic advice tends to boil down to “well, it isn’t like that for everyone!” But I’m not sure that anyone actually reads such advice as gospel.

I consistently read and enjoyed the First Person pieces in the Chronicle of Higher Education, both before and while I was on the market, largely because they helped me understand the range of things that I might run into. Certainly no one had the secret to success, but taken all together, these pieces mapped the terrain of the market for me. That map made me better able to judge when I might want to consider following a script and when I was in uncharted territory.

Similarly, I recall starting a new job. Along with several others, I would be teaching an introductory course that carried an identical number and listing in the course catalog. I naturally asked the others for their syllabi. One colleague, who is extremely different from me (which actually makes him an awesome colleague), happily sent syllabi, but cautioned me that I needed to develop my own course. Frankly, I was a bit insulted at this, because of course I was going to do what I wanted to do. But to head down my own road, with no awareness of what anyone else is doing, strikes me as a bad idea. If I am breaking the mold, I want to know it, and prefer to consciously choose to take that risk rather than to do it out of ignorance.*

Random yet related note: I love browsing maps that show all the different ways to get somewhere, and can spend hours flipping through an atlas. But I find a Trip Tik from AAA, which tracks a single defined path and shows just that section of the map, horrible and impossible to use.

*Incidentally, I was breaking the mold. I pushed it for two years, but low course evaluations are finally going to make me shift out of the “here be dragons” space, I think. At least temporarily.

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