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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Busy Brag

Don't busy brag. The message you think it conveys is that you are hard-working and important, but it really conveys the message that you don't manage your time well and that you commit to things you can't finish.

Don't failure brag. This consists of thinking your setbacks are worth of respect. We've all had grant proposals rejected, so there's nothing particularly meritorious about it.

Don't complain about the low level of your students. What you think it means is that you are a great intellect giving pearls to the swine. But anyone can teach good students: it is almost effortless. Teaching actually means meeting students where they are. The easiest thing in the world to do is pitch a class above the heads of students and then complain about them.

Don't humble brag. The humble brag consists of complaining about something bad in order to brag about yourself. "I'm so mad at myself because I've only published three articles this year."

Suffering doesn't ennoble you, it is just suffering.

14 comments:

profacero said...

What if it is not bragging? What if it is just an honest request to have your service / admin load reduced? Fully 50% of my time this semester goes to independent study projects I have to have because we cannot give enough senior courses, yet must increase number of students graduated and time to graduation, and to admin / service that got dropped on me after the semester started ... and that if I do not do, someone else will have to do, with the same disastrous effects on them as on me now. The only answer is that these tasks be shared into teams, and that certain administrative deadlines be flouted. I am not fucking bragging, I am screaming in pain. ! ! !

profacero said...

and *reduce time to graduation. Like, next semester, I have to teach an overload AND lead independent projects so we can graduate people on time, and because we cannot give a regular class.

I have never known anyone to "busy brag," actually. People are genuinely overworked. I actually think all the forms of bragging you describe have to be pastimes of the rich, or something like that.

profacero said...

...that is, cannot give *enough regular classes, because not all would be large enough. Yet we are not allowed to say tough beans, delay graduation, either.

profacero said...

"Suffering doesn't ennoble you, it is just suffering." This, of course, I agree with and I think suffering demeans and diminishes.

profacero said...

...but I am still trying to understand the people in this post, they seem entirely egotistical -- this, I guess, is why I think they have nothing to do / are idle.

profacero said...

-- and so now, I just went to inform that a certain service project that was dumped on me mid semester could not be done by deadline and was told I was just "busy bragging." ME CAGO EN LA LECHE.

Jonathan said...

Yes, of course I am talking about people in research universities who could not imagine what you have to do in your institution. I still think there is a kind of underlying Calvinism among academics. The worship of work, the belief in human depravity and the glorification of suffering. Part of this is to figure out why I am not happier myself. I should be. I have the ideal job.

Leslie said...

Well, I sometimes show that I am overworked on purpose, because it is the only way to get them to let up. Yet I think one's job is actually not to be: as a teacher one does not want to model suffering.

I went into academia because it was fun. In graduate school it seemed to me that the sufferers were philistines from the East.

Jonathan said...

"in Graduate School
it seemed to me
that the sufferers
were Philistines
from the East."

That's a nice poem.

Leslie said...

I do try to write sentences that could be broken into poems like this. Someone who reads my blog once hired me for a while to try to teach her to write like me. I failed, and she quit. I should have given her this tip: write sentences like poems.

GMP said...

I guess you simply don't want people complaining about their academic jobs at all? I am at an R1 and have probably been guilty at one time or another of each of these infractions when blogging. For me, complaining online mostly serves the purpose of venting; I don't think it's special or profound, but it does release the pressure.

I will say, though, that having a grant rejected when it's not the core requirement of your job versus when it is are decidedly different experiences; if the university expects you to bring in a certain amount of money or else you don't get tenure, if the livelihood of several (or several dozen) group members depends on your success with raising funds, I assure you that is very stressful. And constant grant chasing is a reality of life in STEM at R1 schools.

I like teaching, but I will tell anyone that about 40-50% of the students in the major should not be majoring in it. When I get a bimodal distribution of scores, with one peak at 45% and another at 85%, it is very hard to teach -- the worst thing is aiming at the average, because nobody is there; the top performers are bored and the poorer students are still lost. I would love to have the ability and time to tailor my teaching to these diverse levels, but with 100 people in my class and no TA support, I will not be very successful even if I put in tremendous amounts of time into creating materials for different tiers. And being that I am at an R1, I will not get a metaphorical medal (i.e., a raise, or recognition, or anything really) if I do a very good job with such a disparity of backgrounds versus if I don't, because only the success in publishing and raising funds are counted as merit... And teaching well to the ever larger classes with ever more glaring disparities in student abilities (because of admin hunger for tuition dollars) is a thankless job that would require a ton of time, and ideally resources, to do well. The time that I have to take from my family or my research.

And there's a rant right there...

Jonathan said...

Complain all you want. Don't let me stop you. Be aware, though, that complaining itself fills time that could be used otherwise.

profacero said...

Not analyzing what is really going on, and putting a lot of time and energy into time management schemes that are expected to be cure-alls, also fills time that could be used far more productively.

I do not like venting, though. I never understood the people who go on about problems and then are not willing to do anything about them. Either you are going to act, or you are not, is my view.

But look at this post, it is brilliant, about slowness. Really worth reading. https://my.vanderbilt.edu/themindfulphd/2013/10/stories-of-the-slow-professor/

Leslie said...

P.S. Maybe the problem with the post is that it assumes these things are bragging. I think the issues GMP points to do need discussion -- if one cannot name the things that are happening, one cannot understand where the energy drain is.

I do think it is important not to be so busy that you can't get basic things done. I have this problem and I don't know how to get out of it -- I do try, but overwork is not when you can't say no, it is when you are not allowed to.