I appreciate your thoughtful comments on my last post. As you may imagine, I've had some food for thought these past few days. It doesn't look like the relevant administrators will be able to make tomorrow's department meeting, but I still have a brief meeting with the head of school tomorrow mid-day, and then I presume that department members will do some brainstorming at our department meeting so that we have a proposal to give to the higher-ups.
I've particularly been thinking about nicoleandmaggie's comment about what it would take to make the department chair position worthwhile. (I was actually an economics as well as an English major as an undergrad, so this is already how I tend to think about such decisions, but I very much appreciated their phrasing the relevant questions so clearly!)
And here's what I've come up with: I would take on the chair position if I could also keep my current fifth-period equivalencies (so there's no issue of getting them back the year after) and teach only three classes instead of four, all with the proviso that my being in that position would not affect D's chances of being hired for the sabbatical replacement. (Obviously if she were hired someone else would have to do her evaluation, but that shouldn't be a big deal.)
Here's why I think this scenario could work for me: My sense is that chair duties tend to be episodic, as do the tasks of my other non-teaching duties, so having one fewer course -- since teaching/grading is the sustained, day-in-and-day-out work -- means that I think I would still have mental energy to write in the quieter periods. This scenario would mean that there was an additional course to be covered in the English department next year, and I don't know how the funding for these things works exactly; I mean, the total quantity of work being done would still be the same, because if someone else in the department took on my current fifth-period work, that person's current fifth-period work would presumably be done by someone else, just perhaps in another department (if it were a case of coaching or the like).
Now, whether the head of school would go for this or not, I don't know, but I feel good about it as a proposal. I don't know exactly what her agenda is tomorrow for our 15-minute conversation (and she was very clear about the time limit on it), but I anticipate that I'll get a chance to pitch this idea even if we don't get to really talk about it. But of course I'll wait to hear what she has to say, in case she's making an even better proposal!
Here's a confession: One reason that I am reluctant to take on the chair position is that I'm not at all convinced I'm a good leader. I mean, I did a great job a few years ago running a committee as part of our school's self-study, but that was a strictly focused, time-limited project in which committee folks were just as happy to have me running a tight ship because we all realized that it would make for less work for us all in the end. But department chair is another beast altogether; the English teachers at FGS tend not to be a dispassionate lot (as I think is the case for English teachers everywhere!), and I get queasy in the face of open conflict, and I tend to worry a lot about other people's feelings and to get my own feelings hurt. A gazillion years ago, I was president for a year of the English grad student union at my grad school, and quite frankly I didn't get much done and didn't enjoy the experience much at all because I was so paralyzed about making decisions that people wouldn't like. Now, I'm much older and wiser now, but I still get uneasy about any decision I make that doesn't immediately result in crowds rising to their feet in cheers and huzzahs. I know that some of my departmental colleagues (maybe just a couple of them) think I have an outsized ego, but in some ways it's disturbingly fragile, such that my sense of equilibrium gets up-ended when other folks disagree with me too sharply (and of course I'm probably in no way unusual in this!), which makes me doubt my own leadership abilities. My picture of leadership is someone who can dispassionately weigh all sides, think creatively beyond the very notion of "sides," and make a reasoned argument about the best course, all while navigating the sometimes difficult waters of conflicting personalities and personal agendas ... and I'm just not sure I can handle that task. But I don't know that anyone else in the department can either! And why am I so convinced that a leader must be dispassionate, when I myself am so moved by other people's passionate leadership (when it's balanced by a good dose of calm reason)?
I was thinking about all of this this morning as I was avoiding grading by browsing the internet. Last night I had commented on Sisyphus's post about rethinking writing, and I went back this morning to read the other interesting comments, and from there followed the conversation to another commenter's blog ... at which point, I'll confess, I got my feelings hurt a little by one of the comments made over there. Or, rather, I started to get my feelings hurt, and then I thought, "Wait a minute, does this even matter? Do I actually care what someone on the internet who is not a close friend thinks about a comment that I made on another blog? Is this actually worth any energy on my part? Um, no." And then I thought, "Hey, maybe this is personal progress! Maybe I'm finally becoming someone with a healthier ego who doesn't need to be loved and admired all the time by everyone!" Now, I have a long way to go on this road, but it did give me some hope that perhaps I would be able to get through a year of being chair without living with hurt feelings and emotional distress all the time. I'm sure I would have them some of the time, but I do anyway; the percentage would undoubtedly go up, not least because the department chair meetings are really contentious and seem very unpleasant, which is so strange in a school that is otherwise fairly pleasant and tranquil, but I don't think I would feel as distressed at those as I would about problems within the department, which of course will inevitably occur.
(A digression: One thing that really distresses me about being officially middle-aged is that I thought I would be an emotionally mature person by now, and the fact that I'm not at 45 makes me question very much whether I'm actually ever going to get there. And I'm sure that this realization strikes every single person at some point in middle age, but that doesn't make it any less distressing to me to be having that realization.)
I'm going right from the meeting with the head of school into another meeting with another administrator about one of my areas of responsibility, and so I have a proposal in my back pocket for that meeting as well; it's supposed to be a "brainstorming" meeting, but I have a hunch that I'm going to be presented in the moment with a minor crisis (the subect of which I can anticipate), so it seems best to be fore-armed.
Between those two meetings, teaching three classes, spending a period in our writing center, meeting with the literary staff of the magazine, having this department meeting where we brainstorm creative leadership options for next year, and then going to a last-minute brief all-faculty meeting where an "exciting announcement" is going to be made (I have a hunch what this is as well), I anticipate being pretty damned beat by the time Tuesday is over! I'm also getting a stack of papers to grade that day, but I herewith give myself permission not to do any grading tomorrow night if I feel like I need the time off.