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Comment: UGLY BOOK, Has some wear on edges, May have some higlighting and markings
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Life on the Tenure Track: Lessons from the First Year Paperback – April 6, 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

A beautifully written book, part memoir, part meditation, part user's manual―all the parts held together by the personality and reflections of the author who is by turns exuberant, anxious, triumphant, rueful, and always immensely appealing. Anyone who has ever taught will find waiting on the pages of this book the shock, and pleasure, of recognition.

(Stanley Fish, University of Illinois at Chicago)

With humor and pathos, Jim Lang tells a powerful story of his first year as a college teacher, offering a wealth of insights that will help graduate students and new faculty―and maybe even not-so-new faculty―learn to survive and flourish as good teachers. I came away with a renewed appreciation of the very real challenges and opportunities we face as educators.

(Ken Bain, author of What the Best College Teachers Do)

Jim Lang's account of the ups and downs of his first year of college teaching make me wish I had taken notes during my own first contact with the other side of the desk. That year was longer ago than I care to mention, but I found it suddenly before me with a vividness that I can only attribute to Lang's evocative writing.

(Dennis Baron, University of Illinois)

May become the 'bible' for graduate students and new faculty. Lang's descriptions and analysis sparkle with warmth, humor, goodwill, and honesty. I found myself rooting for him, and viewed him as a mentor, turning the page looking for his very thoughtful advice. I would enthusiastically recommend this book to graduate students, adjunct professors, tenure-track and tenured faculty, and administrators.

(Lynn Sacco, University of Tennessee)

Jim Lang is a great guide whose warm, honest, funny, and poignant book will give advice and comfort to all panicked souls standing in front of a class for the first time, or wondering whether to speak at department meetings with senior professors who seem to know everything.

(Emily Toth, Ms. Mentor from the Chronicle of Higher Education)

Lang is a wonderfully engaging writer... he's obviously deeply committed to the craft of teaching and the craft of writing.

(Dr. Erica Dreifus Adjunct Advocate)

Faculty at all levels will recognize their own experiences somewhere in this short, perceptive, and ultimately entertaining account of academic life.

(Rebecca Manley Academic Matters)

Lang demonstrates that there are many largely universal survival struggles and self-doubts which are shared in common by most of us embarking on a new career in the academy.

(Alan E. Bayer Journal of Higher Education)

Offers a lively report on how it looks and feels to shoot the academic rapids today.

(Mary Taylor Huber Change)

I would not be surprised if [ Life on the Tenure Track] became one of the texts distributed by teaching and learning centers to new assistant professors at orientation workshops. It would serve them well.

(Patricia Donahue College English)

An interesting and accessible narrative.

(Mark Hulsether Teaching Theology and Religion)

About the Author

James M. Lang is an assistant professor at Assumption College.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press (April 6, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080188103X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801881039
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #596,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Sarah Schwartz on February 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
I appreciated the very human story, but as someone just starting out on this path, I found it discouraging that the moral of the story seems to be "don't even try to get research done during the term" rather than "try and work with what you have".

From Lang's description, it sounds like he has all the qualities of "slow starters" illustrated in Robert Boice's book _Advice for New Faculty Members: Nihil Nimus_: he is impatient, overly ambitious in his goals, under-estimates how much time things take, will not work unless he has large blocks of time, allows other things to cut into his research time, and does not try to improve his work habits in realistic ways by taking advantage of the time that he does have. The one time he takes out a project, he tries to tackle it all at once, becomes discouraged by its immensity, and then puts it away. I kept cheering for him to discover better work habits, but he never did.

I did like his lessons about teaching and adapting to one's course, and found it refreshing to hear an honest discussion of the dynamics of departmental politics, and reassuring to hear how he felt initial hesitation to ask for advice, but always got good advice when he asked.
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Format: Paperback
I always thought the life of a college professor was one of quiet repose, but I was wrong! Author James Lang takes the reader inside his chosen profession and reveals the stress, challenge and gratification involved. He details his experience in forging new relationships with colleagues and students alike, and relates his commitment to maintaining his own teaching style--which, I think, is quite innovative. This book is a must for anyone choosing this line of work. --Jan Lastella
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This has been a really enjoyable read for me. I can relate to almost everything that the author writes about in this book, from moving across the country to departmental politics, from adjusting to different classroom dynamics to getting frustrated by attendance issues, and many more.

I think this book reads more like a creative nonfiction, to use the author's own words, rather than a book that helps new faculty to find their bearings. I feel like I can relate more to the author's experiences just because I have had similar struggles and realizations. But to new faculty members who are just starting, I am sure it is helpful, but the book is definitely not like a "manual" that one can refer to.

Since the author talks about being on the tenure-track with a heavy teaching load, it might not be very helpful to people who have just one or two courses each semester and do have tons of time to do research. I agree with the author that if one has too much teaching responsibility, it is very hard to do research, at least in the first year. For one thing, your mental energy might just be depleted after a busy day of teaching. You don't have the mental energy to do highly-demanding intellectual logical reasoning.

As one other reviewer points out, the author says that doing any research in the first year on a tenure track is just not very possible. This is a little disappointing, I assume, for many people. If you read other "manual" type of book, they will tell you how to start right from the first year, because your tenure preparation time is actually only five years, not six years.

One thing I find a little confusing about the book is the author's insistence on using the present tense.
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Format: Paperback
The author provides warm, reflective, from-the-frontlines commentary on being an English professor at a small college who is also a Catholic, a father, a person with chronic health problems, and an unambitious researcher. If not many of those identifiers apply to you, don't bother with this book; it is written from a highly personalized perspective. For more widely applicable help, I recommend Robert Boice's Advice for New Faculty Members or Emily Toth's Ms. Mentor's Impeccable Advice for Women in Academia.

instead.
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Format: Paperback
In a sea of academic self-help and personal essays, James Lang's account of his first tenure-track experience is -- thankfully -- more of a token from a companion than a mentor. It rings true to life as a college professor, quirks and foibles included, and humanely regarded.

If anything else, his personable ethos makes for an comforting time with a friend, which is to be appreciated.
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Format: Paperback
I've never reviewed a book on Amazon before, but I really want to recommend this one. If you're headed toward the tenure track, or are even thinking about it, you should read this book. It's served as a nice counterpoint to all the advice books I've been reading lately. While those other books have been really helpful to me, this one's helpful in a different way--it shows rather than tells. It also helps remind me that things don't always come off well, despite our best intentions, and it's all too easy to ignore/forget good advice under pressure. Academic life is not all that it's cracked up to be, it can be a real grind, but it's still got plenty to recommend it, and Lang's painfully honest account reminds me to count my blessings. A bad academic job is better than many good non-academic ones. I'm recommending "Life on the Tenure Track" to my fellow grad students, and also to undergrads who have romantic aspirations for the professoriate.
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