It was Friday afternoon. I checked my email because I always check my email. There was a notification. I clicked. Clicked again.
“Congratulations,” the email began. You can probably guess how it ended.
Yes, as the picture above suggests, it has been seven years since I successfully defended my dissertation at THEEE University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus. Ski-U-Man, Golden Gophers.
And now I’m a tenured associate professor of literacy education at THEEE Pennsylvania State University (ALTOOOOOONA CAMPUS!). We Are, Nittany Lions, We Are, indeed.
Boy, are my arms tired.
It wasn’t totally unexpected that I was promoted and granted tenure. I’ve worked very hard over the last seven years. Flew all the way out to State College, PA from MSP. That’s why my arms are tired See: Rodney Dangerfield.
Writing papers. Attending conferences. Teaching courses. Serving the profession and the university. These are things that professors who are seeking tenure do. And I’ve done lots of these things.
So yes, I expected tenure. Still, here are some words of advice from my advisor at THEEE University of Minnesota: Tenure is never guaranteed. Crazy things happen. But the Board of Regents met. The Chancellor of Penn State Altoona fired off an email. And I was officially an associate professor as of May 7th, 2021.
“Hey Solomon,” I told my 7 year-old son after reading the email.
“Yes, my dad?”
Solomon often refers to me as “my dad.”
“I was tenured today. From now on, you can refer to me as Associate Professor Tanner, PhD.”
Solomon looked at me skeptically. This is how he often looks at me. He was silent for a moment. Finally, he spoke.
“I’m not going to do that, Dad.”
Fair enough. I wouldn’t do it, either.
Did you know that Solomon was at my dissertation defense? A little baby. He wept in the corner. An appropriate response to pedagogy about whiteness.
I learned that the Board of Regents had officially granted me tenure on a Friday evening. Another grueling day with my children was in the books. So my celebration consisted of an early bedtime.
But there was a bottle of champagne in the fridge. And I cracked it open the following Saturday. Toasted THEEE Pennsylvania State University (ALTOOOOOONA CAMPUS!) Toasted the many strange experiences that brought me to central Pennsylvania. Brought me to a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction. Brought me to academia, to tenure, to here.
I won’t rehash any of those experiences here. I think I do a well enough job of describing that journey in my trilogy of memoirs. Read them if you haven’t. I suppose you probably have. The people who read these blogs have probably read those books. But here’s a link in case you’re an errant traveler, stumbling across this little blog as you peruse the internet.
Sure, I’m tenured. But I could still use the royalties that come from selling a million copies of my books. For those of you keeping score at home, I’m about a million copies short of my goal of selling a million copies of my books. Send help.
So I write to you from the wilds of central Pennsylvania as an associate professor, PhD. This after a teaching career gone horribly wrong. And horribly right. This after seven years of desperately working to share my writing with others. My thinking and teaching, too.
So I drank some champagne, yes. But the work isn’t done. A trajectory has been established. I’ll continue to write and teach and improvise and serve in the ways I know how. This has never been about the fanciness of being a professor, for me. The endgame of tenure isn’t an endgame for me. Neither is the prestige or narcissism that comes from celebrating myself. My journey has been about trying to figure out how to keep thinking, teaching, and creating in the ways I’ve learned how. And I’ve been able to keep going down the road, despite a serious of unfortunate and surprising events. So it’s pretty impressive to me that I’m able to keep doing my thing. A thing that I credit to forces more powerful than me.
A glass of champagne is nice. And I promise to take a deep breath. But there’s more to do. So I’ll keep doing more.