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Mine vs. Not Mine - Clearly defining your role

via a podcast #

After finishing the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast episode with Karen Costa called “How Role Clarity and Boundaries Can Help Us Thrive,” I was very excited to start writing my own mine-not-mine listing.

A featured quote from the podcast was:

Just because you are qualified to do it does not mean that it is yours.

Oh man, does that speak to me. Two weeks ago I stepped into a leadership vacuum and took an extra role this spring under the reasoning that I am the most qualified person on campus to do it (I had already organized this conference four other times)… but it’s not my job… no one asked me… I need to think about my “scope of practice.”

Scope of Practice #

Costa shared this Google Doc (click make a copy to clone it for your own account).

A simple idea is this:

  1. What are your qualifications?
  2. What is your role?
  3. What does this mean of you?
  4. What do you need to add? Contract?
  5. Live it.

So for me, I’ll write a subset as I start to think through this myself. I’m doing this without editing, in kind of a free-flowing writing. My goal is to get it out of my head and into the world.

1. What are your qualifications? #

I’m a math educator. I’m not a research mathematician, and I’m not a public school teacher. I’m really good at classes strictly below calc 3, and math history and discrete math.

I’m a good note-taker.

I’m a decent manager of ideas, but not of people.

2. What is your role? #

I’m a math educator. Officially my role is “80% teaching 20% service.”

In teaching:

  • I will teach my students to the best of my ability.
  • I will always attend my classes on time.
  • I will always be prepared for content and questions.
  • I will always answer any questions.
  • I will be available for office hours for my students.

In service:

  • I will coordinate the teaching seminar series.
  • I will attend every Senate and Exec meeting and take thorough notes.
    • I will write formal minutes for the official record.
    • I will answer questions about previous meetings.
  • I will coordinate training the graduate teaching assistants.
  • I will observe and mentor my graduate teaching assistants.
  • I will organize the URCAF conference one last time and I will train whoever takes over.

3. What does this mean for me? #

Here’s the magic that Costa shared – it’s the “mine and not mine” table. I have been known to (playfully) say that “I will give you metaphorical toilet paper, but you have to wipe your own ass.” This framing is far… more socially acceptable.

Mine Not Mine
I will refer students to care services as needed. I will not provide therapy for students.
I will respond to emails promptly during designated times. I will ignore emails almost all other times.
I will teach undergraduate classes I will not recruit international graduate students.
I will serve as secretary of the senate the rest of the year I will not next term.
I will respond to student messages quickly. I will get around to other messages later.
I will do URCAF one more time I won’t find a replacement.
I will mentor GTAs I will not manage them.
I will serve on all my current committees. I will say “absolutely no” to any other requests.
I will generously and flexibly teach. I will not give out grades.

4. What to add and contract? #

This remains to be seen. I already have plans to contract what I’m doing after Spring 2024. I’ve added too many things to my plate without taking much off. I’ll keep reflecitng on this.

5. Live it #

Costa writes:

Congratulations on caring for yourself and your learners/clients by taking the time to reflect on your scope of practice. That alone is enough.

It helps to clarify what I do and what I won’t do. Giving firmer boundaries will help me to focus on what’s important and disregard the rest.

My personal next steps are writing this post (in which I’ve worked through this process sans editing), and I’ll add it to the Teaching Seminar Series, encouraging my colleagues and GTAs to do the same process. It is always important that we do our jobs well. It’s also important to remember “what is our job and what does well mean?”