Stuff that Matters but does not Count

Selene's Drawing of FamilyJumping in to #digiwrimo (a month of exploring digital writing) with an activity about what would constitute our “unofficial CVs”. I’m already wide-eyed and breathless with how apt that question feels.  I feel like I’ve been talking about what (doesn’t) count with colleagues, friends, peers, and pretty much anyone who will listen for years. What matters? What counts? Why do these questions so often yield oppositional “data points?” Recently the context for these questions has been my work in a couple of different faculty fellow roles on my campus, supporting my fellow “mid-career” faculty and recently collaborating and creating peer-to-peer learning opportunities about the intersections of technology and pedagogy.

Mostly, my work in academia (what I teach and write about) has focused on the body. And that’s where so much doesn’t count.  Our sleep doesn’t count. Eating well doesn’t count.  Being pregnant and having babies can count against you. Sitting too much and not getting enough exercise doesn’t count.  I hear the phrase “carve out” all the time when my colleagues and friends talk about self-care.

For me, some of the “stuff that matters but does not count” includes raising my two amazing children, one of whom was small and adventurous as I finished my dissertation and the other who was small and chronically ill when I got tenure.  The CV does not include this information. Nor does it include the Halloween costumes I sewed or the cooking experiments I tried in order to find a food that wouldn’t make my younger child ill. It doesn’t include playing Legos on dark winter mornings or staying awake past midnight when a teenager finally wanted to share her stories.

These days worry that my recent forays into (producing and teaching) digital storytelling and participatory media won’t count. That working intensively on teaching and learning issues on my campus won’t count.  Creating brand new classes that push students to engage in digitally creative “maker” style participatory work … this stuff goes into the “new preps” category, and is counted by number – how many new preps do you have? If you want to “count,” you have to buy yourself out of teaching to focus on publishing. Do I even want to become a full professor, I have wondered over and over?  Hell, yes.  But I won’t compromise. Not on the Halloween costumes. Not on creating relevant active learning experiences for my students.

Who doesn’t want it all to count? When “counting” means receiving the recognition and engagement of my peers for all the hard work that goes into the daily life of this profession.

For this digital writing month, I’m going to write.  I’m not sure what yet.  I didn’t know I was going to write this post tonight.  But I’m determined not to compromise – whether my words count or not.

Image credit: drawing by Selene Emad-Syring

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8 thoughts on “Stuff that Matters but does not Count

  1. Maha Bali says:

    So good. So powerful. Thanks for sharing. It’s beautiful and I look forward to getting to know you (esp as a mom academic who finished a dissertation with a young kid who seemed well then but turned out to have a chronic illness later; these are some of the things we rarely share about ourselves but that we can bond over as we connect on our work).

    • Mitra Emad says:

      Thanks, Maha! It’s true- if you and I had met at a conference or other professional setting, we might not have shared these concerns and experiences. Thanks for helping create an environment in DigiWriMo that allows participants a chance to figure out how to remedy that.

      • Maha Bali says:

        Thanks for taking it…it’s not easy making yourself vulnerable in public and addressing people you still have no reason to trust. Excited to get to know you 🙂 Your last name sounds Arab. Coincidence?

      • Mitra Emad says:

        Yes, the vulnerable feeling is uncomfortable, for sure. I really loved your post, as well and know that I will enjoy getting to know you. My name is Iranian/Persian.

  2. hrallis says:

    What you do counts an awful lot to many of us — your students, colleagues and friends — who count not by tallying numbers, but by the difference you make in our lives 🙂

    • Mitra Emad says:

      Awww! Thanks, Helen. Ditto right back at you.
      Are you going to join in for DigiWriMo? I would love to see your way of questioning the status quo in academe reach and engage with these fine digital writing folks!

  3. Jim Stauffer says:

    The things that matter in one sphere seldom count in another sphere. When did being able to pathologically compartmentalize ourselves become such a virtue?

  4. […] ability to compartmentalize” (edit essential here – it was Mitra Emad’s Stuff that Matters […]

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