Today I've started assembling my tenure portfolio. The process strikes me as less cumbersome than many make it out to be. Make copies of publications. Write some reflective pieces that discuss how said publications connect. Write a bit about what you think you've contributed to your field. Gather all the syllabi and a sample of assignment sheets you've used over the years. Synthesize student evaluations.
Okay, there IS a good amount of paperwork involved. And a part of me thinks that right now I *could* be working on an article or getting ready to teach next week. Overall, though, it's kind of nice to look back at professional accomplishments and to take some time to recognize connections and even, gasp!, coherence among things I've written, courses I've taught, and projects I've worked on.
I've sometimes heard comments like "I couldn't do anything that year, I was going up for tenure," or "Don't sign on for any committee work while you're putting together your tenure dossier." Not sure I fully understand those comments. I certainly see how the red tape gets irritating and I definitely relate to the ever-present anxiety, but so far it's been kind of enjoyable.
Similarly, a big discussion went down on WPA-L last week about how writing a dissertation is allegedly a painful, alienating thing. And I've known some people who did have a bad experience for various reasons. Happily, though, a few folks suggested that they were NOT "bothered" by the process of dissertating. Refreshing to hear a few people speak positively. I see the tenure portfolio in the same light as the dissertation and wonder why there is so much dissatisfaction.