An Old Dog Learns Some New Tricks

Sweet old Sophie…

Newly fifty-five, I dove into a whole new world on January 1st, becoming Associate Chair of our Department of Music. I love serving, I love teaching, and I love to work hard. That being said, as I wade my way into this new reality of increased details and duties, I- an old dog- am having to learn some new tricks to survive.

It’s the little things…

I celebrate the little victories, like figuring out how to remove a block so that a student can register, or learning how to find the correct class schedule in the maze of the university web system. Things that took our wonderful and wise former Associate Chair five minutes to do take me an hour or more. There is no down time right now; other than a short lunch, I have sat in front of my computer for about twelve hours each day since classes began. I realize there is a steep learning curve, but right now everything is a bit overwhelming as I work to learn so many new skills. I want this, though, I want to stretch and grow and not just stay with what is easy and comfortable. I don’t like not being good at something, though- never have- so this is a good lesson in humility as well.

As usually happens in my world, things seem to pile up at the busiest of times. Just in the first week of classes, I had two big commitments that took me to Tampa for a recruiting trip, and from there to Columbus for a Board meeting of the International Clarinet Association. From balmy temps in the seventies to six inches of snow. Absolutely the worst time to be away as the main advisor now for the Department, but these trips had already been planned and were important for me to do.

The airport parade…

I am learning that I have to think and plan more carefully before saying yes to opportunities and requests, as my absence doesn’t just affect me and my clarinet studio now, but also many other students and the colleagues who have to pick up the slack for me when I’m away. I’m discovering that the toughest part so far is learning to balance the self I know- the clarinetist and teacher- with the new self that I am learning to be- the administrator. It is an internal tug-of-war to make sure that my musical soul is nurtured (time to practice, research, and teach) as I have to expend so much time and energy doing so many non-musical things. Also, making sure to carve out the all-important quality family time at home with Dan and the fur butts. As time passes, my duties won’t take me so long to complete, but for now, the dark circles under my eyes are going to be in vogue. That’s okay- I’ll learn. And I’ll buy some concealer.

The Tampa Convention Center last night…

And today…Columbus, Ohio.


I’m learning to be more protective of the free time that I do have; less social media during the work week, which is hard for me. As an introvert, Facebook is one of my favorite ways to stay connected with friends and family. I have made a ‘rule’ for myself to not check my phone until I’ve done yoga and morning chores and am eating breakfast. When I get to the office, I am doing my best to practice before checking my computer so that I don’t get immediately sucked into the vortex of email.

I’m trying to remember what one of my favorite colleagues said, “Remember, there are no academic emergencies.” I have to watch my ‘pleaser’ tendencies, understanding that I’m going to make mistakes, I’m going to feel inept, I’m going to have to ask for help (hard for me!), and I’m going to grow like crazy if I will just breathe into it, be open to the lessons, and take things as I often tell my students when they are stressed; one day at a time, one hour at a time, and sometimes, one minute at a time. I can do this…eventually. And that’s okay. This old dog still has a few tricks left.

The view from my room at the Ohio State University…

8 thoughts on “An Old Dog Learns Some New Tricks

  1. Exciting and exhausting times for you! As Associate Chair, do you have an administrative staff person to assist you? If so, don’t be afraid to include them and to delegate! Trust others to do their bits.

    Have fun!

    1. We do have a wonderful administrative staff person…and she’s retiring at the end of the semester. I’ve got a lot to learn before then…and I do need to learn to delegate. 😊❤️

  2. Sounds like you’re doing great!

    I am known among my work team (a busy group of Communications specialists, social media experts, and multimedia producers) as “The Role Model for ‘No’,” otherwise known as the “No Diva.” 🙂 I’ve learned that a high-quality “no” actually opens up more opportunities to provide better service than an over-extended “yes.” While I often open with “No,” it’s usually a qualified no; it ‘s “No, we can’t do exactly that, but here’s what we can do,” followed with a few options that are practical, efficient, and possible given existing resources and technology.

    Learning to say “no,” especially to say it while still remaining open to exploring possible options, has changed my life and freed up so much energy!

    Sounds like you’re being given lots of opportunities to practice similar skills! 🙂

    1. Thank you, Cathy. I absolutely love ‘the diva of no’. Hahaha! That is perfect. Your advice is wonderful, and just what Dan has always said- ‘never give a no without a yes’. I am working on it. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your wisdom and experience- it helps to hear from people out there managing it all in healthy ways. ❤️

  3. As a new “Team Lead” with no leadership training and no mentoring, I feel your pain. I am groping my way through the darkness in hopes of keeping everything running smoothly – at least until I figure it all out! Sounds like you have a plan and the will to make it all happen! My hat is off to you on your social media rule – an excellent first step!!

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