Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Is it over yet?

Is it over yet?

I have taught ten hours this week so far. I have gone to two meetings, one fortunately more social than not. I've spent about 3 1/2 hours advising students one-on-one. I'm exhausted, and I have three more hours of teaching to go. I have volumes of Schmid and Stengel to get through and about 9,000 words to write, then back to the main part of the project. Somewhere in the middle, I need to get over the cold that I seem to have picked up. And I could get to bed earlier if Bill Clinton would stick to his time limit, but nooooo....

Thank goodness we have a long weekend.

Seriously, all immediate whinges aside, I'm wondering a lot about the whole 'look for a job the year you go up' wisdom. There are so many things I like about SLAC. My first two days of this year have been good in many ways, but again, I'm dealing with students -- even good students, upperclassmen who know me -- who are not prepping for classes. Apparently one of my freshmen, a slightly older person, due to having served in the armed forces, had a small hissy after class this morning, calling the majority of his classmates something along the lines of boneheaded slackers. At least I know it's not me.

But honestly, there are times when I worry about maintaining decent standards. I really don't want to get lazy or lose a feel for what my expectations should be. This is one of the things I hadn't really anticipated about taking this job -- I think a certain kind of institution can, unintentionally perhaps, bleed its junior faculty dry until they can't find jobs elsewhere. It's a good thing to focus on teaching, but too many SLACs are competing for money and students, trying to up their reputations, but are often in no financial position to support the kinds of ongoing efforts that matter in the long run. Part of that reputation is based on having a faculty that is competitive, and students who succeed. If the students aren't equipped for a college education, it makes sense from a retention and from a reputation POV to make sure that both students and faculty have the tools to get the students through. At what point does that become the decisive factor in whether to look elsewhere? I'm not sure.

But I do wonder if this feeling is part of why so many junior faculty do go on the market the year they go up. There seems to me to be a feeling, at least in the US, that if you make it up, rather than out, you are also stuck. I don't necessarily want to move (although if I were offered a position at a SLAC with more committed students, a slightly lower teaching load, decent research support, and and better compensation, I would seriously think about it!), but I don't want to be stuck, either.


Ahistoricality said...

Why not go on the market?
All your materials are up to date, you've been working like a dog for five to seven years. You've finally got a solid portfolio of courses. Tenure isn't assured anywhere, and going out on the market after a tenure denial is just painful.

A lot of places won't even consider a raise, either, unless you've got a competing offer.

Kelly in Kansas said...

I, too, am disappointed at the lack of prep of many of my students. But, from talking to colleagues, students at the "big league" schools are often capable yet don't always do so much work since they feel entitled to a good grade given their existing intelligence. This applies even to state flagship universities.

Only you can make the decision about what to do next. The writing is more important than applying for the next job given that it can open more doors.

And the other caveat is that no job is ideal - there is always going to be something we wish were a bit better. And, you really haven't been at SLAC long enough to settle in and feel comfortable. And, you've been there long enough that the bloom is off the rose, so to speak.

I think we would all love to have classes of primarily nontraditional students who love to learn and know that even the most demanding of us aren't asking that much.