Friday, December 30, 2005

All I wanted for Christmas

All I wanted for Christmas ...

... is a longer break! Can I just say that it is insane to have just barely two weeks between terms? And just over a week in March. When do I get to breathe? When, more importantly, do I get to research and write? OK -- so I'm teaching at a junior college. All I teach is surveys, 200-levels if I'm lucky. So why would I put myself through this? Why would anyone? Few, if any, of my colleagues do more than read. If they go to conferences, they're on assessment (which I have to admit, I kinda love when done well) and things pedagogical. Yes, folks, this is ADM's semi-annual whinge about the forced and false dichotomy between teaching and research.

This break, I needed to get a whole bunch of stuff done. Ok -- so some personal stuff happened that was more than a little distracting. My parents are divorcing (a shocker) and my grandfather died (not so much, but still ...). But with just over two weeks to put together new syllabi to reflect my How to do college manifesto, prep for an interview at the big conference (please, I need a job!), read a book and review it, get through a three volume set of sources in Latin with handy editorial comments in German, etc., and try to work on the other big conference stuff,I don't feel nearly ready. OK, well, the syllabi are mostly done. The book to be reviewed is mostly done and I may actually have the review drafted this weekend, which means it will almost be on time. I have not prepped for the interview -- in fact, I need to find my old evals to bring -- Argh! and I need to make nice CV copies for the meat market, just in case.

I know that, if I were hired tenure-track, even with a heavy teaching load like the one I have now, things would get easier. I'd have the preps down a bit more, because I wouldn't be changing texts or term lengths every bloody year. I'm really lucky where I am, because there is a lot of support for people who want to write. That's not the norm in many CCs. But sometimes I get discouraged, because the reactions among my colleagues are pretty much of two kinds -- people who think it's neat, and wish they had time to do more, but have families or have just got out of the habit, and people who look at me like I've grown horns. I'm deathly afraid that my wanting to keep up, and write at the almost the same rate that I would at a small 4-year with a heavy teaching load (which is not small potatoes, but not what one needs for tenure at a research uni or small college with delusions of grandeur) is going to make my colleagues think I shouldn't teach with them. The truth is, if all I teach are the same three courses nine times a year, I will burn out. My teaching will become stale. I will not stop caring, but I will do what I see many of my colleagues doing -- recycling pre-packaged lectures and tests, giving out scripts for the students to take film notes ... If I do not push myself, if I don't make sure I have a reason to push myself, I might become a Bad Teacher. And no, I really don't see myself writing scripts or giving worksheets. I teach college, after all. That would be like giving scan-tron exams. Anathema, I say! I must do both, or I will not do well at either!

But seriously, I do worry about maintaining a balance for myself, and keeping up the right image. My chair knows I have two interviews so far, one at a 4-year, one at a larger school. I think I could do really well at either place, and I think I have a lot to offer them. I also think I have a lot to offer at my present school, and there are lots of reasons I'd be happy if they offered me a job. I just worry about how to convince the 4-years that I'm scholarly enough, while making sure that my current colleagues don't see me as someone looking for a stop-gap. If I keep getting the kind of support I've had so far, it's a really good gig and I'd be happy taking it. But there are trade-offs. There always are. I just hope they can be minimized. And it would be a hell of a lot easier to minimize them if we had longer breaks!

Right -- back to work. Syllabi must be finished by tomorrow. Then I can go to the library!


Kelly in Kansas said...

Hang in there! Taking time to go to AHA will revitalize you - especially meeting up with other bloggers (have a drink for me BTW).

Also keep in mind you have gone through several major life stressors this year and cut yourself a break (this is the pot calling the kettle black but you already know that!)

I also wouldn't worry too much about "fitting in" at the 4 year schools in regards to the teaching/research dichotomy. We struggle much more to find people who are even interested in maintaining that balance and so you've already gotten an A on that score. And, you're definitely right, staying in the "habit of writing" is a definite plus.

We are more turned off by job applicants who tell us all about their wonderful but usually small niche research and mention nothing about teaching. Or, if they mention teaching, it is more something that gets in the way of their research - which obviously doesn't sit well with potential employers. Work on finding the balance for you and that confidence will show through in any interview.

Often candidates have little if any teaching experience and, more importantly, don't even address that fact in their cover letter. So, be sure to emphasize your great teaching and assessment experience while at the same time you fit in writing wherever you can. I think that is all anyone can expect. Besides, if they look down on you for making the most of your current situation, you won't be happy there in the long run since that would obviously be a place that wouldn't value teaching much at all. You'd be surprised at how many academics (most especially in our field) think that teaching is just talking in front of class. And you offer so much more than that!

Good luck! I know you'll do fine.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Thanks! I so wish you were going to be at AHA!

Dr. Virago said...

ADM - I only read this post about your own stressful Christmas break after your recent comment on my "inflexibility of academic life" post, because I fell behind keeping up with blogs while I was seeing to my mom in the hospital and doing other family things. (Understandable, I guess!) But I just wanted to say I'm sorry to hear about your grandfather (however expected, it's too bad it happened at Christmas) and your parents (shocking and at Christmas -- how awful!) and I wish you the best on your job search and in the new term and new year.

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