Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Getting Sucked In or Putting Myself Out There?

I've written about this issue before; that I'm a Bad Female Academic for having administrative ambition, but also how it's a difficult position to put myself in because I am not on the tenure-track, thus it doesn't "count", nor am I afforded the same protections. Nonetheless, and despite being warned, I volunteered to be an "Early College Mentor." What does this mean? Well, our college offers early college credit courses in the high schools and I will be mentoring the teachers in the high schools who are teaching these classes. 

The question is, why? 

I have often written about the "exploitation" of contingent labor in academia. And I am acutely aware of my own position, trying to make sure I don't put myself in (or get sucked into) a position where I will either be taken advantage of or made a scapegoat out of (or both). But this mentorship role seems to me to be a relatively safe compromise. 

For one thing, I'm doing it for the money. The mentors are getting a significant amount of professional development money for every teacher we mentor. I can use the money on conferences, books, research trips, whatever. This is not an insignificant reward for me because I am an instructor and therefore don't have the same level of support for these activities as those on the tenure-track or have tenure. 

I'm also doing it because I like the idea of mentoring teachers and creating a community. It's one of the reasons I co-founded #FYCchat on Twitter. We should be more active in helping one another be better teachers, for ourselves and for our students. I really am hoping to facilitate a learning community for the teachers I will be mentoring using social media. I also hope to encourage (inspire?) these teachers to use social media in their teaching. 

Our university's service area is largely (exclusively) rural and mostly poor. Many of these students come to our college underprepared and have a lot of difficulty completing a college degree. If I can help high school teachers better prepare students for college, then I think I am doing a great public service. These students are just as deserving of a good education as anyone else. This is a concrete way that I can help. 

And I look like a good university citizen. Hopefully not too good, however. I am only supposed to be mentoring five teachers, but it looks like I'll have at least three times that many. I am also scheduled to teach five classes in the fall. Something has to give, so I am not afraid to stand my ground to make sure that my students don't get short-changed, either. Or my family, for that matter, and my research. I've been warned by those who have participated in this program in a similar capacity in the past that the university is all too willing to keep pushing the number of responsibilities. I'll push back. 

Or, I'll just walk away. If I have to chose between a conference or my sanity and dignity, I know which one I will chose. 

1 comment:

  1. Nice post! I like your chutzpah, your skepticism, and your critical eye!

    Here's how I would answer your question: Money is an excellent reason. Public service is an ok reason. Good University Citizen is a bad reason. The more you do, the more the University will want/expect you to do. But you already know that. Just don't forget to prioritize your sanity and sense of self worth.

    BTW, as a former administrator, administration is both great and terrible for women. Women tend to be really good at it--they have less ego invested in outcome, they multi-task, and they can deal with interpersonal strife. It's a great path for women on campus to more money and influence. However, low and middle administration is also rapidly becoming a female 'ghetto.' Because, as the actual power of administrators erodes, they become no more than glorified secretaries, and money incentives dry up, men disappear from the field and women end up overworked in a new way, with nothing much to show for it. quelle surprise!

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