Friday, August 19, 2011

What am I still doing here? More Thoughts on Now I See It

In the comments of my review of Higher Education?,  capandgown notes:
well said, it's a completely pernicious system in which everyone higher up the pecking order is incentivised to exploit those below. at the end of your piece i was wondering though - why DO you do it? possibly you will say, because you love it. I'm wondering when the tipping point comes : when love of one's job becomes the privilege of those who can afford it?
These are two questions that I have addressed in the past (why I came back to teaching and who will be our future professors). I wrote the former post almost exactly a year ago, when I was about to start teaching again, full-time, after a year of under/unemployment. Many reasons I outlined there haven't changed; I still need the money and there are very few employment opportunities where I am currently living. Why not move? My husband and I decided, very early in our relationship, that if we were going to decide to be together "forever" that we were going to be together. So I am still place-bound and limited, therefore, in my employment opportunities.

But, and Worst Professor Ever is going to be mad at me for saying this, capandgown is right insofar as that I love what it is that I do. I am invigorated and excited to have the opportunity to completely reimagine and reformulate my classes. I have written elsewhere that it is liberating to "only" be an instructor, and I wonder if I would have had the courage or conviction to do what I am doing this semester if I was on the tenure-track. This job still has something to offer me (other than money), and me to it.

I can't imagine myself doing anything else. And, that might be the problem. I've spoken before about my failure of imagination when it comes to how I see and understand my classes. I have the same problem when it comes to my career trajectory. For so long I could only see myself in front of the class, in higher education, eventually moving up the administrative ladder. Of course, that vision has shifted somewhat, but not much. Maybe it's in part because of where I am living, with limited economic opportunities. Maybe it's because I've never been particularly entrepreneurial. Or, and I think Cathy Davidson would agree, the vision I've had for my life has never really been seriously disrupted enough for me to take a step back and really rethink things.

When I say that my job still has something to offer me, I mean that it allows me to go outside of my comfort zone, even if it's only in the relatively safe confines of the classroom, a place where I feel most at home. Maybe these small steps I am taking to change the way I look at the educational experience will help me build up the courage and the vision to look at my own career trajectory differently. Four short months ago, I was lamenting my inability to radically change the way I teach. Now, I'm making it happen.

Eight months from now, maybe I'll see more things just a little bit differently as well. Until then, I'll keep doing what I love and what challenges me. I'm pretty lucky that way.

1 comment:

  1. "..the vision I've had for my life has never really been seriously disrupted enough for me to take a step back and really rethink things."

    I like this post and I like how self-reflective it is. I can totally confirm this from my own experience on the other end of things. My life WAS seriously disrupted enough (by a divorce and terrorizing custody court case) that I was knocked out of my academic mind-set. Until then I never could have imagined a life outside of academia, which I more or less loved. After it, I had these new eyes. It was really wild--- It was the classic "scales falling from the eyes"! I looked up and said, "WTF???" I didn't come to hate academia at all (sorry WorstProf!) I jsut came to reject it *for me*. And then it became just a matter of time until I saw my way clear to the next thing. It was an amazing process to live through. (Not what I would call fun, but amazing nonetheless).

    Anyway, thanks for this post that got me thinking! I might have to write my own post on this!

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