Thursday, December 30, 2010

What 2010 Taught Me

1) I love to teach; it is as much a part of my identity as any other aspect of my personality or role (mother, wife, sister, daughter, etc). Not being in front of the classroom (or on the pool deck) is like I am missing a part of myself. When I am teaching/coaching, I feel like I have come home, come to the place where I was meant to be.

2) I need to write. My husband, as much as I love him and as encouraging and supportive as he has been, sometimes doesn't get my blogging, especially when I choose to blog over, say, sleep. Don't worry about it, he tells me, it doesn't matter. But it matters to me, insofar as I am a writer as much as I am a teacher. Writing initially was a way to make up for the fact that I wasn't teaching. It's become so much more. I used to write almost daily in journals before going to sleep, during classes when I was supposed to be paying attention (take that, texting haters!), and in long, unsent letters. Now, I write and I have an audience, which leads me to lesson number three...

3) I love social media. And by this, I mean blogging, tweeting, and just basically sharing stuff and being a part of a community even though I live out in the middle of nowhere (which, ironically, is where most people claim there is still a strong sense of community). I have made more friends, learned more things about everything, and felt more welcome and accepted than I have in a very long time. We can debate the merits of "real" friends over "virtual" friends until we're all blue in the face, but my extended community has helped get me through this very challenging year.

4) I am thankful that I was essentially unemployed for most of 2010. If I had been teaching, I wouldn't have tried to start my own business, which lead me to start my own blog and get on Twitter. Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention, and I reinvented myself (at least, my academic self) this year because of the necessity of unemployment, that loss of a large piece of how I understood who I was, who I still am. Unemployment forced me to let go and finally be myself. 

5) I still have a ways to go. I talk a big talk about reinventing and reimagining higher education and how we teach and learn. I want to help change how instructors who are off the tenure-track are treated in higher education. I am continually frustrated by how most professors and administrators have basically given up on positively changing the university for the better and accepted the "new normal" because they have that luxury as their own jobs are protected. But at the end of the day, I struggle with how I can not just talk about change, but actually be the change. I've written extensively about fear and, although not explicitly, about failure, and what that means to my career, to my husband's career, to my family, and to me personally. The University of Venus gave me a new audience to share my views; now I just have to figure out how to use it more proactively, rather than just being one more voice screaming into the wind. 

Happy New Year, everyone. Thank you for reading, thank you for sharing, thank you for commenting, thank you for caring. May 2011 bring you joy, and if not, may you find the strength to emerge from whatever the year throws at you wiser and stronger. 


  1. WOW, sounds like a great year. Those are wonderful shifts.

    I found the value of online community many years ago through knitting e-mail lists and blogs. The line between virtual and IRL friends is now really blurry for me. I think we can just feel sorry for the folks that think that virtual friends aren't real. They obviously aren't hanging out in the right places or something.

    And #5 is a great goal. Make it a long term goal and be proud of any baby steps you take. Local faculty association or union might be a good place to start even if it is rife with problems.

    And finding a way to talk to more securely employed people without triggering their guilt. Because some of them are putting up with the status quo not out of arrogance but out of a sense of powerlessness and guilt. Or some crazy combination of that.

    Did you see the post at In Socrates Wake about experienced teachers and how their results differed?

    Seems a powerful argument against casualization. The trick would be to convince people that there are other non-casual forms of employment than the current tenure model, perhaps in addition to... No idea but some food for thought definitely.

  2. I hadn't seen that, thanks! It does reinforce what I had said about evals as well. And it also does reinforce the idea that faculty members need some job security. We are not free to try and fail a lot of the times.

    I'm sort-of in between when it comes to casual labor. Because of where our school is located, there isn't an over-abundance of potential adjuncts/instructors. Half of the English faculty seems to be off the tenure-track, but all but a few who teach at the branch campuses are full-time instructors. And we seem to have pretty good "job security" if the length of time of my instructor colleagues are any indication.

    I think there is something to be said about investing in your institution. If I could have added a Number six, I would have added, I am tired of moving. I want to be around in four or five years when the Freshmen I taught this year cross the stage and get their degrees. So far, I haven't been anywhere where that could happen. And I want to be there for them to help them get there.

    Great, another blog post brewing. :-)

  3. Really great post. Sometimes the prospects for one year can be so bleak and yet something positive emerges. Glad I found you and am looking forward to more in 2011!


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