Tuesday, October 2, 2007

A Newbie Looks For Answers.

A prof from a small research university in the southwest sends this along:

I have to confess that I've been pretty naive about my career. I am in my second year of my first tenure-track job and I've already lost all hope for the profession. I don't feel comfortable asking my colleagues, since I don't want them to know that I'm struggling. So I thought I'd turn to the professors who read RYS.
  • I was under the impression that teaching would be a good job, one that would make me feel good about myself. I wanted to help students learn the material, wrestle with the concepts, and move forward. But all I do - it seems - is cajole, beg, and babysit. I don't feel that any of my students want to be here, to learn, to read, to move along. They are insolent and lazy to a degree that stuns me. If I make remarks to colleagues, they say, "Oh, it's always been that way."

  • I know it's not my business in many ways, but many of my colleagues focus all of their energies on their own research, often to the detriment of their students. I know I should hardly complain about this given my revelations in point #1, but it bothers me. What is a university if not a teaching and learning institution? I went to a grad school where the professors did research for the express purpose of being better models and instructors for us. They did research that they could turn around and help us with. What happens here is that profs run to their offices - or never emerge at all - and do it all for tenure, promotion, and minor ducats.

I feel hopelessly innocent in this war. For nearly a dozen years all I thought about was being a college professor, and now I can't imagine going past next May. I read about other careers, browse Monster.com, and think about a new career all the time. But what on earth will my family and friends think? What was this Ph.D. for? Why did I go into debt for it, lose my lover for it, uproot my 3 year old for it?

I just feel that I was wrong about everything.