Sunday, March 25, 2007

Spring Fever

I love my job. It sounds corny, I know, but I really do love my job. I teach at a small, rural, 4-year state college in the Northeast. We don’t have a graduate program. Heck, there are more cows than people in the county where I live and work. It’s probably not what most people would consider an ideal job, but it’s a good fit for me.

I like my students, for the most part. I don’t tend to get the entitlement attitude that I hear about from my colleagues elsewhere. Many of my students are needy, both financially and otherwise. We have a relatively large number of non-traditional students, as well as a number of students who are the first in their families to go to college. Many of them struggle with their classes, but they do seem to want to learn. I have to do some hand-holding, but I also try to encourage them to test their wings and venture out on their own. They start out terrified at the thought of graduate school, but often wind up proudly adding their names to the Grad School Acceptances list that we post on a chalkboard in our department. I also have the opportunity to mentor a few honors thesis students each year, which is wonderful, but a ton of work.

I’m still able to publish, though not at the rate that I would prefer. I even like my colleagues. I’ve been teaching here for 14 years; it was my first job out of graduate school and I plan to stay here for the duration of my career, assuming that nothing weird happens. Am I that unusual in that I like what I do and where I do it? I hope not. I hope that other academics share my passion for teaching and working with students, as well as my love of doing research. If I’m not having fun in the classroom, then I know it must be deadly for the students. I had professors who seemed to no longer care, who were just in it for the paycheck, but I also had professors who clearly loved their work and their students. They inspired me to continue with my studies and to work hard and succeed. I hope that I am that professor for my students.

All of that being said, there are days when I’d much rather be selling shoes at the mall or working at a grocery store. Today is one of them. It’s right before our spring break, and the students are itching to get out of here and go somewhere warm, or to at least go home for some of Mom’s cooking. They are less attentive in class and generally cranky and unpleasant to be around. On a day like today, despite my best efforts and creative energy, I am likely to be standing before a sea of bored, disinterested faces who would much rather stab themselves in the eye with a dull pencil than listen to me blather on about attribution theory. It is at this moment that I am likely to silently invoke my mantra: 0.0 …. 4.0 ….. I get paid - either way. Today, I might even write it on the board.

In any case, happy spring everyone. It was -5F here this morning, but I’m wearing shorts and a Hawaiian print shirt, as I always do on the first day of spring.