Friday, November 2, 2007

Just a Job? Three Readers Offer Naive Nina Some Insight From the Front Lines.

  • I'd recommend that Nina, or anyone else wondering about the profession, check out an excellent article from a couple of years ago that appeared in the Phi Kappa Phi Forum. In it, the writer says, "My experiences have led me to the inescapable conclusion that colleagues considering their professorship as just a job, as a way to make a living, will be not-so outstanding - my former dean's euphemism for lousy - teachers. To become an excellent professor requires genetic aptitude, which is created in a person's DNA at the time of conception by the fusion of a maternal with a paternal gamete, a process exemplifying the divine creator's signature of a higher calling."

  • The academy is most emphatically not "just a job." I've had jobs; in fact, I worked in the "real world" for many years before switching to academia. In a job, you have a boss who tells you what to do, and at the end of the day you get to punch a clock and go home. There is a fairly clear distinction between "my" time and the "job's" time. I've been in this second career for about a decade, and I'm at a small college that emphasizes teaching. During the academic terms, I have very little time I can call my own. I am constantly thinking about class preps, or grading papers, or planning the next exam or assignment, nearly every waking hour. It is demanding and it can at times be frustrating, but anyone who tries to tell you that it is "just a job" ought to get out of the profession and go wash dishes at the local greasy spoon. That's a job.

  • Whether or not a career in academia is "just a job" is entirely up to you! You have probably seen enough (and read enough here) to know what you are getting yourself into, and want it anyway. You will have days where it takes every bit of your self-discipline not to ask the poor idiot sitting in your office how he or she got into college without knowing what a decimal point is, or that Mexico is not one of the United States of America. You will be discouraged by the students who skip class because of a hangover, then come to your office and want a private make-up lecture. What you don't read about so much on this blog are the days where one of your students tells you that they love your class, that they are learning so much, and that they have found their own calling because of it. And that's fine, because this blog is for venting, and we desperately need to do that sometimes. So you will have hellish days during which you fantasize about early retirement or winning the lottery and not giving ANY of it to the university, and you will have wonderful days during which you can’t believe you are getting paid for having so much fun. Most days will be somewhere in the middle. But if academia is your calling, you understand that it’s not really about you, and you will never be bored, and it will NEVER be “just a job.”