Sunday, September 14, 2008

Rain, Rain

Seriously. When will the monsoons stop?

Tomorrow, says Firefox, but Firefox has been wrong before. Firefox is usually wrong, in fact.

Anyway, on this preternaturally dark and dismal Sunday morning, I am staring down the following tasks:
  • Write a dummy paper for my comp students to revise. This should take me all of 10 minutes--in fact, I will deliberately limit myself to 10 minutes--but I find the prospect soul-crushing and can't seem to get myself to do it. Hence the blogging.
  • Read like 6 pages for a Tuesday class.
  • Drag my ass back to campus to get last year's notes on SGGK out of my office. Then use them to come up with a wildly exciting SGGK lesson plan for tomorrow. Hey, you know, I taught one of Marie de F's poems on Friday and it went really well--far better than last year. I think it was partly because, when a student called the fairy lady "the hottest chick ever," I replied, "Yes, she is the hottest chick ever," which greatly amused the class.
  • ...Start working on the job letter--particularly that pesky "future research" paragraph. Grouse. The whole letter needs redoing, really, since it's still got lingering traces of gradstudentism all over it, I think.
I am feeling highly ambivalent about the market this year--and it's not just the expense of flying to SF that's got me down. On the one hand, there are some pretty awesome jobs (though not as many as last year--but that's okay, because I have no intention of applying to 40+ jobs this fall). And I don't really want to spend my career at Field or a place like Field, not because it's a bad place (it has its problems, of course, but there's a lot here that's lovely), but because I enjoy research and writing. I know that it's possible to maintain an active research agenda at a 4-4 school. But this 4-4 school.... Well, there are basically no publication requirements for tenure; you just need to show that you're "active" in your field--to the tune, as far as I can make out, of attending an occasional conference; I don't think you even need to present. While that might take some pressure off, it also means that there's no reason for the institution to support its faculty's research aspirations. We get a little bit of money to travel to conferences, but it's extremely difficult to get a sabbatical here (I know people who have been here for more than 20 years without a semester off); there aren't currently course releases for research; and the service requirements are intense. In addition to the traditional service requirements, by the way, we're constantly informed that we should be attending more student functions and involving ourselves more heavily in student organizations. The thinking seems to be that teaching + service should take up all of your time--and the senior faculty here, well, they're awfully tired. They work really hard. Many many hours a week. So no one has time to do any outside research. I can think of one senior faculty member who publishes, ever. That's not many.

The lack of research support and expectations, coupled with the very small size of the faculty, means that there's very little sense of a larger academic community at Field. First, no one really has anyone else to talk to about his or her specialization, since we all cover different areas. And second, the total orientation on undergraduate teaching gives us little incentive or opportunity to stay really current with scholarship, which seems to erode the faculty's engagement with the broader world of academia. I miss talking about my work and hearing about other people's work. The Minister and I have shared some of our writing, but of course we're in pretty different fields, and there are only two of us. Since my actual professional training was all about research, I hate to think of never doing any of it again--much as I value and enjoy teaching.

Oh, and the pay = not good. Raises--even cost-of-living increases--are extremely infrequent. At least one full prof who's been here for more than 15 years makes less than 50k. Given my starting salary, I'm unlikely to wind up in the same boat, but it's also scandalous that they've increased starting salaries for junior faculty so much (they're still low, though) while senior people had salary freezes. The financial problems, they run deep.

So why wouldn't I want to go on the market this year? Well, I'm getting more comfortable here. I like some of my students a lot, and like almost all of them at least a little, and I'd like to stick around and work with them for a little longer. I love my tiny house; I love my garden; I'm in a local relationship (although he may not stick around here forever, either). Also--I admit--I feel guilty. My people are not going to be pleased if I jump ship, and I dread asking for a letter. So, yeah. Guilt. Which I know I don't need to feel--but since they basically did two searches (the VAP and the t-t) to get me here, I think that I feel a little bit of an extra obligation to stick it out for a while.

Anyway. We'll see. I'm only applying to jobs that are clear moves up, not to jobs that would be lateral moves or about which I feel ambivalent. Most likely, nothing will come of these applications, but I'm going to have to buy that ticket to SF regardless.


squadratomagico said...

It sounds to me as if you're in an enviable position, in terms of the job market. You have ideas about what kind of position you might prefer, but you also are reasonably happy with your current position. This will enable you both to apply selectively and to remain sane during the process. It makes sense to try the market and see what happens: perhaps you'll get an offer that you'll feel is a better fit, perhaps not.

Good luck!

medieval woman said...

You'll also be SUCH a different candidate this time out - you're in a t-t position; your book's under review, you've sent out another article or two...I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. And TD and I will be in SF as well, so we should hang out!