(But our beginnings never know our ends!)
Email: lecturess[AT]gmail[DOT]comRecent Posts
Late Spring To-Do List
Saturday, December 24, 2005
I've been thinking about this a bit since reading Mon's good news and Academic Coach's comments on Mon's approach to her career--and now after researching and thinking about the six schools with which I have interviews it occurs to me that I really don't know what kind of institution I would most like to be at. I have interviews with big schools, small schools, urban schools, rural schools, public schools and private schools. I have interviews with schools with 2-2 teaching loads and one with a 4-4 teaching load. And I'm honestly attracted to aspects of all six of these schools. The thing is--how does one know what's most important?
As faithful readers of this blog know, I went to the same university for both my undergraduate and graduate schooling: a fancy R1. I'm also teaching at an R1, but one about as different from my alma mater as you can get: it's a public school, it's extremely diverse, and it has a predominantly commuter population. (And then there's the fact that I'm not exactly living the life of an R1 faculty member, as I'm teaching 3-4 and mostly intro classes.)
I don't really have any experience with smaller schools, except what I observed when I visited the liberal arts colleges I applied to when I was 18, what I've gleaned over the years from talking to GWB (who attended a LAC), and what I've gathered from the experiences of my friends who teach in LACs or predominantly teaching institutions.
And the thing is, I often feel that my academic experience would have been totally different--and in many ways better--if I had gone to a smaller school than INRU; I felt it during college, and I feel it now, though at no point have I ever actually regretted my decision. I took great classes and I had great professors, many of whom were very encouraging in inviting undergrads to come to their office hours, to set up lunches, etc.--but I never did, and neither do I know anyone who ever did.
By the time I graduated, I knew two English professors just well enough to say hello to and to ask for recommendation letters. I didn't talk much in most of my classes, always being intimidated by the kids from fancy prep schools who seemed to me much smarter than I. I was surprised when I got general honors at graduation, because I didn't think I was anywhere beyond the 50th percentile, gradewise. I was even more surprised when I got into INRU for grad school.
Some of that comes down to personality--call it modesty or call it insecurity--but I really do feel that I'd have been a much more confident scholar, at a younger age, if I had come up through a more intimate and personalized environment. I suspect that my writing and thinking would have been better, too, for having had someone actually take the time to teach me how to (say) construct an argument rather than just letting me muddle on through as best I could.
Consequently, then, one of the things that I value most about teaching is the opportunity to really work with and develop relationships with my students. I'm not trying to make them my friends, but I like to know where they're from, what classes they're taking, what they hope to do with their lives. I remember very clearly how tough college was, psychologically, and while I have no interest in becoming a counselor or a confidant, I do want my students to believe that I care about them in a more holistic way.
For those reasons, I think I'd really enjoy being at a small school. Even though the teaching load would be heavier, if the classes were reasonably sized and there were enough repeat students, I feel I'd have the chance to really get to know my students and perhaps make more of an impact. I also feel that the departmental culture, in a smaller school, is often much warmer and more supportive. I can't THINK of a more dysfunctional department than INRU's, though the anxiety and snobbery and jockeying for position that I saw there are probably generally typical of higher-powered institutions.
But. Although many aspects of teaching institutions appeal to me, I also really like research and I really like writing. I have several projects that I want to get underway or finish in the near future, and I don't know whether I'm prepared to slow down the pace of my own work when I'm only just now feeling that I'm good at it and that I have worthwhile things to contribute to my field.
There are also the values of the academic community to consider, and these teach us pretty emphatically that working at an R1 (or maybe one of a handful of super-selective liberal arts colleges) is the only thing that counts as success. I don't buy that message, but given its strength and given that R1s are what I know, I worry sometimes that I might be inclined, even against my own best interests, to give priority to that kind of school over one at which I might actually be happier (this is, of course, assuming that I'm lucky enough to be in the position of deciding between them!).
There are also other very important factors, like location. I'd like to be in or near a city, but most importantly I'd like to be near GWB; we've been dating for nearly five years, and all but one of them have been long-distance. Lemme tell you: it gets old.
In the end, I guess that I wish I knew my own mind better. However, I trust my gut instincts about people and situations, and I think that meeting a school's hiring committee and visiting on campus (if it comes to that), will make clear to me everything I need to have made clear.
At least, I hope so.
link | posted by La Lecturess at 12:37 AM |
Want to Post a Comment?