On teaching

When I started grad school, I wasn’t too sure about the whole tenure-track professor thing because I was pretty sure I would hate teaching. In my second year of grad school, I picked up my first of many adjunct teaching assignments to pay the bills… and I didn’t really like it. But as time went on, I got better at it – and of course, it’s always enjoyable to be good at something. And as time went on even further and my livelihood and future prospects all seemed to depend on teaching, I may have convinced myself that I loved teaching.

Then I got a postdoc, and was whisked away to all-research-all-the-time land, a magical happy place (I may be exaggerating slightly). I did not do any undergraduate teaching during my 4 years as a postdoc, though I did co-teach a few graduate courses. When I applied for tenure-track jobs, I gushed about how much I loved teaching and put together a pretty effective teaching statement. My publication record is good but not spectacular, and I have a ton of teaching experience due to the above-mentioned need to pay the bills. So, all of my job interviews were at teaching-heavy schools.

I also always harbored a fantasy that a tenure-track/tenured job at an elite small liberal arts college would be the perfect life. When I took my new job, I tossed aside all talk of ever getting a tenure track job. I suspect it is common to have nagging doubts when one makes a huge life-changing decision so quickly – and of course, I have had them.

I’ve been quiet on the blog because I am actually away from my regular job right now, doing a special winter intersession teaching gig at an elite SLAC that I thought would be awesome. And it is pretty good… but I have had a revelation.

I do not love teaching.

And students at elite SLACs are annoying.

(Ok, that’s two revelations. Or maybe just one – most people probably already knew the second one.)

The old dream is dying, and I feel really good about it. Now I can really and truly move along. Those of you who do love teaching? Please rest assured that I will no longer be competing with you for jobs that you may truly love, but that I am sure I never would.


3 Comments on “On teaching”

  1. Rebecca says:

    Boy, it’s really great to be able to eliminate any lingering doubts, isn’t it? It’s kind of like finally being able to throw away something you didn’t really care for but had been keeping “just in case”. Frees up space in your life that can be filled with good stuff.

  2. Hey, at least you tried. Don’t sweat it. 🙂

  3. Belle says:

    Might one suggest that we go through stages in our lives, when our different talents and tastes change? I’m so glad that you’ve found your niche, but I’m not sure that you won’t continue to evolve and discover new loves/hates as well.

    Thus endth my philosophical pontificating annoyance.

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