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.