I work at a regional university with a crappy graduation rate. When I started here, there were no admissions requirements at my institution. But it was a tenure-track job, and I needed full-time employment, and even when my dissertation adviser asked me, “Do you really want this job?” my answer was, “ARE YOU ON CRACK? I NEED A JOB!!!” I realize now that he thought I could do “better,” in terms of teaching load and prestige and whatever, and that he was trying to advise me to play the lottery and to see what would come up, because I could have done better.
I still don’t regret the choice I made. I took the bird in the hand. That was a good choice for a working-class girl who needed a job in her late-20s, and whose parents together made less than she was offered, and who makes more than they do now, only supporting two cats (who have a lot of demands, but they are tiny animals, at the end of the day). The whole “holding out for a job you deserve” thing is all about having a certain sort of privilege that I didn’t enter this profession having.
So I work at a regional university in which it is the case that I teach a 4/4 load, and in which in theory I should be bitching about how my students disappoint me. But here’s the thing: the things that disappoint me about my job have nothing to do with my students. Because my students constantly impress me. MY students do.
And so I went to see Aimee Mann yesterday with a grad school friend, who’s at a nearby institution. And we were talking about teaching and students and such, and she was shocked by the fact that I have continuing relationships with the many students that I do. I tried to equivocate: well, you realize that I teach something like 200 students a year, right? So what’s the big deal about keeping in touch with 2-5 a year in that context, right? She was still SHOCKED and HORRIFIED. “You talk to that many of your former students?” “Um, yeah.” “REALLY????” Yeah. “Like they really want to know you and you really know what’s going on with them?” YES. I’ll note that after 10 years, this is getting a little complicated. Between mentoring and hanging out and dancing around my house to Prince, yes, it is taking up some time.
But seriously? Why the fuck do this job if you can’t take out some time to mentor, and hang out, and dance around to “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man”? Why be a college professor if you don’t want to know your students? I have no answer to that question.