If your institution is anything like mine, the schedule for the spring semester is now being finalized. Now, in my perfect world (decidedly not the one in which I live) this would not be a conversation to be had every semester. Or, rather, yes, there might be a discussion about when courses would be offered (ideally prioritizing student needs above faculty preferences) but there would not be a conversation about what would be offered every godforsaken semester. Every faculty member would have a solid two-year rotation of courses, and it would only be in rare cases – initiated either by the faculty member or by a department-wide conversation about curricular needs – that the rotation would be renegotiated.
But in my imperfect world, the above is not true. And I have to renegotiate my teaching schedule constantly.
But here’s the thing: not every one of my colleagues goes through this rigamarole. Nope, it’s just a select few of us. The ones of us who are willing to develop new courses, to pitch in when somebody else gets a course release or goes on sabbatical, to meet curricular needs that are for whatever reason not so fun for professors to meet but for whatever reason are essential. Without fail, such requests to change one’s schedule are framed as “opportunities.” Wouldn’t you love the “opportunity” to teach x course because the person who usually does so can’t? Wouldn’t you enjoy helping out by teaching y course?
For the first time ever, my answer to one of these requests, which I received today, was an unequivocal “I must decline.” Not, “I’d prefer not to,” not, “Well, if you really need somebody,” not, “Sure!” (In the interests of full disclosure, I did say that if the course could wait until the fall that I would be willing to adjust my 2 year rotation – which I had to fight for like I was fighting for my life just one year ago – to accommodate it, but only if what got eliminated from my schedule was comp.)
Hilariously, though not unexpectedly, I have not received a reply to my declination. Because the bottom line is: who the fuck else would possibly say yes to this course? (Although some people who regularly can’t fill their courses probably should consider it.) And who the fuck else would be qualified, given their typical teaching commitments (Because, really, those people who can’t fill their courses aren’t actually qualified to teach this course),
What is revolutionary about me saying “no” is seriously that under old circumstances I would have considered all of the other people who would have said no, or would have been inappropriate, first. What I considered first this time was myself. And it wasn’t an unequivocal no: it was a “I’ll say yes, but not for next semester.” And not only did personal decisions guide that (though they did), but also pedagogical and curricular ones.
So we’ll see what happens. But you know what? FUCK YOU I WILL NOT TEACH FIVE DAYS A WEEK PLUS AT NIGHT AND GIVE UP TEACHING THE COURSE THAT IS ACTUALLY IN MY FIELD OF SPECIALIZATION FOR UNDERGRADS TO DO SO!!!!! FUCK YOU!!!!