academia: February 2005 Archives

Chuck has an entry from last night that talks about his current blog block. He mentions in the comments that part of the reason for this is job-search stress, which got me to thinking...

One of the things that's really difficult to explain to those who aren't in academia (or more specifically, perhaps, the humanities) is the stress of the job search. I was lucky myself, partly because I found a position before I'd finished my dissertation, thanks to a good friend. However, because they hadn't done a full search, it was a one-year gig, during which I could apply to turn it into a full-time, tenure-track position. So far, so good.

This meant, however, that I was half a continent away from my support network, at a time when I was teaching 3 courses (2 of them over-ambitiously writing-intensive), revising my 250-page dissertation, and also embarking on a job search for the first time. Each of the three of those is really a full-time pursuit. Through a combination of hubris and compromise, I sent applications to the top 35 programs on my list, and got 2 interviews at MLA, plus a phone "interview" with my home institution. (By way of contrast, 3 years later, when I was qualified to apply to top schools, I had 5 interviews from 9 applications, and took my position at Syracuse before MLA.). MLA interviews are in December and, for the top 2-4 candidates, result in visits to the campuses. Neither of my f2f interviews bore fruit, although I was moved to the next stage at my home institution, and my "visit" took place in March, I think.

Keep in mind, though, that this process begins in the summer and can often push on until April or May. From January to March, I went to school and taught and came home almost every single night, lied in bed, and wondered about what in the world I would do if my home institution didn't pan out. Thankfully, luckily, it did. But over the space of a couple of months, every. single. night. Fear, anxiety, depression--when you've spent anywhere from 6 to 10 years preparing for a single, specialized profession, and have to face the possibility that it's all been a waste of time, that's not a happy place. The interviews, the visits--they're exceptionally high-stakes performances, a version of hazing that's only gotten harder and more cruel as the market for academics has gotten worse.

It's one of the reasons why many people will tell you that persistence is a more important factor for success in academia than intelligence. There are lots of smart people (and maybe this is evidence?) who will not be able (or choose) to put themselves through the emotionally and psychologically crushing process of the job search. When that process works best, it's a little less crushing, I suppose, but there are still too many cases where it's all but a crapshoot, where (unintentionally, I hope) it's unnecessarily hellish.

I know that Chuck doesn't want to blog about it, which is cool. I don't know what his process has been like, but I can say that job searches, particularly the ones where you're trying to "break through" to a tenure-track position, are a time of enormous anxiety and self-doubt. I wish I could say that they make us stronger, but mostly, they leave us more neurotic than we were when we started, and perhaps a little relieved if it ends well. Those of us who have done well tend to block out the pain and anxiety, and so sometimes we forget how tough it is.

All of which is simply to say that I'm pulling for you, Chuck. Good luck.

That is all.

A Very Big Day, Part 3

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And on top of all that, I learned today that I've been officially confirmed as the new Associate/Online Editor of our discipline's flagship journal, College Composition and Communication. It's been in the works now since some time last fall, but we're now at the stage of crossing eyes, dotting t's, etc.

Even though I've known about it for a while, I'm still a little awestruck by the whole thing. I'm looking forward to working with Deborah Holdstein--she and I have only spoken a little about it, but there's one thing I know for sure. We're bringing ideas. Lots and lots of ideas. I'm only being a little immodest when I say that I think we can help change the way that our field thinks about the online components of our journals.

So yeah. Not so much with the spare time for me. You'll hear plenty more about this as the days march on.

A Very Big Day, Part 2

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Just how big, you ask?

Well, until my colleague Becky has had a chance to recover, I've offered to step in and sub for her graduate course. With proper planning, and by proper I mean largely "not at 3 AM the night before," this isn't much of an issue. It is a little bit of a stretch, though, because the course meets on the same day as my other course.

To be fair, several of the students in my class are also in her class, and so they get to go back-to-back every week. Not exactly a walk in the park. To be fair to me, though, preparing for a course involves a different level of engagement with the material. I tend to be a pretty non-interventionist teacher, but I pride myself on being able to adapt a discussion to student concerns and issues without losing sight of the things I want to accomplish as well. It sounds a little fortune cookie, I suppose, but I prepare very carefully in order to be able to listen as a teacher.

So anyway, today was Week 1 of my temporary stint in back-to-back 3-hour classes. And let me tell you: anyone who thinks that this means that I "only" worked for 6 hours today needs a reverse spinning back kick to the jaw. As rewarding as teaching can be, it's hard work intellectually, psychologically, and yes, physically. Especially when preparation involved working from only a few hours of sleep last night. I'm zonked.

At the risk of patting myself on the back, I think both classes went fairly well today. At least, I hope so, because I'm about to reward myself with 10-12 hours of sleep.

That is all.



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This page is a archive of entries in the academia category from February 2005.

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