I thoroughly enjoyed my holiday break. My wife and I visited both of our families in Jacksonville, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. This is a first time in a long time that both of us have been in a professional career at the same time, so we really enjoyed traveling this year and not worrying about the cost.
I finished my Masters degree shortly after my wife graduated with her B.S. and then I worked a year before going for my Ph.D. She sacrificed a lot to stay in that city, with very little opportunity for her line of work, while I worked on my Ph.D. Near the end of my program she lost her position and was drastically underemployed for almost a year until we moved to our current location.
Over the break, I had plenty of time to gather perspective on my entire semester here at the college and I am ready to go. I realized that even though I am underpaid (not for the type of college, but for the degree and salaries at state or private universities) I am still working in the profession that I want to be in. I have addressed the issue of pay by continuing to apply to universities that will allow me to obtain the salary I want. My wife, who worked for five or six years as an accountant before becoming a teacher this year, is now studying for her CPA exam and will re-enter the field once the school year is over. By doing this we will both drastically increase our wages as well as find employment more suitable to our tastes.
I have never stopped looking for different universities and over the holidays numerous positions opened up. I applied to about 4 universities and have about 4 more applications that I am sending out this week. Luckily, I have the qualifications that most of them are requesting so I am very optimistic.
Both of us realized that the move here was a positive step us, even if it was far from our ideal. Now we are strong enough to make decisions based on what’s best for us and not ones based on survival. This semester and next few months will be used to prepare us to move forward…..
(A little heavy, but I had to get it off my chest….)
Sometimes I wonder if I exhibiting the behavior of a professional or Grade A jerk.
Example: I handed out take home exams to a set of my classes last Tuesday. I informed them that they could not turn it in early and that they had to turn it in on the day of the exam. I did this so I would not have people dropping by my office at all times of the day, sliding it under the door, trying to turn it in early in class, etc. I have to keep track of these tests and the simplest way for me to do it is by setting a firm date and collect it all at once. I also told them they could not email it to me and it had turned in face to face.
So, today I am returning to my office after going to the restroom down the hall and as I approach I notice my door is wide open. I usually close it when I step out or at least leave it partially cracked. As I am wondering why my door is open as I step into the doorway I notice a student standing in the corner of my office. My first thought is did he enter a closed office.
He then asks me can he turn in his test right now because he won’t be able to come to class this Thursday because he has to “be somewhere.” I told him no he would not be able to and that I am only accepting them on Thursday at the time of his class. I then offer him the option of allowing someone else to turn it in for him but I can’t be held accountable for someone else turning in his work…. He said okay and left.
The entire time I was saying no I was wondering if I was being a jerk. However at the same time, he misses class often and once told me he overslept as an excuse for missing class. He even missed the class when the test was handed out and tried to have someone else pick it up.
Now that I have written this out I realize that I wasn’t quite being a jerk. I was probably reflexively reacting to his past behavior….. and he did invite himself into my empty office unannounced.
You know I often forget that I have a Ph.D. and sometimes I don’t even pay attention to the fact that I am an assistant professor. Even though my students address me as doctor (occassionally) and professor (some prefer Mr. as if they are still in high school), I am sometimes ambivalent to my accomplishments.
However, in class today I had a group giving their last presentation on the Uses and Gratifications Approach, which is often used in Mass Communication as a tool to understand how people use mass media. While they were presenting I had an epiphany. I remembered that as a doctoral student I had taken a class or seminar that dealt with the Uses and Gratifications Approach for an entire semester.
With only five of us as students and one professor, who was a pioneer in the field, we dissected, discussed and ballyhooed the Uses and Gratifications Approach twice a week, one and a half hour sessions or longer, for four mounths….
As my students discussed the theory (or approach) and as I realized that I was already intimately familiar with the information or it ‘rang a bell,” I realized, damn, I deserve my title of Assistant Professor. I have put in the time and in fact spent almost 5 years in a Mass Communication Ph.D. program learning how to be a researcher, writer and professor. While I was listening to their presentations I couldn’t help but think of all the research I conducted as a grad student, books and academic articles I’ve read, etc. I even taught at least 25 courses during my time as a doctoral student and candidate.
I often forget in my day to day activities, but I have to start remembering why I went after a Ph.D. and I need to make sure I keep putting it to use. For me that means research….
In class today I had a group of students giving their last round of presentations. When students are giving presentations I have a rule that if you come late, you cannot enter class until you hear the applause. So about 20 minutes into the presentation I hear a loud, “Ya’ll are BullSh$tting, Let me In!”
It was so loud I thought the person who said it was in the room. The group presenting stopped and looked around.
I asked the class, “Who said that?”
Everyone shook their heads. I told the girl nearest the door to open it up. When she opened the door she asked the two standing outside (a male and female), “He wants to know who said that?” The guy, who obviously said it muttered, “I didn’t say anything.” I just told him, “—–, See me after class.” When I left the class (we also had professor evaluations today/more on that later) I said, “Come, walk with me.”
As we walked down the hall, I said, “I know what you said. It was so loud that I thought it was inside the room.” He immediately became apologetic and stated that he didn’t think that we could hear it and that he said it for the benefit of the girl that was standing out there with him. I said okay, but let him know he wouldn’t be allowed to return to class today and that he could return next week only if he apologizes to the class first. He apologized to me again and said he would apologize to the class on Monday…..
I am torn on whether or not I should have interrupted the presentation, but at the same time he went too far…
Also: As I was walking down the hall later a student stopped me and said, “Yeah, that was really loud.”
I am arranging for three of my classes to take their final exam during their last class period. I am giving the other three classes a take home exam that they can turn in on their last day of class. I am streamlining the courses so I can be done about a week and a half early. Some of my classes have their final exam date scheduled on the last possible day. So to avoid having to grade until the last minute I am having them do it early.
I am trying to save myself from burnout….
Well, this semester is almost over. I am frazzled and worn out. I fought my emotions Sunday night to avoid going into a depression over returning to work. That’s right, I am officially calling this position work. I have always looked at my academic career and exploits as enjoyable and fun, even when I had a tremendous amount of work to do. However, now, I feel the strain.
My wife and I had a long talk about both our experiences in teaching. I have had the benefit of teaching at a quality university so I know that what I am experiencing here is not the norm but an aberration. This is her first teaching assignment as she changed careers from being an accountant. She is also teaching middle schoolers math (6th, 7th and 8th graders). She teaches remedial students so they also have many other problems that they bring to the classroom.
So as you can imagine we are both dissatisfied and are seeking a remedy. As a naive college student and then young man in graduate school I was heavy into community service and trying to make a difference. However, I was burned too many times by the very people that I tried to help. As a professor I want to work with people who are motivated, inspired and are willing to do what it takes to succeed in life. I am not witnessing that from the students I teach and I don’t think the college is interested in attracting those types of students. I find that I am in the very situation I wanted to avoid.
One thing we have learned from this experience is that in our future endeavors we will not open ourselves up for the possibility for anything below our standards any more. I applied for this job and even though many things were misrepresented it is ultimately my fault. I knew that out of all of the skills I had acquired in my graduate career, the subject that I am teaching now, I like the least and it doesn’t challenge me. I have been looking elsewhere and I am applying only to places that have the salary requirements, job description and standards for students that are in line with my standards. We are also only considering areas where we want to live.
We refuse to accept anything less.
When I was a doctoral student, I used to cancel classes on my birthday. For years I have used my birthday as a time for reflection and to plan for the upcoming year. However, this year as a new assistant professor and not wanting to make waves for myself, I didn’t do it. I did, however, schedule the classes on this day as one where they turn in an assignment and leave. Although I am here, I am trying to make the day as less stressful as possible.