I’ve been sick the past week (which is a wonderful way to end a semester, let me tell you) so I’ve had a lot of time to think (because I wasn’t being distracted by things like grading and teaching as I was bedridden). It’s that time of the year when we begin to reflect on the year gone by and what we look forward to in the upcoming year. I won’t be participating in the #Reverb11 writing challenge, but I always seem drawn to the first writing prompt: your word for 2012.
My word for 2011 was stability. In five years I had lived in three states and had four different jobs along with two kids, so I was a little weary of more change. And I largely achieved the stability I was looking for: a home, job, real and virtual community, and a chance to re-immerse myself into my research.
But then, as seems to happen to me, I got restless. Now that I have some stability, I felt restless and emboldened in other aspects of my life, namely my career. And this has taken me in two directions: “discovering” digital humanities and getting angry at the current status of higher education, particularly for those of us who are off the tenure-track. Neither of these things are particularly new for me, but given the relative stability of everything else in my life, I was able to really focus in on these two areas.
And now, sitting around and writing about it just doesn’t seem enough. Much like deciding to actually implement peer-driven learning in my classroom, I now have to decide what concrete actions I am going to take to do something in regards to both these areas. But I am faced with the very real possibility that I will have to choose one or the other to act on because of financial and other limitations.
On the one hand, there are plenty of opportunities open to me to expand my digital humanities knowledge and abilities. I will be writing a post bringing together the resources I have found thus far later in December, but while overwhelming, it is easy to see how I could take action in this area. It would be, I hope, professionally and personally satisfying, not to mention good for my career.
On the other hand, how to take action in the name of helping contingent faculty and improving higher education is much less obvious. Join a union or other organization? Become a part of an executive? Start my own grass-roots movement? Occupy…somewhere? Would any of it actually make any difference? Would I end up hurting my career? Would any of it actually make any difference? (Yes, the question is there twice.)
If I take either one of these things seriously, it will mean devoting a significant amount of time, on top of my teaching duties and my family responsibilities. Some people, I know, can do it all, but I’ve learned that I am not one of them, not if I value my health (which I do). Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be exploring both avenues, and I hope that you can offer your advice and council, particularly when it comes to suggesting ways I can get involved with advocating for contingent faculty (and, by extension, all of higher education; I don’t think we can afford to separate the two anymore). If I must choose, then I need to have all the information and options to consider.