Libby Gruner

Libby Gruner is an English professor at mid-career who started her family in graduate school. She lives in Richmond with her husband and two children, whose 7-year age gap means that she will be the parent of a teenager for quite a while yet.

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Most Recent Articles

January 7, 2013
As most readers of IHE probably already know, there’s been a little bit of a controversy over the past few days about a  “study” purporting to find that the job of university of professor is the least stressful job in America. Scott Jaschik usefully summarizes the original study (by Career Cast), the piece in Forbes that seems to have drawn the most ire, and the various responses—and, of course, his piece has generated even more responses in the form of comments on his article. I’m struck, as always, by the widespread misconceptions about what it is, exactly, that university professors do—even, apparently, among readers of IHE.
December 17, 2012
I spent the weekend thinking about Christmas cards, and Christmas presents. Not the ones that I have not yet bought, or sent, but ones that were postmarked Newtown last week, or purchased in Danbury a week or two ago, already wrapped and ready to be put under a Christmas tree. Cards with pictures of children on them, children who will not see the Christmas the cards celebrate; children who will not open the gifts purchased for them. I cannot think about these gifts, these cards. I cannot imagine the grief of the families.
December 10, 2012
I’ve written before about how helpful it is, as a teacher, to be a student, but this semester I had a very different experience with that than I’ve had before. Previously I’ve learned a lot about teaching when I took tae kwon do, a martial art with which I had absolutely no previous experience, or when I participated in faculty development seminars that focused on areas that I did have experience in but wanted to develop further. They were two very different cases—either I was a rank beginner, eager to soak up whatever knowledge I could get, or I was an advanced student, ready and able to polish my skills. In the first case, almost anything the instructor said was helpful because I knew nothing at all; in the second case, I had a good grounding of knowledge and understanding, and so, again, I could make use of almost anything an instructor said—or at least put it in some kind of context and, perhaps, decide not to use it.
December 3, 2012
The big story in higher ed this week appears to be the New York Times article that suggests that — hold on to your hats — some people are actually forgoing college and making a living anyway. That this story appeared in the Style section is perhaps the first clue that we shouldn’t be taking it too seriously; that the people cited as examples were almost all privileged and white is almost certainly the second.
November 26, 2012
I spent Thanksgiving weekend mostly off the internet and in the company of people and books I love, catching up with both. I was rereading a Dickens novel and spending time with family and friends, luxuriating in the long weekend that made both possible. As my daughter was packing up to return to college for the end of the semester, she asked if I'd be writing about her today. "Maybe," I said. But rather than write directly about her I want to write about three things that I’ve been thinking about both over the weekend and this morning.
November 12, 2012
Last week I received my daughter's last college tuition bill. When I started writing this blog, she had not yet graduated from high school -- can it be?  I looked at the tuition bill with a mixture of anxiety and gratitude.
November 5, 2012
This post will go up on Election Day in the US. I'm writing it on the afternoon before, and I have not yet voted. Virginia doesn't have early voting without a valid excuse, and I have to confess that even if it did, I would probably have waited: I like participating in a civic duty along with my fellow-citizens. There's always a festive air at the polling place, a sense that something important is going on, and I like to be a part of that. I also like wearing my "I Voted!" sticker to class, reminding my students (many of whom will have voted by absentee ballot already, I hope) that there's still time.
October 29, 2012
This is not the first hurricane we’ve weathered here in Richmond. It’s not even the first hurricane that’s disrupted classes, or that I’ve blogged about. Last year our power was out for four days with Irene; Isabel, in 2003, closed my campus for a week. Gaston, which was only a tropical storm by the time it got here in 2004, flooded downtown Richmond and all the roads between my home and campus; it took me two hours to get home from campus on the first day of classes that year as I sought an unflooded route (and, failing to find one, simply drove through the least-flooded street I could find).
October 22, 2012
I’m just back from my last “family weekend” ever at my daughter’s college. I can’t recall my parents ever attending one of these weekends while I was in college — nor can I remember wanting them to — but my husband and I have alternated trips up to my daughter’s campus every year. Part of the reason is that we simply like Boston; part of it is that she’s in an a cappella group that always performs that weekend; part of it is of course our pleasure in seeing her in her other context.
October 15, 2012
I've been trying, more or less successfully, to complain less, work smarter rather than harder, and take some time for myself, this semester. In other words, I've been trying to avoid becoming one of the miserable professoriate described in William Panapacker's recent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Ed. I really don't think it's my duty to be miserable--and, most of the time, I'm really not miserable. I have a great job with colleagues I like and respect, my time is usually pretty self-scheduled, and it would be worse than churlish to complain about committee work or excess grading when I am lucky enough to be employed, let alone tenured.

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