Higher Education Career Advice

Career Advice

Beth Jones describes the benefits for master’s and Ph.D. graduates.

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October 6, 2008
"Dr. K." asks: As an incipient Mama Ph.D., I’d like to know how parenthood affects your pedagogy. If anyone has had a before- and after-baby teaching career, aside from issues like daycare and fatigue, I’d be grateful if you could tell me how it changes a person as a teacher. Awesome question. The most immediate effect, I think, is that I am *much* more aware of, and sensitive to, the needs and challenges of students with children of their own. Those "no cell phones in class" statements on the syllabus? I bring mine in, and leave it on, in case my son's school needs to call, and I know that some of my students are in the same boat. And for all I know, other students have reasons for leaving their phones on too. So instead of "no phones," I tell them, turn your ringers down and if you have to answer the phone, please step out of the room while you do so. Missing class because of sickness or babysitting problems? It happens. Here's the work you missed; please check with a friend to look at their notes. It also, I think, makes me better at thinking about my students' educational backgrounds, the gaps they may or may not have, and the fact that they have different learning styles. My son? Bright, believes everything's negotiable, and in the wrong school environment might very well be labelled a "behavior problem." Other kids in his class, where I've done some volunteering? I can see them getting discouraged at the age of six, getting the message that they're "not good at school," checking out to protect their egos.
September 21, 2008
I taught for several years at a state school of fairly low rank and then taught at a very diverse urban public university, which I loved. Now I teach at a fancy liberal arts college on occasion, which has been great, but it doesn't quite thrill me. I feel like I'm not really teaching them much of anything or it doesn't really matter because they're gonna make it no matter what. At Urban Public U., students cried when I left. I'm about to quit my job in all likelihood. It makes me cry on a weekly basis. The reasons for the tears are pretty complicated, mixed up with my own sadness and disappointment that this gig did not work out and with the cruelty and insane politics I find myself on the receiving end of. The stories I could tell. So I don't know what I'm going to do next. I'm toying with doing some consulting and actually have done some of this work already and could get more pretty easily. I have ideas I want to write about and I still like teaching so I'm applying for faculty jobs, but, like you, I'm limited geographically. And, quite honestly, I want some life balance. I'm working about 60 hours/week right now with job plus research. The laundry is not getting done; homework slides; you know the drill. Oh, and there's the TMJ and headache issues. So do you think adjuncting, if you're doing it as a true part-time job instead of with the hope of gaining a tenure-track job, is viable? Would you ever see yourself back on the tenure-track? I'm interested in CC jobs, but the t-t ones I've seen are 5-5 and I just don't think I could swing that. Anyway, I'd love to see you write about adjuncting in a positive way. In what ways could it not be exploitive? I'm thinking of Marc Bousquet. Would he think it's bad always? It seems the perfect solution for a parent who wants to teach and be a part of academe but doesn't want a full-time gig. I can't even find a part-time gig in the Ed Tech field. Is is bad to want to work part-time? Why do I feel guilty about that? You feel guilty for much the same reason mothers often feel guilty over whatever choices they make on the work/life continuum, for the same reason we feel guilty if we buy ziplock bags instead of biodegradable cellulose baggies, for the same reason educated whites often feel guilty about racism: because we live in a world that's convinced us that all social problems somehow boil down to our Personal Choices. And you feel guilty for the same reason academics everywhere feel guilty and anxious over academia: because so many of us have internalized the idea of our own powerlessness and dependence on the almighty Job Market.
July 5, 2007
I'm wondering if you or your readers can shed any light on the issue of women being pregnant while on the job market. Every academic woman planning to become a mother has to weigh the timing of a pregnancy very carefully, and the general assumption is that you never want to be pregnant while you're on the job market. When you think about it from the perspective of the woman, however, we're often weighing many issues that can conflict with each-other: for example, whether a pregnancy is more feasible during graduate school--even with dissertation writing and teaching--than it is when you've gotten a tenure-track job, the question of when we can count on having health insurance, and the possibilities for any maternity leave. Most of the time, I think women try to time pregnancies so they can deliver a baby at the beginning of the summer and extend their time at home, but the timing of the (lengthy) academic job market process kills this possibility since anyone getting pregnant in the late summer would be very visibly pregnant during job interviews.
July 3, 2007
In my CC system, faculty members can teach a 5-5 or a 4-4 load. If we choose the 4-4 load, we do service work in place of the 5th course. I'm in English, and I'm gratefully taking the 4-4 option, to stay sane with fewer papers to grade. But how unusual is this arrangement? How many other CCs will allow a 4-4 load? I live in an expensive state and would love to move to a cheaper one, so I'm wondering, if I am able to get another job at a CC, how likely is it I'll be teaching a 5-5? And how do English teachers manage to teach 5 courses a semester, many or all of which are writing-intensive?
May 17, 2007
Oberlin's next president has been general counsel at the University of Michigan.

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