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  • Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Long Distance Mom: 49 More Students
January 11, 2012 - 9:00pm

Aeron Haynie suggested that I start my column by admitting that my partner and I are trying to spend more personal, intimate time together rather that working so many late evenings. Unfortunately, my column is not about sex with my supportive partner, but about my heavier workload for this spring semester.

The capstone class that I created just got canceled due to low enrollment, so I was assigned to teach an introductory course.  My new course--which I have not taught (or prepped) before -- is capped at 49 students.  31 students have enrolled so far.  My other undergraduate class -- Intro to Cinema — also enrolls 49 students, but this course is — thankfully — holding steady at 27 students for now.

Last year, I voluntarily offered to increase the size of the cinema course from 35 to 49 students because — after serving as a department chair for a number of years — I understand enrollment pressure and why universities need to offer courses of this size.  As the Occupy Student Debt movement and the recent tragedy in South Africa both underscore, increasing enrollment without increasing tuition costs are part of our immediate academic future.

Still -- I did not jump with joy when I discovered that I was assigned a second, large intro course while overseeing senior projects and fulfilling two different administrative positions.  It’s going to be “one of those” semesters...

Those of you who regularly teach four courses without any grading or grad assistance may consider my complaints excessive.  I do not blame you.  I know that my teaching load could get worse.  (See California…) But I also know that—while larger classes and heavier teaching loads are part of the story for bringing excessive costs down, my upcoming workload will lead me to fantasize about moving to more “ideal” teaching situations — e.g., schools where class sizes are 25 or smaller; teaching loads are 2-2, advising, international travel and experiential research work are emphasized, and faculty (have active sex lives) while still sleeping eight hours a night.

But those jobs are disappearing, though, aren’t they?  Were they ever really possible for the majority of us anyway?

Perhaps if I had written grants incessantly and brought in more research money, my situation would be different?  Perhaps if I had published more?  Or if I was at one of the twelve universities in the world that do not have financial problems and can still afford to provide a high quality education?

I keep saying to myself, “Get over it, honey.  You still have half of the summer to prep for your new, 100 student online class next fall…”


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