Teaching Leave

One thing that is amazing that I think I have not told you yet is that next semester I am on TEACHING LEAVE

O teaching leave
I love you
I kiss your alabaster palm
I worship at your well-formed feet
I lay my grading pen upon your uncreas’d brow
I lightly dust your shapely figure with the ashes of my sacrificed syllabus

Teaching leave is something not every school does, and is a big reason why I feel good about my job. Teaching leave means that the administration is like “look, we know we are making you write a book in order to keep your job, and yet we are also requiring you to spend 50 hours a week teaching and going to eight hundred thousand meetings every second. And we respect that that is hard, so how about in your third year you take a semester off teaching and try to write your whole book then, so that you will stand a ghost of a chance of passing your pre-tenure review the following year.” Which is more than a lot of schools do! So you feel a modicum of respect is paid for the labor you perform for the university, and you are mollified and grateful.

All the junior faculty members who got hired the same year as me have been whispering and giggling about this in the hall, because we have all had the same exact experience with it, namely, that we totally forgot about it until last semester. On the job market you are so desperate and single-minded and living so wholly in the present. You go to job interviews with all systems ratcheted up to pants-shitting levels of intensity. Ready with your list of smart things to say/smart questions to ask! Wide-eyed and heart pounding! And then one part of the interview is you sitting down with the chair of whatever department, and they tell you about tenure requirements, salary stuff, any perks that might come with the job, etc. And you don’t really listen. You are like yeah yeah yeah that sounds great PLEASE JUST GIVE ME THE JOB.

So, even though of course I remembered that there was this third year teaching release thing, and of course it’s in my contract, I sort of just never thought of it again. The first year hit me like a ton of bricks, as previously described, and I just couldn’t do anything except what was right in front of me. Three years in the future just seemed like it might as well have been a billion years; I couldn’t imagine living that long, let alone being in a position to actually take the university up on this cool perk. So then a couple of months ago when my chair was like “are you planning on taking your leave next fall?” it slowly, slowly rolled over me, the realization, until finally I looked like this


Suddenly it was like….wait……………..WHAT? A semester with no teaching at all? WHAT? And now it’s, like, upon me! It’s fucking happening! I have seven more weeks of the semester and then I won’t teach again until SPRING OF 2017.

It’s not a full sabbatical, which means you still have to come in for eight trillion meetings every four seconds, and you still have to generate reports for various committees that no one will ever read or mention ever again. BUT! You don’t have to spend a week writing a syllabus. You don’t have to put together a reader. You don’t have to write 100 emails to students in Week 2 who have just now decided they’re “interested” in your class and could you please explain in detail how much work they have to do to get an A before they decide whether or not they’ll deign to enroll. You don’t have to prep. But perhaps most importantly, you don’t have to GRADE.

the irony of course is that teaching is by far the main thing I love about this job and the only reason I got into this career in the first place. BUT, I also do have to write a book in order to keep this job, so given that fact, I am fucking STOKEDDDDDDDDDD

So anyway that shitty person who told me professors complain too much was right and actually this job rules


I get to primarily just write my book!!! I will actually be able to concentrate on it. And go on research trips to Santa Fe (don’t ask)!!!! omg

I’ve been thinking about why I love my job even though it necessitates so much soul-crushing bureaucracy, busywork, and false capitulating to the values of business and capital. These are MAJOR aspects of the job, and they genuinely are existentially difficult to negotiate. A lot of people can’t take it–my husband, for example, has just withdrawn from his PhD program and is looking into becoming a farmer, and a lot of the explanation for this is that although he enjoys teaching and is good at it, the rest of the job actually makes him sick. He’s only an adjunct, which means he doesn’t have to go to faculty meetings or serve on committees or write self-study reports for some committee on new technology in the classroom using words like “innovative” and “disruption,” and yet even the tiny sliver of a window into these aspects of the job that he does get make him INSANE. He can’t do it. I think the fact that I can do it says two things about me, one good and one bad. The good thing it says about me is that I love teaching so much and believe in the value of it so much that it (thus far) feels worth it to me to do all the horrible other stuff if it means I get to also keep teaching. The bad thing it says about me is that I am comfortable working within a system I think is profoundly flawed, corrupted, and unethical, and I am able to accept that within that system there will be people (not all, but some) who have enormous amounts of power over me and my life with whom I share no values, ideals, or politics at all. Like, what you care about is your students and their ability to learn and have happy lives, but you have to explain and advocate for that labor to people who view students as profit-generating units and nothing else, that can be pretty demoralizing, and yet I do it, and am mostly able to do it and then put it out of my mind and come home and have a normal evening. So I think there is a sense in which I want institutional approval and am comfortable acceding to authority figures, which is bad, at least if you ostensibly also hold somewhat anarchist/Marxist/anti-establishment beliefs, intellectually.

So, anyway, the admirable level at which I love my job is this level where I believe with sincere, emo, twee passion in the project of education, and I care about my students and I want to be of service to them, and if I am able to do that, I feel a profound satisfaction that certainly no other job I have ever done in my life has ever brought me.

The more selfish level at which I love my job, though, is the SCHEDULE. I love it so much!!!!!!! If you actually calculate the number of hours per week I have to be somewhere at a certain time, it’s honestly like 7. The rest of my labor is all self-directed. And nobody checks on me; nobody makes sure I’m doing it. It’s all on me. If I want to succeed, I have to do shit-tons of work every day all day long, and nobody babies me about it, nobody makes me clock in and clock out, nobody makes me justify what I do all day. It’s a real shit or get off the pot kind of a job and I love that. I love that I can work from home, from a coffee shop, that I get to decide my hours. I can work from 6 a.m. until 2 and then go to Vermont and watch a movie, nobody’s stopping me. And I love the schedule at the macro level too, the extreme ebb and flow of semester/break/semester/break. It works for my mind and body. I love working constantly and hysterically for 14 weeks and then having four months off to slowly get my shit back together, and then doing it again. It’s a totally bipolar schedule and I dig it.

So yeah, I shouldn’t complain, even though these FUCKING meetings will FUCKING BREAK YOU. I have a meeting next Sunday night from 5:30-8:30. So yeah. Boo hoo! And in fact now I have to leave and go to a different meeting, but at this meeting there will be sandwiches so you take your kicks where you can get them

Anyway it is fun


I learned last night that if you fart while scuba diving it can literally blow a hole in your wetsuit.

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