Friday, February 14, 2014
February 14, 2014: I Love My Job
[Last year, I wrote a Valentine’s Day-inspired series on some of my AmericanStudier loves. I had fun, so I’ve decided to do so again this year. I’d love for you to share some of the things you love for a crowd-sourced weekend post full of heart!]
On two of the many reasons why I love what I do for a living.
There’s no way around it, higher education and academia are fraught with huge, interconnected, and growing problems, many of which I’ve written about in this space and all of which have received a good deal of well-deserved attention in recent months and debates (as well as for many years prior): the exploitation of adjunct faculty; public and political assaults on our institutions and educational system; and disappearing funding and jobs coupled with increasing numbers of grad students and PhDs and academics, to name only a few. I’m an optimist, but I’d also have to be blind and a fool not to recognize those realities and challenges (among others), and nothing I write in this post (or any other) should be read as a denial of them or an attempt to minimize their significance to higher education’s present and future.
I love this job, though. I’m a tenured faculty member, not an adjunct (although I was one for a time) or a job seeker (ditto) or in any other uncertain position, and I don’t want to pretend that the differences don’t matter. But to be honest, one of the things that I love about this profession—I’m not focusing in this post on the two things I love most, working with students and with colleagues; for them, see most of the Teaching Posts and many of the Tribute Posts—is the collegiality that I have so often felt, from the most senior faculty members to the most new graduate students, and in every community and connection in between. I know there are conflicts and politics, hierarchies and discriminations, as in every human community (which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work to identify and ameliorate them in ours, of course). But I’ve seen conversation and collaboration far more frequently, and love that part of who we are and what drives us.
Another thing I love about this job is that it provides, indeed requires, constant opportunities for reinvention and growth. Every semester is a new start, new courses with new communities of students and new voices and ideas to be heard. Every conference presentation or article or book (or blog post!) is a chance to say something new, certainly in conversation with what we’ve (and others have) said before but still a blank page waiting for us to fill it once more. Even some of the less consistently compelling sides to what we do—the department meetings, the assessment committees, the curriculum conversations—offer continual chances to try something new, help move our communities in new directions, experiment and innovate and challenge and improve. Of course it’s possible to get static or stagnant, individually and communally, within this as any world—but I think the dominant forces push us to do the opposite, to keep starting fresh. And I love the opportunity to do so.
Crowd-sourced post this weekend,
PS. So last chance—what do you love about or in American history, culture, identity, community?