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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?


  1. There's probably no profession on the planet that you can love as truly as teaching (in your case, professing? I kid). Yet daily I am told by the news media, by my state and federal government, and even by ill-informed friends on facebook that I and my ilk are well meaning but utterly defunct bureaucrats who take money to do little more than babysit. While I have to listen to the attacks, jump through the hoops and block idiots I am able to go into a job everyday with people whom I genuinely love, and love me back.
    Two weeks ago a student called me "mom". Now that wasn't the first time. Since I'm one of the more progressive teachers at my school I tend to attract all of the scholars of color at my school (my guidance department tracks, and unfortunately race is a tracking factor, I love that even 60 years after desegregation of schools there is still segregation, but what can I do other than teach to the best of my ability). The black student have always called me mom, which is a sign of respect and frankly I love it. But this student was different she actually forgot that she wasn't talking to her mother for a full two seconds. When she realized it she apologized and I told her it was okay and the class had a good laugh. But I've been realizing slowly over the last two weeks that I made a huge mistake not putting children into my life. That girl is the perfect example of a daughter, she lovely, kind, funny, pretends to be a werewolf (hey, do it!), and is hard working. She's probably also tempermental, prone to laziness and won't pick up after herself, but that's just my point, I will never know.
    As a teacher I only get to see the good because I put on these glasses every morning that help me see the beauty and loveliness in each of my students. I see them as wonderful, unique, funny, challenged kids who desperately want to know that the adults in the building love and value them. So while I may never get to be a mother, I get to be a teacher which is probably better (got to keep my figure, which is finally down to a double zero, thank you very much!)
    We can take risks, make connections and interact with people in a manner that no other profession offers. And that once in a lifetime event of being "mom" for even two seconds makes all the Fox News attacks worth it.
    Thanks for always being an inspiration to the teachers in your classroom.

  2. Wow...Isn't the internet great?

    I wanted to send out a special valentine's dedication to my dad - also a teacher like you.

    Real men can talk about their love for their fathers, too... can't they?

    Happy Valentine's Day, to one and all :)

    Roland A. Gibson, Jr.
    FSU IDIS Major

    Dan Fogelberg – Leader Of The Band Lyrics

    An only child
    Alone and wild
    A cabinet maker's son
    His hands were meant
    For different work
    And his heart was known to none

    He left his home
    And went his lone
    And solitary way
    And he gave to me
    A gift I know I never can repay

    A quiet man of music
    Denied a simpler fate
    He tried to be a soldier once
    But his music wouldn't wait
    He earned his love
    Through discipline
    A thundering, velvet hand
    His gentle means of sculpting souls
    Took me years to understand

    The leader of the band is tired
    And his eyes are growing old
    But his blood runs through my instrument
    And his song is in my soul
    My life has been a poor attempt
    To imitate the man
    I'm just a living legacy
    To the leader of the band

    My brothers' lives were different
    For they heard another call
    One went to Chicago
    And the other to St. Paul
    And I'm in Colorado
    When I'm not in some hotel
    Living out this life I've chose
    And come to know so well

    Music break

    I thank you for the music
    And your stories of the road
    I thank you for the freedom
    When it came my time to go
    I thank you for the kindness
    And the times when you got tough
    And, papa, I don't think I
    Said 'I love you' near enough


    I am a living legacy to the leader of the band

  3. "Another thing I love about this job is that it provides, indeed requires, constant opportunities for reinvention and growth." - Ben Railton

    See, Ben? There you go - again - talking about people 'reinventing' themselves - like WEB Du Bois used to do in his work.
    I've been trying, but I'm still not exactly sure what that means reinventing one's self...must be one of those 'learn while doing' kinds of lessons in life.

    Keep me posted.

    Roland A. Gibson, Jr.
    FSU IDIS Major