Thursday, May 26, 2011

On the Move Hiatus: May-June 2011

It's that time of year again for me folks: moving time.  I've been moving from place to place for years now, so much so that I honestly don't know what I'll do with myself once I'm no longer packing my things up every few months. How do normal people, you know, live in one place? It boggles my mind just thinking about it.

But I've signed my contract and start working my new tenure-track job this fall, so for me there is one more major move to go and then hopefully I'll be able to take a break from all the packing and unpacking, at least for a few years. We'll see what happens.

Part of me, however, is really nervous about actually unpacking my things once I do arrive at my "final" destination this summer. I'm so used to leaving things in storage somewhere and only traveling with the essentials; I haven't put books in a bookcase or pictures on walls in as long as I can remember. Why bother? I've got pictures, books, DVDs, CDs, and framed prints that I haven't seen in years and years due to my (extremely modest) jet-setting lifestyle. 

So, for me, this move to the tenure track is also a major change in day-to-day existence. I won't be buying a house anytime soon--I've got WAY too much debt--but I hope to at least be able to stay put for a little while. That's got to feel good, right? 

Good luck to everyone out there in the middle of relocating or currently looking for work. I wish you an uneventful move or a successful job hunt, whatever the case may be. Since I'm on the move, this will be my last post for a couple of weeks. 


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Choosing Between Job Offers

It's that time of year--the end of the academic job-hunting season--and just about everyone I know who was on the market has either accepted a new position or is staying put in VAP or adjunct land.

Some are even walking away from the academy because they're sick of looking for a tenure-track job and starting to wonder how much more of their life will pass them by while they struggle to find academic employment. This has been a very disappointing season for many ABDs and PhDs who hoped to find work.

Even though I had finally come to terms with finding a non-academic job, I decided to give the academic job search another go and applied for six select positions. To my surprise, just when I was OK with walking away, academia sucked me back into its clutches.

I was incredibly fortunate on the market this year (for the first time ever) and actually had to decide which job offer I was going to accept and which one I was going to decline. I had no idea how to go about making this important decision because, like most of us, I was trained to say YES to pretty much any tenure-track offer extended to me. Having more than one option seemed unthinkable.

But it happened.

Here are the factors that I considered and which helped me to decide. Good luck to all those facing a similar dilemma.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Asking the right question about prep school teaching.

As I mentioned in earlier posts, the decision to jump from the tenure track to prep schools is not always an easy one. As I have discovered to my peril, this is true from a practical perspective (I tried to jump but my feet seem glued in place) but emotionally as well.

The question to which I kept returning is, "Do I really want to teach at an independent school?"

I took this question to my dad, who recently retired after thirty years of teaching English at an independent on the East Coast. He knows the job, he knows me - who better to consult? He wondered if I was asking the wrong question, and suggested that the question I need to ask is, "Do I want to teach at this independent school?"

While this may serve as a testament to my dim-wittedness, I was floored. Of course I should not have been - it has been over a year since I rejected the question, "Do I really want to teach at the collegiate level?" as far too broad. I do teach at the collegiate level, but I don't like doing so at Regional State University.

Reframing the question put to rest much of the angst I'd been feeling, for I no longer had to make a huge decision without truly knowing what I was deciding. I could simply make smaller decisions as they presented themselves.

While this change might be a problem in the long-term - what if I never find the right school? - in the short term it is incredibly freeing. An interview no longer engenders an existential crisis, but presents a specific question. So it's not a breakthrough in the search, but it does help with the emotional side of things.

Good luck, us.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Waiting for the End

Surrounded by piles of paper, not a contract in sight.
While Ben has continued interviewing for positions at prep schools, I've been waiting for the contract for my new tenure-track job to arrive in the post. These things take a bloody long time for no apparent reason. I realize that we're supposed to be patient, and let the academic machinery runs its laborious course, but I am definitely starting to get a tad impatient. I mean, christ, it's already May and I have yet to sign on an actual line (dotted or otherwise).

It's hurry, hurry, hurry, do you want this job? If so, act NOW! Right NOW! We want you!! Really, you do? How lovely; I'm thrilled! I accept!!! Do you hear that, world, I've accepted! Oh joy!

And then . . . nothing.

This is surprising given that I ended up with more than one tenure-track job offer and the universities in question knew time was of the essence. Still, moving from the verbal offer stage to the offer literally in my hand stage is taking 100x longer than I ever anticipated back when I started applying for jobs in the fall. The scary thing is that my job search began in September '10 and here it is, May '11, and I'm still playing the waiting game. Sure, it's unlikely that things will fall through at this point, thankfully, but I tend to learn toward the glass is half empty way of thinking. The proof is in the pudding. Until that puppy shows up, I'll remain on edge, waiting.

What truly boggles the mind is that nine months of my life have gone by while hunting for jobs and it felt, and continues to feel, like one big, exhausting, utterly stressful bad dream--despite the "happy" conclusion. I am so glad it's over but won't really felt relieved until I've signed and returned the sacred contract.

My word is my bond . . . I swear to work for you and teach the undergrads and produce whatever research I can and put up with difficult colleagues and play very, very nice, so long as you provide me with a paycheck and a solo office. That's really all I'm looking for right now, in addition to the contract. That and a stiff drink.