Friday, December 21, 2012

5 Years Ago From RYS. One of the most requested archival posts ever.

"I've Done It To Myself."

I don't blame anyone else for it.

I've done it to myself, turned myself into a fearful and timid professor, tying up my whole self-worth in what others think of me: students, colleagues, and administrators.

All I wanted to be since the time I was a middle schooler was a teacher. I loved college and grad school was a blast. Then I was in the profession, and every bit of my courage and soul got stripped away.

I kissed ass and catered to my department to move along the tenure & promotion track. I dumbed down my classes to get student approval. I wrote incomprehensible gibberish in "hot fields" in order to publish things I wouldn't read myself if you put a gun to my head.

And I found myself stooped and depressed more and more.

I would come home from a day on campus and it would take longer and longer to be able to face my family, my wife, my sons, my friends. By Saturday night I would be closest to my old self, facing the barbecue, tossing a football, catching a new movie with my sweetie. By Sunday afternoon the gloom began to fall. More boot licking. More stooping.

And it was all on me. I could have said no to things. I could have said, forget the student evaluations; I'm going to do what I think is right. I could have told my chair to rope someone else into doing the work that nobody else would do. And if by standing up I would have lost my job, lost my good name, lost my credibility, what would I have been losing?

I'm a nebbish, a toady. And it happened because I let it all happen. If you can't be human, be strong, be engaged and confident, what good is the $56,000 I make. I should have gotten down on my knees and begged them to fire me, just so that I wouldn't have wasted all of these years.


  1. I'm not quite as bad off as this person. I can say "No." But I sure have to do a lot of screaming to make it stick.

  2. The professor in the post above ended up leaving the profession. Like some RYSsers, this writer kept in contact with me over time. There was always a sort of therapeutic thing that went on with some of the posts. When I would forward messages from readers, it was often a chance to gain some perspective.

    He quit his job, the family relocated, and they started a business doing wedding and event planning - something the wife had angled to do for years.

    I've not heard from him in a couple of years, but I remember him saying that he was grateful he'd gotten out, and that his life was immeasurably better.

    I never know what to think of stories like his. Are some people just not made for the academy? Was it really him that failed, or was it the profession that failed him? When people leave their teaching careers, I think we owe it to ourselves to ask those questions.

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    2. Like the original contributor, I had a miserable time while I was teaching. It wasn't that I wasn't suited for it. I was, despite what certain administrators claimed. I didn't mind the lecturing because some of the material could be quite interesting and it was often hard for me to shut up about it. What I wasn't prepared for when I started my job at the institution in the late 1980s was the rampant snowflakery that existed even then, particularly the laziness and the bratty behaviour that many of my students displayed.

      But what finally persuaded me to pack it in (for good, as it turned out, as I never found another teaching job since I quit over 10 years ago) was the nasty office politics, particularly the bullying and harassment. Both my last department head and the assistant head had taken a strong disliking to me from early on and did whatever they could to make my life miserable. The last dean we had (who we ended up with as a result of an institution-wide reorganization) also had an axe to grind against me.

      I hung on for several years because I wanted to finish my education and, also, because I didn't have enough money to head out on my own. One day, during my last year there, I estimated how much my investments were worth, and when I saw that I had reached a certain level, I asked myself, "Why am I still here?"

      A few weeks later, I was gone, leaving of my own accord and with my marbles reasonably intact. It took me 2 years to get the stress I acquired from that place to finally disappear. I live comfortably now, though with few luxuries, and I can do things like work on my research when I feel like it.

      By the way, my investments are worth more now than when I was teaching. Oscar Wilde had it right when he said: "Living well is the best revenge."

    3. The tricky question, I think, is what the writer thought "being a teacher" would be like, and how closely that conformed to the reality (or, rather, the range of available/possible realities) from the other side of the desk. It certainly sounds like he had both some personal standards and a strong desire for approval from others, which can be a difficult combination. And if he's finding wedding and event planning (talk about a profession in which you have to deal with snowflakes and narcissists!) more satisfying -- well, the situation in which he landed must have been pretty bad.

    4. As a wedding planner you're able to tell the entitled narcissistic snowflake and their parent flakes, "Well, that's going to cost more money."

      What would amount to bribery in academia is sound business practice in the real world. Price-gouging? Tomayto, Tomahto. It's not gouging if it's not for an essential product.

    5. I agree with Contingent Cassandra. I would rather deal with snowflakes than bridezillas.

  3. I remember this dude and all I could hear while reading his tear-stained post was Eric Carmen's "All by Myself" backed with "Don't Cry Out Loud."

    I had to play the Sex Pistols after it was over....

    1. This, and I suppose RYS before it, has always been a place to share one's misery.

      I know I was guilty in the past of this, but I don't know how valuable it is to judge these folks in the way we often do.

    2. I don't judge him, but I do think he made the best decision to leave teaching. It is not for everyone. One of the things I tell myself when a prickly Dean gets on my nerves, is "I will be here, long after you're gone!" And I believe it too. My goal is to be a Silverback when I get older.

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  5. It isn't at all helpful to judge people who are already down on themselves. I reserve my judgment for the narcissistic snowflakes who have no clue that they are primarily to blame for their predicament. This guy is not one of those. I'm glad he got out.

    More and more I'm thinking it comes down to the No Asshole Rule. It takes very few assholes in a department to make the place impossible to work in. In a small department, or if the asshole is Chair or Dean, it only takes one. And the more faculty are ground down - the more we are seen not as respected repositories and disseminators of knowledge it has taken us years to acquire, but as widget-processors who can be flogged into producing more widgets for less money every year, because where are we going to go? Do we really think there are any more jobs? - the more assholes there are. Because nothing breeds assholes like contempt.