Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"What Happens When You Get What You Wanted And It's the Wrong Goddamn Thing?" Denny in Denver is Dismayed.

I got the job of my dreams. And of course it's not. What I studied I do not teach. I'll never teach it. I'm going to teach a watered down version of what I learned and I don't like it.

I'm going to teach 5 sections a semester until I'm too addled to do it anymore. The kind of school I went to I will never teach at. I'm at a perfectly acceptable community college close to friends, and my students are ridiculously under prepared.

I got ignored in college when I was an entitled asshole. I failed five classes in the first two years. Now if I fail someone I have to go and stand in front of a Dean and "explain" where I and the student went wrong.

I wanted to write and publish, and there isn't a moment when I can do that.

I wanted to be a college professor, and I guess I am. But I feel like a failure. What happens when you get what you thought you wanted and you find out it's the wrong goddamned thing?

Does anyone ever start again? Does anyone just quit without a plan? I used to be fearless, but the economy and the struggles of my grad school classmates makes me hang on to this job I hate like grim death.

What can I do? What is the path to starting again. I don't know how to do anything else? I have found my highly developed and specialized skills in a tiny, narrow discipline, mean absolutely nothing in the real world.

I try to talk to my colleagues about this and they're offended. They think I'm snooty, acting above them, ungrateful. I guess in some way I may be all of those things. But they seem to me to have given up. One has dreams of writing a textbook. But he's never started. One wants to teach grad students at the school across town, but she never applies.

I can't talk to my family because they think I've achieved my dream. I brought it up with my dad once and he said something like, "Life is a journey."

Sure, I buy that. But my journey ended in the wrong damn place.

What do I do now?


  1. How many of us get to teach the types of students we were? Sheer math is against it. I'm not questioning your overall misery, though. Five sections sounds mighty rough.
    Are you in a position to marry rich?

  2. Replies
    1. "I wanted to write and publish, and there isn't a moment when I can do that."

      But there is a moment to write and publish at CM, to get sloshed, to complain, to be ungrateful, to criticize one's colleagues who dream, to grieve about being at an "acceptable" school close to friends {!!!}, to spend time with family, to irritate Walt, to ruminate, to marinate, to masturbate....

      jesus, dark turn, indeed.

    2. But I like the optimistic parts of this post (and the clouds in the graphic).

  3. Even the professors who were at my grad school where I would have wanted to teach (with a load of one graduate seminar a semester) complained about their jobs. I don't think there is a utopia of teaching, but I thought that would come pretty close to it. At least those profs didn't deal with illiterate students in college! But even they complained. And they had worked up to those jobs after a lifetime of publishing and crap teaching. They all said they couldn't have gotten there without the publishing and research; that's what got them those jobs. Like you, I have no time for that with my full load of teaching in two departments, but I do spend summers doing as much research as I can.

    I moved a lot in the first 10 years of my career: and gave up two full time TT jobs and several part time gigs for my Significant Other's career moves across country. I was able to find other teaching jobs (not immediately, but eventually), and am now at a place where my 'ideal' job seems to exist. I hate it every day, but I hate it less than I hated my past teaching jobs, and I think that's as good as we can hope for as long as these are the students we are being given to teach.

  4. Danny in Denver, I have to tell you that your post reminds me just a bit of Dennis Leary's STFU Therapy routine. You can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onqG5OqiilA . Watch it! It might make you laugh!

    But me, Bella, a longtime and prolific whiner, am not going to mock your misery any more than....I just did with the Dennie Leary bit.

    Yeah, so. You drank the cool aid. You bought into the idea that this was gonna be great; you'd be in an ivory tower somewhere teaching earnest, interested students. And when they weren't that, you thought you'd be able to tell them to go jump in a lake and Fail them (note the capital F). Shattered dreams, indeed.

    What you have to do is what we have talked about here before. Focus on the positive students. There are a few at that "perfectly acceptable" community college. I know there are. Find out if there is an honors program. Look into doing an Independent Study with a motivated student. Most colleges offer this option.

    Finally, if this really is not for you, you should look into teaching at a prep school. If you want this, you have to pull out all the stops, and make a Hurculean effort to publish something in your field. Recently I have learned about how much they like that, those prep schools. But they hire profs away from U's all the time. They love having PhDs on their rosters. Carney Sandoe ( http://www.carneysandoe.com/ ) is one huge firm that will help place you at a prep school, but there are many others. They like it if you say you are a "triple threat" (in their world, that means you can teach, live on campus and therefore be a resident advisor, and advise a sport or a club).

    Do people just up and quit? Sure! Without a plan? Sure! I think you should make a plan, though, if you really want to leave.

    Best of luck, and WELCOME!

    1. They hire people away from CCs too. I've seen it happen!

    2. I want to explain why I put in the bit about Dennis Learly and the STFU routine. It's because I think it is funny because we all see ourselves in it. We all sometimes fall into that feeling. I know I do.

  5. What Happens When You Get What You Wanted And It's the Wrong Thing?
    You learn the definition of "irony" the hard way. Fight through it. Find the positives. Do what's best for yourself, whatever that may be.

  6. It sounds like your dreams weren't very specific, or at least not specific enough. That's not necessarily your fault; as others have pointed out, many of us don't learn all that much about the variety of American educational institutions out there as we work our own way through the system, and grad school rarely does much to remedy that gap in our knowledge (in part because grad school professors are often the rare people who actually are teaching the kinds of students they and their classmates were).

    So now you know more. Sit down and come up with a more specific picture of a dream job, and a few alternatives, and think about what you'd need to get there. I like Barbara Sher's Wishcraft as an aid to such dreaming.

    In the meantime, be realistic in your expectations, both of yourself and of your students. That doesn't mean never flunking anybody, but it does mean trying to get a sense of what you and they can actually accomplish in the time available to you, and setting your goals accordingly. It probably won't look much like your own college experience, but if they leave your classroom better educated, and better prepared for later academic or other work, than they entered it, you're accomplishing something worthwhile.

  7. I'd love to be teaching only five sections. I'd love to have a TT job at a community college. I'd love to be close to my friends.

    Seriously, shut the fuck up, dude. Shut up and get over yourself. I think people like you don't know exactly how much better this job is - even under the circumstances you describe - than 90% of the shit in the corporate world (where I spent a decade before heading back to grad school). I think people like you have no idea how luck you are. I think people like you are the kind of asshole who complains about anything that's less than everything you've always dreamed of.

    In other words, you're a goddamned snowflake.

    "Oh, gosh, I didn't know my students wouldn't actually be interested in my subject!"

    Fucking spare me.

    "Oh gosh, I didn't know I wouldn't have as much time to research and publish as I'd like!"

    I hope you get hit by a bus.

    "Oh gosh, I had no idea I'd spend most of my time teaching service classes rather than talking about my dissertation topic!"

    People as cluelessly naive as you shouldn't be allowed out without supervision.

    Am I the only one who realized that teaching college was going to be mostly dealing with uninterested, shiftless, lying scam artists? Am I the only one who suspected that maybe just possibly the stuff one writes about in a dissertation is not gonna get talked about during one's teaching career NEARLY as much as the basic, bone-head, intro-level shit? Am I the only one who realized that this JOB (keep that word in mind) was actually going to be WORK?

    No, I know I'm not the only one, because Beaker Ben, Strelnikov, Kimmie, et al.

    Denny in Denver, you're a Dipshit.

    Get over yourself, Profflake. And remember that one must imagine Sisyphus happy.

    1. To be fair, I'm having a pretty bad day.

    2. This is why new people don't come back.

    3. Why think that everyone SHOULD come back?

    4. (Conan the Grammarian)
      It's rare that I comment on this site, but this drew my attention.

      There's a certain way that people should talk to each other. Denny went out on a limb. He/she (gender neutral, really?) Decided to share their musings with a bunch of people they were unfamiliar with. They didn't have to do so. Nobody made them. I remember how nervous I was when I submitted my first bit recently. How terrified I was that it would be received negatively. Things that mean very little can mean a whole lot to others, remember that. Denny is a real person with problems that seem silly to you, but real enough to them. Denny isn't a person in one of our stories that we complain about. They can't be hurt by what we say here; Denny can. If you've read what I've written you would know the vitriol I direct at people I find irritating in blog posts, exaggerated largely for the sake of comedy. But I would never actually want to damage them personally. I guess what I'm saying is... show some empathy?

    5. Okay, you're right. I shouldn't have been such an ass, and I apologize (as I have already apologized for it elsewhere). I don't want to actually inflict any damage on anyone.

      That said, some people need a reality check. I think Denny's one of them. Could said check have been prompted in a less hateful fashion? Yes. Should it have been? Absolutely. Did I fuck up? You betcha.

  8. There's a lot of good advice here, even Wlodmayer's. Sometimes it gets couched in a more bracing fashion. ☺

    The only thing I would add is to get some perspective. For the vast majority of people, now and always, your job ≠ your life. Instead, it's a means to keep the wolf from the door and allow you to spend some time with family and friends without having to worry about where the next meal is coming from.

    As has been pointed out, you're not in such a bad spot. You are on TT at an institution where you're likely to get tenure if you keep your nose clean and do your job. Unlike many of us, you found a spot near your friends (and family?). You're not a freeway flyer.

    You can still write and publish; it's just not your job to do so -- which means you can do it for fun, which means that you don't have to worry about what other people are interested in; just you. Your job is not contingent on convincing some stranger to dispense a pittance to you from the ever-dwindling pile of grant money.

    You won't be able to publish five or ten papers a year. So what? Remember, where you are it's not your job to publish. It's your hobby, which means that if it becomes a grind you can do something else.

    Of course, if you're STEM, you'll have to be extra creative. But you can even do publishable STEM in your spare time, without external funding; there are exemplars.

  9. I, too, had a dream job, in a different life. It was the thing I told my mom I wanted to be when I was 5 years old, after the firefighter and heavy-equipment driver. It was my plan in High School, and my plan in College.

    It was a lot less fun than I imagined.

    Now, half-way though my life and would-be career, I bailed out of that career. Totally, and ain't no ever goin' back. Now, I'm in school again. Some very fortunate opportunities mean that it's a debt free trip this time, but it's also salary-free for the most part. Hobbies are on hold, retirement investments are on hold, trading my car in is on hold. I know I'm fortunate to have had hobbies, investments, and a car.

    So, you asked about quitting without a plan and starting over again. Yeah, you can do that. Your trip through school means you know how the education game is played. You can probably find yourself somewhere that'll pay you a pittance to teach classes for them while you re-educate yourself. If you run low on money, tutor.com will pay you 9 bucks an hour to do kids' homework for them on-line. It frightens me to consider that as viable income.

    You know exactly how to do the thing you have asked. Just know that when you change careers, and are a newly minted fur-weaver going in to industry, you'll be competing for the same jobs as the kiddos you are teaching right now. Yeah, even the ones that you tried to fail. Because they'll have a little piece of paper that says they can weave fur too. And all you other pieces of paper, those about trimming hamster toenails and gender-identification of multi-colored hamsters will be _really_ hard to use to get into a non-entry-level job doing fur-weaving.

    Me, my new dream job in life is to wrench at a bike shop. Preferably a really greasy one, so customers don't actually want to interact with me. I get a bike, find out its problems, fix them. The problems are fun to find, fixing them provides immediate satisfaction, and the bikes don't complain much. Yeah, when I finish this godforsaken degree, I'll see if the shop down the street will hire me. The owner used to be in this department, I hear.


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