Professors Can be Happy, Too

A friend told me yesterday my blog focuses too much on what’s wrong in education and academia (can you blame me?) so I am committing myself to at least three positive posts in a row. Yesterday I talked about my good experience with a group of middle school teachers. Today I am talking about the great parts about being faculty at a small liberal arts college:

  • Like most college faculty, I am expected to talk about my field incessantly. And I do. And people don’t get too annoyed
  • When I ‘take work home’ it doesn’t stress me. In fact, it is exciting to have a career you love so much you don’t mind thinking about it a lot
  • My schedule is very flexible. I pretty much come and go as I please. But like most PhDs, we love what we do so we ‘come’ more than ‘go’
  • I am trusted to do my job well. No one is looking over my shoulder micro managing my life
  • What I do actually matters. The things I say in class are not sent out in the universe never to be heard of again. Instead, they trickle into my students’ ears and hopefully find a place in the recesses of their brain
  • My students want to learn. And I want to help them learn
  • My colleagues are very smart. It’s wonderful to be surrounded by others whom you can admire instead of lament
  • I have friends across departments and disciplines. Which means our trivia teams kick butt at the local bars
  • Everyone in my professional bubble ‘gets it’. They don’t ask me about marriage and children because they know that those things aren’t omnipresent for us
  • I can eat in the cafeteria and the students all speak to me
  • I know at least one person in every office on campus. This comes in handy when the batteries in your office thermostat die, when you want to set up a community event sponsored by the college, or you simply need to change a word in your course description
  • There are plenty of funds for me to purchase instructional materials
  • And there are classrooms equipped to utilize instructional materials
  • My classes are capped at 25 (but the faculty want that to be 18)
  • I can teach pretty much any courses I want
  • If I make it through the tenure process, I have a job for life
  • If something goes wrong (professionally or personally), I have the support of my department, my division, and my administration (this is one of the things I like best about my particular institution)
  • People think I’m smart and have high expectations of me. This is great motivation
  • I know if I need help, it is only an email away
  • I have a realistic chance at meeting my scholarly crushes
  • There is so much to read that is well written
  • I can check out library books for 6 months
  • I get to see my name and thoughts in print

I could go on, but I think you get it. I previously wrote a few posts discussing the plight of personal versus professional (Love or Learning? ) in academe, the modest pay (The Price of Pedagogy ), lack of faculty diversity (I am Not My Hair ), and the arduous journey toward a PhD (Academia is a Lonely Place). My points in those posts still stand: obtaining a PhD and becoming faculty is not a gold-paved road to skip down singing ‘Ease on Down’.

But I am glad I took that road. Now, I have a career in which I am paid to think deeply and have intellectual discourse with qualified others. I have personal agency in my thoughts and actions, and go to sleep every night feeling like I took yet another step toward bettering someone else and myself. I am rewarded not by a paycheck (that’s not a reward; that is earned), but by course evaluations wherein students describe how empowered and informed they feel; by emails inviting me to lead workshops, present papers, or talk to a group of students; by my parents saying ‘I am proud of you’; and by knowing that if he were still with us, my brother’s bragging would be all the reward I needed.

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