Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Indepenent Scholar Thing

I was reading the acafan entries over at Henry Jenkins' blog, and in one of the entries Karen Hellekson writes a bit about being an independent scholar (like me).

I am unaffiliated, and people's reactions (when they see "independent scholar" on my name tag...) are often weird, like they're not sure how to deal with me.... My job as a freelancer is isolating. This academic thing is a way to get out of the house, to talk about things that really interest me, to engage with fabulous like-minded people, and to have substantive, thought-provoking conversations.... My scholarship, including writing articles and books and editing an academic journal, is basically unpaid service that I can't explain in a sentence at parties.
(I have trimmed that a bit, as you probably noticed.)

I completely agree. It is difficult for a lot of people both in and out of academia to get that I just don't like teaching (because at the same time a lot of them do). A lot of the academic world is about status. This makes sense, it's supposed to be merit-based. Is your work any good? Does it add to scholarship? This is reflected in where you have a job, the conferences you present at, and the journals in which you publish. So, if you don't have a job, you do not initially fit into the framework; you for some odd reason aren't playing the usual game (either you are a horrible scholar and can't get hired or you had a thing with a student and will never get hired again). Generally, if you have a PhD and attend conferences, you are supposed to like teaching.

I don't, I like research.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Being a Professor

"Being a professor is a profession that has been shown to have the longest work hours, heaviest work demands, highest psychological stress, and lowest occupational energy expenditure compared to other professional occupations," Megan A. Kirk and Ryan E. Rhodes, in an article called "Performance Pressure" that I read about on the Tenured Radical blog (to which I was pointed by a tweet).

Yup, I knew that. Too bad almost no one believes it. I think a majority of people think that professors walk into a room, talk extemporaneously for an hour, and then their day is done. Easiest job ever. Not so. I won't go into grading, class prep, office hours, building syllabi and keeping reading up to date, coming up with assignments, trying to do research, writing it up, presenting it at conferences, and service, which includes various committees (student theses, college/university panels, etc.). Did I mention grading? I did? Well I should mention it like three times since I hate it, and I don't know anyone who likes it. (No, we don't make tests and assignments so that they are easy to grade, we make them so students have the best opportunities to show us what they know -- not that we make them easy, we just have to put students in a positive situation where they can work well.)

"Longest work hours, heaviest work demands, highest psychological stress..."