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Wednesday, September 21, 2005
"Just" a Teaching School
I've been organizing the materials for all of the jobs I'm applying for with October deadlines. It's a real mix, according to Carnegie classifications: a few R1s, a few a notch below that (are those called "R2"s?), one Master's-level university, and a slew of liberal arts colleges. I've noted before that I'm not sure where I really belong. Jobs in all of the categories are obviously appealing to me, but I do know that if I was offered a position at an R1, I'd have to think long and hard before accepting it. It would be a life I'm not sure I want to live.
I attend an R1, so I know what I'd be getting myself into if I worked for one. I am getting pretty annoyed, however, by the fact that a lot of my colleagues who are also on the job market turn their noses up when they realize that I'm applying to a lot of liberal arts colleges. "Oh, you just want a teaching school?" they ask, incredulous. "Won't you be bored?"
Quite the opposite. From the very beginning of graduate school, I have loved to teach. I feel very comfortable in the classroom, I enjoy advising students and getting to know them, and I really like involving them in whatever research I'm doing. I put a lot of effort into my teaching, too much sometimes, and I like feeling like I'm making a difference in someone's life. Honestly, I get a little bored doing research all the time (this entire year is nothing but research for me and I already want to scream) -- the students make my research mean something to me. (Of course, the type of research I'm working on matters, too -- if I'm doing theoretical work that's difficult to explain to a layperson, I feel like a useless, high-falutin academic. If I'm doing practical, policy-relevant research, I'm thrilled and I feel like I'm contributing to society and I don't "need" the students as much. If I'm tweaking variables to make a regression come out the way I want it to, I want to leave the discipline.)
"Just a teaching school." I think I could actually be pretty happy at "just" a small liberal arts college, provided that I had a handful of vibrant colleagues to bounce ideas off and a little time to work on projects that mean something to me. Small Dream College would be just that environment, as would Small Urban College. I'm applying to some very small liberal arts colleges, too -- 5-7 faculty members in the department, 3-3 teaching loads. That could be fun, I think. Sure, I'd never be a big name in my field, but that's not what I want or what I have ever wanted: I want to turn out some solid work, live in a nice town where my child(ren) can go to school and my husband can build a practice, and have a place we can call "home" for many, many years.