Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A tough commute

Okay, here's the scenario. I saw a posting for a one-year gig on the opposite coast, in fact north of the border as well, in Canada. About an hour after I saw the posting (from a listserv of SOD) Dr. TassePlein forwarded it to me with the annotation: Did you see this?.

It's nice that he's taking a more active interest in my career. I've come to understand that he really is committed to my success. So, I looked it over. Granted, let's be straight, this is just a posting, which is a far cry from an offer, even an interview. But, the question is: do I make the effort to apply? There is a top researcher from one area of my tiny little niche who teaches there, but in a different department. And it's a good school.

The gig would be to teach six half year courses. They're asking for a full application (more than most, but not everything):
  • a letter of interest
  • a detailed curriculum vitae
  • a statement of teaching philosophy and practice
  • a syllabus
  • and the names and complete contact information for three referees
I'd have to work up a new syllabus, which reflects my current thinking and approach to the subject matter. I'd want to fulfill their needs, but my own as well. Tough commute though. How would I handle it? It looks like I'd have to leave Sunday nights, for a red-eye, arriving early on Monday morning. I'd sleep on the plane, and likely head straight to campus, depending on my schedule. Likely Thursday afternoon or evening, I'd catch a return red-eye flight, and again sleep on the plane. Then I'd have about 2.5 or 3 days to spend with my wife and boys each week.

The flights would run about $500-600 round trip; I'd be earning somewhere in the range of US$45k. So, for a 30-week contract, I'd spend about a third of my gross on flights. If I just rented a room somewhere there, I could probably keep my housing costs to a minimum. I'd expect to live on campus while I was there, just showering and sleeping at home (maybe dinner and breakfasts too). My general rule is that I don't want to take a one-year that will eat up more than half my earnings in the commute and housing.

The real issue here is how much sacrifice is reasonable for jump starting the career? I'm willing to do a lot... but is this too much? I have made an effort not to unduly limit my geographic region. I've mostly just avoided small schools that are in out of the way places, since the task is to find an area where both the wife and I can have careers, which wouldn't happen in that sort of place.

Any thoughts?


ABD Anonymous said...

It's far from ideal, but the schedule seems realistic as long as you can sleep on planes (I never can and feel like a zombie after a red-eye). Maybe apply and continue to mull over it?

Prof. Me said...

Seriously, I think you should just apply and deal with the details when you are offered the post. The application doesn't look too bad, and chances are you can reuse some of the materials you've already prepared. Might as well take advantage of any opportunities that are out there, even if the logistics seem difficult.

ArticulateDad said...

AA, yeah... that's assuming my expectations are realistic. Problem is, if I'm teaching three courses, they might schedule me MWF for at least one them, then I'd be screwed. I wouldn't do it. I think that's the deal-breaker: I can't be expected on campus more than four days, preferably 3-3 1/2. I can work my ass off during that time, then just play family man when I'm home. It'd be tough, but I think everyone would get used to it.

PM (no "S" thank you!), alright... I think you're right. I'd been planning to draft up some sample syllabi anyway. If I get an interview, they'll be handy (even if they don't ask for them up front). And, it gets me thinking about teaching again. The more I can project the image of strong researcher + innovative, enthusiastic teacher = me, the harder it will be for any school to ignore my application.

More, more, more... why does it feel like there's little difference between universities and preschoolers?