Friday, May 12, 2006

Conflicted... now what?

I feel like I should have something to say; I've tried to write this post several times since yesterday evening. I'm so overwhelmed with conflicting thoughts. I'm relieved that finally some place has deigned to interview me. In fact, I'm feeling quite confident that this place will offer me the temporary gig. I know that they have yet to meet the other candidates, but something tells me that I've set the standard. Everything has gone smoothly. I don't seem to have made any mis-steps, there were no awkward moments, no answers to questions I wish to restate. No person here who raises my hackles.

But what do I do with that? See, part of me is down that this is only a temporary post. I felt a great rapport with quite a few of my would-be colleagues. Many of the conversations have seemed to be selling me on the place, explaining away the downsides with all the ups. But (if I come) I'll just be passing through. It doesn't really matter how much I like or dislike the school or the location. It's only temporary. How can you build a love or hate for a place that you visit for a few months? Perhaps I'll make a mark (I'm sure I will, if I come... I'll enjoy it). But then it's over. Will this get me closer to my goal of obtaining a tenure-track post? Would something else be better?

It's not so easy as that. I suppose, had I gotten a job straight out of graduate school, I wouldn't have had the leisure to worry about it. I might complain about how that job wasn't perfect (but what job is). But I would accept it as inevitable. Maybe go back on the market a few years later. The longer I remain seeking however, the higher my hopes are for finding that perfect job. The more I settle with the likelihood of finding a series of temporary posts, the more I wonder where I really want to be, whether I can get there, and how. Recall Academic Coach's image of the Academic AWOL. We're dealing with a similar phenomenon: the longer I spend looking for work, the less likely I am to be excited or satisfied with anything less than stellar. Only, I'm not quite sure what stellar would look like.

Let's say I'm offered this job. The job itself would be fine. The department and faculty would be good to work with. It's a small school, in many ways with a "service" mission, but quality still. The students are dedicated. Maybe it's not where I'd like to be in ten years, but that's not an option for me at this point. It's only a one-term sabbatical replacement. But the commute, being away from my family. I'm sure I could make it work. If they offer to hire me, I'm sure they'll work with me (as long as I perform and produce for them, which I would). So, it's doable.

Part of me is hoping something more local will work out. Yet, I recognize psychologically it's better for me to have an offer where they sought me out, rather than some adjuncting locally, where I sought them. It's a conflict. In ways, a local gig would be better (especially if the school itself were more prestigious). Yet I expect teaching adjunct for Big Name school, I'd likely feel as low man on the totem pole, often ignored, simply there to fill in. At Temporary Post U. in Beautiful Nowhere, I'd probably feel like a superstar, the dashing hero who comes in to hold things together. That'd be a nice feeling (though I'd surely miss my family).

But what would I gain by taking the gig? More teaching experience. Okay, it'd be good to have some new student evaluations. But how can I tell that teaching is the element search committees have dropped me over? From what my old department chair said about the search process, I suspect it's not so much the lack of recent teaching, as the way I've presented myself. I go back to the advice I got a while back. Part of the problem lies in the fact that I'm branching out into new areas of research, hidden in the cracks betwen disciplines.

For TPU, that seems to be appealing. At the moment, I'm leaning more toward a program like TPU's where my ostensible subfield is a small part of the program, considered a service area to the other subfields, where I would teach a broad range of materials in the subfield, but have greater control over presentation and approach. I've mentioned before how I feel I would fit in best to either this sort of program or a very large one. I'm beginning to believe that the better fit is of this kind. I like the idea of having greater freedom of approach to the subject. The down side is, with a smaller program, I won't likely have my own graduate students.

Perhaps my best plan is to find this sort of job, to hold until I'm up for tenure, then reassess. If, at that point, I'm really eager for graduate students, to further develop my subarea, then I may have acquired the requisite reputation within my niche to warrant the attention of a larger program. Am I lowering my standards? Maybe not. I might just be seeking the best path for my ultimate goals, thinking where I want to be in 5-10, not worrying about where I am now. That might be a better plan. Taking the quiet path now, might allow me the space and freedom that I had in graduate school to really follow my own muse, to develop my own ideas.

Sorry for the long-winded rambling.


BrightStar said...

I don't recall -- how far away will this job be from your family?

undine said...

Yes, how far away is it? One thing that the job at TPU would give you is a Visiting Assistant Professor title to put on the cv as well as a new set of recommendation letters for the job search.

ArticulateDad said...

It's about 2800 miles away! It's about 11-14 hours by plane, depending on layovers and delays and such. I might as well get a job in Tokyo or London, eh?

undine said...

Oh, my. At that distance, I can see why staying closer to home sounds more appealing, especially with air fares. That's a long way to go for a one-term replacement.