In a couple of weeks, after two years of having one course reassign time for co-directing the Writing Program, I go back to teaching four courses. I can’t wait.
It’s mostly a matter of wanting to teach. I came to West Chester fully aware that teaching four courses per semester isn’t the ideal for most faculty. During my interviews, even the faculty who were interviewing me told me several times that reassignments were possible and even generous, as if they needed to convince me that I wouldn’t have to teach too much. They seemed a little bewildered when I told them I wasn’t terribly concerned about that.
During my first four years, I had a couple of reassignments. One was grant-funded to work on the Rhetorical Activists book; I needed the time to read and respond to submissions, and to put together proposals for publishers. That was time well-spent, as was the one course reassign I got for the Curriculum Integration Seminar. But in both cases, I missed my fourth class and was happy to get back to it the following semesters.
The two years I spent as Writing Program co-director is a different matter. I took on the position because among the fourteen comp/rhet faculty in our department, we rotate through directorships (or have, since I’ve been here, although that’s likely to change somewhat). So it was my turn. The only other position I’d have considered was directing the Writing Center, but there were other faculty who were both more interested and better suited for the job, so I didn’t really push for it. I figured three years, splitting the job with a colleague who I’ve always worked well with, wouldn’t be so bad. And it wasn’t horrible or anything. I didn’t enjoy it, but I didn’t terribly botch anything either. What I did realize, though, in pretty short order, was that the leadership function of the position didn’t suit me well. I could handle the mechanical stuff–assessment, textbook selection and dealing with publishers, etc.
So I decided, about halfway through my first semester, that the best I could expect was to leave the program in essentially the same shape I found it. If you’re a sports fan, you know that it’s hard to do well when you’re in such a defensive posture, playing not to lose instead of playing to win. I’d like to have felt differently about it, but I didn’t.
When the Dean made clear, near the end of the Spring semester, that we were losing one of the reassignments for Writing Program administration, it was pretty obvious that I’d have to give mine up. Although she’d never say this in public, I think my Dept chair was surprised when I didn’t even quibble with the decision. I’d had enough of a job I wasn’t doing well (adequately, I think, but not well). I do feel a minor tinge of guilt that I left the position without completing my term (it’s supposed to be three years), but that guilt is certainly outweighed by my happiness at getting back to the part of the job I’m best at, and most committed to–teaching.
There’s a rumor flying around that in our next contract negotiations (the CBA expires June 2011), our system is willing to negotiate a reduced teaching load in return for higher scholarly expectations. Let’s just say for now that, if we go there, we argue for some flexibility to account for people like me, who chose to come to PASSHE because we want to teach a lot. If I’d wanted a more research-intensive job, I probably (?) could have gotten one, but I didn’t. And I’d hate for the terms of the job to change in mid-career.
I realize how strange this must sound to those of you who teach more than you’d like, i.e., who feel like you don’t have time for your research and scholarship. I like to write now and again, when I feel like I’ve got something I want to say, but I never, ever have felt like I didn’t have enough time here. I just don’t want to write as much as some (most, apparently) people do.
Looking forward to the new semester! I get to be myself again!