Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Blurb, blurb, blurb

(Edit: hello Inside Higher Ed readers! psst, this post will not actually tell you how to create course blurbs, because I had no idea there was a market for that sort of thing. Wouldn't you rather follow some of the silly adventures of a grad student in English by looking at some other pages, like when I accidentally invented antigravity by discovering the procrastinatron, or I rewrote my prospectus in haiku, or disguised myself as a science student to get additional funding? Or if you want more substantial crap posts, the discussion on when one can officially call oneself "professor" generated a lot of comments, plus my old post on how to write a statement of teaching philosophy gathered some good advice as well. Or you can follow some of the links to old favorites on the right. Happy reading!)

I haven't been back to the dissertation in a while, but I have been hard at work. Like an obsessive-compulsive phenomenon or unfortunate addiction, I've been hitting the job ads in between bouts of sloth or depression. It sucks when you're behind in your second job (which is to get a real job) while at the same time you are doing little that would actually improve your chances of success (like, say, completing grad school).

What sucks even more is that I haven't been even applying to permanent jobs or national fellowships/postdocs. I've spent a solid week trying to gather enough adjunct courses here next year to for it to be worth working as a lecturer. This has meant applying out to three departments (so far --- more on the way) much like for a tt job: they want evals and a (discipline specific) teaching philosophy, and I assume the cover letters they want need as much effort as for a permanent gig (meaning my old letters need complete revamping). The most time-consuming aspect has been going through the general catalog and working up blurbs for courses they have on the books.

Now, I am learning things ---- like the fact that there is an art to blurbing a course, an art that I have heretofore not practiced and could stand to get better at ---- and when I'm done I will have a cubic fuckload of course descriptions I think are sexy and interesting that I could teach. And it has actually been fun. I'm proud of those little blurbs and would be excited to teach any of them. They spin out from or impinge upon my dissertation and my research, which I haven't gotten to teach before. I hope I get to actually teach my own courses at the college level someday because these look so fun.

On the sucky side, however, I have no guarantee of any of those courses being accepted by the departments, or of them making enrollment if they do get chosen. So I can't rely on the possibility of adjuncting here, so I guess I need to go back to slapping together more apps for visiting and late posted jobs, including a postdoc or two that I think are due tomorrow but I haven't been excited about getting ready the shitloads of different documents and research plans that are required. Which means, I don't know when the fuck I'm supposed to go back to my dissertation --- another round of papers come due Monday.

I'd really like to just quit. And by quit, I mean, "give up on the job search and just power through the fucking last chapters," not give up on grad school. But at my back I always hear, Time's golden chariot the fucking rent and student loan repayment collectors drawing near, and it really is like a compulsion ---- I don't think I'm going to be able to stop obsessively worrying and sending out applications until I have a fairly long-term job nailed down.

Adjuncts being on the bottom of the food chain, of course ---- and, as one chair pointed out to me already, adjuncts fill in the holes and gaps in a schedule, so s/he has to set up the schedule and have a couple crises or last-minute sabbatical/fellowship appointments before he'll even know he needs me ---- so this may mean I'd be on tenterhooks until mid-summer. Gah. I'm hoping that a couple of my peeps who believe in grad mentoring and sisterhood and all that translating into actual monetary support come through for me sooner, if you catch my drift. They have done so for others in the past, and are more understanding of the need to know early about money and security than others in this profession. (Of course, several of the departments and their sub-programs teach things that --- how shall I put this --- I don't embody; and there may be representational politics that kick in at the instructor level whereas a TA is a warm body to fit in a slot, and some of those open courses and programs I may have no chance at. But you don't know if you don't apply; everyone else could get hit by lightning or something.)

Further compounding the suckiness is math: to live here, I'm going to need a 3-3-3 load. My dept, it has been made clear to me, does not have that kind of money and I'll need to take what I can get and supplement the rest elsewhere. I weakly countered that offer (ha! as if I could bargain from this position) that this lectureship would only work for me if I get something every quarter, so I want a 1-1-1 from my home dept. I'm hoping that this was actually accepted (the whole saying things without actually committing to anything is an amazing administrative skill) and I just need to make up the difference through the places I've been actually getting work the past few years.

But. I was encouraged to submit a full slate of courses so that the powers that be could pick and choose what they felt would help them the most. The other departments so far have indicated the same. So I think I've created, what, 30 course blurbs and tentative reading lists over the past week or so? Yeah, if I ever do get into the profession, I'm set for a looong time. The absolute worst case scenario, of course, would be to be offered a lone winter quarter course and nothing else. I'll have graduated and so I can't get more loans; I can't live under a bridge in a cardboard box; guess I'll have to send out apps for cc adjuncting (and get in line behind everyone else who's already been cut off of funding in my department) and tutoring and have to think hard about the temping/waitressing route. Gah.

I ran into my friend the art historian serendipitously last week; she told me she's gotten a job at what she says is a not-very-good school with a heavy teaching load and lots of service and no resources. "It's true what they say; you'll never be less busy than when you are in grad school," she said to me.

Humph. I am doubtful of that. But even if it's true, I'd gladly trade up to a heavier work load ---- innumerable meetings and course proposals and curriculum change sessions ---- if it meant I had at least some assurances that my work would count for something. Or at least guarantee me a paycheck for longer than 10 weeks at a time.


Michael said...
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Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I'm doing the CC route right now... while it isn't easy, it also isn't nearly as bad as some people make it out to be. With a 5/5 load and a small number of course offerings, I end up with multiple sections to prepare -- and the same classes over and over again. While the grading sucks, the economy of scale comes in the class preparation.

Good luck -- I also did the 'put a bunch of sections together' gig -- It is stressful not knowing how you are going to pay the bills and trying to save for summer out of your very small paychecks...

Maude said...

good luck sis! you're way more on the ball than i am. my undergrad advisor just scolded me over e-mail for not still applying for jobs. at this point though, i'd rather just finish the diss.

of course, going that route (i.e., the still not applying for jobs route) means that i have to spend the morning at plato's closet hoping to make about $20 so i can have cash for the weekend because the checking and savings are now in the red, and there's nothing coming in until tuesday or wednesday.

is it ever going to get any better?