Saturday, February 04, 2006

Ch-ch-ch-choices

I've gone through periods of my life where I've felt pretty empowered to make my own choices, and through periods where I felt that I had few choices. There are, of course, situations in which people really DO have few choices but usually, when I felt that way, it was more a matter of recognizing that I'd prioritized a given choice so highly that I wasn't seeing it as a choice anymore, but rather as set. Looking back, now, though, I tend to see that I was making choices, and prioritizing.

So, I'm in the rather lovely position of having some choices before me, all of which are at least potentially very positive. Two of them are somewhat academically related.

Since I started teaching, I've fantasized about teaching abroad. But I prioritized other things ahead of that: paying off student loans, saving for a down payment on a house, leaving one job for another, taking care of my elderly dog.

In order to teach abroad from my current job, we need to apply in pretty much a year and a half ahead. Last year, I thought about applying, but didn't for a couple reasons. But this year, things have changed, and I'm going to do it.

I'd always just blithely assumed that we could "put in" to teach anywhere our students do study abroad, so I was fantasizing about going back to Latin America, or to Africa, or Australia, or England, or...

But I've just learned that there are pretty much four choices open to faculty: England, Scotland, Japan, and China. The China program sounds dismal from my point of view (because or the responsibilities and teaching expectations). There also seem to be less obvious possibilities at a couple schools in Europe and at Southern Cross University in Australia; Australia is incredibly appealing for a lot of reasons, but the school doesn't seem to have an English or even history department in the usual sense; it does have a cultural studies department, but seems to be defined as a later 20th century kind of area, rather than more broadly.

Does anyone know anything about Southern Cross University?

I'm guessing I need to think more about England, Scotland, or Japan. Each is appealing in its own way. Shockingly, I've never been to England or Scotland. Yes, I know, I mentioned it was shocking (all those choices about responsibly paying off loans and saving for a downpayment). It would be wonderful to have a chance to go to the British Library and such. (There's something almost silly about an American who studies Brit Lit thinking she'll go teach the Brits something, isn't there? I mean, seriously.) On the other hand, Japan would be a huge adventure, AND I could take some time one one or the other end to travel in Asia a bit. It would be hard to pretend that I'd do any research there that I couldn't do here better, though.

My other potential choice in the academic world has to do with a departmental service function. The current director of a program is ready to step down, and talked to me the other day about whether I'd want to "put in" to do it. I perceive it as a HUGE amount of work, which isn't really related to my teaching field or research. On the other hand, it's very important to our teaching. I perceive it as the kind of job requiring some deal of charisma and really positive relationships with student groups, so I'm both surprised and flattered that the person who does it (who oozes charisma as well as brilliance, and has the advantage of being quite young and physically attractive to boot) thinks I might do the job. I think of myself as sort of a departmental failure in some ways these days, so maybe that would be a way to redeem myself. But all that extra work.

I've got to find out more about the teaching abroad programs first, and then talk to some other people about potentially taking on the service function.

I'm reading a fascinating book with a campus reading group: Women Don't Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide. I wish I'd read it 20 years ago and highly recommend it, especially for women academics who are getting jobs this year. It's helped me articulate what I've been thinking about my choices, and that's a nicely timed coincidence.

2 comments:

  1. I'm sure that whatever choice you make, you'll do brilliantly. And I'll wager you could teach the Brits a thing or two about Brit lit. :)

    Peter

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  2. Regarding the departmental program thingy, I have no doubt that you are very charismatic in the classroom. You embrace many things with an enthusiasm that is contagious.

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