Thursday, September 07, 2006

Teaching vs. Research

Do you ever question whether or not you should be a teacher? The thing is, I like teaching. I like interacting. I don’t like it on days when it saps all my energy and I feel like I’m boring the hell out of my students. And I hate how nervous I often feel before classes. I don’t understand why I still feel that way. I think it’s insecurity – fear of being found out for an idiot who doesn’t know enough about his field. I don’t think that’s necessarily TRUE, but I have a major inferiority-streak sometimes, especially when I compare myself to other academics. This is possibly/probably because I tended to idolize all my professors and think they knew everything – thus, I expect that, because I don’t know everything, I’m a fraud.

Of course, I know all my professors didn’t really know everything, but that was the sense I had at the time, and it’s hard to get over that.

So on any day when I’m teaching, I’m a little anxious. I don’t see myself as one of those “all I want to do is my research” kind of professors. I actually get a little annoyed at profs at my university who are like that, who eschew the classroom and brag about not having to teach when they have a light schedule or a fellowship that allows them to take a semester or a year away from teaching. I get annoyed by it, but I am also, I confess, occasionally envious. And that feeling makes me question myself a lot.

I admit, I would love to be paid just to make films and write scripts. That’s what I started out wanting to do in the first place. Having my creative work viewed as “research” from the university’s perspective was a great feeling, almost a bonus in my mind when I took this job. It has, however, started to feel like a “right” – and I’m not sure I like that, but then I’m not sure I’m wrong to feel that way.

I’m not at a Research 1 university, by the way. It’s classified as a university with high research activity, so there’s a pretty strong emphasis on research in the tenure process and as a way of increasing the university’s prestige.

Anyway, I’m generally torn back and forth. When I’m teaching three classes in the fall, I find it hard to get much creative work done, much less balance going to film festivals and conferences. In the spring, when I generally teach two classes, I tend to get a little more done on the creative side, but it's still a challenge.

My brother, who is at a R1, wanted to be a researcher and a scholar, but he found quite by surprise, in his T.A. days and post-doc days, that he loved teaching and excelled at it. So he's out there in t-t position at an R1, wondering if that's what he really wants. I guess the grass is always greener... (of course, if I were to finish the story about my brother, I'd have to confess that he doesn't enjoy teaching all that much right now, in part because his major state university students tend to be, according to him, less than interested in their own education. But if I told you that, it wouldn't make it a great story that really added to my theme here...)


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