Welcome to the Pre-Conference Conversations for the New England American Studies Conference. We're writing about the things we'll talk about the conference--join the conversation!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The misread professor

One story: when I was teaching a 4-4 composition load, I had a conversation with a father's friend, who asked me how many courses I taught. 4, I said. How many hours a week does each class meet? 3, I said. "So you work 12 hours a week!" he said. At that point, teaching courses that required multiple drafts, I was working closer to 12 hours a day (almost every day of the week). Recently, David C. Levy wrote in the Washington Post, how underworked and overpaid professors were. As others noted, not only did this article underestimate how much work teaching is, it ignored all the service work we do, for one, and eschewed all ranks of professor below full, including adjuncts.

Our panel is less formal and purely academic than most of the ones here (perhaps all of them). It involves the weird lives as professors we lead, semi-public, sometimes unconventional, and often (or even almost always) misinterpreted.

There are far bigger issues facing the professoriate--finding a good job, decreasing tenure rates, racial and gender discrimination, and changing workload expectations. But our perceived place in American culture have an impact on almost all of those issues and so by extension, being misread is important.

Part of the reason for this consistent misreading is the partially public lives we have as professors--we spend 6 to 12 hours a week performing teaching and another 3 to 6 in office hours. But the rest of the work we do is often private or straddles the line between public and private, and often done, in fact, in odd hours and wherever we want. That means male professors can sometimes help with child care, and many of us can do our errands at odd hours, though not without questions.

No one likes a pity party about how hard a professor's life is, and we do have more autonomy and better working conditions than many professions. But without a better understanding of what professors do, those outside the profession will continue to misread us.

--Jonathan Silverman

No comments:

Post a Comment