Saturday, January 07, 2006

Student Teacher

I was offered some teaching for next semester by Aspro yesterday. I said no, which was a really difficult thing to do. But I had made myself a promise that if I got a scholarship to do my PhD, then I would use it wisely and take advantage of the opportunity it would afford me to concentrate on my research without worrying about how I might pay rent or buy food. I learnt the importance of the privilege presented by a scholarship the hard way, of course; I was also awarded a scholarship for my MPhil and I didn’t appreciate its value at all. At the time I accepted my first scholarship offer, I felt invincible. I had a first-class honours, a letter of acceptance into a sandstone university—as well as the scholarship—and so I thought I could do everything, and my thesis. I soon learnt otherwise. The online journal I spent most of my time contributing to and co-editing was indirectly funded by a number of postgraduate scholarships, including my own. I’m proud of the work I did helping to establish that journal, but perhaps it wasn’t the best use of the funding for my purposes. When I did actually get around to doing the proper work of my thesis, it was self-funded by teaching and other jobs.

I think it’s out of habit that it seems wrong to say no to teaching work. You get used to grasping desperately for any morsel that falls your way because you’re constantly thinking about the periods in-between semesters that you have to earn enough money to cover. To my mind, the best thing about the forthcoming scholarship is that I’ll be able to relax on the question of where my money will come from, for the next three years at least. In refusing teaching, there’s also the fear that you won’t be asked again. Since you’ve said no once, they might not think of you again, you’ve slipped off their radar as someone to employ. I nearly blurted out, ‘No! Don’t accept my refusal, I will teach’. The thought went through my head that I could easily manage my time to accommodate teaching while remaining on schedule with my thesis, but that kind of thinking hasn’t worked out so well for me in the past, so I stood strong. Sort of. I crumbled slightly on the one year promise, saying I wanted to concentrate on my thesis for at least six months, at which time I would reassess the situation. You have to leave room for the possibility that you just might become as fantastic a time manager as you’d like to be. Heh, heh.

I also have to reconsider my qualms over saying ‘no’ from a career perspective. I have enough teaching experience for the moment. Over the summer period I’ve consolidated my Research Assistant experience, and although I think I need to work on more recent publications, that isn’t as urgent now as getting a PhD. If I’m going to pursue an academic career I have to get a doctorate, there isn’t any point in applying for a full time position without that qualification, particularly in the Humanities. It’s good practise for me to decline teaching; I’ll consider it part of an ongoing lesson in the art of prioritising, a skill that I can extrapolate into other aspects of my professional life.

I’m sure I will get asked again by Aspro to teach; and if he doesn’t, then I’ll remind him of my existence in an email.


dogpossum said...

don't teach, don't teach!

i've been stressing over this exact same issue lately. mostly because i chose not to teach like a crazy person, instead focussing on my thesis. sure, i've ended up crazily on-time with my thesis, but i've had only sessional teaching experience. which scares me a bit.
you have chock loads of excellent teaching experience (and not just sessional tutoring), so you DON'T NEED IT. you don't have the concerns i do.
you need a THESIS.
i'm being strict with you here, skirty - say no to the fame and fortune of teaching, and say yes to academic accomplishments.
if you do feel the need to procrastinate, PUBLISH. get the papers churning out - you have the teaching experience (and it's perfectly adequate, if not kick-arse), so some excellent published papers will round you off.
work on your thesis like a fool in the first year - enjoy the opportunity to read and read and read and write and write and write, come up with a few good ideas for your chapters, and then write some papers on those chapter ideas. then PUBLISH them!

i'm saying this to you as your buddy: thesis first. publishing second. teaching last. you gots the cash, now gets the phd. you are totally going to kick academic arse in the next 3 years, so don't waste that creative/critical (ficto-critical?) talent on undergrads!*

you totally GO girl!!
[insert cheering squad of cheerleaders with high-kicks, amazing acrobatic feats and strangely-rhyming cheers]

*i like undergrads, you know i do. but really: your thesis deserves your genius more than they do.

Galaxy said...

Now I feel all strangely invincible about my ability to say no to distractions and finish 'crazily on time'! A personal rhyming cheering squad will do that for you. Thanks, Spammy, I will heed your sage advice.