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.