To be or not to be

In less than a month, the spring semester will end, the class I am teaching will end, and my current contract as a graduate assistant will end. It’s an unsettling feeling, but it’s also a welcome change. I was so excited to begin teaching that I overlooked the time commitment that I knew it would require. With the exception of small bits and pieces, I have generally ignored my almost-finished dissertation proposal, which is not good. My plan had been to defend the proposal in January, analyze the data, and finish up in May. However, the teaching has really put a damper on my research!

My mentored  teaching experience last fall was more of a time commitment than I planned, so I should have realized my goal was unrealistic, but it was one of those catch-22 situations. I thought I wanted to find a faculty job, so I knew I needed to get some teaching under my belt to be competitive. I was pretty sure I would enjoy teaching, and I was right! My students are bright and interesting, and I really get a thrill when I see them catch on to a concept that is challenging. Mentoring these 21 students through the research process has been immensely rewarding and satisfying, and I have really deepened my own understanding of the material. Of course, the extra salary money for teaching hasn’t hurt either, small as it is!

But… and this is a big “but”, I can’t begin looking for a faculty job now because I still need to finish my dissertation! All the teaching has made me miss the window of opportunity for faculty jobs. And now, after experiencing how much work is involved in being a good teacher, I’m not sure I’m really cut out for the multi-tasking and creative prioritizing that are required for earning tenure! Sigh. I’m having one of those moments where I realize that the grass isn’t greener on the other side. It’s just different grass. Hence, I am back to the plan I had when I started the doctoral program: strengthening my research skills to become more competitive for an administrative position as a Director of Institutional Research or Effectiveness. I don’t know if I’m making the right decision. If I had the luxury of time, even just one more Fall semester to really focus on my dissertation, I might feel differently. But three years as a full-time student has been long enough. I need to move forward.

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