Friday, October 29, 2010

Job dissatisfaction

This might be blasphemous to say, but I need to say it: I'm not looking forward to going back to the teaching grind next year (and let's not even start on service obligations). It's not because I'm enjoying my research and unscheduled time so much (see this post about how I'm just figuring out how to handle that unscheduled time; note how many times I mention how boring some of my work is). Nope, it's because I really kind of dread the whole package of teaching -- not just the worst parts (grading! oy, the grading!) but also the frenetic, when-will-this-semester-be-over grind, and even, I hate to say it, being in the classroom. I can't even put my finger on why -- I have always liked our students (well, most of them) and they have told me many times over that they like me -- but the excitement is definitely gone.

Maybe it's because next year I'll be facing another year of Old and Middle English, which I have to say, I kind of hate teaching. Oh, there are moments where I love it, and there were two sets of classes some years back who geeked out with me and made it awesome, but - ugh! - how can I possibly look forward to talking about weak adjectives and strong verbs and Middle English Open Syllable Lengthening...OMG. Kill me now. Horace, who just wrote a joyful post about what's cool about being a humanities professor (and whose positive post title I'm riffing only negatively) gets to talk about "the nature of time and the past in literature, about how drama and performance help us understand our very identity, how the language of advertising leaves us without a language of our own to describe our experiences of the real world." I, on the other hand, get to talk about i-mutation. Zzzzzzzz...And what's even worse is that it didn't used to bore me. But the thought of doing this over and over for the next god knows how many years is making my head explode.

And not even the thought of teaching Chaucer and Shakespeare in the spring term, or a newly designed Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic syllabus in the fall cheers me up. Something is seriously wrong with me if the thought of "The Miller's Tale," Twelfth Night, and "The Cattle Raid of Cooley" can't raise my spirits or at least make up for strong verb paradigms and brace constructions.

I have a feeling that part of what's coloring my attitude is the woeful morale at our university and especially in our soon-to-be-dissolved-and-chopped-into-three-colleges college. But I keep telling myself that that shouldn't really have an effect on my day to day experience, especially not in the classroom. Perhaps also, because I'm on sabbatical and not as crazy-busy as usual, when I witness just how burnt out and dog-tired Bullock is because of his overload of advising and service responsibilities (a situation created in part by the shrinking of his department by retirement and death without any replacements), I feel it more strongly than I would if I were distracted by a frenetic pace of my own. Or maybe my mood is a response to the bigger war on the humanities and higher ed in general here in the US and elsewhere (especially in the UK). One my Facebook friends (and who still reads this blog, I think) asked for robust language to defend the humanities. Once upon a time I could give it; now I just want to give up.

Tell me that this is what sabbatical is for -- to rejuvenate, to re-energize -- and that by next year I'll feel ready to take it all on again. Tell me that I'm just burnt out and I'm expecting to rebound too quickly. But most of all, tell me it's OK sometimes not to like my job.

14 comments:

Clarissa said...

Of course, it's completely normal to hate your job sometimes. Everybody has their moments of tiredness, burn-out, and needing to recharge. This is why sabbaticals are so great.

nicole said...

Might I recommend a book? Your Money or Your Life (the one by Dominguez and Robin). It helped both my husband (who felt like you) and me last year when we were on sabbatical. It's really good about thinking about work and life and so on. I sort of feel like everyone should read it (and your library probably has a copy).

moria said...

Whew.

It's brave and strong of you to say these things honestly, Doc V. That makes nothing easier, I realize, but it remains true. That honesty is bracing, and I, at least, am grateful for it.

Bardiac said...

It's totally normal, especially when you're constantly asked to do more with less, and you see your university being damaged along the way.

Me, I'm feeling like tendering my resignation today, and hoping that a good night's sleep will change that. And afraid it won't. (But I can't resign until after I've been to England, right?)

Susan said...

I think this is totally normal. It's one reason mid-career people migrate into administration :)

wv=douts

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

This is totally normal for sabbatical. You have time, for a change, to realize what you never have time to realize when you're teaching your full load and juggling other obligations, like service and research: not just that you don't like some parts of your job, but that there are reasons for that beyond "this particular batch of papers sucks and I'm wondering why I'm doing this." Normal life grinds you down; sabbatical lets you notice that.

But I'll trade you on the teaching. I'd rather teach i-mutations, or anything with clear right/wrong answers, than deal with undergraduate responses to the WOB for the umpteenth time.

TriPartite Academic said...

This is what sabbatical is for. And like Dame Eleanor said, it's only when you get that chance to look around and catch your breath that you start to process some of this.

And, you've still got time left on the sabbatical, so I think the rejuvenating and restorative parts will continue to kick in and yield some benefits.

And, yes, it's okay to not like your job sometimes.

Anonymous said...

I find I go through this during every sabbatical and every summer, but by the time I have to face them in the classroom, I am mostly over it. It seems to be a sort of cleansing process. That being said, it is hard to escape all the economic woes and their impact on us "useless" humanities types.

Dr. Virago said...

Thanks everyone. I feel better already!

And Dame Eleanor -- Yeah, no kidding re: the WOB.

Dr. Virago said...

Oh, and Nicole, I will check out that book!

Neurotic Workaholic said...

It's good to know I'm not the only one who feels that way. I'm still in the Ph.D. program, and I already think that the weekends and summers are too short. I like teaching, but it can be all-consuming.

reassignedtime said...

Virago, if it makes you feel better, I'm only just now getting psyched about returning to the classroom, after really being down about teaching for the last 2-3 semesters prior to sabbatical. Also, I only in the past month or so have stopped feeling filled with rage every time I think about stuff related to my job. I think that it's still early in your sabbatical, and as you move through it, if your experience is anything like mine, you're going to feel a lot of different sorts of emotions. So take heart, sister, and know that it's totally ok not to like your job every now and again.

:)

the rebel lettriste said...

I think part of the teaching malaise (which I have and have had, repeatedly, despite how much I genuinely enjoy being in front of the classroom) is the sameness of it.

It doesn't matter if you are teaching HEL or the WoB. You have to say the same shit, and then, god help you, read the same crappy papers over and over again. It's stultifying, especially for someone who is trained to seek out and research and consider NEW approaches and NEW ways of thinking.

If I never have to read another "OMG!! The Wife was a feminist before her time!! And BTW, 'back then' things were super bad for women!!" paper again, I will die happy.

Erick said...

Normal! (And, because you're on sabbatical, also absolved from having to defend the humanities at the moment.)