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8 Things I Hate about Teaching

It's late January in Michigan and I'm in a certain mood. So here for your mid-winter schadenfreude are eight (click-baity) things I hate right now, in no particular order. Perhaps many of you can relate.

  1. Teaching requires me to dress like a grown-up. While I have male friends who think nothing of wearing jeans and t-shirts to work every day, most women I know feel obligated to put on skirts or trousers or blouses or heels (and perhaps even Spanx) at least most of the time. I do wear jeans now and then, but I try to be judicious about it - and usually pair them with a jacket just to be safe. I would be so much happier in fleece and flannel.
  2. A significant minority of my students won't buy books, no matter how miserly I am in Ladychoosing texts. Some will say they can't afford it, but given the thousands of dollars of debt they're carrying (not to mention the expensive technology they all depend upon), I find it unpersuasive that a $24 book is going to put them over the edge. Plus, I have discovered that some of them won't read even if I provide them with a copy.
  3. Teaching is a bottomless well of ways to feel bad about myself. My classes are small. My evaluations are lukewarm. I've never won a teaching award. I used a reader instead of picking out my own articles. I cursed gratuitously. I lectured (using Power Point). I didn't lecture (using Power Point). I lost my patience. I was too nice. Someone looked sleepy today. I was sleepy today. There is truly no end to the narcissistic ways I can turn anything my students do into something wrong with me. 
  4. Teaching takes away from energy for research and writing. I don't claim that scholarly
    production is ever impossible, but besides being time-consuming teaching can also be quite intense, such that come Friday evening, binge-watching The Fall in my jammies (a totally random example, of course) seems much more attractive than spending the weekend in the library making myself smarter.
  5. Teaching often feels pointless. Who cares about the humanities anymore? And anyway, when Pic2bblog I look at the news all I see are horrible people doing horrible things for horrible reasons. What difference does it really make whether I teach religious studies, or whether I teach well? 
  6. Even though no one cares about the humanities anymore, religious studies inspires particularly weird reactions from students. No one feels threatened by a teacher who deconstructs Frankenstein or Mona Lisa, but deconstruct Genesis or a gospel and you are suddenly the evil antitheist from God's Not Dead. (Do biblicists at Christian schools have the same problem?) 
  7. The pay is embarrassingly terrible, relative to folks in other industries or at more prestigious schools. As an associate professor, I have yet to earn what my sister earned as a first-year public school teacher back in the early 2000s. Due to market changes, next year's brand-new professors at my own institution will earn significantly more than I do, right out of the starting gate.
  8. I can't even enjoy hating teaching because of the insane number of contingent faculty in this country, many of them my dear friends, who live from term to term not knowing where next year's health benefits will come from. For me to complain about my work is to reveal myself for the heartless, entitled brat that I am [KB1]. I should be ashamed of myself for even thinking this stuff, much less saying it out loud (see # 3 above).

I could go on, but you've probably had more than enough of my belly-aching. If you've been kind enough to stick with me thus far, I invite you to comment below with some of your own mid-winter gripes. I promise not to judge!

Kate Blanchard

About Kate Blanchard

Kate Blanchard, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Alma College Kate is currently on sabbatical near Atlanta doing a collaborative project with Dr. Kevin O'Brien (a friend from her pre-tenure workshop) about Christian ethics and free market environmentalism. When not on sabbatical, she makes her home in Alma, Michigan, with her husband, Rev. Chris Moody, and their son, Gus, a dinosaur and train connoisseur. She has taught at Alma College since graduating from Duke in 2006. She is the author of The Protestant Ethic or the Spirit of Capitalism: Christians, Freedom, and Free Markets (Cascade, 2010) and co-editor of "Lady Parts: Biblical Women and 'The Vagina Monologues,'" which includes six pieces authored by her students. She mouths off now and then at the Huffington Post, and very occasionally tweets at @blanchard_kate.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. What you write about is understandable. The system is very abusive toward people in your situation. I intentionally used the word abusive. Just don’t let it become corrosive of you and what in the beginning was the foundation of your deep love of the field you are not teaching about. Take care…Blessings on you and your work.

  2. I’d love to meet you for coffee or a glass of wine, Kate!I can relate to several of the points you raise. I teach Theology in a Catholic private high school. There are some students who don’t buy the books and for some, the total cost is prohibitive, but for some others, they just think they don’t need the books–they can listen in class and to their classmates who bought the book, and that will be enough.
    It is tough to get a “rise” out of some students about the more thought-provoking topics like the origin of religions and why we should care about our neighbors. . .Hearing from graduates about their memories of our class together, no matter how many years ago, does give me reason to hope. This is so true!! I have had diabetes for many years and sometimes–maybe even often, I struggle with guilt when my glucose (sugar) numbers are high or erratic. I struggle with the same kind of guilt when judging my teaching skills–what could I do better? how can I improve? is it me or is it them? I’ve been teaching more than 40 years and still struggle with these self-evaluations as well as student evaluations! But you know what? I just love it! I love the students! I don’t like grading papers so much after all these years, so I am always seeking more creative ways to assess the students’ understanding of the concepts we are studying. But I love the students! They challenge me and I hope I challenge them! I work with wonderful colleagues and we discuss our teaching strategies and struggles, which is very helpful. The financial reality is difficult; I acknowledge this and worry about it now and for the future. However, I also trust that I am doing as much as I can to take care of myself and my family.
    So, dear Kate, if you love what you are teaching, and if you believe you are giving of yourself, and are touching even one student occasionally, go for it! Krista McAuliffe said “that to teach is to touch the future!” God bless you! And I’m sure God is with you! Follow your passion! Teach what you care about!

  3. Thanks to both of you for your support! I was indulging in a bit of hyperbole for this post. While I am indeed often grumpy about my job, I do really enjoy teaching and like my students 99% of the time. I feel lucky that this is my career path. Very glad you do, too!

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