The other day, I joked with a friend that I was beginning to feel like the "academic undead." (Hence the pic of the cute li'l zombie doll.) The more I thought about it, the more truth I saw in the comment.
Let's make it clear that I'm not exactly complaining here. I teach under a 12-month contract, which at my school means 5 classes in each of the fall and spring semesters and 2 in the abbreviated summer semester. ("Abbreviated" in terms of a shorter time period; I cover the same amount of material, with longer class sessions. Sigh. I actually had a student drop my class last summer, citing as the reason "unreasonable amount of work for a summer class." Boo-yah!) So we finished the term Tuesday, had graduation yesterday evening, summer starts on May 21 and my high school classes (they get college credit - I am not a high school teacher, may God bless them, especially in May!) finish June 8. I'm no Time Lord - the living room closet is not a TARDIS, no matter how much I may will it differently - but I wish I could manipulate the space-time continuum just a teensy bit right now to allow a week at the beach before summer starts.
That said, job security is a very nice thing (12 month contract means 12 months of pay - contrary to popular belief, teachers do not "get the summer off" in any usual sense of the term) and I have to admit that I really, really enjoy teaching. Primarily, I teach public speaking and it warms my heart like a controlled burn to see my timid students grow and stretch and realize that I really do have things to say that are worth listening to, by golly! Now, if I take that idea and put it - let's see - there and I show 'em the picture there . . . well, it's a kick. And I've had students shake my hand at the end of a semester; I've had students tell me that the class gave them the confidence to ask for (demand) a promotion at work or the wherewithal to apply for a new job - I'm not kidding, that's one of the main reasons I do this sort of work.
Another reason is the supportive atmosphere of my school. Community colleges don't have tenure (boo!), so we don't live by the "publish or perish" rule (well, sort of yay, I guess). When I started going to conferences, I was shocked at how many associate/assistant professors at four-year schools (oh, you'd know the names of the institutions if I told them to you) were paying part, or even all, of their expenses from their own pockets. Meanwhile, my school's attitude was, "What? You're presenting? Here - get out there! Fly coach and be sure to tell 'em who sent you!" Since people in my position don't have to write, propose, and present, we get more support when we do.
Which is good, since I'm hoping to go to a handful of conferences in the next year that are in addition to my "usuals." There are two international Whedon conferences that I'm hoping to attend as a presenter - especially with the book coming out. I'm trying to only cross one bridge at a time and I'm trying to remember that we don't usually get everything we want.
But sometimes we do. Seems the Rolling Stones might have gotten that one wrong.
So I keep shuffling forward, teaching, grading, writing, lather, rinse, repeat, research, propose, write. I'm especially fortunate in that I have friends who remind me gently from time to time that it's not good to spend so much time inside hunched over a keyboard that I squint when I go outside and see the large yellow ball in the sky. Somebody take me to a movie, already!