As most of my facebook friends will know, I accepted the magazine staff writer position on Friday.
I found out Friday morning after my first class, so I still had three classes to teach, and I felt sad as I explained to each that this was going to be my last day, possibly ever, teaching at university. Similarly, I worked Saturday night at the bookshop, which was also my last shift there. It was the same as any other shift, yet different. My immediate boss, Morgan, seemed to be almost as sad as I was! She said to select a book as a going away present; I chose Niall Lucy’s Derrida Dictionary. I am currently doing a close reading of Derrida’s Spectres of Marx, and the Grundisse is my night time reading.
Anyway, does this mean I have evacuated myself from academia? Not entirely. I tend to think of it as a strategic retreat. Perhaps other casuals can use my movement as an example, or perhaps not. I am not one for simply whinging about shit conditions however. As a casual, my greatest strength is my mobility. I do not have the capacity to change any of the structural conditions of the university. If universities want to have 25 students to a class and ensure that casual staff are suspended by the contradiction of being continually stretched and then under-employed, then that is their business (model). Rather than the institutionalised stupidity of the university, I want to reflect on two satisfying qualities of my teaching experience this year.
For the first time, after five years of on and off teaching at various universities, I actually taught some of the same students for two semesters in a row. I found this to be particularly rewarding for a number of reasons. My personal relationships with some students strengthened beyond them merely being personable avatars of a marking load. If I had had another semester or two with them, then I think we could have eventually become friends. I also discovered the joy of helping and witnessing students I had taught last semester develop from being basically slack and uncommitted to their education to becoming self-disciplined and willing to perform at their best. Marking assessments of students who I knew had improved over the course of the year was a special feeling. I think this is what the ‘has its own rewards’ means in the annoyingly smug axiom ‘teaching has its own rewards’. As a casual I had not previously experienced or witnessed student development as they progressed through university. I am pointing to non-classroom affects of teaching. It is not strictly organisational, nor is it strictly practical, but something in between.
The second dimension relates to the content of the unit (Consumer Culture). There have been some fantastic responses to the challenge posed by the readings. Did I ever imagine I would have a student describe how a re-usable hair extension, advertising in a ‘girl’ magazine for the hair extension, and the material conditions of the ‘Scene’ subculture would effect an ‘incorporeal transformation’ of the student? No. I have enjoyed reading responses and interpretations to my own work. This is the first time I have had my work included as a reading in a course I have been teaching. This is another joy I have not had the opportunity to experience before. It is very satisfying to see some of the best students I have ever taught engage with my research.
I am still due to edit the special issue of M/C Journal on Enthuse next year, and I am looking forward to this. Plus I have a co-authored chapter coming out next year and hopefully my first journal article actually based on my research (awaiting referee reports!).
This blog may need a revamp to signal the career shift. Not sure yet.
Oh, and the blog post title comes from the fact I am now fulltime, for the first time in my life, so not working on a Monday actually means I have a day off. My first day off. I start tomorrow.