first day off

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.

7 replies on “first day off”

  1. Glen – I am glad you had the experience to witness student’s progress over two semesters. This is the gratifying part of “teaching”. I have taught for 35 years and the intrinsic joy you get from your attachements to students and seeing actual progress in student’s performance and most importantly in their improvement in attitude and motivation to work is a buzz. Unfortunately employers rely on the view that teaching (and I suppose lecturing is similar) is a “vocation” rather than a profession and that is why teaching and education is sadly neglected in Australia today. Education should be seen as an “investment” in the future for Australia – however, politicians fail to grasp this basic concept and rely upon the goodwill of teachers to put up with crap, poor pay and working conditions and I suppose the the same thing is applicable to the use of casual lecturers at University. The Universities are missing out on a dynamic and highly intelligent young man, and I hope you get the opportunity to publish your journal articles and books and maybe in a few year’s time you can return to academia.

    I thought you were continuing with the bookshop job! Why did you give up that job? What about the discounts on books etc?

    Good luck tomorrow, I hope the magazine realize what a talented writer and highly educated person they have starting employment with them tomorrow. Hope it all goes well.

  2. Congratulations, glen. Glad to hear you’ve got yourself some regular and reliable employment, and hopefully in a year or two conditions will be more conducive to finding a place in academia.

    I hope this doesn’t mean an end to your intelligent, Deleuze-inspired reflections on contemporary life.

    Best of luck with the new job.

  3. It is wonderful to see students grow understand the new ideas we teach them! We have to understand how students think. See “Teaching and Helping Students Think and Do Better” on amazon.

  4. Hi Glen,

    Hope you enjoyed the day off! And that the job turns out great.

    BTW, this really sums up what I’ve been trying to say to those long-term tenured academics who wonder why casuals don’t stick around for the teaching pay-off:

    “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.”

    For anyone interested in finding out more about the use of sessional teaching in the industry more broadly, check out this link:

    We’re taking a look at this as we start to plan the State of the Industry conference for next year.

  5. Glen – I note you chose a book by Nial Lucy. I suggest you get on the site and you will discover a post entitled “Nial Lucy on Kevin Donnelly and Postmodernism” posted by Dave on 3 Nov – apparently there is a link to a presentation given by Nial to the NSW English Teachers – you might find the link interesting.

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