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Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

It's the first week of May. Classes are over, graduation's this weekend, grades are mostly in, and I've finished my second year as an Assistant Professor of English at a 1500 student liberal arts college. I'm the Shakespeare and Milton person.

I'm not going to lie: I think I've got a fantastic job. The students here are mostly excellent, and most of the people I work with are mostly sane most of the time. It's still a gently caress of a lot better than grad school.

So fire away. I'll tell you anything I know about any of it.

Brainworm fucked around with this message at 12:11 on Oct 25, 2013

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MoarFoarYoarTenbux
Oct 2, 2008

by The Finn


How do you TEACH people English-related stuff? How can you explain to people "this is what you need to do to become a better reader/writer..."? I've had only one professor who could do it and she absolutely blew me away, but I can't figure out her method.

happy cabbage
Mar 1, 2008

Where did I put that sunscreen?

Do you bang the girls in exchange for giving them good grades?

TracerBullet
Apr 25, 2003

Use of unnecessary violence in the apprehension of the Blues Brothers has been approved.




Doctor Rope

Brainworm posted:

It's the first week of May. Classes are over, graduation's this weekend, grades are mostly in, and I've finished my second year as an Assistant Professor of English at a 1500 student liberal arts college. I'm the Shakespeare and Milton person.

I'm not going to lie: I think I've got a fantastic job. The students here are mostly excellent, and most of the people I work with are mostly sane most of the time. It's still a gently caress of a lot better than grad school.

So fire away. I'll tell you anything I know about any of it.

Since I went to a school very similar to what you're describing (tiny liberal arts school), I'll ask a question based on my experience with the English Department facility. At your school do you have one English professor who's a 'black sheep' and gets in 'trouble' more often compared to the other professors?

In the off-chance that you teach at my old school, Go Lords!

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

MoarFoarYoarTenbux posted:

How do you TEACH people English-related stuff? How can you explain to people "this is what you need to do to become a better reader/writer..."? I've had only one professor who could do it and she absolutely blew me away, but I can't figure out her method.

It depends on where each student is at. Generally, instead of using a model built around explanation, I use a model built around coaching. This means explaining the theory or process behind a reading or writing technique, demonstrating it, and building in some amount of collaborative practice before a student works out all the fiddly bits for him or herself.

So take writing an article in an upper-level course:

Demonstrating
Assuming we're at a point where students have sent out abstracts or proposals, I could start by talking about whatever I'm writing and how I approach the project: start with the draft deadline, divide the period between my start date and deadline into (roughly) thirds, and spend the first third researching, the second third drafting, and the remaining third cutting material and organizing what's left -- if we're talking about getting to a draft, anything smaller scale starts with feedback from reviewers and editors.

Collaborating
In most cases, this means working with individual students to see what their deadlines and starting dates are, then working out a schedule they can stick to. We'd then spend class having writers report back on what's going on with their projects -- that is, what problems they're running into, and how they plan to solve them. I'd also meet with everybody individually about once a week to cover corner case problems or things that don't make it to class.

Working out the Fiddly Bits
Once we've run through this process the first time, class discussions and individual meetings move on to some follow up topic, and I'd trust that my students can figure out most process related problems using their own resources.

However you work it, most good instruction (at least by liberal arts college standards) follows this kind of pattern -- it's about demonstrating or modeling the skills you want students to learn, then following up in a structured way that lets students practice those skills under progressively less restrictive observation. Depending on the skill, this can take hours or weeks.

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

happy cabbage posted:

Do you bang the girls in exchange for giving them good grades?

This is a liberal arts school. Leg shaving is optional if not cause for expulsion.

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

TracerBullet posted:

Since I went to a school very similar to what you're describing (tiny liberal arts school), I'll ask a question based on my experience with the English Department facility. At your school do you have one English professor who's a 'black sheep' and gets in 'trouble' more often compared to the other professors?

In the off-chance that you teach at my old school, Go Lords!

Right now, no. Unless it's me. But one reason I took this job over others is that everybody in the department gets along well. Usually, the batshit crazy to person ratio is like 1:3, either evenly distributed or concentrated in a few of the elect.

Case in point: the guy who last had my job got fired in style, as in security guards escorting him from the campus and at least one restraining order. I don't know all the details, but they start with him quoting Milton's Aeropagitica at length in committee meetings* and writing all his memos in Latin.**


* It's about freedom of the press. This was in the Athletics committee, in case you're wondering.

** Really. He never cleaned out his office and I have about two years' worth in the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet. I've been practicing my translation. Also, this means it took two years to fire him.

ilikechapstick
Jun 17, 2007

very, very notorious.


Do you ever read students papers and think to yourself:

"Why the gently caress are you in this class/major/you are a failure at writing." ??

raton
Jul 28, 2003

by FactsAreUseless


I want your job

You have an MA or a PhD? What was your thesis about? Any other publications? Related to a trustee?

How many students have you had so far in your Shakespeare classes who compared Falstaff to Bukowski? Were 100% of them leather jacket wearing idiots?

raton fucked around with this message at 22:14 on May 4, 2009

SuperKnacker
Apr 3, 2009

High-fiving cats since 1990!


What kind of money do you make a year? Also, have you ever gotten obvious "joke papers" turned in where the students obviously made up every fact and source?

Mithra6
Jan 24, 2006

Elvis is dead, Sinatra is dead, and me I feel also not so good.

I'm reading Tillyard's "The Elizabethan World-View". Have you read it, and if so what do you think?

Foyes36
Oct 23, 2005

Food fight!

Brainworm posted:

writing all his memos in Latin.**

** Really. He never cleaned out his office and I have about two years' worth in the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet. I've been practicing my translation. Also, this means it took two years to fire him.

Ahahaha, that's amazing. I could only dream to be so awesome as to write all of my own memos in Latin. As it is, I can barely even remember how to decline all my nouns .

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

ilikechapstick posted:

Do you ever read students papers and think to yourself:

"Why the gently caress are you in this class/major/you are a failure at writing." ??

Yeah, though I don't use exactly those words. They point to a major and common kind of teaching failure that makes me want to burn people down.

Here's an example. I've been working with a student I'll call him Dave. Dave is a twenty-four year old sophomore who's been at (I think) four colleges before this one. That's because he writes sentences like this:

David went to the grocery store to pick some milk and egg.

This isn't a one-off. Whatever he writes is more or less characterized by missing letters (mostly suffixes) and missing words (mostly the back ends of compound idiomatic expressions, but also the words that govern parallel structures). This can make some of his writing almost incomprehensible. Otherwise, he's extremely intelligent and capable. And of course he wants to be an English teacher.

This kind of writing is usually symptomatic of a well-managed learning disability or ESL (English as a Second Language) problems, and in both cases the first step is the same: ask the student to read the sentence out loud. Most LD students will catch the problem, since they're better parsing aurally than visually, and most ESL students are fluent enough to know when something sounds wrong (for about the same reason). When I ask Dave to read this out loud, he'll say:

"David went to the grocery store to pick up some milk and some eggs"

The same thing happens in reverse. That is, if he says:

"David went to the grocery store to pick up some milk and some eggs"

and I ask him to transcribe it, he'll write:

David went to the grocery store to pick some milk and egg.

Just to make things more twisted, if I ask him what the ninth word in that sentence is, he'll say "up." Ditto for the missing "some" and the "egg/s." And if I write (or someone else writes) a sentence with the same problems, the same thing happens. And a similar thing happens if I ask him to read and write the sentence from back to front -- that is, he'll say:

"Eggs some and milk some up pick to store grocery the to went David."

Long story short, we got around this when I asked him to read what he'd written back to front at the sentence level -- that is, read the last sentence first, then the second to last, and so on. The idea is that certain kinds of learning disabilities get characterized by really advanced and reflexive species of pattern recognition; he literally couldn't see these particular errors because his brain would automatically fix them as he parsed the language, so the solution was to force the parsing of a larger textual unit in an unfamiliar way to disable that specific reflex. It's a simple problem with a simple solution, and it (improbably) happens to work.

The point is that thinking about writing as a "good" or "bad" product brings in a heap of frustration and keeps people who should know better from diagnosing problems in a useful way. More important, it's not my job (or the job of any other educator) to say "you suck at this and you need to get out." That's abandoning a clear responsibility.

basement jihadist
Oct 3, 2002



TracerBullet posted:

Since I went to a school very similar to what you're describing (tiny liberal arts school), I'll ask a question based on my experience with the English Department facility. At your school do you have one English professor who's a 'black sheep' and gets in 'trouble' more often compared to the other professors?

In the off-chance that you teach at my old school, Go Lords!

haha sup, go Lords (1-9 in football).

Brainworm posted:

It's the first week of May. Classes are over, graduation's this weekend, grades are mostly in, and I've finished my second year as an Assistant Professor of English at a 1500 student liberal arts college. I'm the Shakespeare and Milton person.

I'm not going to lie: I think I've got a fantastic job. The students here are mostly excellent, and most of the people I work with are mostly sane most of the time. It's still a gently caress of a lot better than grad school.

So fire away. I'll tell you anything I know about any of it.

I'm wondering a little about the admissions process. Right now I've been admitted to law school, but I'm having some second thoughts about leaving my major behind. Additionally, it occurred to me that I am more qualified in this area than in law, and either path will probably leave me poor and alone.

I'm thinking I may take the GRE this summer before starting law school just to see what my chances would be at an upper level program. In your experience, do programs tend to take in-major GPA or total UGPA more seriously? My UGPA is good enough, but I could get even more leverage from my in-major.

Also, did you take the GRE subject test in Literature in English? If so, do you think it helped or hurt you? I've taken a pretty wide-reaching selection of courses, but when I was making my way through a practice subject test, I found there was still a lot I needed to learn within the ~300 questions. Then again, I suppose most people wouldn't know a lot on a test which subject material includes any single thing ever written in English.

grendelspov
Jun 12, 2008



Brainworm posted:

It depends on where each student is at.



Did you do your undergrad in English? I got my degree in psychology with a philosophy minor but I have completed several English courses. I've been thinking about channeling my personal love of Lit into teaching as I'm really not enthusiastic about pursuing grad work in psychology, business or law. This would also be a major career switch, but I think it would be more fulfilling.

So, do you think taking on an English grad degree is feasible if you don't have English as your undergrad? How difficult was it for you to find your current position? Did you have to move, or do you plan to in the future?

EDIT: ^ And what glowskull said.

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

Sheep-Goats posted:

How many students have you had so far in your Shakespeare classes who compared Falstaff to Bukowski? Were 100% of them leather jacket wearing idiots?

Sweet robot knights. You can't be serious. Actually you probably are. And I feel for you.

quote:

You have an MA or a PhD? What was your thesis about? Any other publications? Related to a trustee?

I've got a PhD, and wrote my dissertation (now my first book) on famine in Shakespeare. When I went on the market, I had a couple real articles and a few short pieces -- glorified encyclopedia entries on Skelton's poetry, Measure for Measure, and that kind of thing.

Apart from the dissertation book (and two translations of it that should get finished this Summer), I've got a few more articles, a chapter in a collection. I'm shopping around a second book proposal now, but this economic climate has got academic publishers acting pretty skittish, so I'll be lucky to get anything on that next year.

SuperKnacker posted:

What kind of money do you make a year?

My salary from the college is about $75K/yr, which is frankly pretty good. The national median for Assistant Professors of English is about $48K, but there's a spread. Salarywise, I'm at the bottom of the top quartile. This year, I did about another $75K in royalties, honoraria, grants, and consulting.*

The thing to really pay attention to with academic jobs, though, are the benefits. In particular, we (and lots of other colleges) have 401K contribution matching on top of a defined-benefit pension, plus a benefit that pays full tuition, room, and board for dependents (either at this or other colleges). That's a whopper.

quote:

Also, have you ever gotten obvious "joke papers" turned in where the students obviously made up every fact and source?

Not here, and never as a joke. I want one. Bad.

Mithra6 posted:

I'm reading Tillyard's "The Elizabethan World-View". Have you read it, and if so what do you think?

I'll say it's worth reading just because everyone argues against it -- the surest symptom of a classic. Terence Hawkes, Doug Bruster, and G.R. Elton are good follow ups.

Pfirti86 posted:

Ahahaha, that's amazing. I could only dream to be so awesome as to write all of my own memos in Latin. As it is, I can barely even remember how to decline all my nouns.

Yeah, I've always found creative self-destruction fascinating. I mean, anyone can jump out of a plane without a parachute. But jumping out with a backpack stuffed full of road flares, lighting up and letting them rip, that's genius.

Also, my Latin's terrible, so I've been translating them when I get a spare moment. Mostly, he was advocating for a dress code.

* From least to most.

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

Glowskull posted:

I'm wondering a little about the admissions process. Right now I've been admitted to law school, but I'm having some second thoughts about leaving my major behind. Additionally, it occurred to me that I am more qualified in this area than in law, and either path will probably leave me poor and alone.

If you're looking to get a job, go to law school. The only reason I'd advise someone to go for an English PhD is if you love the stuff so much you can't imagine doing anything else.

There are other things to consider, too. The Chronicle of Higher Ed publishes a job market report every year, and for English PhDs the results are always about the same and always a little depressing.* Basically, about two thirds of PhDs get a job after three years of trying, and it takes an average of about three years of employment to land a tenure-track position. Those are lovely odds, and don't take program attrition into account. That's another way of saying that all "poor and alones" aren't created equal.

Also, if you want to be an academic, you can teach with either a JD or a law PhD. And law professors are in high demand and make serious, serious money.

quote:

I'm thinking I may take the GRE this summer before starting law school just to see what my chances would be at an upper level program. In your experience, do programs tend to take in-major GPA or total UGPA more seriously? My UGPA is good enough, but I could get even more leverage from my in-major.

They'll take major GPA more seriously, but in most cases it's an over-the-bar kind of thing. Good enough is usually the same as spectacular, so I wouldn't sweat it. Even at really exclusive programs, a major GPA of 3.5 won't keep you out.

quote:

Also, did you take the GRE subject test in Literature in English? If so, do you think it helped or hurt you? I've taken a pretty wide-reaching selection of courses, but when I was making my way through a practice subject test, I found there was still a lot I needed to learn within the ~300 questions. Then again, I suppose most people wouldn't know a lot on a test which subject material includes any single thing ever written in English.

If the programs you're applying to don't want it, I wouldn't bother. The GRE Subject really tests what you'd remember from survey courses and from reading, say, the Norton anthologies. It's mostly trivia -- character names, talking points on whatever era, and so on -- and gets weighted accordingly in admissions, at least as far as I can tell.



* The MLA gathers numbers on this periodically, too, and the numbers are about the same.

troutsie187
May 15, 2007
The goober peas are on me, boys!

Where did you get your PhD? 75k is over twice (closer to three times) as much as most entry-level liberal arts professors at my school. Also, what kind of consulting does a lit-PhD do? Editing? Proofreading?

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

Brainworm posted:

It depends on where each student is at.

grendelspov posted:



Yeah, I meant to say

Brainworm posted:

It depends on where each student comes in at.

I end sentences with prepositions all the time. And I split infinitives like they're trailer park marriages. So I hope you want to wetly suck it down around below.

grendelspov posted:

Did you do your undergrad in English? [...] So, do you think taking on an English grad degree is feasible if you don't have English as your undergrad?

I went to college pretty young, so I ended up doing Physics, Philosophy and English. As long as you did some thorough coursework in English, grad school admission shouldn't be a problem. Jobs (or at least good jobs) are the problem.

At the same time, lots of people go to grad school because they're not sure what to do next. There's probably no harm in that if it's a short program and there's a probable job at the other end (think MBAs, JDs, MDs). But I'd take a year and do something else -- sort your wants out -- before going for a PhD. Programs get irresponsible with admissions since grad students are cheap labor for e.g. comp courses, and the attrition rates (not to mention the job placement rates) are horrid.

quote:

How difficult was it for you to find your current position? Did you have to move, or do you plan to in the future?

I got this position (and a few other good offers) right out of grad school, but a lot of that was luck -- there are lots of good people sleeping on friends' couches right now, and that's more rule than exception.

But as far as jobs go, it's like this: Good job, good school, good location. Choose two. I chose the move, even though it meant killing a good relationship and living in a town where my neighbors try to set me up with their daughters by showing me their senior pictures.

grendelspov
Jun 12, 2008



Thanks, that's pretty consistent with the responses I usually get. I think I might try to find an adjunct position that pertains to what I do now in order to try teaching on for size.

basement jihadist
Oct 3, 2002



Brainworm posted:

If you're looking to get a job, go to law school. The only reason I'd advise someone to go for an English PhD is if you love the stuff so much you can't imagine doing anything else.

That's the thing: I'm beginning to think this is true, and it's giving me a bit of a crisis. I've been doing a lot of self-directed, upper-level work with professors, and I'm beginning to realize I have a serious taste for it. She's an ugly mistress, but she's good in bed.

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

troutsie187 posted:

Where did you get your PhD? 75k is over twice (closer to three times) as much as most entry-level liberal arts professors at my school.

I actually went to a bottom-ranked program,* but I went because they really wanted me there. So I got to do things I wouldn't have had a chance to at a larger, more exclusive, place. And I got lucky in the job search -- the college I'm at pays for, and gets, the best teaching faculty I've seen. Research really plays second fiddle here.

quote:

Also, what kind of consulting does a lit-PhD do? Editing? Proofreading?

I have a three regular consulting jobs. One is with ETS (the SAT, LSAT, GRE, AP test devils). Basically, I help refine the evaluation processes for various tests' essay sections, which sounds easier and more exciting than it is.

The second is a job I started during grad school, which is training tech writers and engineers to document really complex, crufty systems. Telecommunications is a good example, and where I do most of my work.

At, say, Verizon, you've got a circa-1970 system that was adapted for regional use by the baby bells (think GTE, Bell Atlantic, and Nynex), and hacked up in the meantime to support services it was never intended for (like DSL).** So the system has loads of undocumented functions that can also vary regionally thanks to the original AT&T split. Most engineers aren't trained to document this kind of stuff (at least not well), and it's outside the ken of most tech writers, so I come in to fill in the blanks.

The third is just odd. Every PhD has some niche, and one of mine is Early Modern cryptozoology and (more broadly speaking) non-witchcraft-related unusual poo poo. So I get more calls than you'd think from archaeologists, museums, and folklorists trying to piece something together.*** This isn't a real moneymaker. I do it for the love.


* Rankings are complicated. I went to Lehigh, which doesn't have a great reputation. But they did have someone I really wanted to work with (David Hawkes, who's now at ASU), and I was his only project while I was there. Also, Lehigh had one stat that really mattered -- 100% graduate job placement.

** Just for instance, the system requires every service have a separate phone number attached to it, since all AT&T dealt in when the system was designed were phone lines. But available phone numbers are limited, so DSL service gets a phone number like (212) AZX-2239. That only works because the system's so old there's no error checking built in -- you can give it whatever string of characters you want, and until someone figures out how to dial an "A," there's no problem.

*** The other person to call is Jan Bondeson.

Aradekasta
May 20, 2007


How'd you get into that tech writing job? I'm a grad student in biochem and I had thought about doing some tech writing on the side, but I'm not really sure how one gets started with such things.

On a more relevant note: how much teaching experience did you get in grad school? Did you know going in that you wanted to end up at this sort of small, teaching-focused school? What's tenure based on?

Fast Moving Turtle
Mar 16, 2009


If you don't mind my asking, about how old are you? Or rather, how old were you when you first started teaching?

Do you see yourself working at the college you're at now for the rest of your teaching career?

emys
Feb 6, 2007


What do you think of this? I came across it in a collection of Wittgenstein's marginalia.

quote:

The reason why I cannot understand Shakespeare is that I want to find symmetry in all this asymmetry.

His pieces give me an impression of enormous sketches rather than of paintings; as though they had been dashed off by someone who can permit himself anything, so to speak. And I understand how someone can admire that and call it supreme art, but I don't like it -- so if someone stands in front of these pieces speechless, I can understand him; but anyone who admires them as one admires, say, Beethoven, seems to me to misunderstand Shakespeare.

Orestes Mantra
Nov 12, 2003



What do you think of the modern university's policy of exploiting bright eyed graduate students in the humanities to take up the teaching load, save labor costs, and bring in more tuition money so that they don't have to actually pay for tenure track positions?

morethanjake32
Apr 5, 2009


So this isn't related to anything else in the post, but I thought I'd ask anyway. There is a commercial on tv for Healthy Choice frozen dinners. In this ad a lady (I can't remember the actresses name) asks Julie Louie-Dreyfus if " She has ever seen a cow chewing cud?". I maintain that it should be phrased " She has ever seen a cow chewing it's cud?" Am I just being anal retentive about this, or am I wrong entirely?

lgcty5
Jan 4, 2003


Slightly e/n:
I'm currently pursuing my PhD in French Lit. I'm really not enjoying it right now: the coursework is unpleasant and consumes all my free time and everything I write feels like it doesn't serve a purpose other than furthering my niche. The common complaint of self important academic masturbation comes to mind. I feel like nothing I do benefits anyone other than the few other people who happen to study what I do... It's hard to see a point to it all sometimes. My first love is teaching, and it seems to be the bastard child of pure research. It's an R1 school, which probably explains that emphasis.

Plus, everyone's panicking over the lack of jobs and the unpleasant prospect of years of adjunct positions for peanuts.

I used to love what I do, but I feel like I'm slowly being crushed.

I feel like I can't get a straight answer from most of my professors about when/if things get better, and if this is all worth it. I'd be very interested in knowing how things changed for you through grad school and into your first two years on the job.

blastdoctor
Apr 8, 2009


Would your school take a flunky 27 year old who didn't finish Uni when he was supposed to?

prussian advisor
Jan 15, 2007

The day you see a camera come into our courtroom, its going to roll over my dead body.


Glowskull posted:

That's the thing: I'm beginning to think this is true, and it's giving me a bit of a crisis. I've been doing a lot of self-directed, upper-level work with professors, and I'm beginning to realize I have a serious taste for it. She's an ugly mistress, but she's good in bed.

Which law schools did you get into, by the way? Because if they aren't good ones, that might be an even worse career choice for you than a doctoral program in English, believe it or not. At least those are generally free.

MrZodiac
Jul 19, 2005



Dinosaur Gum

Brainworm posted:

The third is just odd. Every PhD has some niche, and one of mine is Early Modern cryptozoology and (more broadly speaking) non-witchcraft-related unusual poo poo.

Can you recommend any engaging books from either category for the casual reader?

basement jihadist
Oct 3, 2002



prussian advisor posted:

Which law schools did you get into, by the way? Because if they aren't good ones, that might be an even worse career choice for you than a doctoral program in English, believe it or not. At least those are generally free.

Yeah, that's why I'm having this dilemma.

Tier 2 with some money. Unless Temple decides to un-waitlist me (in-state tuition.) I'm aware of the terrible situation in the law profession right now. What you're saying was pretty near my line of thinking; if I'm going to be condemned to relative poverty, I may as well enter a field in which my credentials better qualify me, and that I will probably enjoy more.

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

Aradekasta posted:

How'd you get into that tech writing job? I'm a grad student in biochem and I had thought about doing some tech writing on the side, but I'm not really sure how one gets started with such things.

The entire story is preposterous. Preposterous and long.

A few years ago -- I'm thinking it was about 2003, but it might have been '02 -- negotiations between Verizon and the company's unions broke down. As part of a compromise so that negotiations could continue in earnest, the unions and Verizon agreed that they needed a staff of temporary workers to man essential services (like 911, government and hospital communications, and so on), since unless those services are covered, the union doesn't have any legal work stoppage options and, consequently, negotiating leverage.

Meantime, I was looking for Summer work and had my name out at a couple temp agencies. Through one of them, I got hired by a local company, ICT, who'd been contracted by Verizon to train a set of replacement workers -- all part of a face-saving and dance-around-the-contract compromise, since Verizon's deal with their unions expressly forbids them to train replacement workers, and the unions didn't want to risk revolt in their ranks by asking their people to train short-term replacements.

The only problem with the arrangement was ICT, who went to staffing agencies as a cost-cutting measure and got the predictable slurry of generally nice but indifferent temp workers, including me. Their thinking was apparently that, since they ran glorified call centers, they could have their engineers train up a crew of just-about-anybodys to run the software side of a brutally complicated piece of national infrastructure. After all, it's all telecommunications.

And the predictable happened. The ICT engineers couldn't figure out the system and the temps didn't care. So I got bored, read about ten thousand pages of outdated manuals from GTE, Nynex, and Bell Atlantic, plus a few thousand more memos and whitepapers from those three and Verizon proper,* and walked the ICT engineers through the system. The ICT engineers told their bosses, the bosses told Verizon, and (after some head scratching) Verizon hired me to train a pile of tech writers on how to Frankenstein outdated manuals and ancient whitepapers into something useful, and to recommend they hire a team of librarians to organize all their existing documentation so someone could get to it.**

That's basically the consulting job I have now. If you can use that to get into tech writing, God help you.

quote:

On a more relevant note: how much teaching experience did you get in grad school? Did you know going in that you wanted to end up at this sort of small, teaching-focused school?

I taught for all seven years of grad school, excepting a couple semesters of fellowship. And I discovered that I really liked teaching early on, which made the decision about what kind of college to look for pretty easy.

There are fields where a constant stream of pure research is really important, but I'm not sure English Lit. is one of them -- not that there isn't good and interesting research happening there. The situation's analogous to, say, math or philosophy. Research is interesting and necessary, but there's a huge educational deficit that we in those fields have a moral duty to negotiate. If we're not principally educators at the college level, if we want to explicitly or implicitly prize research over teaching, we're setting ourselves up for social failure. There's no reason any college graduate, regardless of purpose or major, should want meaningful literacy, numeracy, or devotion to focused and rigorous thought. And that's where I'll stop ranting.

quote:

What's tenure based on?

At this college, we've got four criteria for hiring, firing, and tenure: teaching effectiveness, quality of mind, contributions to the community, and institutional fit. These are equally important, excepting that excellence in any of these categories can't compensate for poor teaching.

The "quality of mind" requirement is the really interesting one. This includes research proper (books and refereed journals), but can also include authoring textbooks, giving conference presentations or public talks, or work in one's field but outside academia (like my consulting, or like a psychology prof. having a private practice).

* Basically, archival research.
** By my estimate, they had at least one hundred thousand volumes of technical documents going back almost forty years, no coherent, company-wide way of organizing them, and nobody dedicated to examining them to, say, decide which ones were still needed and which ones needed updating. Really.

prussian advisor
Jan 15, 2007

The day you see a camera come into our courtroom, its going to roll over my dead body.


Glowskull posted:

Yeah, that's why I'm having this dilemma.

Tier 2 with some money. Unless Temple decides to un-waitlist me (in-state tuition.) I'm aware of the terrible situation in the law profession right now. What you're saying was pretty near my line of thinking; if I'm going to be condemned to relative poverty, I may as well enter a field in which my credentials better qualify me, and that I will probably enjoy more.

Well Temple itself is Tier 2, and you get to compete with all the other graduates of elite northeastern law schools (as well as Penn State) for the dwindling supply of jobs in Philadelphia/Pittsburgh, presuming that's where you want to stay. Relative cheapness notwithstanding, I'd counsel against going to law school even if Temple does admit you, since you don't seem interested in the prospect of practicing law at all. $50,000-60,000 in debt for a career you'll probably hate and that won't pay well anyway seems like a bad choice compared to $0 in debt and a career you'll like even if the pay is also poo poo.

Negative_Kittens
Apr 8, 2008

[ASK] me about multiple personality disorders

Brainworm posted:

The third is just odd. Every PhD has some niche, and one of mine is Early Modern cryptozoology and (more broadly speaking) non-witchcraft-related unusual poo poo. So I get more calls than you'd think from archaeologists, museums, and folklorists trying to piece something together.*** This isn't a real moneymaker. I do it for the love.

Hello Giles. Say hi to Buffy for me.

Seriously though, examples of this kind of work would be interesting to me. What was the weirdest thing you had to work on?

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

Fast Moving Turtle posted:

If you don't mind my asking, about how old are you? Or rather, how old were you when you first started teaching?

I started teaching (as part of my grad. fellowship) at 23, and finished my PhD when I was 29. I just turned 32.

quote:

Do you see yourself working at the college you're at now for the rest of your teaching career?

It could happen.

I feel like an unredeemable rear end in a top hat even thinking about writing this, but it's tough to imagine a better job, even as an academic. The pay's great, the college is generally well-governed and relaxed, and the students are a joy. The worst of the people I work with are tolerable, if not downright kind, thoughtful, and well-intentioned. So there's a lot to like.

There are a couple things that could push me into another job, though they right now seem improbable.

1) Thanks to the hit our endowment's taken, there were salary freezes this year and there will likely be pay cuts this coming year -- something like 3%. This isn't too bad. Every other college I know is in worse shape, going through staff cuts, hiring freezes, and the like. Our fundamentals (admissions, financial aid, retention) still look good, so we're not yet seeing evidence of any longer-term crisis.

I'm glad to take a pay cut if it balances the budget, but I'm also an egotistical prima donna with an inflated sense of entitlement. So I could see myself walking if these cuts start hitting ego. In that sense, I'm in a bad position -- I could live comfortably off my consulting income, and I'm pretty good at what I do, which means I like this job but don't need it.*

2) Location is an issue. Not a big issue -- I like the town I live in for the most part. My neighbors are nice, everything's affordable, and I've got a very nice house that's somewhat larger than I need. And I've been able to work with local government and the mayor's office to get some (frankly) great measures rolling. But if I saw a similar job at a similar college that was in someplace clearly nicer, I might consider a move.

This seems unlikely, since academic salaries generally get lower as you move toward places people want to live. NYC is a good example. Unless you're one of the elite at Columbia or NYU, the pay sucks. They don't need to pay much, because location does their hiring for them.

* At least in the elaborate fantasy world I've built myself.

MsJoelBoxer
Aug 31, 2004

Your judicial opinions hypnotize me.

Did you attend the SAA conference in DC in April? If so, did you hear any papers that you found to be particularly compelling?

Glazzy
May 3, 2007

Vinyl is pretty groovy


How did you become a professor?

Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

blastdoctor posted:

Would your school take a flunky 27 year old who didn't finish Uni when he was supposed to?

Short answer? Yes.

Long answer? Our college mission is, basically, to offer the world's best liberal arts education to anyone willing to approach it seriously. And that mission governs how we do everything from recruiting to admissions to financial aid. So we work terrifyingly well with students who haven't yet succeeded for one reason or another.

MrZodiac posted:

Can you recommend any engaging books from either category for the casual reader?

The first place I'll point you is my sometimes collaborator and sometimes nemesis Jan Bondeson, who writes great pieces for general audiences. He's an MD and usually writes historical surveys, so most of his pieces look like "let's trace this bizarre abnormality from the Middle Ages through the 19th century." But he gets the occasional cryptid in, too.

The second place is actually a primary source: Ambroise Pare's Of Monsters and Marvels. Pare was a 16th century French surgeon with an interest in both medical matters and cryptids, and since it's in translation from the French, the language is modern and accessible even though his treatise is now four centuries old. He also wrote a treatise on unicorns, which reads like a kids book in places: "This animal has a horn. Is it a unicorn? No. It is a rhinoceros."

The third place (if you're at a college or university) is Early English Books Online, which has PDFs of manuscripts from all over the world. If you can get to it, do a quick title search for "hog faced woman." You'll see why I want to make babies with this database.

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Brainworm
Mar 23, 2007

...one of these--
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him--made him fear'd...


Nap Ghost

Negative_Kittens posted:

Seriously though, examples of this kind of work would be interesting to me. What was the weirdest thing you had to work on?

The weirdest thing is going on right now.

Last week, I got a call from a collector in Sussex who has the remains of a reptile about nine feet long (nose to tail), and has reason to believe that the remains were (a) unearthed in Sussex and (b) at least a few hundred years old. He basically wanted to know whether I could make a case for both these things being true, since England doesn't have any recorded species of non-mythological giant lizards, and the remains seem too old for its escape from a zoo or a private collector to be likely.

So I pointed him to a pamphlet published by John Trundle, which relates "news" of the Horsham Dragon, a lizard of about the same size that killed a couple people and some hunting dogs in August 1614. I've long thought the Horsham Dragon was probably some kind of monitor -- the size and behavior are about right for a croc monitor (salvadorii), though the coloration is unusual and crocodile monitors don't spit poison.* Anyway. The croc monitor is native to New Guinea, which started appearing on British maps in about 1600, so there's a plausible means of getting some New Guinea zoology to the forests outside Sussex by 1614.

Then things got interesting. It turns out that the herpetologists who looked at these remains are divided on whether it's a crocodile monitor. So whatever it is, it's very like one. I'm still working out a trip to Sussex so I can see for myself. I'm really pulling for a previously-undiscovered and something-like-a-salvadorii species that's colored like a white-throated monitor and spits poison. Or aliens.

* Although, according to native legends, croc. monitors apparently breathe fire. That's a compelling bit of something.

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