I (rather unexpectedly) have found myself back on the job hunting trail. That has finally pushed me to begin my own blog after spending the past three and a half months blogging for my position as e-learning coordinator, realizing that I have something to contribute to the exchange on higher education.
My path has been an unexpected one. When I began my higher education adventures, I thought I wanted to be a high school art teacher. I was quickly disabused of that notion after one semester in visual arts. That was not going to be for me. Creative output is my way of dealing with the rest of my life, not my driving passion. I did, however, discover a fascination with religion and a talent for writing papers.
Like many other students, I changed my major.
I went through my undergraduate degree and master’s with the expectation that I would end up in academia, a tenured professor. The teaching was what drew me in, to be quite honest. I had recognized that high school was not what I wanted to be teaching, but university? That was a completely different story. I wanted to share my passion and my fascination with my field (Religious Studies).
Then I started my PhD. I was still certain of my goals but I was confused. Why did nobody want to talk about teaching? We could sign up for a semester-long workshop given by another unit but nobody in my department thought developing and discussing teaching our subject was mandatory. In fact, it was only after I had moved away that my continual discussions of why grad students should talk about it resulted in a workshop. In fact, I was never employed as a sessional instructor in my own department. That was not what I was expecting.
That was really when my eyes were opened. Sure, I knew that research was a focus, but it had never occurred to me that teaching was not. I had had fantastic professors through my undergrad and master’s who cared about teaching – and talked about it – so the idea that the university as a general organism (and specific departments) didn’t was baffling.
I had always had a technical slant to my hobbies. I was an internet addict. I loved my tech gadgets. I chatted online, played World of Warcraft, and found online communities to which I could belong. I blame my first job which involved teaching people about the internet and about building websites.
Now when you move away from your current university and are seeking work as a humanities major you may discover that the jobs available are limited, especially if you are highly overqualified for many of them. I found a job as an administrative worker. It was a job and I met many people I enjoyed. It was not, however, a career path I wanted in the long run.
I taught as a sessional. It was one heck of a learning experience although at the time I was so frantically busy that I couldn’t really absorb much. I was working full time plus teaching an intro course for the first time. It meant a lot of nights writing the next day’s lesson, grading papers on the weekend, and not a lot of time for reflection. I did, however, enjoy it.
Then I was encouraged to apply for a position: e-Learning Coordinator. It was listed as being about instructional technology, both researching and teaching instructors about it. I was leery of applying but it was an 8 month term job at the university – I longed to be back in the academic world and the job sounded fantastic. I just wasn’t sure I was qualified.
Obviously, I was. I was hired and have spent the last 6 months finally finding my niche. I have discovered a whole lot of fascinating technologies that I would never have found otherwise. I have also discovered a passion for teaching itself. Not solely being in front of the class, working with students, but discussing and learning about better ways to teach. I have learned many of the mistakes I made with my own students and have begun thinking of ways I could do it differently.
I also discovered the network of alternative academics (alt-ac) who are all academics in a non-tenured-prof type job. They work in all sorts of capacities and have a different experience but that experience can be fantastic. That was what I wanted. That fit! Tenured prof was not for me. I had finally realized and accepted that. But alt-ac? Yes please!
Alas, provincial budget cuts and university belt tightening ended my vision of my term being extended. That was always the plan but when there was no longer any spare money available, that plan was over.
So now what? I have applied for a variety of positions and hope that my experience and my networking have paid off. I know I will have fantastic references but will that be enough to land me a new job I can enjoy? Thus continues my journey in academia.