This is just an informal response to what’s going on. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Gov. Scott Walker has proposed cuts to the UW system totaling 300 Million Dollars and has urged professors to “Work harder” to alleviate the burden of the cuts.
I took personal offense to this because as a grad student instructor, I am in class full time (and if you haven’t, you can read my rant about how grad school isn’t ‘college’) working on my dissertation and I teach two classes. Although I am doing physical lecture about 8 hours a week–I do more than just lecture.
I lesson plan and prep for each lecture. I don’t go in and “wing it” for the class. I do the research, I plan the material out, the discussion and the class activity so that students are invested.
I grade the assignments. I read 50+ student essays. People tell me, “then don’t assign as much homework.” If I don’t assign the assignments, then they won’t learn. I assign the work to show that they are understanding it. I read and carefully critique everything that comes my way to insure that my students are getting the feedback they deserve.
I answer emails and communicate with my students. I don’t live in a lofty tower lecturing down towards the masses. I talk to them about the class, about letters of recommendation–I become a mentor to them because if they are invested, they’ll learn.
Being a professor isn’t about lecturing. Although I complain about my students, I care about them. All of them. Even the ones who didn’t care about my class. Telling me to “work harder” is like telling me to not care about my students–to just churn out information and not care if they get it. If I do that and students fail, then I’ll be at fault (again) in the eyes of Walker and people like him. I work to care for students and guide them as well as instruct them. I stay up late at night worrying about them, about whether or not they understand the material and how I can reach out to them. I’ve given up more lucrative career options in order to teach. I teach and don’t get paid much for it because I care about my students and the material.
The cuts and being told to work harder? It’s enough to push me away. Just like the single parent who loves their child so much that they have to give up the child for adoption–I might have to do that. I love my students so much and want to give them the best, but I can’t if the UWs have any more budget cuts and if we lose the administrative help we need and if we have to “work harder” I work to the point of exhaustion and anxiety.
I might just have to walk away.