Hello, dear readers! Hello! A most Merry and Happy Holidays to you and yours! Yes, yes, I know. I haven’t blogged in a month, but I have a good reason: LIFE. There’s been so many good and unexpected life changes that in all honesty, it’s left me breathless, exhausted, and unbelievably excited for 2019 . You better grab a cuppa and the left over holiday cookies, we have a lot to get through.
Are you settled in and comfy? Yes? Ok, so the last time we “chatted” I was finishing up the fall 2018 semester for Texas A&M. As you recall, I was able to move home to NYC because I agreed to teach three class asynchronously online; and that’s just what I did.
There are many issues with online courses, issues that need to be — but aren’t — addresses by colleges and universities. Building good online courses using Universal Design Standards so that they are accessible to all students takes a lot of time; conducting a good online course takes even more time. Needless to say, students tend to take online courses because they think they’re easier and less time-consuming, which is completely wrong. They’re usually shocked and angry to find out that online courses are usually much harder because they require the student to be self-directed and engaged in ways that aren’t required in traditional classes. Because it’s online, students — especially younger ones — can’t seem to separate a professional, academic platform that requires them to act appropriately, from social media platforms and Yelp. The latter encourages students to be flippant, aggressive, and rude. Why? Perceived anonymity. They are used to being “keyboard warriors” online.
The combination of all the work and the downright hostility of many students really put a damper on my enthusiasm for online teaching. I moved back to NYC to be able to do my research, something I haven’t been able to do because of the time-consuming nature of teaching online, the amount of students I have (70 in each online course), and the administrative duties associated with a full-time professorship. Furthermore, teaching, in general, requires a level of detachment and a thick skin … attributes I do not possess. I tend to be a super sensitive person who can’t deal with the level of viciousness in student evaluations. So, I submitted my letter of resignation: the 2018-2019 academic year was to be my last.
It didn’t work out that way.
Fall 2018 was my last semester teaching at Texas A&M, and honestly, my last semester teaching in higher education for the foreseeable future. I’m leaving academia.
I know this comes as a shock to many of you, especially since I always talk about how much I love teaching, pedagogy, etc. This full-time teaching gig at Texas A&M really opened my eyes to what academia truly is, something I was not prepared for or wanted. I went into this because I love sharing my knowledge and because I love research and writing. I wasn’t prepared for everything that went with it. I wasn’t prepared for the administrative work and the teaching to take over my life and push my research to the side. I wasn’t prepared to teach 200 to 350 students every semester with only one or two teaching assistants who were neither art historians (or historians), nor prepared to grade or help me conduct lessons.
There’s so much more to say about this and maybe I will in the future. I just don’t really want to explain it right now because I’ve been mulling over it for months. I’m done. This blog post isn’t meant to add to the growing body of academic “quit lit.”
Instead, I want to focus on all the good stuff going on! I’m no longer employed at Texas A&M and I don’t have a job, teaching or other, just yet. After a very productive meeting with the admissions person for the Masters in Library Science at Queens College CUNY, I decided to apply for the MLS program for the spring semester. Library Science? WHAT?!?
You see, I’m not a “normal” art historian who studies paintings, sculptures, or architecture. I study prints, posters, and illustrations in books and periodicals. I study 19th century print technology. I study ephemera — any scrap of paper that contains a printed image. And this kind of stuff calls libraries, museums, and historic associations its home. I want to work with the object again … the stuff and things that the art historical canon deems as “crap.” In order to do this, I’m getting an MLS with a concentration in archival conservation and preservation at Queens College. I haven’t gotten my official acceptance letter yet, though I’ve had some positive news. Ahem. I’ll leave it at that for now.
What all this means is that I won’t be a college professor anymore and I will, hopefully, be working in an archives or rare books division of a library or museum in the near future. It also means that I’m back in school as of January 28 and writing papers, doing projects, and taking tests. Hopefully, there will be more time to work on my own research projects, especially if I can work them into what I’m doing in the MLS program. I’ll have normal hours again and that means I’ll have time to blog, paint/draw, knit, and sew. Heck, I’ll have more time for the gym and swimming!
As for this holiday season … well, it’s been emotional, introspective, and way too busy. Our Yulemas gathering with our friends and our own Yule/Solstice celebration were the highlights of our season. Personally, my long phone calls with my sister were some of the most pleasant moments this month and I can’t wait to see her and her kids in a few weeks. We’re looking forward to seeing my brother’s kids — all in their 20s — tonight. Pizza and homemade cookies are on the menu. I can’t wait to hear what everyone has been doing since I last saw them this summer. The rest of the family, well, that’s another can of worms that I just don’t want to open.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to prepare for an exciting New Year and that means cleaning out my office, getting my new journal and calendars ready, and cleaning out my computer. This weekend we’re taking down the tree and holiday decorations, and I’m mopping the floors and putting fresh linens on the bed. I want to welcome this New Year with a clean slate!
Here’s to the end of this crazy journey and the end of an even crazier year. And here’s to a wonderful future and New Year!