In part one of this blog series, I talked about some of the things I wish I had known before I became a college professor. For this new part, we’ll delve deeper into the subject and learn about other things you ought to know if you want to become a college professor. I didn’t have a smooth ride; I grew up in the Bronx and had a single mom who worked 2 jobs to make ends meet. I had to struggle, take on jobs and get scholarships to put myself through college, and let’s not forget all the student loans I took to get through this. But, I made it work and climbed the social ladder slowly but surely. I know what I am talking about when I talk about my experience as a college teacher. So, without further ado, let’s learn more about what I wish I knew before becoming a college professor.
You get to follow your interest.
I’m not saying that working as a freelance writer or editor wasn’t fun, but it’s not the same as working your childhood job and working in a field you are genuinely interested in. I get to work on queer issues and get to follow up on how queer people use language and how queer people use language to create in-groups. Working with queer people and colleagues was one of the best parts of working as a queer academic. Now, I teach queer studies class, and teaching the next generation about the history of our queer foreparents is a joy and is a way for me to pass on the story of the people who have been erased through history for far too long. For a queer nerd like me, this is queer heaven and I couldn’t ask for a better job.
You won’t have summers off!
Before I became a college professor, I had numerable side jobs; I was a freelance writer, worked in customer service and even worked the McDonald’s drive-through. Because you got to do what you got to do when you are trying to put yourself through college. Silly me, I thought that becoming a college professor meant that I would have summers, Christmas, and even spring breaks off. Yes, those breaks exist, but you won’t get to enjoy them as much as you want. Because you’ll always have a stack of papers on your desk no matter what time of year it is and if even worst if you are still an academic that is currently writing a research paper because this is how you stay relevant in this world. Interviewing people for your research will take all your free time if you have no research assistant. So, no, you won’t really have your summers off. Being an academic and college professor is an all-year-round job and takes a big chunk of your time. You’ll be grading papers during thanksgiving; trust me on that. You no being in the office doesn’t mean that you won’t have to work.
You’ll spend a lot of time with your colleagues.
It’s very rare that people leave academia, so this means that you are most likely going to be seeing your colleagues for the decades to come. When you are a new faculty member, there’s always someone who will take you under their wings and teach you about navigating bureaucracy and bad students. So, you should at least keep convivial relationships with most of your colleagues because you are going to see and work for them for the years to come. Along the way, some will become very close friends while others will be like that aunt you meet for the holiday that you disagree with everything they say but are still part of the family. So, the name of the game is to play nice with your colleagues, so buckle up for this wild journey.
Students are the best part of the job.
Your students will be the joy of your teaching experience, and they will make teaching fun or hell. I’ll be the first one to say this, but you won’t get along with all your students, but most of them will be jovial to come to your class, and you’ll create close bonds with them. Because they are young and are still in their formative years, they are hilarious and naive and will make your classes fun, and will get involved in class discussions. They’ll tell you their secret and tell you the hot goss on who is dating who, and we’ll even tell you their deepest secrets. If you are like me and have an open-door policy, and are one of the few openly queer teaching members of the faculty, you’ll get a lot of students who’ll come to you to talk about their sexuality and gender identity. And, for me, this is the greatest part of teaching. As sad or not as this may seem, they’ll bring a sense of joy and meaning to your life.
Sound off in the comments section below and tell us if you want to read more about what it’s like to be a college professor.