I just googled “the best jobs of 2019,” assuming community college professor appeared on a list in some corner of the internet.
I am sure work-life balance varies for us professors. I can think of colleagues who, outside of work, regularly camp out in the mountains, swim and bike, garden, make art, write books, and cook. I am also aware there are colleagues among us with two or three jobs who have been trapped indoors with young children since the pandemic began. And some of us live hours away and have commuted to Glendale to teach in person and attend meetings. So, while on paper our work appears to allow for a porous schedule, I don’t assume all of us have so much room to roam.
I have been very fortunate with respect to leveraging the freedom afforded me by my position at GCC, making music and art on the side as I taught animation, as well as cavorting with Los Angeles eccentrics of so many stripes. Teaching animation feels like work, but then there are times when it feels decidedly like play. I’ve also been able to be a very hands-on dad, which I can say I value immensely – and I hope my son feels the same way, despite my very basic culinary skills.
If I am less able to manage a work-life separation now, it’s within my thought process. I used to obsess uncontrollably but (oh, you know) try to stay positive at the same time, which meant taking months to draw pictures of benign animals. These days, my early 50’s, I rarely get whipped up into a mania, but I find that I struggle to compartmentalize – and so I think of work endlessly throughout the day, but in a drifty, varied, occasionally somewhat vexed way.
At worst, the work-life imbalance manifests as outrage, as I am sure is the case for many of us, so I figured I would share a few thoughts that float in the outrage, for imbalance’s sake.
Why can’t we use “fields of study” in place of “disciplines” in our discussions about minimum qualifications and course assignment? It only has one more syllable. Wouldn’t the system want to equate academic discovery with something rolling, green, electric, and expansive rather than something angular, subordinating, and militaristic? Wouldn’t doing so be fairer to community college students in particular, who already face the harshness of being placed at a distance from cultural and economic capital?
Why do the terms we use to define our mission as educators seem to lose vitality so quickly and, even worse, leave us vulnerable to mischaracterization? In discussion at Senate Exec, it came up that the word “decolonization” may be losing currency as institutions lean on it to absolve themselves of guilt and as they seem to benefit from the appeal of its use. Recently, I was upset I couldn’t stop myself from reading this profane article in the National Review by Victor Davis Hanson, in which he cruelly redefines, but at the same time identifies, so many of the terms we use. Can we not move more stealthily in our war for fairness, and opportunity – and against supremacism – so we can't be trolled? Is the systematized, official presentation of these terms compromising the individuated, teacher-to-student, colleague-to-colleague expression of their actual meaning? Or is this a question of history moving faster, evacuating and mutating meaning over months instead of years?
Why does the Student-Centered Funding Formula have to borrow language from humanistic psychology? Couldn’t it have been called the Credential-Focused Funding Formula? To externally, hierarchically define “conditions of worth” for colleges and their workers through the ongoing threat of withholding funding while claiming to be aligned with person-centrism would appear to be world-historical-level gaslighting, especially given the size of the community college system in California. Never mind the question of whether it is of value to equate the streamlined acquisition of a credential with person-centered growth. Add to this the irony that I have never more vividly witnessed or felt how genuinely committed my colleagues are to student well-being and student learning than during the adjustment to the coronavirus pandemic. Does our college need to feel threatened to produce desired results?
So, yeah. work-life balance/imbalance. I hope I don't sound too whiny in the above. I think being a professor at GCC does give us more flexibility and free time than some other jobs. We are fortunate to be able to represent our perspectives to our employer freely, as I have in the above, while at the same time benefit from powerful collective bargaining by our union. But I have a sense we all spend time in a bit of a mental blur about our jobs, and though we may often physically leave work, our thoughts inexorably tether us to it.