Posts Tagged ‘Transition to Assistant Professor’

As noted before, one of the most daunting aspects of my transition from poorly-paid graduate student to acceptably-paid assistant professor has been that there is no longer anything preventing my wife and I from looking at houses and thinking seriously about when we want to increase the size of our family.  In preparation for incurring a debt greater than my life’s income, we have both purchased the recommended amount of term life insurance.  The process goes something like this:

Corporation:  Hello, sir, how are you today?

Me:  It’s Dr. sir, and I am generally okay but not well enough to prevent the fear that I may die in the next thirty years.

Corporation:  Die?  You look like a healthy fellow.  In fact, I am willing to bet that you will not die in the next thirty years.

Me:  Interesting… What are you willing to wager?

Corporation:  I will wager hundreds of thousands of dollars that you will not die in the next thirty years, and because I’m so sure that you won’t die I will give you forty to one odds!

Me:  So let me get this straight: I will wager thousands of dollars over the course of thirty years that I will die – really only hundreds of dollars a year – and you will wager hundreds of thousands of dollars that I won’t?

Corporation:  Yes, that is correct.

Me:  What happens at the end of the thirty years?

Corporation:  Well, since you think you’ll be dead by then, if you want to continue our agreement past thirty years it will cost you more for a single year than in the entire thirty years combined.  Otherwise, I’ll keep your money because you will have lost the bet and you will have to live with the fact that you’re a bad gambler.

Me:  But you’ll pay me if I die within the thirty years?

Corporation:  Well, I’ll pay somebody, but you’ll be dead.

Me:  So I’m a loser either way?

Corporation: Right.

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I’ve been tracking the transition to life as an assistant professor since last fall, so it is always interesting to see how others are dealing with their own transitions.  Along these lines, pitse1eh’s recent post provides a nice perspective on the transition from a research-focused grad student to a teaching-focused professor (especially since I was never a research-focused grad student).  The whole post is recommended reading, but at the very least you should heed the message that I have reiterated in a number of my job-market posts:

Lesson Learned: Issues about what type of job do you want (R1, teaching college, etc.) is a fundamental concern that needs to be addressed as soon as possible in your grad school career.

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Early in the semester I stated:

Thankfully, none of my classes have what I consider to be too many students.  I was surprised recently to hear somebody complain about having 27 students instead of the expected 22.  I realize that, for a class of that size, five students is a 23% increase, but I cannot yet grasp the idea that 27 students can be too many.  Of course, I’ve been conditioned by teaching years of classes with between 50 and 80 students.  Maybe I need to bookmark this post and read it in a year or two when I find myself acclimated to my new environment and complaining to the registrar about every student over 20.

While I still don’t feel that any of my classes are too big, I have been surprised by the lack of difference between teaching a class of 65 students and a class of 35 students.  One nice thing is that grading takes about half as long.  In terms of the proportion of students who participate daily and the day-to-day classroom experience, though, things are not a lot different.  I’m not ready to start complaining yet, but I wouldn’t mind a smaller class.  I guess I vastly overestimated the amount of time it would take to change my perspective on this issue.

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