Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Blessing in Disguise

I found out yesterday that I’ve once again been (choose one: awarded / permitted / condemned) to teach this summer. I trust this is a blessing in disguise. I really do, even though it’s a very scary and convincing disguise. I know I always express apprehension about these kinds of things, but there is a lot more to it this time around. For starters, I’ll be teaching a 3000 level course. It’s not an introductory course, and that means both that the material will be more difficult and that the students (who will primarily be philosophy majors) will be more competent. Ideas may be challenged a lot more than I’m used to, which means I’ve really got to know my stuff. Secondly, the topic itself can be a rather challenging one: philosophy of mind. It doesn’t help that it’s been years since I’ve dabbled in philosophy of mind (in its most direct form). Preparing to teach this class will be immensely more difficult than it has been for anything I’ve taught thus far. Thirdly, I’ll be teaching during the first half of the summer. This means that my preparation time is vastly reduced, and I’ll scarce have any time between the end of this semester and the beginning of my teaching gig. Fourthly, I should be applying out for real jobs this fall. As I understand it, this requires a LOT of preparation in and of itself, and many graduating Ph.D. students entering the job market in the fall spend the entire summer preparing to do so. I’ll need to be doing this on top of my teaching gig. Fifthly, there is no funding available for TAs this summer, which means I won’t have a TA. I’ll have to do all of the grading myself, in addition to preparing for and giving lectures. This is the first semester I’ve heard of without any available teaching assistantships whatsoever. Times are bad.

I told you it was a convincing disguise.

So, what are the benefits to teaching this summer? Well, money for starters. Now that I know I couldn’t have gotten a TA-ship, teaching is my only chance of earning an income between mid-May and mid-August. (Okay, I could get a job at Walmart or Chick-fil-A or something, but c’mon.) It will be a paltry income, but it’s better than nothing. More important to me than the money, however, is the opportunity to develop myself in an area of philosophy that I would like to claim as my specialty. I don’t know how it works in other academic disciplines, but philosophy job offers often revolve around areas of specialization. Philosophy is a very broad topic, touching quite literally on everything. There are philosophers who specialize in ethics, in art, in science, in language, etc. When you apply for a job, the potential employer is typically seeking someone who specializes in a certain area. Philosophy of mind is a fairly prominent field within philosophy, and most of what I do probably falls under it in a subcategory kind of way. However, the most typical debates and issues that philosophy of mind deals with are not the ones that I typically work on. Ergo, I will benefit greatly from teaching a course on the more traditional side of philosophy of mind. Once I have done so, I will be more confident (and more justified) in asserting that philosophy of mind is my area of specialization.

As you can tell, I have very mixed feelings about this teaching gig. In the long run, I’m sure it will be a good thing. I’m just overwhelmed, knowing that some of my most challenging times as a Ph.D. student are right around the corner.


  1. Don't forget that you are looking at the WHOLE picture at this moment. You will be taking it more bit by bit as you go along so hopefully it won't be quite as overwhelming. Everyone is pulling/praying for you. Maybe you can see it as jumping into a swimming pool. You just take a breath and go, You'll be fine.

  2. I hope it all works out. From what you said, it really does sound like a good opportunity. But yikes! Daunting! Hang in there.