When I was a semi-closeted and even 100% more awkward 1st year undergrad in 1997, Dr. Lisa Storozynsky took one look at my cardigan/earring combo and gently asked: "Have you heard of Queer Theory?" Life changed. Sometimes profs really see you.
She also introduced me to Richard Barnfield's poetry (beautiful/awful), Jacobean drama, Angels in America, Susan Glaspell, Gilgamesh, and The Odyssey. When I slacked off, she called me on it. When I succeeded, she let me know. What a gift.
We would talk about ST:TNG in her office, and I offered to help her with her VCR, which was acting up. It was a snug, ground-floor office in a building that no longer exists, and sometimes I'd go straight from there to the library to take out a book she'd recommended.
When I earned an NC in one of her classes--which she'd given me permission to attend--she said that she was disappointed. And that bit of gentle criticism helped me to turn things around and focus more--that's how I also ended up double-majoring in History.
Having that campus (now gone) in my small town was so life-changing. I could walk down a street I'd been walking down for 18 years, and suddenly encounter a library full of scholarship, and classrooms where students weren't hostile--where they really engaged with new ideas.
I got into a bigger school (UBC), but chose @goUFV because I wasn't ready to leave my small town. It let me make small steps, and without that safety, I wouldn't have been successful. The instructors there were brilliant and patient--many of them working on contract.
When I was fortunate enough to get a permanent teaching job, I modeled my teaching on the college instructors who had been patient with me, pushing ever so slightly, but still allowing that safety net. They worked miracles with so few resources often while struggling financially.
Anytime a classist prick disparages college teaching, I like to remind them that college and university-college instructors are literal badasses who manage 4/4 and sometimes 5/5 (or more) teaching loads while doing care work for students and colleagues.
I have colleagues who teach 4/4 and still publish (by not sleeping), and colleagues who teach 120+ students every semester and still produce writing and reviews. Consider the amount of energy this takes, often w/few resources, and how little that's acknowledged in academia.
I taught 4/4 for a bit, and it was tough. The time management alone was difficult. I tried to keep writing & doing research but I was spending 10-12 hour days grading & prepping, often working in a shared office where everyone vibrated w/exhaustion. But we supported each other.
That heavy teaching load at smaller schools is what allows big schools to have lighter loads--you give less resources to the schools that are open-access, serving under-represented areas, because those schools aren't generating as much money. They're cut to the bone.
So when you look at someone's CV and they didn't just publish a monograph with a big press, or they haven't been to conference in a while, or their path seems uneven--consider that that our current model for being a "good" professor is entirely based on exploitation.
And when someone says they teach 4/4, don't say "oh, I could never do that." Don't valorize it as sacrifice, or consider it just a necessary part of the system. Don't freeze people out of conversations because their work might not resemble your own. Take care of each other.
Even now when I tell people I went to a community college they're like, "oh wow, you've done so well in spite of that." No. I did well *because* of that education. Because those tired but kind profs actually cared about me. Because smaller schools do change lives.
You can follow @jesbattis.
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