- Where Do You Teach?
Despite the professional opportunities in English departments outside the research university, members of the profession continue to trade the commonplace story of graduate students, trained in university-based programs, seeking the few coveted positions but mostly (and unfortunately) settling for jobs at second- or third-tier schools. There are desirable jobs, with course releases, research funding, upper-level seminars, and smart students; and there are less desirable jobs, with barely tolerable teaching loads, lower-level courses, and less-talented students. One reason for this persistent myth is that professionalism and specialization provide the norm for intellectual work. Preoccupied with research, members of the profession perpetuate the idea that the real work of the discipline takes place outside of the classroom. With the values and practices of the research university accepted as the profession-wide standard, we devote fewer of our intellectual energies to teaching, as well as to the ever more important engagements with public audiences who benefit from our work; we diminish the commitments of faculty whose intellectual work is organized around teaching undergraduate students, and whose reading and writing often arises from that work; and we disadvantage new PhDs struggling to imagine rewarding careers in English programs located outside the doctorate-granting institution.
The most direct proposal to reject the research model comes from the past president of the Modern Language Association, Robert Scholes (2004: 120), who writes that the prevailing notion of research does not suit us because it "intervenes to disrupt the relation between learning and teaching [End Page 371] that is proper to humanistic study." The prevailing notion of research not only undermines the relation between teaching and learning, it distorts the relation between the research-oriented university and teaching-intensive schools. If this account is right, we can strengthen the profession and its intellectual commitments by learning from one another how our professional roles and responsibilities have been shaped by where we teach. For any proposal to reexamine the research model—"in order to gladly learn and gladly teach once more" (127), as Scholes would have it—will require everyone, but especially those of us who work in teaching-intensive schools, to promote the values and rewards of an intellectual life organized around teaching.
I am one of thirteen tenure-track faculty members in English at Keene State College, the public liberal arts college in the University of New Hampshire system.1 As is common in departments dedicated to undergraduate education, my intellectual life is organized around teaching. Because of its size, my department expects its faculty to teach in more than one area, and at all levels. My regular course load of three courses each semester is predominantly in the college's general education program, and I teach introductory writing in addition to literature courses. My work with students includes office hours, advising, and frequent one-on-one conferencing. Because my days are organized around the relational activities of teaching, my conversations with colleagues are never far from our students. We have learned to "gladly learn and gladly teach once more" in an intellectual community organized around the common work of teaching.
Recognizing the ongoing demands of teaching, my department has developed promotion and tenure guidelines that define intellectual work as disseminating the activities of reading and writing among audiences that include, but are not limited to, the academic community. These guidelines (consistent with the college-wide standards) demand that faculty members learn as well as teach and thereby do not devalue intellectual work that contributes to the educational mission of an institution. More important, the guidelines recognize and value humanistic activities that reach audiences outside of a narrow field of scholarly readers. Because my department (and college) has promotion and tenure standards that do not quantify intellectual work in a singular product (the book), we are not forced to "balance" reading and writing with teaching. My department does not force us to make a choice between scholarship and teaching—or, in the language I have developed to describe my work, among the activities of reading and writing and teaching.
In many cases, of course, monographs are forthcoming, and they are a part of the...