Monday, February 26, 2018

Today I am on strike, day 3

It's really hard, being on strike.

I'm not talking about the earlier-than-usual mornings, or how cold my toes get on the picket line, no matter how many layers I put on, or the snow that fell upon us intermittently this morning.

I'm talking about the hidden side of being on strike, the emotional toll that acting in contravention to one's own image of their self-identity takes.

I first knew I wanted to be a teacher when I was 13 or so. It took another half a decade or so to settle in on the topic and the age-category, but by the time I was midway through my undergrad, I knew I wanted to teach logic at university level.

At that time, I thought one had to have a PhD in order to teach at a university, so I decided to get a PhD.

Along the way, I found out that, hey, this research stuff -- not only am I pretty good at it, I also rather enjoy it! I found it a bit ironic that my first three positions after completing my PhD were research-only positions, where I had no requirement (although I did have the opportunity, at the master's level) to teach. Coming to Durham in 2014 was my first opportunity to teach undergrads, the ones I'd set off to equip myself to teach 12 years earlier. Last year was my first opportunity to finally teach the course I love the most -- introduction to logic to first year students. For someone who loves words as much as I do, I find it immensely difficult to articulate the passion I have for teaching intro logic. It is what I want to do every year for the rest of my life.

If asked to give one word that describes me, the word I usually give is "logician". But what the last few days have taught me is that another word closely linked to my perception of who I am is "academic". It is not just being a logician, whether via teaching or through research, but all the trappings that come with being an academic, that have, in the last two decades, become inextricably knit into my soul.

And now, that's been taken away. For more than 30 years now, since I was 5, I have either been a student or an academic. There has never been any break. Never have I not been in a position to pursue what is most intrinsic to myself.

Until now.

Thursday afternoon after the rally in Newcastle, a few of us went for food, and then after that went to the Lit & Phil, which is an amazing place I'd never been to before. As I sat dwarfed by shelves of books in a beautiful old building, hearing the not-quite-silent hush of a busy library, knowing I had a few empty hours before me, I briefly forgot why those hours were empty and thought "I wish I had my laptop with, I could be so productive in these next few hours." And then I remembered why my laptop had been left at home, and that those hours were empty because I wasn't in my office holding office hours.

I want to be in my office working. I want to be standing in front of my students. I want to be grading their homeworks and writing new ones, and corresponding with present and future dissertation students. I want to be in my office, helping current students through the material or catching up with previous students who come to me with problems in other courses, because they know I'm always willing to talk and offer my advice. I want to be curled up in my happy rocking chair with my duvet reading and writing. I want to be collaborating with colleagues planning future events, future joint papers, future co-teaching. To be actively working against these desires is exhausting.

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