I just finished reading Education in the Balance, a somewhat disturbing study about jobs in English.
The report mentioned a phenomenon common in many fields: the division of academic departments into research faculty (who teach mostly graduate students if they teach at all) and teaching faculty (who teach lower-division classes and have little pressure to publish).
It makes me sad, because in my first semester at Boston University I had awesome teachers who were tenure-track. I wish more college students had the opportunities I had there. I was so stimulated by my classes.
On a more practical level, though, it’s important as a graduate student to know where one’s allegiance lies. When I first started, I believed that teaching was the most important thing to me, and research was just a hoop to jump through on the way to that goal. Somewhere along the line (shortly after teaching my first class as the instructor of record) I became passionate about my research and a bit skittish about teaching. Seven years in, I’m not sure where I stand.
These are hard questions, and none of us knows what opportunitites the future may bring. Still, it’s good to imagine what we want. Part-time work teaching composition (at a salary less than I’m making now as a graduate student) is not the only option. Some of us may even have to leave academia to find jobs where we are highly valued. I think that’s something we should all be ready for, because it’s certainly true that not all professor jobs are created equal.