Taking a Break

How to Take a Break, One Approach

  • Don’t teach.
  • Mostly stop reading academic articles and books because they’re badly written, often boring and too full of jargon. Instead, try reading popular books by journalists that write about your research interests. Become increasingly frustrated with how over-generalized the arguments are and how little evidence is used to support those arguments. Realize that you don’t really fit in anywhere: your need for more complex, fully supported arguments makes you too academic for non-academics but your distaste for jargon and your desire for accessible and engaging writing makes you not academic enough for academics.
  • Attempt to not think about teaching or the academy but find yourself reading lots of news articles about the exploiting of adjuncts, the rise of MOOCs and the fear that twitter will destroy academic standards and our souls.
  • Write a lot of blog posts. Do a lot of research on new media and storytelling.
  • Collaborate on a podcast about feminist pedagogy and technology. Upload a lot of digital videos on Vimeo.
  • Work on tons of projects in which you use your academic training in creative and experimental ways.
  • Don’t actually take a break for several years.

How to Actually Take a Break, One Approach

  • Don’t do any projects.
  • Don’t write any blog posts.
  • Read a lot of mysteries by Charles Todd, Joy Castro, Agatha Christie and Linda Rodriguez.
  • Enjoy the summer.
  • Tell yourself to not feel guilty about your lack of productivity everyday until you actually start to believe it and stop feeling guilty, and then, when that belief wears off and you start feeling guilty again remind yourself repeatedly that being unproductive does not make you a bad person, just like being productive does not make you a good person.
  • Run, Swim and Bike…a lot.
  • Spend a lot of time with your daughter, who always wants to go places with you and, on rare occasions, your son, who does not.

Some “acceptable” ways to answer the difficult question, “So, what do you do?” now that you are no longer teaching that don’t make you feel like a total failure while you’re still trying to figure out what exactly it is that you do

  • Content Specialist
  • Social Media Consultant
  • I’m writing a book!
  • I used to be a professor
  • “Educator”

Reasons Why I Had to Take a Break

  • Exhausted
  • Pissed off
  • Disenchanted
  • Stressed out
  • Missed spending time with family
  • Felt sick and unhealthy
  • Had too many ideas and possible writing projects, with no time to work on them
  • Thought so much and so critically that worried brain would explode, or literally melt
  • Became an asshole. Not an arrogant asshole, but an annoying one

Things I Learned on my Break that (hopefully) helped me to stop being an annoying asshole

  • Academic work isn’t special or better than other work, it’s just work
  • Jargon can be useful and important, but often it’s alienating and intimidating
  • People who can’t explain ideas simply and concretely, don’t really understand them. Call the most egregious bullshitters out. Everyone else, be generous and cut them some slack. Save your energy for more important conversations.
  • Don’t use “the ways in which” when you can just say “how”
  • Fight the impulse to ask everyone, every time they make some sort of claim or state some fact, “And what is your source for that?”
  • Every moment is not a “teaching moment” or an opportunity to learn. Every conversation doesn’t have to solve the world’s problems, or point out what those problems are.
  • Avoid speaking in your “teacher voice” when talking to one of your kids while they are losing their shit because they don’t have ANYTHING to wear, or because there’s absolutely NOTHING to eat, or because they REALLY don’t want to go to whatever stupid, boring thing you are making them go to. In fact, avoid speaking in your “teacher voice” altogether. No one likes the “teacher voice.”
  • When you feel the urge to lecture someone, pause, take a deep breathe and don’t do it. Just don’t.
  • Sometimes you can watch television for enjoyment. You don’t always have to be critically analyzing it through a feminist lens or constructing a reading list that puts it into conversation with queer theorists*

*You can still do these things, but only sparingly when the rest of your family is around. Save most of your analysis for twitter and your readings lists for your imaginary syllabi.

Continue Reading: Making a Break
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