Content Where One Is

I’m in my thirteenth year at my current institution, and I taught and worked as a librarian at private high schools for four years before that, so I’m nearing the mid-career mark.  When I was younger, I spent a lot of time thinking about taking on certain roles or even moving up the ranks.  It wasn’t that I was unhappy with the people who were already in those positions; I simply thought that I wanted to be there, as well.

For example, when I was a librarian at a private school in Washington state, I was at a conference where someone talked about accreditation.  I knew about that from my work in higher education, so I was intrigued at how it worked at a lower level.  When I learned about how it worked, I wanted to get involved, to be a part of those teams that did accreditation.  Note that I had three years of high school experience at that point.  I remember going to the headmaster of my school, who was quite encouraging, to talk about this opportunity.  I never pursued it, though, as I left the school to return to higher education.

Even when I came back to the university level, I kept thinking about moving up the ranks.  Thankfully, our department chair has been in her position for a long time, and she does a great job, so I never thought about serving in that role.  However, there were other opportunities.  Because our department is so large (relative to our school; we have about 20 faculty members, which I know is quite small for many colleges and universities), we have people who coordinate parts of it.

A few years after I came back, I worked with those coordinators on a project or two, and I began to think I was being groomed to take a role at that level.  That didn’t happen.  Then, a few years later, our department chair clearly included two more of us in that group, so I was sure I would be taking on more of a leadership role.  That didn’t happen, either.  Both times, not surprisingly, I was disappointed, as I wanted to be seen as a leader in the department and the university, at large.

Now, several years later, I’m glad that neither of those situations worked out.  In fact, I now have no desire at all to ever serve at that role, and I certainly don’t want to ever serve as an administrator (I know that could change in ten to twenty years, but I’ll deal with that change if it comes).  I was recently in a meeting about undergraduate research, which we’re trying to improve on campus.  The woman who put us together said that we need a chair and that that person will probably get a class release time, if not now, soon.  I thought about volunteering, but then I realized that I would be shifting my emphasis from the classroom, which I love, to meetings, which I hate.

Similarly, last year, a friend of mine who just moved to a new university told me that there was an opening for a Dean there.  I’ll admit that I took a couple of days and looked at the school and the job description.  I even did some research on the town to see if it’s a place I might want to live.  What I realized, though, was that I kept looking at the English curriculum, as if that’s where my focus would be.  As with the meeting early this year, it dawned on me that I would be spending much more of my time in meetings, not the classroom, which would be an awful trade for me.

For some reason, we seem to believe that we need to move up the ranks.  Some people have that gift (often not the people who pursue it, by the way), but some people are better suited to the classroom.  Allison Vaillancourt writes about this idea in a post for The Chronicle of Higher Education, which is what inspired my post.  Since she’s the type of person to want to take on higher positions, she has trouble understanding those who don’t.

What I’ve ultimately decided is that I love the classroom way too much to ever want to make a trade, even for one class, to take on more leadership.  I’ll serve where I’m needed, but I will not seek out such positions.  Instead, I’ll spend my energy and time trying to be the best teacher I can be.  That’s stood me in good stead so far, so I’ll stay right where I am for the time being and, possibly, for the rest of my career.

As with article (, I’m now content to be where I am doing what I’m doing, and I’ll probably be so for the rest of my days


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