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Apr 17, 2018

Not a Success Story


Recently, several well-meaning people have remarked kindly about how much “success” I’ve been having since my decision to transition away from teaching full-time.

Presented with a dead end off the tenure track and foreseeing a future where I would come to resent that which I loved, I’ve been finding a way to stay involved with these issues I care about – teaching in general and teaching writing in specific – while also forging a path with potential for new challenges and continuing growth.

Objectively, it’s going well. My income hasn’t dropped, and with two books coming out on teaching writing, the prospects for additional opportunities to speak on campuses and evangelize for my own message seem promising. I feel like the books will join a conversation we’re at long last ready for about the negative effects of standardization and accountability in education.

So, yes…success, and I’m grateful for it, but I’d like to push back on the notion a bit by questioning what we mean by “success” and how we define such things.

All things considered, I would rather be teaching. For this reason I do not view my current activities as “success.” They are a fallback position I am trying my best to make work, but they are also an abandonment of my “calling” (if you will).

Of course, no one is guaranteed a job in their “calling,” but teaching college is not singing La traviata at the Met or playing shortstop for the Cubs. Sustainable careers in teaching should not be confined to an elect few, particularly when the election is largely arbitrary. Teaching should not require the kinds of sacrifices we routinely visit upon both K-12 teachers and those of us in higher ed who labor off the tenure track.


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