Tag Archives: professor

Academic Cynicism

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a website where professors can anonymously bitch about their students, their administration, their colleagues, their facilities, their parking spaces …

It was funny at first, and a little cathartic. Then, after reading through more and more of the site, the cynicism started to get to me. It was post after post of profs talking about how apathetic and sarcastic their students are (where do we think they learned it?), about the sense of entitlement that students have these days, how dense they are, blah blah blah.

I know that sites like this are a caricature; nobody has a great day of teaching, or a meaningful interaction with students, and thinks, “I should bitch about this on my favorite anonymous professor blog.” You get people reacting to their most frustrating experiences of the semester.

Still, it reminded me again of something I’ve often thought: I have no desire to be a part of academia at large. If my position at APU goes away for some reason (like, if they find a dead body in my office. Or a copy of ‘Generous Orthodoxy’), I probably won’t even bother looking for a similar position somewhere else. I’m not all that interested in being a professor – I’m very interested in doing what I’m doing here, at this place.

I love our students. They are, for the most part, optimistic and intellectually curious. When we bump into each other outside of class, they want to have conversations about ideas; how cool is that?

I love the faculty that I get to work with. They have that critical mix of high intelligence and pragmatism; they are interested in what actually works, not in what theoretically should work (you have to spend a little time at academic conferences in order to appreciate how rare that is).

I respect my departmental leadership. The Dean is a political monster, able to bob and weave with the best of them, but he uses it to protect his faculty from administrative interference, and to advocate for student learning. His authority doesn’t just come from his position, it comes from his ability in the field. He can deliver. He’s a musician, who also happens to be adept at the politics of administration.

They give me the proper tools to teach my subject matter. I teach a technology class. Every 3 years, they rebuild my teaching lab from the ground up with the latest technology. Getting the right software for the job is rarely a fight. We have our turf wars with the IT guys, but it hasn’t yet inhibited the teaching environment.

I dunno. Maybe if you check back 10 years from now, I’ll be bitter and jaded and will spend every moment complaining. But not now.

Maybe it’s the two bottles of wine that I polished off over lunch while writing this, but I’m feeling blessed.

Professor Lee

Today is a big day. A very big day. Huge.

I had an hour-long meeting with Duane Funderburk, Dean of the School of Music at APU. It turns out that the Michael Lee brand of “Amuse and Abuse” teaching is in high demand there.

I’ve been offered a full-time contract. For those of you outside of the academic world, it might be hard to appreciate just how momentous this is. For the school of music to get administrative permission to add new full-time faculty is roughly as difficult as, say, growing a third arm. There are people with graduate degrees from heavy duty schools who having been waiting 10 years for full-time positions to open up. The Dean had to do some pretty deft political maneuvering to get this one; he actually borrowed a contract that belongs to a different position, and is using it for me for this year, while they work on getting final approval for the new expanded position.

We spent most of the hour talking about what my new faculty responsibilities will be. I’m going to continue teaching the Introduction to Music Technology courses, going to expand my teaching in the Master’s of Worship Leadership program, and am going to develop and teach a new Senior level course in Music, Ethics and Spirituality, something I’ve been spending a lot of time on.

About a year and a half ago, Gretchen and I started looking at full-time church positions. I flew out to candidate as some places, and talked with a dozen or so search committees from mega-churches all over the US. Nothing felt right. There were some positions that we felt we could be successful in, but they would fall through, or we would get through a month of conversations, and the church would suddenly decide that I wasn’t the right fit. It was tiring, frustrating, and I emerged from the experience feeling like I had a valuable skill set that nobody seemed interested in making use of.

A few months after the final interview, after we decided that we weren’t going to look at any more church positions, I had my first meeting with Duane, where he proposed the possibility of this full-time position. I remember sitting in that meeting, thinking, “This is it. This is what was waiting for me, why everything I tried to force into place fell through.” I marveled at the providence of God in the midst of my own stubbornness and short-sightedness. I also remember thinking that I could do this for the rest of my life, and be very satisfied.

Here are some of the things that are very cool about this:

I get to go back to school, to get a Doctorate in Music, and they’ll pick up 75% of the tab.

I get to stop writing a $650 check every month to pay for medical insurance for our family.

That thing I do where I dork around in the studio, create music, that whole thing? It’s now officially called “Research”. And releasing the CD is called “Publishing”.

I get an office. With administrative support. And a ficus.

Sophia gets to go to APU for free. Also, Gretchen and I have worked out this thing where we’ll charge you 1/2 of what APU does, then we’ll adopt your kid for 4 years while they go to school. It’s called a “win-win”.

We can buy a house, because for the first time in a long time, we know where we’ll be in 5 years.

I get a free MacBook Pro. The big one.

I get to do music. Everyday. With students who want to learn to do music. With peers who love to teach. In a place that recognizes and values the spiritual dynamic of creative work.

Today is a big day. A very big day. Huge.