A Real Job

I’m but a humble professor. A humble professor of English Education. At the prestigious University of Iowa. Did I say humble? My salary is public information. Go check it out. Not as humble as my salary in my previous job. But more humble than many of my friends who didn’t pursue a career in education, that’s for sure.

There’s many reasons that I continue along this humble path as an educator. As a scholar and a thinker. Many of these reasons are lofty. Universities and classrooms are places where, if facilitated well, people come together across difference to learn with and from each other. That feels like it matters. Especially in this siloed America. Better to connect with others in classrooms than to shout at each other on social media. Better to make peace than war.

So yes, there are lofty things that I’m after in my humble work as a humble professor. But there’s something a little more selfish too. The flexibility. For the most part, classes and meetings aside, my schedule is my own.

Oh, dear reader, that wasn’t the case this last week. This humble professor was signed up for a service commitment that forced him to do something he hasn’t done in a really long time – work a real job.


First, know that I’m kidding. My job is a real job and I work very hard. Writing. Teaching. Coordinating projects and classes and research. This job can be grueling.

But the hours tend to be freewheeling. Nothing like the nearly 15 years I spent as a high school teacher where I was sequestered in a school from 6:00am until 3:30pm or, if I were directing a play, sometimes until 10:00pm. Woof. And don’t get me started on my eight-hour shifts at McDonalds or Subways. Listen, y’all, I’ve worked some real jobs with real hours. So I appreciate the flexibility of my professor’s schedule as much as anybody.

Last week I agreed to serve on a committee that reviewed a center at the University. I won’t say more about that work, but it meant that I had to be on campus by 8:00am and stay until 5:00pm. I wasn’t free to take my kids to school or pick them up. Wasn’t free to write. Wasn’t free to use my time as I saw it good to use it. No, kind reader, I had to be where many of you have probably spent all sorts of time – at work.

I came home on Monday with droopy eyes. On Tuesday I had to have dinner with the deans after our full day. Sam Tanner and The Deans is a great name for punk band. Or a terrible musical. Dinner was great and the deans were great. But I stumbled home around 9:00pm. With droopy eyes. Only to wake up on Wednesday and do it all again. I’m 42, y’all. Full days are exhausting to this poor introvert. This humble scholar.

And I taught on Wednesday and Thursday night, had meetings on Thursday and Friday, and found myself stupefied by Friday. Muttering harsh nothings about working 9-5 or, worse, 8-5. Or even worse, 8:00am – 9:00pm.


I often think about returning to the classroom as a high school English and Drama teacher. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy working with high school kids. The energy of it. And I’m good at it, if I do say so myself. Still, there’s something that, more than anything else, makes me return extremely unlikely. The hours. I just don’t think I have it in me anymore.

All of this is to say that, all my kvetching aside, I feel enormously grateful to have a job that (usually) allows for flexibility. After all the different jobs I’ve had, humble salaries aside, I feel blessed to be a humble professor at this fine University of Iowa.

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