Friday, October 06, 2006

End of an Era

Yesterday marked the end of an era for me. Well, not so much an era, which is a really long period of time, but a significant period of time in this Euro-American life. And by significant period of time, I am referring to Claire putting up with frustrating people who make her completely insane. Yesterday, I quit my job at the university.

I have had enough ranting. I can do no more. I knew this was coming, and after today, I don't feel bad at all.

I got up at 6:30am on my DAY OFF (I want to emphasize this, because it is my last day off, i.e. no English classes, until Christmas; until then I will work Monday through Saturday) to go to the University yesterday. I had to turn in the left over grades from my seminar last semester. It took awhile, but I finally finished them.

Then I added up all the work from last semester:
Number of class room hours taught: 18
Hours spent in traffic commuting: 10
Office hours held: 10
Hours spent preparing lessons: 48 (usually 4 hours per lesson)
Hours spent grading: 8
Estimated total hours worked: 94
Estimated pay per hour: 6.34 Euro per hour

I was teaching teachers and potential political leaders for less than minimum wage. One of the topics I often covered in my class was Rational Choice Theory. After doing a cost-benefits analysis of my life, I decided that the University had to go. "Sebastian" left a comment on my last University post that introducing tuition fees violates the International Charter of Human Rights. He forgot to mention that my right to a living wage actually comes first in the Charter. But this is only a small detail.

This decision has made me very sad. Yesterday I went to the student union / cafe to have coffee and read the paper. Not far from me was a table full of American exchange students (speaking English with a Mid-western accent is a dead give-a-way). I was fascinated and a little envious of their new beginning and I thought back to my first time abroad. But as I watched the students, I realized that I was only clinging to the university because of all the memories it held. However, my life is now so far from that point, and it is perhaps time to move on.

Unfortunately, when you leave academia, there is no turning back. It is almost impossible to get another job and to catch-up on the literature. This career change is so difficult because I cannot help but wonder if my PhD was a waste of time. Am I throwing 10 years of education down the toilet? I hope not. I prefer to think of it as "moving over to another teaching challenge."

Early this morning I received an email from a former student who is unhappy with the grade I gave him last semester. I will now have to have a few last office hours (which are not paid) to explain myself. Suddenly all those doubts I had disappeared.


Anonymous said...

I totally feel your pain... I used to teach at a university in eastern Germany. One day I added up class time, preparation time, grading time, and office hours and realized I earned less than DM 5 per hour. I actually looked forward to the days the students went on strike (to protest higher fees) so I could enjoy a couple (paid) hours off.

Best of luck with your decision! I'm doing a little happy dance for you, just remembering how fun it is to quit a job I hate.

J said...

I guess I'm lucky. I teach at a Berufschule and haven't had many problems.

Dixie said...

I hope this will be the beginning of better (and better paid) adventures for you!

Anonymous said...

I think it is incredibly brave to change something in your life that is so draining. Sometimes you have to shut one door completely before being able to walk through another. Bad life metaphors aside, I think you held out longer than most. I'd ask whether you played Johnny Paycheck while quitting but I'm not sure it translates all that well into German :-)

Mike B said...

No, the PhD was not a waste of time. Ignoring the obvious things, like the research skills you picked up along the way, you get to use a Dr. title, and in the German business world that still means something. I can only laugh when I hear German students complaining about having to pay a few thousand Euros for the tuition ... then I read about liberal arts majors in the US who have student loans totalling well over $100K graduating to jobs in the low to mid $20's. Different world indeed. Congrats on making the leap.

hexe said...

Education is never a waste - you never know when it will open a door for you in the future. Best wishes on your new adventures!

christina said...

Awww, Claire-Dude! You're so amazingly resiliant - you'll get through this too.

I'm a big proponent of education for education's sake. Anything you do to further your education can only be advantageous and it's never a waste.

Everything happens for a reason and I think you're right where you're supposed to be at this point in your life.

Carrie said...

Trust me, it gets easier. It was soooooo hard to leave education the first time and a lot easier to leave corporate training...

Good for you, besides, with the new business, why would you need the university anyway. Of course, now you can't take your university pay off your taxes as charity. haha!

Carol said...

You must have been feeling the breeze of that other door opening!

Congrats and best of luck in your Next Great Adventure!


amy said...

Hi Claire! Congratulations on making this huge decision. I'm sorry to hear it made you sad, but you were brave, I love that. Best wishes to you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Claire, Education is never time wasted, ever. And now, best of luck in future endeavours, - after suffering the traumas of trying to teach people, you're more than well equipped for any other role ou care to try!

Cheers, B