Recently my dad came to visit, and he asked me questions about my job that made it clear he doesn’t really know what profs do. This isn’t exactly a surprise: my dad is a Frenchman who never finished high school (or more exactly, he never passed the baccalauréat). Really, why would he be familiar with the American university system?
When he said: “so you’re on vacation for the summer” I didn’t get angry, and when he asked when – not if – elected officials would raise faculty salaries, I didn’t cry.
Still, though, I’ve been at UMW for eight years now and I’m getting a little sick of answering the same questions every time my dad makes it stateside. I considered sending him an article but… Well his English is limited and what you can find when searching profs on Google isn’t exactly encouraging. I don’t particularly want my dad to beg me to change professions and/or buy me a gun. So instead, here is a little FAQ. Enjoy.
Q: I’ve never heard of your university before, but it’s in Virginia. So I’ll just say you teach at the University of Virginia. It’s all the same, right?
A: No, it’s not the same. Please don’t say that.
Q: When are you going to move to [insert fancy Research One school that probably doesn’t even have a program in your field]?
A: I don’t plan on leaving my university. Plus, hard as it may be too accept it, Harvard does not have a program in my field.
Q: How much do they pay you for the article that you just published?
A: Nothing. I will never get paid for anything that I write. Yes, I still need to write. It’s not extra, it’s an intrinsic part of my job.
Q: Why can’t you come see us four states away when we come to the US? We make it all the way across the ocean! Surely you can miss a week of classes. You only teach a few hours a week anyway.
A: I can’t miss a week of classes because teaching is my job. Want me to see you? Then you have to work around my schedule or come to me.
Q: When are they giving you a raise?
A: Probably never. Please don’t ask again.
Q: Why can’t you talk to me now?
A: because there is a student in my office and another two waiting in the hall. I have a thing called “office hours” when I’m available to answer questions. But really even if it’s not my office hours I’m still available to answer questions. So please call me another time. Or better yet, text me.
Q: Stop checking your phone! It’s rude. (<- not a question, I know.)
A: I’m department chair. That means I’m paid a tiny bit more to answer emails and calls and deal with forms and meetings all the time. If I stop, it will pile up to unmanageable levels. So sorry, but I will keep doing this so I don’t get overtaken.
Q: So that means you get more respect and prestige, right?
A: … Not really. No.
Q: So you just spoke at Big Conference. How much did they pay you?
A: That’s not how it works. They don’t pay me for any of it. I pay money out of my pocket for some of it, actually.
[Lay head on table and cry]
[Take a deep breath, remember that you love teaching. Grab a coffee and get back to it.]