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college degrees and cushy jobs/long rant

updated sun 4 jun 00


Marcia Selsor on sat 3 jun 00

To whoever wanted to get an MFA to teach College ceramics,
I waited to respond to whoever posted that they thought when their body
wore out from potting they would go get an MFA and teach college. That
is funny.
I just spent 25 years wearing out my body teaching college and look
forward to the less strenuous work of my own studio. BTW I ran a
production studio for three years with 14 hour days prior to teaching.
I know it is tough work. I did get a teaching job for the security of
health insurance after a bad medical problem at age 26.
For those who think it is possible to teach glaze technology to people
who don't have a clue what H2O is, think again. I did not teach in a
BFA/MFA program. I have a good BFA/MFA education. I taught in a BA/BS
program with most of the students in General Education classes rather
than art majors. The best students I had in 25 years were middle aged
women who knew chemistry from a good H.S. education. They were not
working for a degree but working to learn ceramics.-and they did. Now
most of the younger students are working two jobs so they could pay
tuition, drive a car, have the latest CDs, etc. No time to study,
dedicate ones self to an education or to learn. My body wore out from
loading kilns for 60 students/semester. We went through 12-16,000 pounds
of dry clay per year paid by $60 lab fee. My job included (I am not
listing all the BS included in strategic planning meetings,
accreditation preps, rank and tenure committees, budget hearings etc)
mixing glazes, ordering all the chemicals, supplies, maintaining
equipment and firing kilns with an annual budget of $150/year, teaching
classes with no less than 20 students (must have those FTE for
justification for budgeting for the State legislature) and under new
restructuring all art majors were combined into one huge class for all
levels of ceramics-pure chaos. How can one teach beginning ceramics and
glaze technology simultaneously? I couldn't and I quit. Burned out. yep.
frazzled. I love teaching workshops with one focus. What a breeze! What
sanity!I used to love teaching summer school because I could teach one
topic like tiles, raku, primitive firings (not allowed to use that title
because it was politically incorrect). But they forgot to turn the air
conditioner on for 10 years and my classroom was 95 degrees at 9 pm.
As for the body wearing out, when I started teaching in 1975 we had hard
brick brick up doors (no budget for new bricks). The kilns were fired as
much as four times per week. That meant that I bricked up and took down
1600 pounds of 8 lb. bricks per firing. I weighed 87 pounds until I
built a hinged door and a car kiln in 1980. I also wrecked my wrists
from those bricks. I had a ruptured ganglia cyst from unloading a kiln
in 1979, bilateral carpal tunnel surgery in 1984 and back and neck
problems still.
I feel like I have just escaped from 25 years of hard labor. Loading my
own work is not anything like the demand of the work of 60. Please don't
tell me I should have had the students do it. More recently the students
had less and less time to do anything. God forbid an education should
impede on their lifestyle. Our students think they are buying a degree,
not getting an education.-not just ceramics students but the entire
campus attitude which is catering to the business college. Maybe I just
had a couple of bad batches of late, but combined with 15 years of
budget cuts (one would think there wasn't any budget after that) and an
administration who wants a lean and mean operation for efficiency and
low cost education, I got out.My mental health is worth more to me than
putting up with the conditions of a University teaching job.
So when your body goes from potting and you go get that MFA to teach
college level ceramics, have a blast!
Marcia Selsor, Professor Emerita and teaching a focused workshop on
Architectural Ceramics at the Appalachian Center for Crafts in Tenn.July
24-28 AND enjoying retirement, my dog in my back yard garden and
studio.Will update my homepage this summer now that I have time..
Marcia Selsor