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Teaching a language is a major time commitment for a number of reasons: writing exams, grading compositions and textual exams, preparing lesson plans. Also, at my institution there is class and homework *every* day. I agree though, you'd need some data to 'prove' it's more time consuming than other TA responsibilities.

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Oh man. Where is your advisor in all this? Do they know about your philosophy on grad school/academia? You need to talk to them (or some other senior person you trust) about your feelings, because you

I think the other, more important point, is that aside from how much or how little you should develop other areas of expertise, classes are rarely the way to do it.  I'm an organic chemist by tra

You're not going to like what I have to say. You are not being over-worked, although, yes, you are at the high end of what they can ask of you. You may not enjoy it, but no one promised you that you w

19 hours ago, ExponentialDecay said:

Oh man. Where is your advisor in all this? Do they know about your philosophy on grad school/academia? You need to talk to them (or some other senior person you trust) about your feelings, because you're going about this all wrong.

Yes, many people in academia share your enthusiasm for pursuing knowledge. So do many butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers. But you are not paid to consume knowledge; you are paid to produce knowledge. You have to concentrate on one thing not because it is a mindset foisted on you by evil neoliberal oppressive academia, but because if you work in a niche, you will be able to learn all or almost all there is to know about that niche, and you will be more efficient at producing knowledge other people will find useful. That's what gets you hired into an academic job - not how many classes you take, or how many irrelevant factoids you know. You are not a student; you are a future professional researcher. Grad school isn't a free opportunity for you to chill out and pursue your personal hobbies in CS or statistics - it is borrowed time where you are free of practical obligations such as having a full-time job or finding a way to work with experts in your field and have access to a scholarly library, which you are supposed to use to show the professional community that you can produce competent research and can be considered for a similar, more permanent, and better paid job doing what you have proved you do best. 

Your research and teaching are the only things that matter. Teaching, because that's what pays your bills, and that's what's likely to pay your bills in the future barring a major, major stroke of luck. Research, because that is what you are here to do. They are the two pillars that support your career. If you enjoy pursuing knowledge for the sake of knowledge and taking classes in a variety of subjects for the hell of it, but don't enjoy teaching and aren't dedicated to your research, you should not have pursued academia.

Your advisor needs to know about this because I think you need help figuring out your priorities right now. It may seem counterintuitive, but the wrong priorities, the wrong attitude, and a lack of understanding of how this system functions are probably (can't say definitely because I don't have generalizable evidence) the leading cause of brilliant people not getting academic jobs.

I probably should talk to my advisor how he gets where he is. To me, his research is all over the place, has broad interest, and is even taking classes every now and then to learn new stuff (he's an assistant professor, admittedly, but I don't see any reason why he can't get the tenure position in 1-2 years). He doesn't tell me explicitly to go take classes, but I may be mimicking him without knowing. It seems to be a trend in our field for new scholars to know more things outside the field, and produce interdisciplinary research, either by working with other experts, or doing one's own research. Besides I'm not learning for the sake of knowledge itself. I learn things that helps me get a better understanding of the field and push the field forward by integrating every bit of my knowledge in my research. But I do know I should concentrate on small areas and should figure out my priority. (despite that I said I'm frustrated about "concentration", I do really focus on one not to big topic, and try to converge to it through my different research with various methods and perspectives, to the extend that sometime I'd be worry about my concentration is so small that nobody outside of my small area cares about or knows it).

Why there should be a universal philosophy about graduate school and academia? I do want to work in academia, with my own reason. I want to pursue knowledge and explore the unknown by myself. If academia job can carry me there, then academia job suits me. If it is not, I may figure out something else, or decide whether I should fix my attitude and goal. This is what I'm trying to figure out through my graduate study. It's my second year, and I'm glad that I had this conversation in this forum to help me re-examine this issue at a early stage. It may be efficient to do as what senior students or researchers tell us to do in order to pursue an academia job. But there might be another way, a longer way.  In the end it always has to be me who figure it out for myself.

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10 hours ago, xolo said:

Teaching a language is a major time commitment for a number of reasons: writing exams, grading compositions and textual exams, preparing lesson plans. Also, at my institution there is class and homework *every* day. I agree though, you'd need some data to 'prove' it's more time consuming than other TA responsibilities.

I don't have real data point obviously, I only talked to colleagues in our departments and friends in others, so my argument can always be argued to be shaky. Language teachers usually teach more sessions (6 vs. 1~2) than TA for intros. The preparation time can vary, depending on how many days you are teaching (e.g. 3 days means 3 days prep. Intro TAs usually have fixed days, but language TA will be assigned depending on one's own schedule and other teachers' schedule. 2-4 days is the norm) and whether one has access to previous materials. My supervisor personally doesn't like much about we sharing materials taught before. She encouraged us to prepare our own materials and rehearse every step of the class before each class. I didn't follow strictly her recommendations, but it still takes more time than most of the friends I talked to. Assignment is about 4 per week. Some intros only have 1 for 2-3 weeks. Besides, even within teaching languages, time could vary. First years language teaching is the worst. I taught second year for 1 semester. The prep time was about half of that for the 1st year. But for some reason I was always assigned to the first year. I was told that it's because the supervisor prefers people with more standard accent to teach the 1st year. I'm not the worst though. People teaching non-native languages could go even higher in prep time, although they normally don't teach languages for all the three years. And we have a student who was asked to design and teach classes (native speaker of that language) all by her own, and for three years. She literally has no time for her research and classes. I don't know why this has not been properly addressed.

But there may be no point comparing. People just vary in their time and efforts in TAing classes. If I really want I guess I can be sloppy about the class as my advisor recommended, and do much less than currently. I feel bad about this though. But I'll do some weighting...

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10 hours ago, tajob said:

I probably should talk to my advisor how he gets where he is. To me, his research is all over the place, has broad interest, and is even taking classes every now and then to learn new stuff (he's an assistant professor, admittedly, but I don't see any reason why he can't get the tenure position in 1-2 years). He doesn't tell me explicitly to go take classes, but I may be mimicking him without knowing. It seems to be a trend in our field for new scholars to know more things outside the field, and produce interdisciplinary research, either by working with other experts, or doing one's own research. Besides I'm not learning for the sake of knowledge itself. I learn things that helps me get a better understanding of the field and push the field forward by integrating every bit of my knowledge in my research. But I do know I should concentrate on small areas and should figure out my priority. (despite that I said I'm frustrated about "concentration", I do really focus on one not to big topic, and try to converge to it through my different research with various methods and perspectives, to the extend that sometime I'd be worry about my concentration is so small that nobody outside of my small area cares about or knows it).

Why there should be a universal philosophy about graduate school and academia? I do want to work in academia, with my own reason. I want to pursue knowledge and explore the unknown by myself. If academia job can carry me there, then academia job suits me. If it is not, I may figure out something else, or decide whether I should fix my attitude and goal. This is what I'm trying to figure out through my graduate study. It's my second year, and I'm glad that I had this conversation in this forum to help me re-examine this issue at a early stage. It may be efficient to do as what senior students or researchers tell us to do in order to pursue an academia job. But there might be another way, a longer way.  In the end it always has to be me who figure it out for myself.

There doesn't have to be a universal philosophy about academia! However, I inferred from your posts that you want to become a professor, and if so, then this is the only philosophy that works. I don't really know another way of becoming a professor besides publishing several articles in high-impact journals (or whatever the equivalent of high-impact research in ling is), except maybe becoming a spousal hire or otherwise using your non-professional qualities to get a position, but by all means, if you want to search for one, you should. Just be conscious that time passes and humans are mortal.

People here have already given you excellent advice and perspective on how interdisciplinarity works in academia. I can only underscore that, if you want to be the foremost expert in 10 different things, you should have been born in the 16th century. Maybe having a good grasp of various stuff is good for industry, but at the cutting edge of research, you have neither the brain capacity nor the time to do all your research yourself. You need to think of your progress in terms of your measurable productivity, not in terms of how many new things you've learned and how good you feel about having learned them. 

As for being advised by an untenured scholar, well, all I'm saying is, I wouldn't want to be that 4th year grad student whose advisor doesn't get tenure or gets poached by another institution, you know. I know people who do this, but I have no idea how (or why) they put themselves through it.

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4 hours ago, ExponentialDecay said:

There doesn't have to be a universal philosophy about academia! However, I inferred from your posts that you want to become a professor, and if so, then this is the only philosophy that works. I don't really know another way of becoming a professor besides publishing several articles in high-impact journals (or whatever the equivalent of high-impact research in ling is), except maybe becoming a spousal hire or otherwise using your non-professional qualities to get a position, but by all means, if you want to search for one, you should. Just be conscious that time passes and humans are mortal.

People here have already given you excellent advice and perspective on how interdisciplinarity works in academia. I can only underscore that, if you want to be the foremost expert in 10 different things, you should have been born in the 16th century. Maybe having a good grasp of various stuff is good for industry, but at the cutting edge of research, you have neither the brain capacity nor the time to do all your research yourself. You need to think of your progress in terms of your measurable productivity, not in terms of how many new things you've learned and how good you feel about having learned them. 

As for being advised by an untenured scholar, well, all I'm saying is, I wouldn't want to be that 4th year grad student whose advisor doesn't get tenure or gets poached by another institution, you know. I know people who do this, but I have no idea how (or why) they put themselves through it.

I'm not disagreeing with you about all the interdisciplinary stuff, but for me my topic is more appropriately approached using multiple methods (it's relevant for 4-5 subfields. Not that I'm exploring or interested in them all but I do need to know something in the other subfields to pursue my path of research). Maybe that's one of the reasons I chose it at the first place. And being interdisciplinary or using multiple methods doesn't mean I'm all over the place. As I said, the class I'ven been taking for now are useful or necessary for my research and is driven by the research needs (admittedly I'm thinking of learning things that are more distant from what I'm doing now. I'm dropping off this idea as I talked through this thread). Again, I will think about it that how should I spend my time more efficiently on the topic.

As we are required to do two research in two distinct subfields for our first two papers, we have to change our advisors at least once during the 5 years. So I'm not in the risk of losing my advisor, although I sincerely think the chance he doesn't get the job is thin. My another advisor is tenure. And she's one of the leaders in the field promoting breaking boundaries between subfields and even fields and incorporating methodology from other fields. Maybe our area (or part of the area) is just more open to such ideas.

 

(And we don't need to have published papers to become a professor, although definitely it's more competitive to do so. I get your point that we should focus on research. But this may point to some difference between fields)

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On 5/1/2016 at 8:15 PM, tajob said:

I just came to know that someone who is supposed to teach language secure a TA job in cognitive science because she's minoring in that and has taken the class before. Our department actually encourages us to take a cognitive science minor. There are more funding and job opportunities..

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This is interesting. Your program (@tajob) sounds similar to mine---in our first year, we must also do two research projects on two different fields. Planetary Science is a very multidisciplinary field---we accept students with Physics degrees, Chemistry degrees, Geology degrees, Math degrees, and Astronomy degrees. And we are highly encouraged to go broad in our knowledge. We have a six core classes than span a large range of topics then five elective classes with pretty much no requirement at all (other than that they are graduate level classes somewhat related to our work). So, some people who study planetary astronomy will take astronomy electives. Those who work on satellite data might take classes over in electrical engineering. And this is all encouraged. I've taken classes in five different departments (the five required electives were in 3 departments related to my work but I also took two classes "pass/fail" for fun in a language and education, which were just extra classes).

That said, I still agree with the spirit of @ExponentialDecay's advice above. There does need to be some focus. You don't have to only care about your research and teaching and nothing else, but I do think it is important to have a set goal and ensure that you, as a grad student, focus on your energies and efforts into meeting this goal, say, 80% of the time (just an arbitrary number). What I mean is that as a graduate student, you will have opportunities to do 1000 things! There will always be this class, or you can work more on this assignment, or spend more time TAing X or you could collaborate with Y or take workshop Z etc. etc.

You're right that there's more than one way to do academia. But what you wrote here sounds like you aren't taking charge of your path and instead, you are "reacting" to your environment. This sounds a little mean but I hope you understand I intend it well. As a second year, you don't need to know everything about your future. But, I think this is a good time to think about what you want and then think about what things will get you there. You can't take all the paths at once, or you'll just end up partway down each path and not reach your goal. It sounds like you are already on your way to thinking about this the "right" way. I just wanted to write this post because it sounded like you might want to hear from another multidisciplinary perspective too! 

So, like I said above, I think you need to find some balance. For me, it's something like 80% of my commitments are things that are certain to get me towards my goal. The other 20% are things I want to do for fun, to explore new ideas, etc. It's important to take some calculated risks as well!

Finally, it's not that rare in my field to work with untenured professors. In fact, I think the biggest groups are usually run by untenured professors (although it does depend on each professor's style). My advisor is not yet tenured and I think they will be up for tenure around the same time as I finish. When I started, the Department Chair sat all the students down in small groups over lunch and chatted with us about whatever might be on our minds. I asked about the tenure process and they told me that not once in their memory (around the past 25 years) has a professor been denied tenure in my department (not everyone gets tenure because they might end up leaving academia or going to another job though). So it's not always a concern to work with an untenured professor. 

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2 hours ago, tajob said:

My another advisor is tenure. And she's one of the leaders in the field promoting breaking boundaries between subfields and even fields and incorporating methodology from other fields. Maybe our area (or part of the area) is just more open to such ideas.

What a tenured professor can do and what you can do are two very different things. I assume you haven't been following the job market closely (you shouldn't be -- it's too early for you!). So let me tell you something: job ads often call for diverse candidates, often doing X plus experimental/corpus/computational work, or fieldwork. But then you compare that to who actually gets hired and you see that often they end up choosing more conservative candidates that are clearly X and less clearly "plus." Maybe by the time you are applying for jobs this will change enough so you won't have a problem. But keep in mind that what people say and what they do are different, and you can't extrapolate from what a senior tenured professor is doing to what will work for you. Being interdisciplinary is great, but eventually you will be considered as an X expert for X jobs and as a Y expert for Y jobs, and there will be far fewer jobs that will specifically look for a X+Y expert. So you will need to produce as much good work in X as someone who is exclusively an X expert, and similarly for Y, and that means a lot more time and a lot more work. It's not impossible, but it is most definitely something to take into account. Maybe you are the productive unicorn who can be that double-expert. But it's very dangerous to naively assume you are, or could be. Most people aren't, and can't. What makes a lot more sense is to have one area of expertise (narrowly or broadly defined) and to have collaborations with others who are the experts in other areas. You don't need to be the expert in everything. 

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1 hour ago, TakeruK said:

This is interesting. Your program (@tajob) sounds similar to mine---in our first year, we must also do two research projects on two different fields. Planetary Science is a very multidisciplinary field---we accept students with Physics degrees, Chemistry degrees, Geology degrees, Math degrees, and Astronomy degrees. And we are highly encouraged to go broad in our knowledge. We have a six core classes than span a large range of topics then five elective classes with pretty much no requirement at all (other than that they are graduate level classes somewhat related to our work). So, some people who study planetary astronomy will take astronomy electives. Those who work on satellite data might take classes over in electrical engineering. And this is all encouraged. I've taken classes in five different departments (the five required electives were in 3 departments related to my work but I also took two classes "pass/fail" for fun in a language and education, which were just extra classes).

What @tajob describes is the norm for linguistics programs in North America: you usually write papers on two distinct topics in two different subfields, and you spend the first year of the program taking courses in all the core areas of the field, before beginning to specialize more in your second and third year, but you usually still have to take at least some courses in topics outside your immediate interests after the first year. For me that was a main part of the attraction and what made me choose the US over staying in a European program where you immediately have a specialized project as soon as you start your PhD. 

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I think the other, more important point, is that aside from how much or how little you should develop other areas of expertise, classes are rarely the way to do it. 

I'm an organic chemist by training, but my research is highly interdisciplinary and extends pretty far into molecular biology, biophysics and computational work. I didn't, however, take any classes in any of the latter fields to develop that expertise- I collaborated with people, learned from them, and read a ton of journal articles. 

Classes are rarely the best or most efficient way to learn something. They are how we teach, and how we develop at the early stages of our career (undergrad, early grad school) but as you progress as a scholar you need to learn how to teach yourself a new area by some other means than taking classes.

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  • 4 years later...

reading this thread now is so depressing. There's lots of posters here encouraging exploitation where inspite of the OP saying the assignments are unfair and one group is systematically working more than the other, he is being told to be quiet and hush up

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