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I'm a little over a month into a 9-month teaching position, to cover two semesters' worth of courses. It's my first "proper" job since finishing my PhD. I've just been offered a 2 1/2-year postdoc (which I'd much rather do than my current job), and been told that the latest I could take it up by is 2/3 the way through next semester. So if I left to take up the postdoc, my current department would have to find someone else for (at least part of) next semester's courses.

According to the terms of my contract, I'm within my rights to leave, giving 3 months' notice. But if I did that, would I piss the department off so much as to find myself in some way blacklisted in years to come?

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    This is a tough one. Practically speaking, they'd need to replace you by the start of next semester (changing instructors mid-course is extremely awkward). If there's someone in the department you can ask confidentially, you might try to find out, based on your department's hiring practices, just how challenging this would be for them. – Nate Eldredge Oct 18 '15 at 15:48
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    If it's within your rights, do it, and feel great about it. I was on a position with a 1-month advance notice (in Hong Kong), and that's exactly what I got. – PatrickT Oct 18 '15 at 17:47
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You need to talk with someone in the department about how to handle this (presumably the teaching coordinator, or chair, or whoever hired you). In the sorts of departments/universities I'm familiar with, it would be difficult to arrange for someone else to take over a course partway through the semester. Then your options might be teaching the whole course or leaving a semester early, and in the latter case they might need to know soon to line up a replacement. On the other hand, it's possible that something very different could work out, depending on the local situation.

But if I did that, would I piss the department off so much as to find myself in some way blacklisted in years to come?

Maybe, if you announce a decision without consulting with them and if that decision is extremely inconvenient. However, it sounds like a reasonable thing to request, if you're flexible about trying to meet the department's needs as well (for example by quitting in between semesters rather than partway through the spring).

  • Great answer and analysis. It is worth pointing out that out in the "real" world outside of academia, expecting someone to give 3 months' notice to leave a position, let alone more than that, is virtually unheard of (except for very high level positions like CEO of a large company or Speaker of the US House of Representatives, who are generally expected to stay until a good replacement for them can be found). So, to the extent that the academic world pressures workers to adhere to a higher standard, one can reasonably argue that this is unfair and perhaps a bit exploitative. – Dan Romik Oct 18 '15 at 20:56
  • ... So, at least from the moral/ethical point of view I think you're in the clear. Whether the department will be pissed at you or not is a different question. – Dan Romik Oct 18 '15 at 21:02
  • @DanRomik Follow workplace.se for a while and you'll see that the US has very liberal and short notice periods in general, particularly compared to India and even many places in the UK and Europe. – mkennedy Oct 18 '15 at 21:02
  • @mkennedy good point, thanks. To be clear, my comment is based on US workplace norms, and its applicability to the OP's situation may vary depending on the specific norms in the OP's country. – Dan Romik Oct 18 '15 at 21:05
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Generally math departments are able to find extra instructors to teach courses near the last minute. For example, in our department, one instructor fell very ill, and someone else was offered additional pay to take over his classes.

In general it's problematic to replace someone mid-semester, but your department will probably be able to replace you for the spring if you let them know now. I would urge you to plan to finish your current teaching, to not take a teaching assignment at your present university for the spring, and to try to arrange so that your postdoc begins at the start of the spring semester. This is unlikely to cause severe difficulties for anyone (but check with all parties before committing to anything).

Best wishes and congratuations on your postdoc position!

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