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The Life of the Adjunct… 16 August 2010

So, I was just reading this debate info over at the New York Times page, on Professors and retirement and new professors and whatnot (here’s a link.) I admit, I didn’t read the WHOLE thing (it’s several blog entries and their comments, plus the original Chronicle of Higher Education article here) but I read a goodly portion.  At least enough to get all nervous and ancy again.

Okay, here’s the premise: What with the crappy economy and all, older profs aren’t retiring (mostly) before they’re in the 70s.  Now in the English department, I remember that the old joke is that English profs don’t retire, they just die (sounds really morbid, but really, it’s a tribute to how much most profs love their work–they teach till they can’t teach no more… for example–I’ve been teaching 10 years.  In that 10 years, in the Tampa/St. Pete area Community Colleges, I can recall maybe 8-9 TOTAL positions available in my field, and 5 of those happened this year!)This isn’t necessarily a bad thing–the not retiring until later in life, thing, I mean–because, ideally, the universities and colleges are retaining smart, motivated, engaging professionals who LOVE their jobs.  And most of these individuals are in that category.  But, there’re also the deadwood profs who are sticking around because of financial fears, and this is a drawback.

Another thing discussed in many of the responses, is who is replacing these full-time, tenured professors once they DO retire. Unfortunately, most of them are being replaced with 2 or 3 adjuncts, instead of one full-time, tenure-track prof. I call this “unfortunate” NOT because adjuncts aren’t worthy professors (far from it.  I’m an adjunct myself, and I am a KICK ASS prof) but because the lot of the adjunct is so very grim.  Dire, even.  Okay, admittedly, there are some crappy adjuncts.  Just like there are crappy full-time profs, and crappy police officers and office managers and fast food workers and, well, you know, crappy workers in EVERY job imaginable.  And yes, there are a few adjuncts who hate their jobs (they don’t really stay adjuncts for very long…)  But consider this: the lot of the adjunct professor.

I’ll use myself as an example, and I’m going to be absolutely frank here.

As I said, I’ve been teaching for 10, almost 11, years.  Since right out of grad school. I have a Masters in English, and do have vague plans to get a PhD. Now, for the most part, I love the classroom (admittedly, this coming session is not something I’m terribly looking forward to, but more on that in a minute or three.) I love interacting with my students, imparting my knowledge to them, and learning from them.  That’s the reason I became a teacher in the first place, whether we’re talking my preschool days or my college days.  I love working with students.  It’s a blast!  And consider, every 16 weeks, my routine changes.  That is AWESOME!!!  And, I love working with like-minded individuals who challenge me to be the best English prof I can be, and to learn more about, well, everything.  I’ve been fortunate to work, primarily, with colleagues and administrators who really are keeping the idea of learning in academia.  So, that’s the positive.

Here’s the negative: A regular full-time faculty member’s load is capped at 4, maybe 5 classes, depending on the institution.  Now, yes, they also have other duties they’re required to discharge, including advising and committees and whatnot.  And, they’re compensated accordingly (at least at the institutions I’m familiar with.) This compensation takes the form of what I consider to be a very nice salary, and benefits–you know, insurance, vacation days, sick leave, all that good, fun stuff. Now, here’s the negative I was talking about: I am an adjunct.  Technically, I’m a “part-time” professor.  That’s what adjunct means (actually, you can go here for a full definition of the word.  Let me tell ya, reading that was depressing…).  I teach for 2 colleges; 4 classes at one, 3 classes at the other.  PLUS, I do my own fair share of student advising.  I keep office hours, both face to face and online. Admittedly, I don’t have to worry about committees, but if I want to have a larger voice and presence in the institution’s life, I should attend some. And I would!  I think it would be fun!  But, I don’t have time.  Mainly because, as I mentioned, I teach 7 classes at 2 colleges.

Do I do this for my health?  Hells no!!!! Truth be told, I’m probably one of the unhealthiest people I know (laziness and lack of time.  But I am working on it!) I do this, the teaching 7 classes, just to make ends meet.  And I live, horribly but predictably, paycheck to paycheck.  I have no health insurance (thank you, Obama, for making that a possibility in my nearish future), I have no savings, and because of how academia works, I really have no funds going into social security (we have a social security replacement thingy–Tiaa-Cref…) I have no vacation days (although, yes, I do get quite a bit of time off in between classes.  That’s not as nice a thing as it sounds…) I have no sick days (if I get sick and can’t teach, my pay gets docked.) And, since I have no insurance, I only go to the doctor for the REALLY serious issues, when I can’t avoid it anymore…

Because I’m single, childless woman, I’m not eligible for ANY public assistance, and because my job is classified as temporary/part-time or whatever, I can’t get unemployment in my between months (and fyi–there are 2 months where I don’t get a paycheck AT ALL.) And I need stuff.  Biggish stuff… Expensive-ish stuff…. (like a new car… eek!!!!) How I’m going to get said biggish, expensive-ish stuff, I’ve no clue… I’m sure I’ll figure something out.

I’m not writing this post to complain.  Really, I’m not.  Because honestly, if I don’t like it, I can get out and go elsewhere and get a job.  It might take me a while, in this economy, but hey, I have a master’s degree, which basically means I am a DEMON on the research.  I can get shit done.  Trust me… So eventually, I’d be employed,and I’d probably be employed with bennies and everything (oh, paid vacation days, how I have missed you…) Rather, I’m writing this post because in all my online travels, I’ve never seen anyone give a frank, full depiction of the life of the adjunct.  Actually, I take that back, there was this blog post I read a few months ago… but yeah, I can’t find that blog post now.  Too bad, it was pretty good…. And I think a frank, full depiction of the life of the adjunct is a very beneficial thing to have somewhere, because we put up with a lot in order to stay in a profession that is, for many of us, a labor of love.

Okay, so why am I not really looking forward to this coming session?  Well, mainly because of the 5 full-time positions available this year, I interviewed for 4 of them. And obviously, since I’m still an adjunct, I didn’t get the job.  And that hurt.  And no, it doesn’t really help that I know another worthy adjunct got the job.  Dammit, that was supposed to be mine! (just sayin’) I’ll get back into it, I’m sure, and it’s not my students’ fault I didn’t get the job, so that’s what I’m going to keep in the forefront of my mind this week as I prepare for classes (all 7 of ’em…) I am looking forward to seeing the students.  So I guess that’s something…

So speaking of preparation, I should really get back to that…

RLW

UPDATE (8/30): I am happy to report, as of the 1st day of classes last week, I was all nervous and weird and stuff, which, in my world, means that all is at it should be.  I’m still happy to be in the classroom. so, you know, yay! and stuff… ~RLW

 

Cooking? 2 August 2010

Filed under: Ponderings — Rana Wilson @ 10:57 pm
Tags: ,

So, I’m trying to eat healthier, to lose weight (cuz, well, I need to) and feel better and save money and whatnot.  The sad part is, I used to cook all the time in grad school (broke college student, anyone? Anyone? No? okay…) but then I moved back home (literally, back into my old bedroom in my parent’s house…eek!  No, really, I very much appreciated that I could! But still, I had so much stuff!!!!!!) Anyways, after leaving Orlando and moving back in with mom and dad, I didn’t really cook too often anymore.  There was no need, because Mom cooks most everyday.  And when I finally got my own place again, I was teaching 3-4 classes AND working full-time…  So really, not much time.  So I never really got back into cooking.

So now I’m not teaching as much (okay, now I’m not teaching at all… SCHOOL’S OUT FOR SUMMER, BABY!!!!!!!!!!) and I am, quite frankly, overweight, and I’m gonna be broke here soon, ‘cuz I don’t get paid when I’m not teaching (the joy of being an adjunct).  So, gotta get cooking.  Literally.  And hey, it saves me money, and I eat healthier!

I made my first ever pot roast a few weeks ago.  Amy and Sara said it was good.  Amy’s is better (but also, she’s got a family of 5 and cooks CONSTANTLY! And feeds me quite often… 🙂 Love her!) And then I made a lasagna, but really, I don’t think that counts, because lasagna is, at heart, a baked good, and I can bake my butt off…. So a good friend of mine, Deb (of “My Deb has Moved“) is also a very good cook, and before she left, she gave me a number of pointers for makin’ dinner fancy-ish but simple (orange-cranberry-glazed pork chops… oh so yummy.  with HOMEMADE scalloped potatoes.  OMGGOOD!!!!!!!! I didn’t even know I liked scalloped potatoes!)  I also made my first steak a few weeks ago, marinated in orange juice and teriyaki glaze, and I’ve been eating a lot of chicken marinated in various things, as well.  See, that’s kinda the thing. I am REALLY good at planning meals, and marinating meats, and all that stuff.  But the actually cooking, the heat and stuff, yeah, that sometimes gets me… When to saute, when to broil, etc… and there will be NO frying (one, not real good for me, and two, kinda scary!)

But, my friends on Facebook are stepping up and offering suggestions on HOW to cook things, and giving me links to helpful hints.  They rock! So tonight I had chicken quesadillas.  YUMMY!  Tomorrow, no idea, but I’ll figure something out!

Eat well!

RLW

 

:( so now what? 28 June 2010

Filed under: Ponderings — Rana Wilson @ 11:47 pm
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Well, all the teaching positions have been filled, and not by me… which begs the question… what does one do after having been so focused on a thing, training for it, hoping and praying for it, and then being denied that thing?  Well, if you’re psycho and unbalanced, I imagine that you do all manner of not okay sorts of things, and while I may very occasionally entertain such notions (really, who doesn’t from time to time?) I’m certainly not the type to do them.

But the question still remains: what the hell do I do now… See, I’m broke… I have to teach as many classes as I do each session (more than the full-timers) just to make ends meet… and now I’m facing the necessity of a new car… a new computer… the large-ish hole in my kitchen ceiling (okay, not really a hole, but an unsightly mess all the same…) the scary downstairs bathroom… you know, all the stuff that adult-type people need to take care of.. Only, there’s no extra fundage…. I’m in no danger of losing my home, as I know a lot of people are, so yes, I know that in that respect I’m blessed and I should just shut the hell up… But I feel a bit betrayed… I mean, I’ve been an adjunct for 10 years, and I love teaching… But I’m not sure I can keep doing it (not because they don’t want me there, but because I’m in my mid-30s now, and I’m feeling the need for a bit more stability…)  So what do I do now?

Where’s that Prince Charming Disney promised me as a kid?  I could really use him right about now…

Okay, yes I know, I am a strong, independent woman, a feminist, and I need no man (on offense guys! I do like you, and you are handy to have around. :)) but I will be the first to admit–I suck at the whole money thing… I just don’t get it…

So, I need a plan.  I’m sure I’ll come up with a plan, I just hope I come up with a plan that allows me to sleep (the 8-class session comes to mind as a HUGE mistake.  but it was fun!) I’ve been doing research, pondering the various tracks I could take starting with an MA in English Literature.  You know what I’ve discovered?  I’m qualified to teach… and do research… and that’s something I’m good at… so, you know, surely there’s something out there.  I actually have two friends both looking into getting their paralegal certifications, and I have a cousin who’s a paralegal, so I’m thinking I might pick her brain.  Because as I understand it, paralegals, in addition to their other duties, do research… but then there’s that whole office thing… gives me the heebie-jeebies…

And I’m applying to a few online colleges and tutoring companies. That should at least take the edge off the financial situation… and who knows, maybe the jewelry thing will really take off!  (I have a new shop name, btw–Definitive Designs by R.Wilson… kinda cool, huh?  A friend came up with it!)  I’m still making earrings and bracelets, I’m working on some lanyard ideas, and I just bought some polymer clay!  I can’t wait to play!!!! (ooh! I rhymed!  maybe I’ll be a poet!  okay yeah, not really… :))

So I’ll keep you posted.  Thanks for reading my wallow in self-pity.  I promise I’ll get it over it soon….

RLW

 

ummm… eek? 21 May 2010

Filed under: Ponderings — Rana Wilson @ 11:32 am
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So, I have an interview today.  An interview that REALLY matters to me… more than any of the others I’ve had this year…And I’m terrified that I’m going to do something to F it up.  Which begs the question… why do I do this to myself?  See, intellectually, I know that I can do this.  I’ve BEEN doing this for 10 years… TEN YEARS!!! And in addition to all the getting ready for school business that I had to take care of this week (classes started this past Monday) I’ve also spent the week planning for this interview.  I have to do a 10 minute lecture demo, a 10 minute online assignment walk-through, and then the interview itself. I have my PowerPoint on Fused sentences all ready, it’s even been proofread by two of my colleagues, and I’ve completely revamped the Lesson 8 info in my online class.  And this is my 3rd interview of the year, so really, I KNOW that I can do this…

But OMG I WANT MY MOMMY!!!!!!  I know, part of the problem right now is that I don’t even need to leave here for another 45 minutes… I’m showered, hair’s washed, outfit is planned… still have makeup and stuff, but by this point in my life, that takes AT MOST 5 minutes…. So what do I have left to do? Freak myself the F out…. that’s it…. Plus, this is the campus where I’ve been an adjunct for 5 years, it’s just up the road from my house, it’s beautiful, the people are awesome and I SOOOOOOOOOO want to work there.  It’s home… The other three interviews–two were for campuses I’d never been to, and the other is my second home, but it’s 45 minutes to an hour away from me… Really, that’s its only detraction….

I’m an adjunct.  What that means, in a nutshell, is that I do GREAT HEAPING GOBS of work for very little money.  But I love it. In fact, I don’t think you really stay the type of adjunct I am for long if you don’t absolutely LOVE teaching…  Cuz, really, it’s a thankless job.  No bennies AT ALL, and you’re not “guaranteed” classes each session (although that’s not usually too much of a problem–adjuncts outnumber full-timers, and there’s usually more than enough students to go around…) And I’ve been doing this for 10 years… for two colleges…. Yeah, I’m a little crazy…

But now I have a chance for all that to change, and I just HOPE and PRAY that I don’t screw it up royally! So, you know. eek!!!!

RLW

 

 
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