Posted by: codecalla | December 29, 2012

Harsh Reality & Dreams

One of the things I’ve noticed about making ends meet with at least 3 part time jobs is that it is a constant struggle.  As a limited term lecturer, or adjunct, I have a very flexible schedule, kind bosses, and enjoy the students tremendously.  Unfortunately, the continual contractual vie-a-thon is as stimulating as it is exhausting.  Every semester, I must reach out and make myself available for just about any time, day, or place; yet this does not guarantee that I’ll have a class to teach, even when teaching at multiple schools.  It seems to be a trend that more and more colleges are moving to part-time instructors, rather than full-time lecturers.  When I think of the amount of time and dedication I have spent earning the degrees to teach, and I think of how difficult it is to make ends meet serving in this fashion, I want to weep.  Instead, I spend hours figuring out how to shave off dollars from my bills and eye the part time options at such places as McDonalds (with a sort of cognitive dissonance).  Figuring out how to pay student loans, among other bills, and attempting to honor my debts is exhausting.  Once I even considered applying for a job as a banker, because I was scouted.  The upside to this reality is that every time I stand before a group of students I am energized, thrilled to be there.  Teaching is one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.  I call it a job, because to have a career, I feel that I’d have to be guaranteed classes every semester, along with the usual benefits.  Often people suggest teaching is a calling, but I wonder, who’s answering?

In the news there are many instances of teachers called out on misbehavior, school policies, personality quirks, and grievances of parents and students alike.  I love teaching.  When I remember how desperate I felt when I realized it would be a struggle this coming year, and that I may have to look for other work, I felt threatened, as if my stomach free fell into oblivion.  That’s when I realized that despite the stress of making ends meet, not being guaranteed a job, and working extremely hard every semester for the privilege to return, I love teaching.

Is it feasible for people to continue taking out epic loans to support a career that only makes 30-45, 000 a year?  If I spent another $40,000 earning a PhD, would that guarantee a better shot at a full-time position?  Well, the job market is extremely competitive, and many people like English.  Buried by student loan debt, hoping for the best, eking out a living, this is my harsh reality.  The dreams make it so much richer.  So I’ll continue to shave money off my bills, watch my spending, and fight to teach another day.    I do think that, however grateful I am for the opportunity to teach, that there should be more full time positions for instructors.  Students relate well to having someone of a permanent affiliation with their school.   This is especially important because we are usually the first instructors of the college experience, especially in freshman composition.




  1. I have decided to follow your blog because l would like to read more of your attempts to climb the academic ladder. Here in England it turns out cheaper to hire by the semester rather than employ full time. I was in your position about twenty years ago. I went through the system and now do private tuition. Have you thought of trying that? Good luck. The system needs dedicated, enthusiastic guys like yourself.

    • Cost is definitely a legitimate concern of the institutions, but I do worry about the consequences of devaluing monetarily educators and their contributions. I wonder how many people will take the steps to further their education, when the fields don’t pay out as much. I try to take advantage of tutoring opportunities within the school’s offerings, but those are limited for funding. Education is going through revolutions, and I won’t be terribly surprised if there are great changes in store.

      • Thanks for the follow – much appreciated. We have an education system run by number-crunchers and not time-served educators. Very sad.

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