Tuesday, December 14, 2004

what was i saying about balance?

Okay, last month it was balance. This month, we're calling that kind of work/life balance unemployment. Yes, you've got it. I am officially unemployed this Friday as soon as I turn in my final grades for the semester.

I was only offered two classes this semester and though that's just enough to get benefits, it's not really enough to pay the mortgage and childcare. I guess it's against college policy to offer adjunct faculty three classes for consecutive quarters because they don't want those freeway flyers to feel like they belong, but it would've been nice if they'd told me that ahead of time. I was under the impression that I'd be able to swing three clases most quarters. To their benefit, they did try to work with me and my schedule, but in order to pay for half time daycare, which is all I can attempt to afford on an adjunct salary position, I need all my classes in a row and around the same time.

That said, it wasn't a perfect situation, anyway. Teachers get the shaft in this country, and I'm thinking that community college instructors have it the worst. First of all, teaching is one of the most time consuming, hardest jobs I've ever had. If you're prepared, the actual teaching is the easiest part. It's fun, exciting, and there's a cool high you get from having twenty-four pairs of eyes on you. Maybe they call that a power trip? But that's only if you're prepared.

I spent at least 3-4 hours a night pumping out lesson plans that I'd hoped would be interesting, involving, and creative. Most of the time they were, but I've never seen that clock tick more slowly on the days the lessons didn't work.

And papers... Let's talk about them for one second. Being a writing instructor is like shooting yourself in the foot. First of all, each student turns in at least four papers over the quarter and to get anything said at all, they have to be about 3-5 pages long. Then, when they start feeling confident about themselves and get excited about a topic, they write longer papers. And then there are in-class essays and final in-class essay exams. There are enough papers in one class to keep an instructor busy all quarter. But then muliply that by three (if you're lucky enough (ha ha) to get three classes) and you're going to be a really busy teacher.

And did I mention broke? Teachers get paid a pittance of what most other professions get paid (except for architects, the career choice of B). A software developer gets paid a salary three times higher than a teacher's, and though I don't doubt the importance of or the money to be made off of a software developer and her skills, but who taught that SD to read? How would she be able to even read code if Mr. or Mrs. So and So didn't teach her?

Nobody cares, though. Teachers have been paid meager salaries for as long as they've existed and nothing has changed. Is it because they like to be martyrs? Is it because they love what they do so much that they don't care about the money? Ever?

Oh, and did I mention that teaching is so incredibly lonely? It is. Really. Especially as an adjunct faculty, because say you have a really great class or even a really, exceptionally bad class one day that makes you want to just cry in self-pity. Well, too bad for you, because you know what? Nobody on the faculty will give you the time of day for stuff like that. You had just better be very grateful that you had the opportunity to wallow in self-pity because you got a class and well, that's more than you should be able to hope for. There was one brilliantly lovely and cheerful full-time faculty member who was so helpful and sweet. Maybe it was because she wasn't tenured yet? And the Department Chair was also quite a lovely man, but the rest of the instructors would seriously walk out of the room if the only person they saw in it was an adjunct faculty member. Ewwww...

And my last whine is about the office space. About twenty of us shared a tiny, closet hole of an office. This was a hole with three desks and three chairs. That leaves at least 6, but mostly 7 of us to each share a chair. Comfy. Early on, a few of the instructors tapped (this was seriously the term that was used) each of the three desks and then raced to pin up photos of their kids and their calendars on the bulletin boards. Then they placed their fancy tissue boxes and staplers on the desks, taped their hours to the door and called the office theirs. I think they did this all in the first three minutes of the semester. I should have been faster, because when I tried to claim office hours, I found they were already taken. And when I ended up making my office hours at 7:30am (there were benefits to this... I always had extra prep time), I even found that if I were sitting at the desk closest to the door, which happened to be the nicest desk because I didn't have to have my back to the door, and it did have that fancy tissue box, they would inevitably come in and interrupt whatever I was doing.

"Um, are you sitting there?" She'd ask. (The three desk tappers were all women.)

"Um, yes," I'd reply. "I am. Is that okay?"

"Well, actually, that's my desk. See, my fancy tissue box is on it."

Sigh... I'd eventually get up because I didn't want to start a fight (okay, I actually did want to start a fight, but I thought it'd make a bad impression on the full-time faculty), but the whole situation was ludicrous. I hope they all get one class next quarter.

So I'm back on the job hunt and I seem to be heading right back where I came from, but with a new perspective. I miss it. I miss the challenges and the collegial, intellectual, stimulating environment. Maybe I was brain-washed at an early age. I miss technology. I miss the benefits.

And then once I go back full-time, which is what I'll have to do since B's salary just doesn't cover me only getting a part-time salary, I will miss my kids.

I miss them already.