On Not Teaching

It should not be a surprise that I find myself without a teaching assignment at the moment; I normally post reports of my classroom activities (as witness this, this, and this, among many others), as well as various “Initial Comments” posts regarding my teaching assignments (as witness this, this, and this, among some others). The lack of them will be a giveaway for those of you (and I thank you!) who regularly read what I write here, a clear indication that I’m not in the classroom at the moment. And even for those who are not regular readers (which numbers will shrink, I hope), since I am in the US and it is the summer, it should not be a surprise that I am not teaching.

This would be the case, of course, were I a high school teacher, as I came out of my undergraduate curriculum trained to be. And it might well be the case were I tenure-line faculty, which I came out of my graduate curriculum trained to be. But since I am neither–and not for lack of trying, I promise–but an academic expatriate whose remaining ties to academe are contingent labor, it is a certainty there will be sessions when I am out of that work. (I’m not out of work, overall; I still have the day-job I’ve noted having.)

Yes, I still get to clean this toilet.

Experience teaches me that, did I not have the day-job, I’d be in a world of hurt–as many contingent academics are. In New York, for instance, an educational worker being out of work over the summer is not necessarily entitled to unemployment compensation; it is expected that teaching doesn’t happen, despite every institution of higher learning (or “higher learning,” as the case may be) with which I’ve ever been affiliated has offered summer classes. Similarly, because contingent academics–and I use that term because not every school calls them “adjuncts,” and some people get pissy about using “the wrong words” to describe situations–are on session-to-session or semester-to-semester contracts, gaps in employment aren’t firings, which limits the ability of such folks–myself among them–to get benefits from a system into which they pay from already-meager, often-below-poverty-level, salaries. And because–again, from experience–employers outside academe do not regard advanced degrees and experience teaching the skills employers purport to seek as having those skills, and because they tend to look at clusters of post-nominal letters and think that those who have them will seek other opportunities as soon as they become available,* those who will try to take up a summer job or a longer-term opportunity will find it more difficult than might otherwise be the case.

Again, experience. I hold a doctorate and have taught college since 2006. It took me close to 200 applications across a year and a half to get the job I’ve got now, and I was applying for entry-level jobs that ask for having graduated high school and being able to type at about half the rate I type. Two. Hundred. Maybe twenty called me back, and of those, fifteen were flat rejections. And I know I got lucky.

I know I still am lucky. The job I have is a good one (although I could wish for a higher hourly rate; still, the PTO benefit is nice, even if I’m still having to adjust to it). I can afford to not be teaching–at least for a while. But I know that many others cannot, and while I hope that one of them has the class that might otherwise have been mine, I hold little hope that the rest–that any of us–will see matters improve any time soon.

*Honestly, though, why should they not? If a business owner took advantage of a better economic opportunity, that owner would be lauded; since the only business most of us own is that of our labor, why should we not act similarly? Or why should we be disdained for acting in our economic interests to the extent that the prevailing systems allow us to do so–by those who do no more than that same thing?

Help me make it through the lean times?



One thought on “On Not Teaching

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