Yesterday I got an e-mail from my department, which is making some changes to the freshman composition classes. They've decided to add more required textbooks to the curriculum, which means that the students will each have to spend more than a hundred dollars on textbooks for one class. This ranks right up there with the decision made by another school I taught at years ago; they decided to increase the number of pages that the students were required to complete in one semester. Who do the students end up resenting? Me.
If it were up to me, the students would only need one book for my writing classes, because I could just give them articles and other handouts in class for additional readings. And I wouldn't assign so many papers in one semester, because that's just more stuff I have to grade.
Whenever I watch TV shows about people in their twenties, I see people traveling around the world, going to parties and clubs, and hanging out with friends at bars or coffeehouses. But because I chose to pursue a career in academia, my twenties could pretty much be summed up like this:
But I don't like being an adjunct instructor. When you work as an adjunct, you're hired on an as-needed basis, which means that you never know how many classes you'll get to teach each year, or if you'll get any classes at all. If the full-time instructors' classes don't fill up, then they get to take the adjuncts' classes. Universities will spend millions of dollars on providing resources for the students and renovating the buildings to attract more students, yet they don't give insurance or benefits to its adjunct instructors.
I thought that once I became a college teacher, I wouldn't have to work minimum wage jobs anymore. But teaching part-time at one school is not enough to pay the bills, so for more than five years I've always had to work two or three jobs at the same time. I usually teach at two schools, and then I work a third job that usually pays minimum wage. It always bothered me that I could get insurance and benefits as a part-time retail associate, but not as an adjunct instructor. Not to mention the pay is not that much better for adjuncts.
Adjuncts have very little say in how the department runs; most of the time, we don't even get to go to the department meetings. We don't get our own offices, either; I taught at one school where one office was shared by more than fifty adjuncts. We had to schedule times when we could use the few desks that were in there, and we had to practically arm-wrestle each other for use of the office computer.
I'm pursuing my Ph.D. so that I can hopefully get a full-time teaching job. Even if I don't get a tenure-track job, I'd be happy having a job where I don't have to scrounge for enough work to pay the bills every month. I'd be happy to be able to just have one job that pays enough to support myself. But I have to admit that I've wanted to drop out of graduate school at least a hundred times.
Grad school is a full-time job, but it doesn't pay enough to live on, which is another reason why I have to work so many jobs. In addition to teaching, I have to work on my dissertation, publish articles in academic journals that are apparently only read by other academics, and present my research at conferences. Grad school is also the reason I can't get a regular full-time job rather than rely on adjunct jobs, because it takes up so much time.
If any of my students were to ask me for advice about an academic career, I wouldn't encourage them to become professors. I wouldn't discourage them, either; if it's what they really wanted to do, then who am I to stop them? But I'd tell them that they have to be prepared to pay a lot of dues. While other people their age are climbing up the corporate ladder or earning enough money to buy houses and travel around the world, they'll still be in school. And even after all those years and all that hard work and effort, there's no guarantee that they'll find a full-time teaching job. No PRESSURE, or anything.
I am a workaholic, and I don't think I'd be happy if I stopped working altogether. I think the fact that I am a workaholic is one reason I've been able to survive academia for this long, because you can't work in this field if you want a job that leaves you with a lot of free time. But sometimes I wish I had chosen a career that didn't make my hair start turning white before I turned thirty.
Interview with… Adam Byatt - Today it’s the turn of Adam Byatt to sit down and share his writing with us. This is my 13th interview, and there are still some wonderful authors to come!...
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