The G-ddam Academic Market

shield-1020318_1280When I graduated with my MFA in 2010, I thought I had gone on “the market.” Oh how I lied to myself. I finished my MFA and eagerly, nay, foolishly took two positions at two different schools an hour away from each other as an adjunct. I spent most of my time that fall and again that spring driving back and forth from campus to campus to make about $10,000 for the year. Yes, I know my tale is one the media has begun to tell. NPR did a story or two about it. The Chronicle has done great coverage of the issue of the adjunct. Also Dr. Karen L. L. Kelsky has done excellent work helping graduate students find the elusive tenure track positions on her blog, The Professor is In. If you haven’t read her book of the same title, for goodness sake, buy yourself a copy and do yourself the favor. Anyway, back to my sad story of my adjuncting experience.

When I graduated, I was so eager to get to work. I thought being an adjunct might give me some necessary experience to be a professor, despite my grad school professors warning me against it. I also had taught high school before being a TA and had gotten the taste of teaching college students and didn’t want to go back to parent emails and the bureaucratic bullshit of teaching high school. I didn’t want to join a profession that was on the downslide. A profession constantly being vilified in the media? No thank you!

Once I got engaged, shit changed. I wanted to get a little more settled. I wanted a job where I didn’t have to drive back and forth across my state to be living under the poverty line.  I wanted health insurance, not necessarily because I am unhealthy–I’m not–I knew I wanted children and those little things are expensive and impossible to care for without health insurance. As a side note, Mini-OneMean recently ran into a bookcase at daycare (also expensive) and had to go to the Emergency Room. There were no stitches needed just tape and glue to close the cut. This set my little family back $700. Yes, you read that correctly, $700 dollars. When my appendix ruptured–there’s a fun story I’ll eventually type out for you all, readers–it cost about $4000 bucks with the insurance. Needless to say, my move to teaching high school and making a salary and having insurance was a the fiscally responsible one.

The issue, of course, then became I wasn’t writing. I wasn’t doing the one thing I was an expert on. Instead I was spending an exceedingly large amount of my time after school working on crap that was not nourishing and not moving me in the direction of that elusive tenure track job. Though I have been teaching high school, I have made it a point to stay abreast and relevant in my field as an academic. I’ve been presenting at conferences and have continued to attend the AWP conference, despite not being a professor at a college or university. It was (is) important to me to continue to be present as an “academic.” I even wrote sporadically. I wrote enough to keep getting published, though not nearly enough, and I don’t have a book or chapbook or anything big enough to get me an interview. At least this is my theory and one that the Husband has said is very likely the reason I have not received a phone call for an interview.

My friends in academia, one in particular who is a department chair, has said my job documents are great. My friend has gone above and beyond to help me refine my job documents, even looking at ads, sending me ads, and telling me when a job is a long shot or to apply for certain jobs because I’m definitely qualified. Still, my phone doesn’t ring, I’ve gotten no interviews, and I’ve been applying for jobs since October. People, it is JULY.

Since summer began, I have had this hope that any day now, I’ll be emailing my high school to tell them I won’t be returning in August. I have growing anxiety about telling my school, a workplace that has been pretty good to me, that I won’t be back. Sorry (not sorry) the school year is starting and you need find my replacement because no parent wants a substitute teacher in their kid’s English class. I have wonderful coworkers and even though I bitch about them, pretty wonderful students. Because of my seniority, I teach all the classes I want to teach. It’s not a bad gig given the circumstances. While I wouldn’t hesitate to take a college job, even if that meant leaving the first day of school for my high school students, I would feel so terrible about it. I don’t know why I’m worrying about this hypothetical scenario given the lack of evidence that it will happen (i.e. no interviews), but I am. I would hate to burn a bridge that has kept me out of some dangerous waters.

Here’s the thing though, since summer began, Mini-One Mean has been going to daycare. I drop the little kid off, drive home, and WRITE. It’s been glorious. I’m writing and submitting and applying for college jobs. Yesterday, however, as I wound down my work and realized I had spend nearly 6 hours working on job applications and not on writing, I became extremely discouraged. After nearly 40 job applications–17 just this month–I have heard silence. Yesterday, I even said the rosary for the first time since my mother died–3 years. I wept in my car as I said my prayers, basically begging God to get me through this job search.

I know I’m not alone in this struggle. I was told that some people apply to 200 jobs only to get nothing. I’m blessed to be employed and to be employed at a place that isn’t hell. It just feels a lot like a purgatory right now. I’m waiting and waiting and waiting. My confidence is totally shot, but on the upside, I’ve done more writing this summer than I have since grade school, and I’m exercising, and I’m happy(ish). I am worried that come this October I’ll be back on the market again, and I wonder how many more years I will put myself through this process before resigning and accepting that I will teach high school until I retire.

This thought, this “Plan B: High School Teacher” is not okay with me. The Husband is always saying you can’t have a Plan B, only a Plan A because then you give up on Plan A. I definitely and beginning to feel the pressure of this. It’s like be a professor or bust! I would hate to end up settling into this profession and have my kiddo (or maybe kiddos) see that I settled for work that wasn’t enriching. It was for the benefits and stability. While there is nothing wrong with wanting those things, it’s just not enough.

If you’re on the market right now, or thinking about getting on the market, know I’m standing with you in solidarity. It’s a shit process, and it’s degrading. It’s difficult and trying, and if you are lucky enough to have a spouse, lean on them. Know, however, if your spouse, like mine, isn’t in academia but in the corporate world, he or she will be clueless. My husband is a smart man. He is a really smart man. I married him for his mind (and his looks ;-D), but he doesn’t get it. I love him to to death, but he doesn’t get it. He does get the publishing element, his theory is, get the book published, and you’ll get a job. This go around, as I’ve applied for Lecturer and Instructor positions–those positions more focused on teaching versus research and have heard nothing–I’m not so sure the book would be enough. I’m applying for Assistant Professor jobs. These are ENTRY LEVEL positions. A book is not a requirement in the ad. Maybe like the Husband, I don’t get it either.

Regardless, I’ll continue to plug away at job ads. I’m not sure when I’ll decide to hang up the towel. Hopefully, it won’t come to that. I do know that I’m relieved to be caught up with job applications today because my novel is waiting to be revised so it can be sent out to possible agents. That’s real and tangible and also a great place for rejection.



Learning Not to Starve/How I Learned to Feed Myself

Last fall, around October, I had a mental breakdown.  I was bitching to FH about teaching, my students, my weight–everything really. Because he is a wonderful and supportive man, he helped me through it and made me realize that putting in the effort level that I was putting into my teaching needed to be rerouted. I needed to focus on my writing and my career, not my students who didn’t give a f&%!.   Whenever I write, I feel so good. I feel great. Nourished. He reminded me that I needed to write and be nourished because my students weren’t putting the effort in. It was difficult for me to do this at first, but by the time the spring semester rolled around I did just that.

I have now started my memoir, and started work on a short story. Two things I’ve been meaning to do for months, and I finally got around to doing it this semester. I could not have done this if I had been too focused on my students. Still, while I’m proud of myself for reading and writing more, I do think I was terrible teacher this semester. I’m confident that my evaluations will reflect this.

Things I did very badly semester:

1. Took forever to grade student papers.

2. Didn’t respond to emails as quickly as I should have (if at all).

3. Didn’t encourage office hours.

4. Had an attitude of “I don’t give a hoot” all sememster.

5. Was lazy in my lesson planning.

I could go on, but I think these five crimes are enough to show you that I was a bad teacher.

While, yes, I was a bad teacher this semester, I do feel I became this way because when I did give my all, I didn’t get it back from students. While this is not an excuse, even teachers breakdown and need to be rewarded. Even if it is with students turning in their work.

I went digital this semester and only collected work through Blackboard. Having the students submit their work electronically had problems (possible post issue) and while I repeatedly went over the correct formatting and procedure, students continued to struggle with it. In part, I feel they may have been playing dumb in order for me to go the traditional hardcopy format of collecting papers. I also think they don’t listen.

When I look back on this semester, all I think about is how much my students complained to me (and my boss –at the one school) repeatedly. I think about how it was impossible to satisfy my students (and both bosses), how my assignments and methods were questioned continually by both my students and boss (at the one school). Most semesters I feel some moments of reward, incentive to come back next year. I can honestly say, if I I don’t get a teaching job for the fall I wouldn’t be upset in the slightest. I would be totally fine with it (barring I had something lined up that was salaried). In fact (I’ve probably mentioned this already), I’ve been applying for jobs outside of education.

This semester has made me realize that there is life outside of academia. There is a big world out there, and people with my skills can be used in any field. I don’t have to be a teacher.

My mom, my boss (at the school I like), and others have told me that I’m a great teacher. That it comes naturally. I have a gift apparently. Having been told this throughout my career, I never ventured outside of the school walls. When you have a gift, aren’t you supposed to use it? Aren’t you supposed to take that gift and help others with it? (God, I’m so Catholic sometimes) I love school, as both student and teacher, why leave a place that I feel so comfortable? The thing this is this year I haven’t felt comfortable. My hair has fallen out in clumps, since last May I’ve gained about 15 pounds, and I dreaded driving to work. Oh! and my panic attacks and migraines returned. My body gave me physical signs that I needed a change.

The last day of finals I woke up with my chest feeling heavy; I still needed to grade some papers and finalize my grades. As I drove away from campus, done for the semester, I felt lighter and happier. All I need now is a good cry to get out the negative energy still remaining in my system.

The fact that I haven’t been happy, and excited to work on teaching stuff is a culmination of many things. First off, I don’t love teaching the modes, I prefer teaching argument, literature, and of course creative writing. I have had the opportunity to teach argument, but the curriculum and textbook required were not suited to my teaching style at all. I teach a lot of lazy students at the community college level which is actually an extension of high school. Many of my students weren’t at the level necessary to really dig deep. They struggled with basic computer skills, and no concept of how to do research. Also, the lack of care that went into their work was unbelievable. They didn’t proofread, or acknowledge that there are rules of formatting at all. It’s like they just discovered different fonts and decided to experiment using Calbri and Garmound in my class. I think the real kicker as to why I haven’t been happy teaching this semester (okay, all year) was because I was repeatedly told by my bosses (both schools) that I’m too hard on  my students, that I don’t have compassion and am insensitive to the non-traditional student. They are right, I don’t give a f&*$. Get your work done. There is not an employer in the world who would tolerate excuses like: my kids were sick, or I didn’t understand the assignment so I just didn’t do it, or you didn’t respond to my email so I didn’t know how to move forward. Really? Give me an effing break.

So when I think about how I’ve changed because of this semester I realize that not only have I been writing more, but I’m reading more. I’m also really excited about the possibility of a career change (separate post on topic to follow). While I would take pretty much any salaried job that was in my field, that prospects in education don’t look so good, but maybe that’s a good thing. Don’t misunderstand me, I wouldn’t turn down a teaching job, but if I had the choice between a job outside of education (like copy editing or something like that) and a job in education, I think the job outside might win. Just the thought of leaving my work at work….oh sweet lord. If anything, I’m not going to settle. I’m going to turn something that could easily be a negative into an opportunity to refocus and change.

Teaching-wise, not my best year. Work-wise, not my best year. But, something great did come out of this year: more writing and really understanding that I need to be nourished by work. If I’m not going to be nourished and fed in education, then see you students later. Trust me, it’s your loss. I’ve never been one to starve myself.

I will keep you posted on the job hunt.

Why I Need to Stop Dressing Like a Whore

The semester is about two weeks from ending, so I’ve  started to reflect on this last semester even though I have still have an absurd amount of papers to grade and presentations to listen to.

This academic year has been quite a wake up call. So far life after the MFA has not been what I expected. I don’t feel any more artistic or creative. In fact, I feel stifled and disappointed in myself. I didn’t do nearly enough writing, although the Spring semester was better for writing than the Fall. Also, towards the end of this semester I read four books (which is not that great) but it’s better than no books.

As the semester and academic year ends I’m seriously deciding if being an educator is really for me.

Recently I had a meeting with the adjunct coordinator at one of my schools. I was super paranoid about being observed because the last time I was observed at the school where I teach remedial courses, my supervisor basically ripped me a new one and made me wonder if I was cut out for education at all.

The day after I was observed at the school where I teach good ol composition I had a note in my box. It was super cryptic and said, “OMMFA, we need to talk. Please see me in my office at noon.”

I nearly hyperventilated teaching my class. After I released my students, I debated going to see my boss. It was a Friday and I had a job interview for a full-time instructor position on Monday. I didn’t want my self-esteem to be totally damaged, but I figured what was the worst thing my boss could tell me, “you suck, don’t expect any sections in the fall”? FH always says “I was looking for a job when I found this one,” so that was my mentality when I went into Boss’s office for the sit down.

Boss: I wanted to talk to you about something.

Me: [gulp] Am I in trouble?

Boss: No.

Boss was super serious. I was totally about to get my ass chewed.

Boss: One Mean MFA, all of the adjuncts are at a certain level.

Boss drew a diagram that looked like a bar graph with all the bars at the same level. Each bar was some element of teaching: organization, education, results, teaching, etc.

Boss: But when it comes to teaching and results you are above and beyond the rest.

Boss drew two bars super high above the rest to emphasize my awesomeness.

Boss: Since a teacher like you rarely comes along, I feel you need to be mentored. I’d like to see you dress more professionally, and be a little less brusque with your students.

Me: I dress inappropriately?

Boss: I’d like to see you show some dignity.

Me: I’m sorry, I didn’t think I dressed inappropriately.

Okay, let me first say this is not the first time I’ve been told this. I teach in the middle of nowhere ( lots of Conservatives–some who are Birthers and believe Global Warming is a myth, and that the theory of Evolution is a crock). For whatever reason I always get jobs in places like this. My first year teaching I was called into the principal’s office about a “mini-skirt.” This “mini-skirt” was a black pencil skirt with a slight slit in the back (you know so I could move in it) and came below my knees. When I told FH about the mini-skirt his first response was “you own a mini-skirt?”

So, yeah.

When I was observed I had apparently dressed like a whore. I had on a white, fitted tee, a scarf (no cleavage), slacks from Express, and a long cardigan that basically functions like a blazer. I know please hold back your gasps, how dare I teach looking so inappropriately and provocatively. I’m such a slut.

Boss: That shirt was entirely too tight and practically transparent.

I don’t know what the hell Boss is talking about. I was wearing a huge colorful scarf that basically covered my entire torso, not to mention the jacket/cardigan.

Me: Okay.

So, anyway after that meeting I felt pretty good, aside from the whole I’m too rough on my students and dress like a hooker thing. I’m still not sure why I need to be so effing nice to my students because even Boss can see that my students produce the results. If it ain’t broke…

Now as the semester comes to a close and I finish grading the never-ending files of papers, I think that perhaps working Downtown as a copyeditor, while probably not nearly as exciting as wondering how I’ll be disrespected at work by a supervisor, colleague, or student, might be the change I need to refocus my life towards my writing. Teaching at the adjunct level sure isn’t getting that memoir written.

Why is it that I have an existential crisis once a month?

Jon Stewart, Thank You

So last Thursday I had a complete mental breakdown. I was severely depressed and my anxiety was back in full swing.

I’ve been having anxiety attacks for about two months now, and the only thing that gets my heart rate down and my breathing caught up is yoga. I needed to relax and it was really good timing that I was going to D.C. for the Rally to Restore Sanity this past weekend. I needed to get the hell out of town and forget my adjuncting woes. Funny how a Rally to Restore Sanity was actually able to help me restore mine. Thanks Jon Stewart.

The Boyfriend was worried about me and admitted to me that I was driving him crazy with all my complaining. I still feel really bad about this. He told me I had been complaining for a while–like two months–and he couldn’t take it any more. I don’t ever want to drive anyone crazy, especially not someone who loves and cares about me. He’s a great listener and completely understands that I need to vent my frustrations.

We were sitting in his car and he asked me about what was bothering me and I told him about how I felt like my students were depleting my nutrients. I wasn’t getting anything back from them–no stimulating conversations, no laughing, no good quality writing. I was getting apathetic, glossy looks and mediocre work. I felt like they were taking everything I had and giving me nothing in return.

While teaching is one of those jobs, I found myself thinking I might need to find another career choice. I actually thought, “maybe teaching isn’t for me.” My whole life I’ve been so sure that I was born to teach. Yes, I thought it was going to music at first but teach nevertheless. This is my fourth year as a teacher, and I can’t believe I may actually be burning out. I’m not happy about this. Because the Boyfriend is very action oriented he helped talk me through what I needed to do change my situation. This last sentence makes it sounds like he was dictating to me what I needed to do, but it was more of a “what steps do you need to take to get where you want to be?” and “how are you going to take them?” and “what do you think your next move should be?” It wasn’t like, “Hey One Mean MFA, you should be doing this and this.” Neither of us do well with orders.

Anyway, after many tears and used up tissues, I decided that I needed to stop with the super teacher bull. Being a super teacher is NOT going to get me a tenure track position. Instead,  it will suck my time away from what is most important–my writing. So, I’m done getting papers back to them immediately. I’m done with all the caring, and going out of my way for them. Done. Done. Done.

I know this may sound incredibly selfish, and when I left for D.C. I wasn’t sure if I’d actually be able to pull it off when I came back. I have a tendency to say I’m going to do something (i.e. exercise) and then not. Although lately I’ve been good about actually doing what I’m saying. It’s the yoga, I think. It has seriously changed my life ( a yoga post to follow?).

It might be my first week back, but you want to know what people? For the first time in months–can you hear me out there?–months I actually sat down and did some writing. It felt great. Yes, I’m rusty. I’m hoping that maybe tomorrow I’ll even be sore. When I got back from work I got caught up in non-writing stuff and when I left for yoga I thought to myself, “you haven’t written one sentence.” Then I came back and took a pen to paper, which I later typed out since I do everything by hand–or at least start off by hand.

Also, the Boyfriend and I decided that I’m not going to talk about work, because the adjuncting thing is a side job. The writing is the real job. I haven’t really been talking about work. Usually I’m all–today my students did this or we were discussing that. Nope. No more. Maybe next week I’ll write even more. Regardless, it feels really good to have my f@$!ing priorities straight.

All of you out there? Have you done some writing today? If not, it’s cool, but what is holding you back?

What did I get myself into?

So I told you guys that I was having my students create their own blog. Why? You might ask. Well, I thought it would be a great way for them to get into the habit of writing. I’ve never done anything like this before and am freakin’ out because I’m just starting to realize how absolutely huge this project is, not so much for my students, but for me.

I teach 3 sections, all of which have 29 students. You do the math, that’s a lot of blogs to keep up with. I’m not so worried about that. That’s way google reader will help me with, I’m mostly concerned about monitoring the commenting that is going on.

I have  a lot of students and a lot of blogs and I’m totally clueless as to how to monitor all these blogs effectively, efficiently, and fairly (yeah adverbs).

The students will begin posting on Tuesday, so I have about 6 days to figure it out.

Oh did I mention, I’ll be blogging with them. Again, I’m insane. I wanted them to have some kind of model to look onto, and to have a space where they could comment if they felt nervous about commenting on peer blogs.

So far the reception to this project has been mostly negative. The students–most of them–are not eager to do this project partly because they think it’s busy work and partly because it’s something new which is scary to them. There have been some students who have expressed a lot of interest and I’m thinking these students will make the most of this project and get the most from it.

On a side note, I still don’t have an office space and will be posting pictures of my little space. The boyfriend and I will be building a desk this evening–when I say the boyfriend and I, I mostly mean the boyfriend. I’m looking forward to having a neat space to keep my work organize.

By the way, there is a deadline for a short story contest today and I’m scrambling to get it done. Lord have mercy.

Any suggestions on how to make this blogging project a success?

Help! I Need an Office Space

So when you adjunct you don’t get an office–well aside from the shared one. Right now, my kitchen table is office della One Mean MFA. I’ve been really trying to avoid buying furniture because everything I move in, must come out eventually.

Still, not having a teacher space is really not working for me. I just don’t know how to create an efficient space to work in without making this apartment seem overcrowed.

If I post pictures of my little apartment will you guys help me with the space. I’ll also put links up to the Ikea desk I’m considering.

What do you think? Should I post pics?

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Well I started teaching on Monday. Starting next week I’ll be teaching at another school, so I will be a busy lady. I’m relieved I got four sections because that is like a full-time instructor and I’m very eager to not work at the salon any longer.

I was told not to read at the front desk and since then I’ve been planning my exit. I would love to go out like the Jet Blue flight attendant–in a blaze of glory– but I haven’t worked there long enough and frankly the turnover at that the place is so high in a few months the people who work there will forget I ever existed; which, to be honest, works for me.

I’ve been working on syllabi for two weeks and yesterday I had a breakthrough teaching idea. I got so excited. The assignment is going to be for teaching persuasive papers which is the last paper we will be working on and I am so eager to test out this idea that I can’t wait for the end of October. As I approach this time, I’ll be keeping you posted on the details. Good teaching is supposed to be shared. I just want to test it out first.

Once I leave the salon, I won’t be working seven days a week and will return to a regular writing and exercise routine. I love routine and structure and haven’t had any for months and I believe this is a major contributing factor to why my waistline keeps getting wider and wider.

Last time I posted goals up here I accomplished them so here goes nothing!

By the end of this semester I’d like to (rather, I will) have  a completed/polished draft of my novel ready to be sent out to publishers. I have a pretty good idea of what I’d like to add to my novel, and where I need to make some changes to the draft I used for my thesis, but as is always the case with me, it’s never a matter of idea, it’s alway a matter of sitting down and doing it.

Currently, I’m teaching at community colleges but my goal is to eventually be on a tenure track at a four-year university. I’ve had this goal for a long time–and well once I get an idea in my head I do whatever it takes to make it a reality.

After sitting through graduation–which was generic but touching, I decided I too needed a Ph.D. Watching those candidates get their hoods was inspiring. Also, they get to wear those cool caps, their gowns have velvet, and they sit in the front row. That, my friends, is what I’m talking about.

The boyfriend was not surprised when I uttered the words Ph.D. programs. In fact, he claimed he expected me to be interested since he is a dating a perpetual student. Whatever, I like school, so hit me with a book or something.

So as the fall gets rolling into motion, I’m not overwhelmed yet by my teacher and writer work, instead I’m super excited and feeling overly ambitious. I’m sure come midterm season I’ll be singing a different tune, but for now I’m going to revel in the optimism.