MLA

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.

 

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The Job Hunt Begins

Okay so I’m currently working on getting job stuff ready for when I graduate. Deadlines to apply for professor positions end around November 1st and that is soon than I think most of us realize. October is about to bang down the door and November is creeping along, getting ready to surprise us with Thanksgiving and the end of fall. Jeez that is stressful to think about. So in an attempt to not miss any deadlines for job applications I’ve started working on my CV (curriculum vitae). Once I finish procrastinating by posting, I’m going to outline a cover letter for a job I saw posted on MLA’s job list–the only one I’m qualified for as of right now.

I’m a bit stressed about this cover letter because here’s the thing, it’s a document that has to be perfect and has to sell you to the department. While that may be easy for some, it also has to show that you are qualified and convince the hiring committee to request an interview with you at MLA.

So because the job I’m applying for seems to be looking more teachers versus scholars (you’ll know when you read the job description they use certain words that indicate one over the other) I’ll be using my cover letter as a means to highlight my love of teaching versus my hatred of grading papers.

When I’m done and hopefully in a few months after I’ve sent it to the school, I’ll let you guys know if I get an interview and of course chronicle that whole process. I don’t know how hopeful I should be at getting called for an interview. I know it’s so competitive and all and I don’t want to get my hopes up because I will then be crushed when nothing manifests.

For now, I’m going to write this thing, have my professors read and reread the revisions of it to be sure that they would hire me. Once that is settled then I’ll try to forget I ever sent it out, and move along on my thesis. Still I know I’ll be thinking about it, daily. I know this because I sent out some work for publication in June and haven’t heard anything and I am going bananas wondering if I am going to published. 

I will also visualize myself being interviewed and eventually visualize myself getting the campus invitation and then visualize getting the job. I can see it now, Professor [insert my name here]. I love it!

Student Papers Depress Me

It was a bit of a depressing day yesterday at least as far as my student and teaching life is concerned. I will say on a note that is off topic, I was and still sort of am still pumped about having a new and great speaker as president. Back to the semi-depressing day. It seems as if my students are not as enthusiastic about being in college. First semester freshman are bright eyed and have good attendance and care about what they hand in. Although I was warned by veteran TA’s that this would happen I have always been the type of person who thinks that things like this don’t happen to me. Well they do.

I collected the rough drafts of their first papers this week and holy crap. I know I’m teaching freshman but and this is a huge but, this isn’t their first college writing class. I’m teaching a 102 class where the 101 class was a pre-requisit. WTF! I had papers that were horribly formatted after I spent two weeks just on MLA formatting and of course that wasn’t the only issue, but the formatting issues alone put my heart in the blender.

At first  I was angry at the other TA’s. I kept thinking that they must have neglected to reinforce MLA formatting and having a thesis and using quotes from the text as support. It’s not the student’s fault. But the more I think about it I realize it can’t be. Although, as my professor pointed out to me yesterday evening, “You can’t guarantee what was taught” by the other instructors you can assume with confidence that it was probably talked about.

So why all the elementary mistakes?

I wonder if it has to do with the fact that it is labeled as a “rough draft.”  I think to many students that has the connotation of “it’s okay to be crappy because I can redeem myself later.” I see many students either not doing anything with the rough draft and handing in practically the same document for a final draft and then some students basically rewriting their rough drafts and turning in a whole new paper. I don’t understand why these (the latter)  students give themselves so much extra work. Instead of writing a decent rough draft they are essentially writing two papers.

I don’t think there is a solution to this. I’m sure that teachers of writing have been dealing with this issue since the writing classes have been around but it is depressing to see such basic errors. When I see MLA formatting errors in papers it makes me think that the student doesn’t care enough to fix their margins, put the heading in the correct place, double space, et cetera. I just wonder if, as a teacher, I’ll ever be able to teach the lesson that says, what you turn in is a representation of yourself.  I think what saddens me most is that I have explained this to my students and still the not caring continues. The lazy representations are still present.

I would say the most challenging lesson the teacher must learn is that no matter how hard you try you can’t make them care.

NOTE: Now that spring semester is in full swing I’m noticing writing blog posts has become more challenging but I’m going to try to post as often as possible.