Teaching

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.

 

On a Moderately Personal Note or (Shut the F*** up and Write)

Disclaimer: I don’t think my husband knows about this blog, and while he helped me come up with the title (I seriously suck at titles;it’s a curse), I don’t think he’ll ever read this. Babe, if you read this, please tell me.

Okay, I have the best husband. No, seriously. I know this sounds like bragging, but he really is awesome. First off, on a non-One Mean MFA career note, the man is an incredible father. He loves our kid a lot. I can see it in his face, in the way he holds our little one, and in how he wishes our kid will learn to walk quickly so he can chase the Mini-One Mean in the yard. It’s amazing.

As far as my career is concerned, he is even better. I knew he would be a great dad; it’s one of the reasons I fell for the guy. He loves unconditionally. When he loves, he gives all of himself. It’s something I wish I did. I don’t love like that. I’m guarded. I don’t trust. I worry and am not confident that I can be loved unconditionally. I love him unconditionally now, but it has taken me years to learn to love in the way he does. Even when I f*** up (which is often), he forgives and does something incredible. He reminds me why I love writing. I love writing because I love people, and he is the people that I love.

Okay, I know you’re thinking, “Shut the hell up, One Mean. No one wants to read a stupid lovey-dovely bullsh** story–and right before Valentine’s day. You stupid whore. Shut. Up.” Well, I won’t shut up. I love him.

I.

Love.

Mr. One Mean MFA.

A few weeks ago, Husband and I had a huge fight. I hadn’t been writing, reading, and my agreed upon house commitments were falling wayside (don’t worry, our kid was still being well taken care of, and I was all caught up with my television shows). I was in a deep rut. I had abandoned myself. I forgot who I was before marriage and Mini-One Mean.

Since we’ve gotten married (strangely enough), it’s been rough. I think losing my mother didn’t help with that. When you lose a parent, you lose yourself. You’re angry because your mother was young and wonderful and now who the hell can you talk to when you’re having an existential crisis. Whose going to talk you off the ledge when some teenage son of a b**** cuts you to your core, and vodka feels like the only solution? You remember you are mortal and that sh** is real. Anyway, I was in a rut. Things were not great. Since we’ve been together we’ve always been great at communicating, and we’d both shut down. We weren’t interacting with each other. We had good days, but mostly they were blah days.

This past weekend I spoke a conference for the first time in a long time. It felt so good to be an academic for five minutes (I’ll be writing about this sometime soon). I was excited, Missy and I were about to get into some trouble (again, don’t worry Missy and One Mean MFA will have another reunion in Minneapolis at AWP this year!). Husband was upset because he felt like (rightly so) that I wasn’t doing enough to get out of the high school job that I’m still at. While conferences are part of this, it’s not enough. I need to be publishing.

I got upset that he was upset.

“Speaking at conferences is important.”

“And publishing isn’t?”

“It is, but this is part of the academic stuff!”

“One Mean, you’re not writing.”

“When am I supposed to write?!”

This has been a challenge for me (as it is for all writers–I know perspective and all that jazz). Being a teacher at the high school level limits my time to do anything, including parenting. I often leave work many hours after the official school day ends and then it’s mom duties, wife duties, and before I know it, it’s bed time. Of course, I was also squeezing in a ton of TV, not reading, and not exercising.

“Do you know what I’d give for 30 minutes a day to just f***ing write?”

“So do it!”

“When?”

It seemed like the best time would be after dinner when our mini-us was sleeping and we’ve had dinner.

“What about the kitchen? Oh God, it’s like never-ending the crap I have to do!”

“If you were writing, I’d be okay with the kitchen being a mess.” I thought he was bullsh**ing me, but he wasn’t.

Since this horrible fight where I cried and got super upset, he’s helped me with the wifely duties, but and the biggest thing I’ve had to give up was television. I’m really behind on all my shows, but for the first time since grad school I have a routine. I’ve even managed to squeeze reading a book into the week AND have been writing more than ever.

I always wonder how the successful writers do it.

There are a million articles about the habits of successful writers. It seems they all skirt around two issues.

The first being, you have to fucking write.

Shut the f*** up and write.

The second is being single helps. I don’t want to blame motherhood or wifelyness on my lack of writing because those things are not the reason I wasn’t writing. I wasn’t writing because I had found other things to make a priority. I have serious guilt issues and sometimes feel like I need to abandon everything for my husband and child. This is not the case. In fact, my husband fell in love with me because I loved to write. He loves the writer version of me, not the version who is all caught up on Downton Abbey, yet she doesn’t have a writing project she’s working on. It’s so easy to let that version of one’s self go after marriage and children, but I’m not happy teaching high school (more on this “revelation” soon).

I’m blessed to have a husband who actually believes in me. He sincerely believes there is talent in my fingertips waiting to reach the page. Needing to reach the page. He believes in me way more than I do. I often hate what I write. In fact, this feels self-indulgent, and I probably relied to heavily on curse words when I could have inserted more humor. Regardless, he loves me so much he’ll let the clean-freak version he knows me to be go to the wayside if it means I’m being the nerdy writer he met in college plus a few pounds.

I’m lucky.

I know this. I thank God every day, even when I’m in rut.

So my advice to those of you who are in a rut, maybe you’re single and maybe you’re busy as hell. Regardless, you can find 30 minutes, hell maybe you can start with 15 or 10 minutes. I know I started writing over an hour ago. I got lost in the words and the story and here I am, still writing. It happens. The first day I committed to 30 minutes, I struggled; 30 minutes felt like a lot, but today it seems it may not be enough. Cut something out of your life you’ve been prioritizing and writing.

Shut the f*** up and write.

Well, S&^!

Randomly, I was looking for a poem I had written and posted here. I had nearly forgotten that I had this blog.

Shame.

On.

Me.

I was totally sucked into my stupid high school teaching job. Meanwhile, this perfect space was waiting. I looked and saw that I hadn’t written anything since January. Nearly a year has passed. 9 months. I could have incubated a baby in that time.

Crazy.

I’m currently teaching a creative writing class at the high school level. This is fun and depressing. Have you ever read teenage poetry? Mostly, it’s awful. Mostly, it’s about breaking free from the tyranny of parents or about having a crush. Today, I spent nearly the entire day working on writing end comments for my students’ poetry.

As this year has passed, I realize (at this very moment) that everything I write is for someone else.

End comments for my creative writing students.

End comments for student essays

End comments for online students

Emails to a crazy PLC lead who is driving me to madness

Emails to administrators

Emails to my contractor who is taking an ice age to finish work on a tiny house

Emails to the parents of my students

More f***ing emails

My time is spent in meetings. An absurd amount of meetings. The amount and content of those meetings would be something Stoppard and Beckett would find too absurd.

Meanwhile, it’s all being ignored. All meaning the important stuff.

How does one even fix this problem? I guess, just like weight loss or quitting smoking, or deciding to become a marathon runner, it must come from within.

As I looked through old posts on this blog, I see that this is a running theme. I don’t have time. I don’t have time. I don’t have time.

Right now, as I type this, I’m in my classroom. School has been out for almost two hours. I’ve been to a meeting and have written my last end comment for the day. I have a mountain of papers to grade and should probably stay another 3 hours to get close to finishing it by Friday.

Instead, I’m going to head home and read and plan my writing for Nanowrimo and finish the laundry.

Sorry for the random stream of consciousness.

One Mean MFA is f***ing back.

Cobwebs Away

I know it’s been almost a year, but here I am alive and well. 

After my mother passed away, things got crazy. There have a been many big changes in my life that I’m not quite ready to discuss here, although I am still teaching at the same oppressive school (in case you’re wondering).

 I’ve been in a major writing rut since about May, and after some very jarring words, I’ve decided it’s time to get refocused. Time to prioritize. Time to write. For real. 

This may sound terrible, but I’ve been wanting to write a memoir for about 5 years but didn’t feel comfortable writing it with my mother being alive. I don’t know what will happen when I really start writing it, but I know that I wouldn’t have been able to stomach her reading it. What’s even more depressing is that now I don’t have an excuse to not write it. The excuse was always that she might read it. Even though she died almost a year ago, the not writing it has seemed to keep her alive. Once I really get started, it will be another confirmation that she is dead. 

There have been small things that on a regular basis remind me of the permanence of her death. Before she died, she and my dad brought me some food from home that I can’t get where I live, and I had frozen some of it and when I finally decided to eat it, it was irreplaceable because she wouldn’t be able to bring me more. Or going through her clothes with my sisters and realizing she’d never wear them again. Bringing those clothes home and storing them, going through them again and smelling her scent on them. Listening to old voicemails over and over and over again. I have a voicemail from her from years ago, and it’s about 10 seconds long. All it says is, “Hi [insert my name here], it’s Mommy. I love you.” Writing the memoir will only resurface the pain that the voicemail does, or her clothes do. Except, I think that the longer I make excuses not to write it, the easier it becomes to abandon the storyteller in me.

Here’s the thing, the mega-Catholic in me has this weird fear that her spirit will read it. I know that it sounds crazy, but I swear this thought has occurred to me. I’ve even debated fictionalizing it, so no one can get pissed. I would prefer, however, to write the story in my own voice and not in the voice of some fictitious version of myself.

Thankfully, Husband is always around to remind me that I’m not writing for anyone but me. This is a challenge as I’m so insecure and worry deeply about what others think of me. I also worry that my memoir will focus too much on Black Sheep sister and not really be my memoir. I’m not sure how to combat this. 

Writing it and seeing where it goes might not be a bad idea.

Starting a big writing project is always scary. I think that’s why I’ve been putting it off for so long. 

In the meantime, I’ll be warming up here again. 

I hope the cobwebs clear soon.

 

 

Transitions and Distractions

Well, things have settled down over here. I still can’t believe that when I get out of work I can’t call my mother, but it’s starting to become a part of my routine, so I guess that’s good. I’m grateful that AWP is this week because AWP is always the best distraction. Husband’s work gets crazy this time a year, and he’s gone a lot. AWP is a nice transition/distraction to the craziness. 

I’ve been submitting my work these past two months and have already submitted for March. I have an essay I’m working on for the end of March, so hopefully I’ll have a few new publications soon. I was hoping February would be as successful as January. The first place I sent something to repsonded almost immediately (like four days) and so I January was a great way to kick of the year. Tenure track resume by October. That is goal.

I’m looking forward to Boston. I’ve never been and am an American literature nut so it’s fun to think I’ll be in a city that discuss so often when I teach. 

I love AWP; it’s always such a rejuvenating experience. It’s so easy to get bogged down in the bullshit of teaching high school and forget that I’m actually writer. It’s been my mission this year to reclaim my inner artist. I told my students today that I was writer first (which was dumb because they are sixteen and don’t get it and one kid said, “you can’t be a writer, you’re not published.” It felt good to inform said student that I was, in fact, published. I wanted to add, “you little s*&!, but I do need the job to pay my bills. That shut the kid up.) I don’t want to be a bad, or even mediocre teacher, but my end goal is not high school. It’s college-level and not community college, but four-year university. 

Husband is always reminding me to not settle in my career. I’m glad I have his support. He understands that putting forth tons of effort into a job like teaching is not beneficial. It’s all about the writing.

I’ll try to post from Boston this week. I wonder how many of you readers will be there. Maybe you’ll start up a random conversation with me (I’m very much a talker) and not even realize it’s me.

See you in Boston. 

Summer Time Wasting Away in Front of the Ole Tube

It’s here! I’ve been off for about two weeks now and have been enjoying every minute.

Currently, I’m catching up on the classics that I should have read in high school but never did. 

The first book on the list is The Great Gatsby. How I managed to get through honors and AP level high school English classes, college as an English major, and an MFA in creative writing with 48 literature credit hours having not read this book kind of blows my mind. Currently, the Kindle says I’m 52% of the way through. It’s pretty solid. Not sure what all the hype is about, but I’m not done reading it yet. I’m hoping once I’m done (hopefully by tomorrow or the next day) I’ll be able to understand what the hell all the literature nerds are talking about.

This summer is my first summer where I’m not working. I’ve been writing and reading for most of it and catching up on some TV shows that I’ve heard so much about. I did realize today that I have been watching way too much TV and have decided that starting on Monday I will only allow myself TV time after 4 or 5 pm. 

I’ve also been spending the past week or two trying to get back into shape. Before the wedding, I was training for a half marathon and was in the best shape of my life. Even though I was not at my thinnest, I still was able to run 6 to 8 miles without stopping. Since the wedding, I have gained about 15 pounds (yeah I know, I’m disgusting) and can barely run 1 mile. It’s awful. I refuse to be this fat person. I’m completely appalled by my lack of care for myself and my appearance. What is frightening is that I haven’t really changed my eating habits, I simply took a too long break from exercise. 

I’m definitely one of those people who will have to workout 5 days a week for 1 hour until they die if they want to maintain a healthy weight. This sucks because I don’t love exercise, but I also don’t love being the heaviest I’ve ever been. Currently, I don’t fit into any of my clothes. I look gross. It’s amazing that Husband is even attracted to me.  

Not to mention, my 10 year high school reunion is this September. I swear I’m more motivated by this reunion than I was by my wedding to look good. Throughout high school I was always the dumpy, fat, nerdy older sister to one of the hottest girls at school, and I’m still self conscious about it. It would be pretty awesome to roll up in September looking like I did when I was in college–thin and fit. 

This, of course, will depend completely on my focus. Frankly, my motivation to do more reading, writing, and exercise will also depend on whether I can kick my TV addcition. Today, I debated starting a new series on Netflix but decided to knock back some more reading. 

How is your summer going fellow educators? Any fun plans? What do you do make it through the summer without going crazy?

 

In Full Swing

Well, the Fall semester is in full swing. We’ve had our first rained out home football game, I’ve had to rearrange the seating charts in all three classes, and I’ve already written five referrals.  Welcome to secondary education.

When school started I told my students my year’s goal was to not write one referral. Well that was shot straight to hell when the principal announced that every time a student is late they get a referral. Very nice. Thank you first block.

Overall, things are good at the new school. The faculty is made up of predominately young teachers. This means there are very few teachers with that negative attitude where they are constantly bitching about the current state of education. While there always teachers that bitch about students and how awful teenagers are, there aren’t as many at my school. Most of the teachers don’t complain, they are, instead, proactive. It’s a very nice, positive change from the adjunct office.

I am struggling to adjust to things like hall passes, bells, and the PA system. If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “Teachers, please excuse this interruption,” I’d be rich. It’s weird being interrupted while teaching by the administration, the phone in my classroom ringing, and the bell. I don’t really like that aspect of it, especially since educators repeatedly hear “The time in the classroom is sacred.” I don’t see priests, pastors, and ministers being interrupted. Church is sacred. Right? I’m also not accustomed to students trying to talk over me and all the meetings and rules. Sometimes I forget they are teenagers and get really irratated during discussion when they  are talking over me and each other.

In this economy, however, I’m grateful to have something steady. I started working towards to my teaching license so that I can have high school teaching to fall back on. Still, high school is definitely not the end goal. It’s just not stimulating enough for me. I need higher level thinkers to talk to daily. High schoolers just aren’t there yet.

As you know, I feel very strongly that things happen for a reason. I’m pretty sure I’m teaching high school because I finally have some time to write. My life is slowly stabilizing, and it’s time to publish the crap out of  my writing.

I am busy as hell. I’m currently working as band staff, am a co-sponser of the creative writing club, and am training for a half marathon–not to mention, anything and all things wedding related. I like being busy. When I’m not busy, I don’t do anything. I’m totally unproductive. It’s awful. One of my best and favorite girlfriends from grad school and I have decided to begin exchanging writing to each other starting this month. I’m so grateful for this because 1) She is brilliant 2)I have someone to be accountable to 3) I have been itching for some feedback. Good feedback.

So far the energy for this school year feels right. I feel good.

It’s going to be a great year.