Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Time for a Job Change?

I've spent considerable time second-guessing my employment situation; I am an adjunct instructor at the college-level. The teaching itself is great. The first time I ever taught a class was during my student teaching stint back in my undergrad days. That day, I arrived back at my dorm overwhelmed and confused and delighted to have found my real passion in life. Helping a student connect with a concept is a thrill that exists to this day.

Over the years there have been several teaching jobs and they have all been growing experiences for me. I've taught 9th graders and middle schoolers and undergrads and master's level students. I've taught English and English as a second language, and education courses, too. And in each job, I've known success. I've been a very good teacher.

The last many years have been spent in my current part-time capacity and it has been wonderful. I have taught at night, so when our kids were born or had school breaks or were too young or sick to send to school, I've been able to be home during the day. That part has been marvelous.

But now the rest of my life has arrived and I am not sure what to do. The downside of most teaching jobs is the homework. I spend hours each week preparing for class and other hours grading essay after essay. The problem is that I am not really compensated financially. I'm working full-time hours for part-time pay.

So maybe it's time to go back to work - full-time hours with full-time pay. And that is where the difficulties taunt me.

In my field, full-time employment is predicated on scholarship and publication. It is assumed that anyone worthy of full-time money should be a leader in his or her field. But what does it mean to be a leader? I've worked with plenty of "leaders" whose students detested them. Does being a "leader" (and the definition of that word changes from college to college) equate with great teaching? At my current college, there has been a long push to hire outside of the college. That means as an adjunct, I must teach at other colleges while I teach at their college to "broaden" my knowledge base. I used to work at another college where it was decided that if a teacher received a doctorate from that college, he or she must teach else where for several years. My problem with that theory was that all the deans received their doctorates from that school and had taught nowhere else.

Every semester my courses and teaching get evaluated by my students. The results are always very positive. I've been told in many ways by many students that my class made a positive difference in their lives, but no one at the college has ever considered those things when the full-time positions are open. The questions revolve around where else I teach and what innovations I bring. (And since I am already on a rant, I will tell you that for all the "innovators" who have been hired, I have never once known those "innovations" to be shared with the rest of the faculty.) I sometimes wonder if simply being a really effective teacher is of any worth.

SO I've been vacillating. Maybe I should get a different type of job altogether. Maybe I should start all over with education and training. Maybe this adjunct faculty life is a waste of my life.

And then I walked into class this week and found several thank-you cards and a balloon and cake which read:

Dr. Caution is the best!

And my heart was touched. Students lined up to hug me and thank me for a great semester. I choose to believe it was all sincere

I still don't know where to head career-wise, but I do know I'm still good at what I do and the students respect me. Maybe that should be enough.

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