Sunday, December 16, 2012
My Unhealthy Semester
The reason is that my first semester as a full-time adjunct has been absolutely terrifying. My relationship with my institution resembles that of a a psychotic ex-significant other. One minute its, "I love you, I want us to be together forever. I think we can make it happen." The next, "You disgust me! And we might not need you next semester!" If my institution were a real person, I would consider myself to be in an abusive relationship.
I just don't know how much longer I can do this. It's not about the teaching or the students. I had a lot of fun and really loved my students (in a platonic, professorial way mind you). They appeared to love me as well, asking for references and such. I hadn't the heart to say, "Well, I might be here next semester, but I'm not sure."
The semester break couldn't have come at a better time, because I need to do some serious reflection. I'm not sure I can do this long term. I wish I could be the professor the students deserve, but circumstances don't allow it. I need things like insurance and a steady paycheck and a stable environment where I won't be dumped at the drop of a hat. But I'll give it one more semester I guess. I *think* I'll have a full class load, although there might be a January surprise waiting for me after the holidays.
So Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Heri Za Kwanzaa; just pass the booze on this very blessed break.
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Adjuncting has been abusive hell for me too, Bison. My foray into non academic jobs has resulted in no job offers. I hope you have better luck than me.ReplyDelete
Similar experiences here, too Bison.ReplyDelete
I hope I was on the lucky side that when my supervisors asked to have "the talk" -- they came across as supportive and concerned (one going so far as to explicitly state I was not "in trouble").
However, past work experiences (academic and non) do not fill me with hope. Every other job/boss was helpful and supportive until they weren't.
I feel that I have basically used up my goodwill and now must capitulate to the mantra of "no one complains if they pass."
I guess I would look at what are they looking to help with? Is grading to sever compared to your peers? Is there a communication style problem with students? Are grades late? Or is it a "customer service" problem (I.e students want the A they paid for and the university supports them). If it is any of the first you can have some control over this, if it is the last pass em all, hand out A's like candy or move to the next port as it will not change.ReplyDelete
This makes me so sad. I wish the best for you.ReplyDelete
Hey thanks, but I'm sure things will be ok. I just might not be doing what my eager grad-school self thought, eight-some years ago. But life will go on.Delete
At least your email address is not email@example.com, as was the case for one of my students this semester.ReplyDelete
Also, obviously, I am glad that student's email address was not firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good luck, Bison.
But I agree, it's good to think about big picture stuff once and a while. I have employment for the time being, and my students have stayed out of legal issues this semester. That's probably a win.
Ah, Bison. I'm sorry. Despite a comparatively privileged position, I've found myself using the abusive relationship analogy, too, mostly in reference to doing time-consuming things that we're explicitly told will bring us no tangible material benefit, but that we're afraid not to do because somebody might decide, sometime, that they *do* matter. Oh, and changing the rules and rewards at whim. Long-term contract work begins to feel like some odd combination of a marriage that began with a really bad prenup and life with a personality-disordered parent. Adjunct work is even worse (and yes, January surprises happen). Getting out -- or at least keeping a somewhat distanced perspective -- begins to sound like an extremely sane option. A job with "things like insurance and a steady paycheck and a stable environment where [you] won't be dumped at the drop of a hat," whether inside or outside academia, sounds like a pretty good goal to me.ReplyDelete
As I think about it I do feel like I am in a cycle of DV. My Dean of Idocy is emotionally abusing me and I am stalking my students in the name of Student Retention. I actually ha to drag three students kicking and screaming over the line of an F to a D. This I guess is what we should call Academic Kidnapping?ReplyDelete
I am sorry you are being given this treatment, Bison. I know all too well what it was like, having been an Accursed Visiting Assistant Professor at a place that wouldn't even tell me whether I'd be hired to prolong the agony for another year until May.ReplyDelete
It was the kind of place where I burst out laughing the first time I saw a sign on one's door that said, "THE BEATINGS WILL CONTINUE UNTIL MORALE IMPROVES." It felt like being a serf, although Terry Jones makes the case in his "Medieval Lives" shows that real serfs had more free time than you do. And if this is how they treat their faculty, can you imagine what their students get?
What gets me about this is how some contingent faculty who get this treatment develop something reminiscent of "the Stockholm syndrome." Some abused spouses get something similar to this, too: the conviction that "It's not that bad, they mean well." I will confess to having gotten a whiff of this myself, partly because the feudal estate, ahem, I mean university where I worked was near Kennedy Space Center. Leaving it was therefore not as easy for me as one might think, and something my non-academic relatives didn't understand at all. Ever since I got my tenure-track job I've been insanely better off, though, even if it is in California.
One solace I trust that you know is that you now have postdoctoral research experience _and_ "real" teaching experience. You may therefore now be eligible for a tenure-track job, in a way that relatively few of your competitors are. Best of luck on this year's job search, then: I trust you have your application updated and will soon send off the next round? Many are due on January 15.
P.S. Next time your Uncle Harry says, "We don't have tenure down at the factory," look him in the eye and say, "Neither do I!" If he then tries to make a crack that it's because of something wrong with you, spill a drink on him.Delete
Each time my last department head decided he wanted to either skin me or have me drawn and quartered, the justification for his abuse was "I'm only trying to help you." In his case, I think that help was in persuading me to quit.Delete
I eventually did, but under terms I dictated.
Um, did he actually say, "skin you alive," or "have your drawn and quartered"? If he did, those are physical threats, and are illegal here in the U.S.A. Here in the great state of California, you may quite easily be able to find a lawyer who'd drool at the prospect of suing for this. Of course, lawyers being the bottom-feeders they are, you'll probably net only about $1.63 from a lawsuit, but it certainly would cause your tormentor, I mean employer, more than enough trouble to ensure you'd have a job for life there, if you wanted one.Delete
That department head never made such threats, though I'm sure the thought of such actions was in his mind.Delete
He did, however, raise his hand once as if he wanted to smack me. I didn't file a complaint because I knew it wouldn't have done any good. It would have been disregarded as a minor incident and I would have been the bad guy.
My former employer was well-known for cultivating such an environment.
Ha - Froderick, you remembered!ReplyDelete
Yes indeed, the holidays gatherings will be even more action packed. From politics to employment issues, I'm sure the good times will have no end.
I do have a few job apps out, and more will be forthcoming. Academic and non-academic.
Whatever happens, you'll still need to explain to Grandma, "No, I'm not that kind of doctor." Bless her heart, she'll never learn: I think everyone on CM has one like that.Delete
Oh, Bison, I am soooo in the same place as you (except not a full time adjunct, just part time at multiple schools). It absolutely sucks to really enjoy my actual work but to be so aware that this is not something I can keep doing for long before I just completely break down from financial stress and uncertainty. And feeling like, with so many classes and so few resources, I don't even have the opportunity to write my way out of this mess. I really am damn good at my job(s), but it just doesn't matter in the long run, so long as the damn colleges can use us up like tissues (can you tell I have a terrible cold) and really don't care about the quality of instruction so long as there is a warm body in the classroom.ReplyDelete
I've been looking into nonacademic work, but it seems that a PhD and years of teaching and writing experience are pretty much useless these days when there are just so few jobs.
I can verify that a Ph. D. and teaching experience can be liabilities.Delete
After I quit my teaching position, I looked for another job. One place told me point-blank that they weren't interested in me because of my doctorate. They were afraid that I might jump ship at any time (yet outfits like that could can people whenever they felt like it and concoct a reason for doing so).
I thought that my having taught at a tech school would be in my favour. Nope. For one thing, a position at that place was seen as cushy and there had to be something wrong with someone who'd leave such a paradise (paradise--yeah, right). On top of that, I heard from some sources that what was taught in that establishment was several years behind what was considered current in industry.
As for my own industrial experience, it was seen as either inadequate or obsolete, so that didn't help, either.
As well, most of the interviews I had were token efforts. Some employers spoke with me because they had something in the works and wanted to have people on hand in case they got a contract. Others already knew who they wanted but laws and regulations dictated that they had to interview all eligible candidates, regardless of level of education or age. In other words, I was the token old fogey who, invariably, was found to be "unsuitable".
It's been over 10 years and still no job. Fortunately, I saved and invested my money over the years and I can live comfortably, though without many luxuries.
One thing that you can do to treat yourself is kindly suggest to people wanting letters of reference for academic matters that they find a tenure-track or tenured professor. You can honestly tell them that the opinions of contract faculty (I'm presuming you're not a permanent adjunct) are generally disregarded in the academic world. That might also get you at least some minor expression of pity.ReplyDelete