Choose your own adventure

Another sudden turn of events: I start my new high-school teaching job, not next fall, but today.  Technically speaking, it’s not the exact same job, since I’ll be covering someone else’s classes for the rest of the year, sometimes coming in late or going early while I also teach my NCC and New RU classes, and generally having few responsibilities beyond guiding these classes to the end of the year.  

So I guess it’s going to be another intense semester.  Different, though, because this might be the job.  I mean, for the next decade or more, possibly.  So I hope that I won’t be quite the wreck I often felt I was in the fall, careening among three adjunct institutions, bearing up under Terrible Tuesdays, and grimly aware that none of the institutions has made any kind of commitment to me beyond the present semester. 

I am excited about working with these students, and about teaching a wide and lively range of literature.  What Now?, who very generously counseled me from her own experience, has gotten me all fired up about teaching English with (as WN put it) “literature and composition and vocabulary acquisition and grammar lessons and creative writing and a dose of public speaking all rolled into one”!  But I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t also say that the prospect of a real salary–and benefits, which I have not had since my one-year SLAC appointment a couple of years back–warms the cockles of my heart. 

Like a lot of people, I’ve been very touched by Squadratomagico’s recent post about the questions “How much have you given up to be an academic?” and “How much are you willing to give up?” and by the ensuing comments.  I am only partly an academic and really not much of a scholar at all.  I latched onto academia in part because I was genuinely excited by scholarship, but probably equally as much because it seemed like a good shelter for a writer–not, I realize, an original thought.  Over the past few years, it’s occurred to me that the adjunct life is not enough of a shelter for a writer who has to contribute to the support of a family and whose spouse is in a highly worthwhile but not lavishly compensated profession, but teaching is what I’m trained for, what I’m tolerably good at, and most days, what I enjoy.  So what I’ve given up to be a writer and stay in the teaching life has mostly been money and the security and flexibility that come with it.  And yet I’d be the first to say I have been lucky and don’t feel burdened with a sense that I’ve given up much.  I’m married to a man I love and admire and have a daughter I adore.  Because we like where we are and Stubb’s work is not very portable, I haven’t tried very hard to get work anywhere I don’t want to live.  For a writer, I’ve had a number of good breaks: publications, prizes, grants, etc., including the one that helped get us through the Great Plumbing Disaster of 2005. 

But now I’m at the age and stage where it’s starting to seem ridiculous not to have a job that pays the same salary, week after week, with a raise every year; foolhardy not to have decent health insurance; unnecessarily anxiety-producing not to have a pretty good idea of what my job will be in six months, or whether we’ll be able to afford for the Snork Maiden to do this or that.  You know you’ve reached a new life stage when you find yourself murmuring the lines of Frost’s “Provide, Provide” to yourself as you roll your file-box-on-wheels to your office-on-wheels, on your way to yet another adjunct class.

The challenge will be figuring out in what bits of time to write if there are to be no more quiet stretches of time at home on a weekday while the Snork Maiden is at school and my next class is at least twenty-four hours away.  Those were the great compensation for the uncertainty of the adjunct-instructor schedule.  Here, too, WN’s example of job as spur to productivity  is very encouraging!  For right now, though, my eye is on those two summer months when I will not teach at all.  That will be easily the longest break I have had since the summer of 2006.  In my odd moments over the next few months, I’m sure I will be contemplating my POA (thanks, Pym Fan, for that nifty little abbreviation) for that time.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Hurrah — exciting news!

    Okay, be prepared to be totally overwhelmed and exhausted for the little while, because you’ve just been thrown into a whole new teaching arena in the middle of the term, so things will be crazy. Plus you have other ongoing obligations on top of the new job. But hang in there, and things will get easier, and there will be days that are a lot of fun. And it’s an adventure!


  2. Posted by meansomething on February 20, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    Thanks so much!

    Yep, I was pretty poleaxed yesterday. But today and tomorrow are both lighter in terms of classtime–more time to get oriented.

    An adventure it is…


  3. […] SA.  I didn’t know, when I began, that I would feel this lucky; I was tentatively positive, excited and amused, and thrilled to have a steady paycheck.  It’s my hope that Ph.D. Guy will discover, as I […]


  4. […] SA job possibility appeared on the horizon at the end of January–and I started teaching there on February 19, the Tuesday after Presidents’ Day. On that day in 2015, I’ll have been at SA for seven […]


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