This weekend, I went to usajobs.com and built a resume. Yup, I’m looking for gubbermint work.
I decided, or had decided, to go ahead and try a return to adjunct teaching. I have an offer for as many as 3 classes at one school. There, for a 4 day/week schedule, if my classes fill up for an entire academic year, I could earn $18,000. OK, right? I live in the DC area. $18K barely a year’s rent on a shitty apartment. That, and I wouldn’t have health care.
The thing is that I really like teaching. I want to do it. I went to class last week, where I have a bunch of adult students who really want to learn, and it was great. Even my 18 year olds right now put in a fantastic engagement. I’ve almost forgotten all the spoiled-rotten numskulls I was teaching just a month ago.
I can’t help but think though, that facing the trends in the industry runs counterpoint to all of my goals and desires except teaching.
- Close to 1/6 positions that I applied to this year were canceled. (For budget reasons.)
- One job I interviewed at couldn’t come up with a consensus and hired no one.
- Another job I interviewed at wasn’t even really available.
- I will never know how many other colleges knew who they wanted to hire before the position was even announced.
- …because, every college has a bunch of impoverished faculty who’s feet are “in the door’ clamoring for that spot you just mailed your C.V. to. Many of those adjuncts deserve those jobs, and will enjoy tripling their incomes while also reducing work loads.
- The majority of all faculty are adjuncts (see above). As states cut education budgets, I predict the percentage of adjuncts to full-timers will increase.
- The traditional college-age population is declining.
- An increasing percentage of 18-24 year old college goers are from demographics who have until now not gone to college. Without a family understanding of higher ed, they need more support. Adjuncts, by their nomadic nature, are often unable to provide that support. Also, because many of those people are making it to college because they just now made it to an economic rung that enables it, they could reasonably favor less expensive options like community colleges. But, from a faculty perspective, while I love the mission of CCs, they typically have the most egregiously miserable funding – and thus employ higher percentages of adjuncts.
- Higher ed hiring processes produce erratic results. Some of my friends hit the lottery and got tenure-track jobs right out of MFA school, with or without any notable lines on their C.V.s or quality of art work. Others were less fortunate. I’ve interviewed with committees of highly accomplished artists with massive agenda bents, as well as those that had no idea about anything in the art field, whatsoever. Ergo, lots of things other than merit are at play here, and they are apparently things I’m just barely not good enough at.
- The reward for making it through all of this is most often a cushy role in a little town no one knows how to get to, far far away from any other culture. A small pond, if you will. If you raise horses, like camping, or other rural activities, you’re in luck. I, on the other hand like city living and lots of cultural activity. I’m not willing to make the trade off – especially not as an artist who needs “culture” in order to work in my (non-teaching) field.
And so, my yen to go adjunct, just to stay in teaching, has waffled. If I was inclined to see the world in terms of fairness, I’d go mad. But, I don’t. In any case, what do you factor into “fairness”? So, the equation I’m looking at is: (some unknown probability) x (some duration of crappy employment/economic instability) = ?. I already decided to be an artist. How many fields of economic instability can I maintain at the same time? Is dedicating my time to other people worth sucking up to employers who appear disinterested in dedicating anything to me? With that and the above bullet points, what other industry could boast such problems without collapsing?
Now, here I am in the Beltway. What else is there to do? There are non-profits, which are appealing although not lucrative. Then, there’s the government. And the government runs all kinds of cultural programs that would be exciting to contribute to. Ah, job security, area cost of living conscious pay, health care, and no politics. Er, um, wait…