I have been neglecting my blog in part, because I have entered the world of academia. Well, sort of. I have begun teaching a basic writing course – remedial English – at a local community college near where I live. It has been an interesting experience. I am what they call an adjunct instructor. That means that I am not faculty, but more like a contract employee, hired to teach per class. I don’t get paid much, but it is more than I was making as a free-lance writer this past year, and the paycheck is steadier.
When I was younger, I used to imagine being a college professor. I would see myself in some sort of hip outfit, pulling into my reserved faculty parking space in a cool little retro MG with the top down, stepping out with a worn leather messenger bag full of papers to grade and a latte in hand as I strolled confidently into a cathedral of a building that would be home to the English department. Not MY English department, mind you. I would be much too busy writing and touring the country promoting my latest novel to run a department. My students would love me; they would fall all over themselves to try and impress me. They would ooooh and aaaah at all of my lectures on lofty literary topics such as “Images of Evil in the Romantic Poetry of Alfred Lord Tennyson,” and the wait list for my creative writing class would be over a year.
That is what I imagined.
That is nothing like what I am doing.
I am pulling up to an industrial building in my black minivan and wheeling a milk crate full of papers that I have already graded into an office only slightly larger than my closet at home that I share with another adjunct who teaches on the days that I am not here.
I have students who like me, certainly, but they are all striving to do as little as possible to at least manage the C required to make it out of my class and into English 101. There are a few exceptions, of course. Out of nearly 70 students, I have maybe 20 that have serious potential. They are the students who are actually here to learn. They either have never tried, or they were never taught, but they are capable. They think that I am funny, they say that I am their favorite teacher, and that no one has ever broken down English and writing for them as simply and effectively. They try.
Then there are the rest of the students. The ones who have missed 9 out of 12 class meetings, the ones who have turned in 3 out of 15 assignments, and the ones who have yet to complete a single weekly journal. They are halfway through the semester and have a daily average of 14, a journal average of 10, and a test average of 0 because they failed to turn in the take-home test that they were given 5 days to complete. They are the ones that I want to kick out. I want to hand them a pink slip and show them the door, but I cannot. Community college is state funded. I am prohibited from using attendance as a grading tool. (Why it is okay to use attendance as a grading tool in state funded primary and high school, but not okay in community college, I have no idea.) In my assessment, it was suggested that I “soften my criticisms” and I wanted to tell them that I already AM softening my criticisms.
My mother, who has been a teacher all of her adult life and is now retired, asked me how I was enjoying it. I told her “I love teaching. I despise grading. I look forward to the discussion of writing with the 10% of students who can follow what I am saying and even the additional 20% who wish that they could follow it and make effort to. I dread seeing the slackers. If I could only teach the students who wanted to learn, it might be worth pursuing as a career, but it is okay as a job for now.” She replied that the only way I would get to teach just the students who wanted to learn was to go back to school, get a doctorate, and teach 500 level courses to others attempting to get their doctorate. I don’t want to do that.
I’m not even sure that I want to do it again, which is good since they do not have any classes available for me at the moment for next semester. I have told them of my availability, and time will tell if they have to create another section or two that fit those parameters, but for now, at least, I am facing unemployment (again). Part of me is glad, honestly. I am looking forward to getting back on track with my weight loss (which has morphed into “damage control”) and spending some quality time in my yoga pants with my DVR.
And maybe even writing on my blog.
But now, I have 70 some odd essays to grade before Tuesday…joy.