The Part-Time Teaching Trap

Should I stay or should I go?

To paraphrase those prophets of indecision, The Clash: If I stay there will be trouble. But if I go, will there be double?

Several of my favorite post-academic bloggers have been pondering this age-old question. Selloutyoursoul wonders if we should leave and save ourselves or stay and “fix” academia. And On The Fence is, well, on the fence.

After Academe presents the most typical and, thus, most painful predicament postacademics face: should we continue the servitude that is adjunct life in the vague hope that someday, through some combination of ingenuity, luck, and persistence, we will stop being adjuncts or, what Susan Miller called, “the sad women in the basement”?

For me, the answer is a resounding NO, especially after my lovely experience at the MLA this year. I don’t want to be the sad woman in the basement anymore. (Of course, the English department where I teach is not literally in the basement. It’s in a New York City high rise! Ironic much?)

I hope to leave the adjunct game (and academia in general) after this semester. I will teach this spring. For money. And because I enjoy teaching. But I am determined to move on after the semester is over. I was a barista once. I can froth milk like nobody’s business! Or I’ll sign up with a temp agency. On my resumé, I’ll leave off my PhD and write, “I can type like a million words a minute, bitches!”

Today I was reminded why it may be a challenge to follow through on this resolution.

I got a call from the Director of Writing at the college where I teach. She offered me a job. A part-time job, of course, but a job nonetheless. The department wants to pay me to do some administrative work for them. It’s work I have done before and enjoy.

And they’ve offered to pay me pretty well too! Why? Because they have the money in the budget and, here’s a shock, they’re nice people. I actually really like the Director of Writing. She is compassionate and considerate, a pleasant person.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is that this is exactly the kind of thing that keeps marginal workers like me on the margins. It’s the reason we never leave. We say, “Oh, I’ll just adjunct one more semester. I only have to go in on T/TH! And then there’s the part-time admin work they’ve just generously given me. That will be valuable experience!” This is the thinking that consigns us to the basement (or the high-rise.)

Here’s what I have come to realize, though: It’s a trap.

You may like teaching. You may hate the thought of a 9-5 job. (Personally, I would do almost anything to avoid riding the subway at rush hour.) Worse, you may hate the thought of letting go of that final link to academia.

That’s where we’re all mistaken. Adjuncting is no link to academia. It’s low-wage labor. In fact, it’s the worse kind of low-wage labor because it keeps us from taking steps to meet other people, to learn how to translate our skills, and to eventually do other things with our lives.

Time to move on.

Academia, I leave you with words of Eminem, another l’enfant terrible of the music world, “Bitch, you get no love.”

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2 Responses to The Part-Time Teaching Trap

  1. namowal says:

    Ha ha, you just described the restaurant business! That’s the business I fled for academia, and if I never go back it’ll be too soon. Good luck to you – hope you find something that doesn’t string you along with puny but tasty morsels!

  2. Qing says:

    I want to find a part-time job in summer-for teaching middle or high school student math to make some money.
    Could you help me to find out the opportunity? Thank you!
    requirement: 20 dollars/ h

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