Here I go again. This time will surely be the last. I do as little as possible. I cram the assigned reading 20 minutes before class, just like the students. I wrote the syllabi after classes had already started. And I’m breaking all the department’s dictatorial rules about the photocopier. We are not supposed to make class sets on the office machine because it is just too darn expensive for an English department to pay for such things as paper.
Instead, we’re supposed to send jobs to the big office downstairs with all the industrial photocopiers. We can pick up the copies a couple of days later. Obviously, that won’t work for me, as I have already expressed my lack of a desire to do any advance planning of the courses that I am teaching.
So I make copies on the department machine while no one is looking. I will keep doing it until the photocopy police take me away in cuffs. One day I had to jump the subway turnstile (because the ticket reader was busted) right before coming to work and making illegal copies.
I was a bad, bad girl on that day.
I am determined not to adjunct again after this semester. Did I mention that? Possibly I will teach one evening class, which will allow me to look for, you know, a job. But I’ve said that before. I’m hoping it’s true this time.
My family has stopped asking how the academic job market is going. Sort of. My SO was visiting a relative the other day, and she asked him if I wasn’t throwing in the towel too soon: “Surely, if she just keeps applying!” So, people have stopped asking me, but they are still asking my SO if I am not just a little crazy to give up such a wonderful career as a Professor. Pretty soon, they’ll stop asking him and move on to those outside my circle. My mom will come for a visit, stop the postman delivering my mail and ask, “Have you heard my daughter talk about any plans to get a job at a university?”
That could totally happen.
You know what else could happen? Revolution. I’m getting involved in a group on campus that is trying to organize a labor action against the university. There are a zillion adjuncts. We could do a lot if we did it together. It has to be handled very carefully because the Taylor Law in New York State makes it illegal for public workers to strike. So if you just stop coming to class as an individual, either out of spite or because you just don’t feel like teaching that day, it’s fine. But if you declare, as a group of adjuncts, that you won’t come to work as a form of protest, well it’s the jailhouse for you, sister!
I’m not too worried about breaking the Taylor law. Isn’t that the point of a strike, to do something you’re not supposed to do?
Some adjuncts want to work on the campaign, but they are a little skittish about getting found out by their department Chairs. They are afraid of losing their fellowship (if they’re students) or just getting fired outright.
I have not a single fear in that regard. I don’t know why. Maybe my relatives are right and I am a little crazy. Or maybe it’s that, though I despise adjuncting, I have learned something from the students I teach.
I’m teaching a class of students who want to be professors or teachers. English teachers. What a crazy dream is that in times like these! They’re wonderful people. They deserve far more than the paltry amount of time I can give to them.
They don’t seem to know or care that there aren’t many jobs in higher ed, and K-12 is being gutted as well, what with Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind in the process of destroying the 400-year history of the American Common School. Not that that history was all grand all the time or anything. Some African Americans in pre-civil rights Mississippi might have something to say about that.
Anyway, I look out over my classroom of students (mostly women) who want to be English teachers. Like me, I presume, though they don’t know that I am not a real teacher at all, but a temporary stand-in for the professor who should be there – who would be there – instead.
I’m not going to use my classroom as a forum for speeches about how screwed up education is in this country, about how it’s been taken over by technocrats who’ve never taught a day in their lives, or about how Wall Street bankers, who see a vast untapped market in public education, are vulturing in for the kill.
I won’t say any of that. But what I will do is help organize the adjuncts at my college without fear or shame. I don’t care if the bosses know. They can throw me in the slammer. The students, who have chosen to study Humanities despite everything, have made me quite unafraid.