I absolutely love teaching college.
I consider it an honor, privilege and blessing to share what I know about writing with first-year composition students and sometimes upperclassmen. I would do it for free: show up in a room, talk about editing, help people (most in Miami don't speak English as a first language) with their writing. Really? And I can deconstruct literature; choose the stories, authors and novels? And someone will pay me for this? Teaching is so rewarding.
The problem isn't teaching, rather the amount of classes I have to teach to make a living. Unfortunately, I can't teach for free. I have to make a living. I hold a MFA degree in Writing from a reputable program, one of the best in the country -- that degree allows me to instruct students on the college level and I've been an Adjunct Professor for seven years.
I'm also a writer. I studied how to write novels. I've published two. I'm writing another. I compose journalism with my own column at Miami New Times. I freelance for a Fortune 500 company and other odd gigs that come along. I write for the Huffington Post.
Many writing gigs don't pay much, if anything. But it's a labor of love.
I'd say 80 percent of the people I know with MFAs are not working writers. They've drifted from writing to focus on making a living, some in marketing, many in academia.
Some are adjuncts, or part-timers, like me.
Others secured instructor or professor positions.
During the last few years, on average, I've taught 16-20 classes per academic year to make about 40,000 dollars annually. I haven't had a semester off, including summer. This term that just started, I'm carrying a workload of eight classes, spread across three schools.
Eight classes may seem like a lot, but I can handle it. At the end of the week it boils down to 24 hours of lecturing and workshops, with some heavy periods of grading. I still feel blessed. I'm not working outside under the scalding Florida sun. Or, driving some rig back and forth across the country like a speed freak. I feel blessed to have a job, more-so one I love.
However, when I compare what I do as an Adjunct to other full-time professors, that's when the scales of justice feel uneven. A full-time professor at most universities teaches eight classes a year, not a semester. Many full-time professors (like my mentors) teach less than that. It's only when I realize I'm teaching two or three times as many classes as my peers, for half the money--that's when I feel slighted. In addition, when listening to some peers, I have this inner confidence that I'm better at the job. I carry excitement. I enjoy and engage students more. It's weird, but, unlike many teachers, I want to be there.
I read Rate My Professor.
It's not hard to see what students think of professors.
Do I need to publish?
No one at any of the three English departments I work for publishes more. But it's not academic writing -- meaning by academics, for academics, with a readership of 10.
Maybe I should apply for a full-time position?
I've applied for so many I've stopped bothering. Schools hardly hire full-timers, and when they do, the applicant pool is huge, and they always skip over the candidate with a MFA degree for one with a PhD, no matter experience or loyalty.
Many doctoral professors are rich in theory, but poor in empathy.
So I grind away, the company man, biding time, quietly shuffling from one school to another, no office, stealing moments in-between classes to work on creative or freelance work. Does the teaching interfere with the writing? Absolutely. But I figure and hope it's only a matter of time. It's only a matter of time before something pops.
Speaking of time, I actually have to run. I'm late for a class.
Tonight should be fun.
We're deconstructing Raymond Carver's "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love." I'll be focusing on the anti-hero, minimalism. Wait. Is today Tuesday or Thursday?
If it's Tuesday, it's Carver-time in Comp II.
Thursday is Comp I and an editing workshop, I think.
It's all-good. I'll figure it out by the time I arrive...