THE BLOG
09/05/2013 12:21 pm ET Updated Nov 05, 2013

The Writer as Adjunct

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...

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