Sunday, February 04, 2007

Notes from the Academy, Ch. XXVIII

We interrupt this broadcast for a brief dispatch from the trenches. The saga of PS Q112 will resume shortly.

Rebecca Loudon has a recurring series on her wonderful blog called "my glamorous job." This is inspired by that.

As Assistant Chair of my department, it is my job to help things run smoothly. Oftentimes, this involves being the chosen ventilation vehicle for the frustrations of students, instructors, staff, and administrators. My coworkers may see me as everything from a facilitator to a secretarial worker to an advocate to an adversary, representing policies I did not institute and with which I may not even agree. In exchange, I get to teach three classes a semester instead of four. (We are a "teaching institution." That is why adjuncts, who teach most of our classes, have to take on so many classes, and full-timers have to attend so many meetings and serve on so many committees that we all have to grade papers and do our course prep on the subway.)

The other day a colleague got right in my face and accused me of having "forgotten what it's like to be an adjunct." Well, folks, even my addled memory is not that bad.

Yes, it has been a few years since I was in the Will Teach for Food line, but my dear husband is smack in the middle of it. Yesterday he was telling me that he gets paid the same (measly) amount to corral 30-40 eager jazz students into combos that some other guy in his department gets to come in once a week and oversee one placid little quartet. When he brought it up to the department chair, he was advised not to let all the kids into the class.

"So," I said. "That's what you'll do, right?"

He looked defeated, sighed. "I can't turn away students who want to learn."

I am a tenured professor. Life is perfect, right? What more could I possibly want? Maybe to live without fear of the rent check bouncing or those nasty collection calls. Not buying groceries with a credit card half the month. A home for this four-person family that is larger than a broom closet. Neither my husband nor I has a gambling addiction, we do not go on shopping sprees or cruises. My kids go to public school, we vacation (when we have the time) at our parents' houses, we get our clothes at Target and Old Navy.

I'm not complaining at all. This is my dream job, and I say that entirely without irony. This is the job I prepared for. Unlike my numerous stints in the corporate world, my education and talents matter here, and are more or less appreciated. For the first time in my life I have job security, which is huge in today's economy. My family has health insurance. I get a holiday break, a spring break, and a few weeks off in the summer. And this really is a great life, living in New York, the greatest city in the world. But I'm tired of people thinking I am so privileged, living the high life in an ivory tower. As a coworker once told me years ago, "My mother always says, if we all put our shoes in a pile, we'd want to leave with our own pair."

OK, that's it for now. I have to go into the office now (note: It's SUNDAY. Poor me!).


jennifer said...

Teaching is a gift, to be sure, and I thank you for sharing it with your students, and the world.

Anonymous said...

You are definitely not alone. I am happy with my job, like what I do, am tenured as well and if it wasn't for the help of my family I couldn't pay for my daughter's school. Hopefully the contract will be ratified soon and we will see a little improvement in our paychecks.

Amy said...

Thanks to both Jennifers for your kind comments! Jennifer M., I commented on your blog, too! Glad you are still blogging!