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  • In 2008 I finished going to school and entered the job market, just as the economy was hitting the tank, and as draconian budget cuts to education in California made jobs in my chosen profession, a community college history teacher, far and few between. My personal choice not to leave California and take a job anywhere in the country further limited my options. I felt like a mid-20s college grad trying to start my career as much an early-40s man with an advanced degree trying to start his career.

    While I did go on the full-time professor job market for a couple of years, the jobs available were quite few, and while I did get some interviews, it seems my personality or something didn’t allow me to pass through and get any of those jobs. Since it is a lot cheaper for schools to hire part-time teachers instead of full-time, I realized that those jobs were more plentiful (which is not saying much), and I could stay living along the coast, so like many other wannnabe profs I know, I started applying for those jobs. And very quickly I got my fist class to teach at a community college in San Diego.

    But that was only one class, not even one thousand dollars a month. I got a cheap room living with some other guys, but even only paying $400 a month in rent left me with very little to live on. And once again I was back in my twenties, living off of ramen and white bread and peanut butter, drinking as much water as possible to fill my stomach. Once a month, on payday, I would treat myself to the lunch special at the sushi place around the corner from my home, and that would eat up my discretionary spending for the month. I met a great lady who liked me enough, but couldn’t handle the fact I couldn’t pay for myself to go to a movie. That I couldn’t buy a sleeping bag to go camping. All I could do was sit around the house and watch TV for hours on end, something that greatly annoyed my roommates. I was absolutely miserable. And then the student loan payments began. I would now have about five dollars a month to gas my car to get to my one class. And like a 22-year old just out of school, I had to move in with my mother.

    I started to apply for every single local teaching job I could find. Teaching ESL, teaching for online universities, teaching at nursing schools, anywhere that might have a class that even tangentially I could teach. I would take anything and turned down nothing. Each semester I would pick up another class at another school (I even taught Chicano Studies at that nursing school). After a couple years I had built up enough classes at enough schools I was able to stop applying for every job that came up. And I was able to move out of my mom’s condo.

    I have read about people who grew up during the depression, who went with nothing and lived in humiliating poverty and the brink of starvation for a period of time, and after the depression all they wanted to do was work work work. They lived with fear of returning to poverty, and the knowledge of how easy it is to fall into that state. In a sense that is how I feel, especially as a part-timer, who has the job security of a temp. Though I stopped applying at new schools, I accept every class I'm offered at the now four schools where I teach. With each semester, I have been offered more classes, and last year I finally reached that point where my tax rates told me I wasn’t broke anymore. I could go to a concert, I could take a girl out on a date, I could travel again. But still, gotta work work work. Take on more classes, and more, and more.

    Right now I am teaching nine classes at four schools, both online and in person. I think I have reached the tipping point. The only time I have worked harder than this was studying for my PhD exams while being a TA in grad school. I am working hours and hours every day, and when I do take most of a Saturday day off, that just backs me up and means I have twice the work the next day. I shouldn’t even be writing this, I should be grading papers on Marx and the Industrial Revolution. But I cannot say no to anyone who is offering me work. Every email gets a reply in the affirmative. I mean, who knows? Another round of budget cuts could mean I have no community college classes next semester (that has happened for summer classes, where one school where I teach has had to basically cancel summer school altogether). I’m even thinking of applying to another online university.

    Don’t get me wrong, the paychecks are nice, I get to fly my daughter home from Germany for Xmas for example. But I’m going batty. And I really really really need to get laid. There is still another nine weeks to this semester, and I know, of course, I’ll get through it, and I’ll get my winter vacation. But when will this end? When will I be able to say no?

    …………………………………………

    Side note – How do you think this affects the education of the students in classes, when the part-timers who are teaching more and more of the college classes offered because they are cheap, have to work like this to get a decent middle-class life. I know it is suffering, because I know I can’t spend much time dealing with the each of the hundreds of students I have.
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