Post Academic

Adjuncting and High School Teaching: Adventures in Post-Gradland

Adventures in Gradland (a great blog, FYI) is doing a series on based on a roundtable talk on Post Academic careers. The first article in the series is on what life is like as an adjunct, while the second is on high school teaching. Many PhDs in the Humanities work as adjuncts to fill in the gaps as they try to get a tenure-track job, while there are also those who work as much as full-time tenured brethren as “freeway flyers”–just without the benefits and perks. While it is often said that grad students are treated like cheap labor, this post suggests that adjuncts may be treated worse.

I recommend reading the whole thing, but the post’s bottom line stuck with me:

… don’t adjunct while you’re ABD unless you’re able to teach only one or two courses related to your dissertation, don’t adjunct for more than a year or two unless you want to be labeled a “generalist,” find out what course credits you need to teach high school so that you have a back-up plan, and get familiar with new technologies and online learning. And urge the MLA and the AAUP to start fighting for the rights of adjuncts.

One woman in the audience who had worked as an adjunct for several years made an impassioned plea–don’t adjunct, period. You’ll be exploited, you’ll ruin your chances of a secure academic career, and you’ll contribute to an exploitative system.

You may need to adjunct at some point because that’s what you’re qualified to do, but don’t overdo it. The cycle of exploitation is dangerous. You’ll expend so much energy on teaching that you won’t have the time to train for other careers if that’s where you suspect you’re headed in the long run. At the very least, you should be figuring out how to teach high school. High schoolers aren’t that scary, and the benefits are way better than what you would get as an adjunct.

Speaking of which, Arnold picks up the coverage of what the Gradland blog has to say about high school teaching below the fold…

Adventures in Gradland also offers a very detailed and informative account on the (mostly) pros and (some) cons of teaching high school, based on the experience of a Ph.D. who happened upon a part-time gig that turned into a well-paying full-time one.  The protagonist of Gradland’s account, “Mark”, tells a story with a happy ending, which began when he worked a temporary job teaching a one-week class that read–get this–James Joyce’s Ulysses from cover to cover in one week!  One thing led to another for Mark, who’s now gainfully employed and seemingly fulfilled as a private high school teacher.  It seems that the only con that Mark has identified is that high school teaching doesn’t allow for the kind of intellectual engagement that Ph.D. level research trains us for–although you wonder sometimes whether even the university makes that possible these days, between teaching that sometimes seems like babysitting, funding cutbacks, and all the service that junior faculty have to get involved in for their tenure file.

I could say more about the post, but I don’t want to steal Gradland’s thunder and  you really should read the very thorough and informative post in its entirety over there.

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