New Beginnings: Moving from Higher to “Hire” Education

Today’s blog New Beginnings is primarily about Ann’s New Year’s resolution to eat more healthy food.  Given that in Andy’s Corner I am allowed to “go off script” from time to time, my New Beginnings is more about moving from “higher” to “hire” education.  Let me explain.

Trudfeau adjunct professor.jpg

This cartoon panel by Garry Trudeau is not only funny but hits the nail on the head when it comes to “hire” education.

I previously mentioned that for 27 years in my former life I was a member of the LSU  Sociology faculty.  While there I had my own office – with windows!, a separate office for graduate students who worked for me, funds for research and travel, and was obligated to teach just one course per semester – of my choice. I probably don’t need to mention that this rigorous teaching schedule garnered little sympathy from Ann who was on her feet teaching 6 classes a day at Scotlandville Magnet High School.

Stubbs Hall

Stubbs Hall at LSU, home of the Sociology Department

After taking early retirement in 2002 and moving to Glen Ellen, we found the cost of living to be a bit heftier than expected and decided it might be wise for me to earn a little extra income by seeking teaching opportunities at nearby Sonoma State U.  I inquired and was hired on a semester-to-semester basis as an adjunct.  A New Beginning had begun!

stevenson hall.jpg

Stevenson Hall, home of the SSU Sociology Department

That it was a “new beginning” first hit home when the department administrative assistant showed me what would be my office.  I was to share space with another “more senior” adjunct instructor whose book shelves and desk already pretty much filled up the small (windowless) room.  There was no computer or extra desk for me, but I was told that I would be able to find a desk at surplus across campus.

After checking out the massive, mostly three-legged surplus desks, I ended up buying my own tiny Ikea computer desk that would fit in the corner and had room for my laptop and a few books.  Fortunately, there was a perfectly fine office chair, as long as you didn’t try to lean back in it.

courses taught ssu and lsu

Comparing the courses I taught at LSU and SSU provides clear evidence of “New Beginnings” 

The first teaching gig I managed to land was a summer course that was paid according to how many students enrolled.  Five students showed up.  I had prepared the course, Population and Society, in the lecture format I used at LSU but quickly discovered that doing a formal stand-up lecture to 5 stone-faced students wasn’t going to cut it. So, I totally revamped my teaching style from a lecture/performance mode to a small group and interactive mode.  It seemed to work.

Before long I was asked to teach other classes that came down the pike that needed an instructor; I always agreed to do them (see the above table). I even was asked to teach in the Criminology and Criminal Justice Studies Department.   Eventually I ended up teaching the equivalent of full time (i.e., 4 courses per semester), which at the adjunct pay level earned about half of what a tenure track faculty would get.

Despite the culture shock of moving from a secure tenure track academic position to a precarious semester-by-semester status, I have to admit that I loved what I was doing.  My SSU faculty colleagues were fantastic and never once did I feel less valuable because of my adjunct status (except, of course, when the paycheck came in).  I actually looked forward to showing up at my modest office and interacting with the other faculty members.  More importantly, the opportunity to teach so many different courses forced me to rediscover my sociological imagination and energize my love of the discipline – and teaching.  Down deep somewhere I am a ham and love an audience.  I must admit that this what I miss most now that I am a two-time retiree.

Senior seminar with Andy lighter

My SSU Senior Seminar class, 2008

In the end, I can’t think of a better way to ease out of a career that I loved so much.  I just hope that some of the students I encountered while in my adjunct phase came away with something more valuable than just earning a few credits.  Maybe they will think of their life’s trials and tribulations as “new beginnings” – with the potential of having great endings.

3 Comments

  1. David Ewing says:

    OK, Boomer. Welcome to the gig economy. If you don’t know the “OK, Boomer” meme yet, you should learn it. And also get clear about what “woke” now means. Then have a visit to my Zazzle “store” where I am offering a whole line of Woke (or rather wOKe) Boomer T-shirts, etc. The initial effort was the one with a drawing of Goya of an old man with his feet in the air captioned, “Dispierta dando patadas” (He wakes up kicking.) And on the back a logo: wOKe Boomer. I think it is very smart and uproarious, which means that practically no one else is going to have any idea what I am getting at…except possibly the small audience reading this comment. What’s new? So, have a look: https://www.zazzle.com/store/woke_boomer

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    • theRaggedys says:

      Oh, David, this is going to take lots of research on my (Ann’s) part! I hadn’t even heard of “OK, Boomer,” much less the implications of using “woke” with anyone. We’ll do our best to get more “in” with all of this and will recommend your wOKe Boomer shirts to everyone who gets it 🙂 Actually, I think I’ll get one for Andy – and he can broadcast the good news when he wears it.

      Like

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