On Adjuncting and “Vocation”

I am really delighted to return to the Chronicle Review, which allows me to write personal, more ruminative essays (that take me much longer to write, hence their scarcity).

Today’s piece is called “Hanging Up on a Calling,” and it’s about my changing attitude toward the “vocation” of teaching in the past year. It interviews many adjuncts I know–maybe even you!

This link should be paywall-free, but if it’s paywalled, I apologize–however, please do remember that the CHE doesn’t advertise that much, and so the paywall is what allows them to pay ME. Remember, getting my work “out there” is great, but making a living is too.

5 thoughts on “On Adjuncting and “Vocation”

  1. Great piece. I’ve been feeling really lethargic and, I confess, resentful of the classroom, the students, the whole picture (and I’m teaching courses of my own design). Sadly, it shows and I’m really struggling to keep this show on the road till June or the students will cream me.

    Frankly, I’m kinda done with teaching w/out pay.You can be assured that my enthusiasm would be rekindled with a 50K offer (highest figure I made in academe before adjuncting–pathetic pay as it is). Why? Because this is an f-in job, not a vocation. $ does talk. Can’t wait till June for all this to end (and, I have to say, the program I teach has been very generous and accommodating…within the parameters of “the system” that is).


  2. This was a great read and I wish more people thought the same way. My partner is a secondary-school teacher whose parents, smug titans in the world of corporate finance, can only make sense of her choice to teach by interpreting it as a sacrificial act of charity (along the lines of a “calling”). If she ever complains to them about her meagre pay or long hours, they experience acute cognitive dissonance because, in their minds, teachers aren’t teaching for the money. Of course she’s not teaching “just” for the money, but she does choose to work rather than not work for the sake of earning a livable wage.


  3. Thanks for writing this piece. While I haven’t been adjuncting very long, I’ve been doing it long enough to know that this is a dead-end gig. To add insult to injury, I learned that I would make $120 more on unemployment per month than teaching my two classes at a large state university. My students are great. I have a lot of respect for them. The problem is that I can’t afford to teach them. I spend time everyday searching for and applying for non-academic jobs. Here’s hoping that I find something, anything by the end of the winter quarter so that I don’t have to sign up to teach the same survey course (again) in spring.


  4. So very well-said! I shared this piece with our part-time faculty union just now. Even though I’m a librarian now, I was once a teacher and, intermittently, a substitute teacher. Not nearly the same as an adjunct, but in some ways some of the same ill-treatment and bias filters to those who find themselves as substitute teachers, just as with adjuncts. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.


  5. Since I’ve left academia to be a private school teacher I feel like my teaching skills have improved, and that I am better at this than ever. A big reason, I think, is the level of support I get and the independence that’s given to me, as well as improved compensation. I’m lucky, since most teachers don’t have such nice working conditions.

    I come from a family of teachers, and the lack of support and respect over the years breaks the spirit of even the most enthusiastic teachers. As you point out, the indignities and trials of adjuncting accelerates this process. I’m sad, because you are so obviously a fantastic teacher, but I get it. As I like to say, teachers are not missionaries or charity workers, we are professionals. The rhetoric of “calling” however is more suited to the clergy.


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