There are certain things that do annoy me to no end.  Today, a co-worker tried to tell me that I could get a job teaching high school (or at least tutoring high school kids for the SAT), and that I didn’t need to be part of the retail rat race.  This is something I hear all the time — that I could do better than Wal+Mart, and me being there makes no sense.  Or, that I should go back to part time college teaching, because it’s certainly got to be a gig than working for Mr. Sam’s Evil Empire.

First, I do not doubt these people’s sincerity.  For the most part, they think working discount retail is a dead end hell, and if I have all the degrees that I have, that finding a job should be very easy for me.  Even in this economy.  I very much wish that was the case; it isn’t, however.    I always tell them, “Trust me.  If that were the case, I certainly wouldn’t be here.”  And it’s true.  I don’t work for 11.30 an hour because I want to be in solidarity with the proletariat.  I have a mortgage.  I need money.  And if working at a fucking Taco Bell gave me that, I would work at Taco Bell.  It’s that simple.    At this moment, Wal~Mart gives me at least some stability, and teaching never, ever offered that.  Let me illustrate.

There are two very, very low points in my professional life.  The first came in 1998/1999, when I was finishing my MA in English Education.  The school in question had a habit of admitting more students than they could handle.  You see, each student means a fresh dose of tuition money, and this is not some shady online educator, either, but a fully accredited, very large public university (One of the colleges within it, to be more precise).  I was mismanaged badly, from being assigned an advisor that was no longer at that institution (she’d taken a job elsewhere and had already moved), but nobody seemed to have told me that, or the college, for that matter.  Paperwork was always mismanaged, too.   I was also pursuing a West Virginia teaching license at the same time.  At the time, I couldn’t drive, didn’t even have a driver’s license, and that just made me out to be a cultural weirdo — never mind that overseas, in the Europe I grew up in, you couldn’t drive till age 18, even when you were on an American military base.  Long story short, my student teaching paper work explicitly stated, “I do not know how to drive, I do not own a car, and I don’t possess a driver’s license.”  The school’s reponse?  To place my student teaching at a school 50 MILES AWAY (ONE WAY).   Still, I tried to perservere and … and?… and I didn’t.  I was eventually kicked out of student teaching for lack of “progress” and that’s something I’m still very bitter about.  Sure, I have my short comings, but to deem me as “unprofessional” because I didn’t grow up in continental American car culture is beyond stupid.  And speaking of fucking stupid, and could spend a comment or two on the idiotic musclehead that was assigned to me as an adivsor (a very, very nice man who while talking to other people, reffered to me as “his special project.”  Often.  Very often.)

Bitterness aside, I’m now at the point where I couldn’t go back and get a teaching credential if I tried.  And I have tried.  My masters degree in Education pretty much screws me; I’ve been told this by faculty at a wholly different university.  all I can do is try alternative certification/lateral entry.  I’ve done the paper work on that, and I’ve learned that admistrators really don’t want to go that route, especially when, every year,  there’s a fresh crop of newly minted grads with actual teaching licenses.  In short: I’m screwed.

So, 1999, I graduated with an MA that is essentially meaningless, in terms of getting a job.  I didn’t know that at the time.  The lore, I had heard, was that people with Master degrees could get a job at junior or community colleges.  My attempts to land such a job proved impossible, even af100% ter I returned to graduate school and secured a MFA in poetry.    English departments, in higher education, rely on part-time adjuncts — sure, they dangle a prospect of climbing the ladder, but it’s not neccessarly 100% true.  Half the time, the chair is just desperate to fill out his schedule, and get his/her 1 Bazillion freshman comp courses covered.   Adjunct teaching isn’t salaried, and isn’t even hourly — you’re paid a fixed amount per course.  So, three classes are not enough to cover your bills.  The result?  You work yourself to near death piecing together classes at many different schools, and even then, it’s not enough money to pay.  The near-death part might sound like sarcasm on my part, but for me, it’s closer to the truth.

2006, and particularly 2007 were terrible years for me.  At one point, I taught classes at Rutgers University, Ocean County College, and Brookdale Community College.  In addition to that, I had hours as a part timer tutoring in a writing lab.   In total, the money wasn’t that bad — if you forget the albatrosses known as Christmass and Summer vacation (school’s not in session means no work, no work means no paycheck).  Also, if you considering shutttling back and forth all over New Jersey, and good chunk of the money I was making went straight into the gas tank.  On top of that, I had an undiagnosed case of severe sleep apnea.   So, imagine the wear and tear of all that commuting, and add to that not getting quality sleep.  At one point, I fell asleep on the Garden State Parkway and instantly woke to find myself driving at a tree at 65 miles per hour.  Not soon after that, I was fired from one job because I couldn’t stay awake half the time.  Eventually, I learned I had a severe sleep disorder, but by that time, all my bridges were burned.  In our society, nobody takes sleep disorders seriously.

That’s when I realized I had had enough.  Sure, a few more semesters of teaching followed, but that’s when I knew I couldn’t stay in higher education much longer.  And for all the complications this suggests, I can tell that the reality of it all is far more complex…. but the rest of it can be saved for another time.