Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Day in the Life of a Long-Time Lecturer

You wake at 4:30 a.m. You have been doing this routine for over twenty years, so you know it well. It's mid-week, say Thursday. You take some time to plan, to assemble the materials you will need for the day. You pack a laptop, planner, and three-ring binder full of papers to grade into a backpack. You prepare a simple breakfast, a banana today, and get dressed. If you have children, you will have to drop them off at school. If they are sick, you will have to find someone to take your classes. You ride your bike to work, just as the sun is coming up. You turn off the light to save batteries. You cannot afford on-campus parking and can’t afford to maintain your car. Once you get to your office, you will take your reusable cup and go get some coffee. If they ask if it is a refill, you lie and get the coffee cheaper. Then you find a table in the student union where you can think and drink the coffee before you grade papers. If you are lucky, you will write. If you have papers to grade, papers that are due back later today, you will help others with their writing by encouraging them with your comments. You also give a grade.  They are not the best papers, but you have learned not to be too much of a snob. You plow through them and try to be constructively critical and fair to all the 25 students in each of your four classes, part of a 5/5, full-time workload. Later this morning, between classes, you will have a committee meeting. Unlike the tenured faculty, you do not get release time for service, committee, scholarly or creative work, but you do have 20% time for “initiatives;” your 20% is curriculum design, work normally done by administrators who earn four times what you make. The work is time consuming and loaded with complicated details necessary to roll out your course. Student Learning Objectives need to be spelled out; methods of assessment identified; syllabi codified, standardized; pedagogically precise verbs embedded into assignment sheets and rubrics. If the course is good, others will take credit for your work. Credit here goes to those with tenure, but tenured faculty do not have time for such work. They will accept the award your course wins for you because you will not be invited to receive it or have the money to travel to the conference that will recognize the course. Tomorrow, your committee will host a meeting with administrators. You may be asked to take minutes. Today, though, you will sit through most of the meeting, but will have to leave early to teach. On the way to class, you will eat a dry energy bar. That is lunch. You will teach and attend other meetings for five and a half hours, covering the range from a first-year course to graduate level. When you finish your last class you walk across campus in the dark to your office. There, you place your clipboard and the homework that needs to be read for tomorrow. You will then post the grades on-line so students can keep track of the minutest changes in their scores. They will email if they slip down a percentage point. Then you will ride your bike seven miles in the dark. There, you will grade some more papers before falling into bed, only to get up and do it all again the next day and the next.You are lucky that you don’t have to travel to another campus to teach a few more courses for the extra money. For a year of this work you take home about $28,000. Not bad, considering you get health insurance with it, but it is difficult to support a family. You don’t get a sabbatical, or release time, or job security, after teaching full-time for over twenty years, but are expected to serve as a course director, member of several committees, to supervise graduate student teachers, and to write somewhere in there. You have directed national level professional development programs, published in university presses, in national journals and magazines. You direct a high profile service "outreach" program. You know that no matter how much you publish, how much service you do, how well you teach, that you will never penetrate the glass ceiling above you. Promotion is out of the question, not part of your work trajectory or university policy. You keep your mind on the path you have taken, the love you have of writing, reading, and language. You remind yourself that you share that love with students as much as you can. You do this because it is what you wanted to do. You remember how it was when you were a student, how exciting it was to see life spelled out on pages, in words. You work to remember and to keep the rising anger at bay. 

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