Stay positive has always been my motto, even when I’ve been gripped by cynicism and sarcasm. I’ve always tried to keep a forward thinking positive outlook. I have to. The present isn’t a bed of roses most of the time.
It’s harder to stay positive when things are moderately shitty, than when they are really shitty. Like when Mercy was dying in the hospital, I was permanently optimistic. I refused to get negative. I knew that my positive outlook and up attitude could be heard/felt by Mercy, even when she was completely unconscious and it was calling to her to get better. And she did get better.
But now it is hard to stay positive. Life is great in some respects, Mercy’s health is getting better. She is still in line to get the surgery to undo the ostomy. we like our apartment and are keeping it nice. Mercy has even started throwing pottery again after getting her new wheel last month. So what could be bad?
It’s my job. I love my job. I’m a really good teacher. I also love tutoring. The problem is that I only have a bachelor’s degree in Math and my two positions are part-time and based off of enrollment. So every term I have to wonder whether I have a job the next term. I’m not saying that I am in danger of getting laid off every term. But teaching assignments are doled out based on seniority. I am 40th on the seniority list in a department of 70 instructors. I am not at the very bottom, but 70 instructors is too big unless the college is in the middle of record enrollment and it’s not anymore. We are back down to a more normal amount of enrollment AND we have budget problems this year.
So this is how it works. All the full-time instructors have first pick and have to pick 15 credits worth of classes. Then we start down the seniority list, with each part-timer picking 1 – 3 classes depending on how many credits they total. Since we work part-time, technically we are allowed 7.5 credits, which is an impossible number to hit. So we have to stop picking at 7, 8, or 9 credits. Some teachers only take one class or no classes at all due to their life outside of the college.
I did not realize when I landed this job, that even after my probation period I would have to pray for classes. I also didn’t understand that there was no way to advance up the list or get promoted. I honestly thought that I was leaving a dead-end retail job and moving on to a real career with raises and promotions.
When I moved from probation to the seniority list, I still did not fully understand the process. I thought that our evaluations were meant for something. Every year we are evaluated (by students) in one out of every different course that we teach that year. And every five years we have a review and meeting with our dean were we have to explain our progress and even be watched during a lecture.
Now on to the cynicism about the union and the evaluation process. The union allows us to not have to fight individually for our wages and the rules and regulations that the college must follow concerning our employment. The ugly of that is bad employees can’t be fired. A teacher could have extremely low evaluations and still stay teaching. Teachers who are not good fits for specific classes cannot be stopped from teaching that class. Really good teachers of particular courses cannot be guaranteed that course until their names come to the top of the list.
OK, a specific example. As soon as I started teaching department heads kept offering me classes that most teachers didn’t like to teach. Great! Job security, right? Except somehow along the way I helped to make those classes easier for teachers to teach.
One class, that I call checks and balances, is a math class where students learn how to apply basic (non-algebraic) math to the real world. There is no real textbook for this class. Instead there was a series of worksheets that were mimeographed (let’s see how many people remember those blue-ink slightly sweet smelling pages) sometime in the late 80’s. There were some (literally) cut and paste edits to these worksheets. They weren’t really digital at all. Well, they had been scanned once and put in pdf format. These pages also didn’t have directions. So when I started teaching it, I started making my own editable files for these worksheets and figuring out directions for the activities. And I made a few remarks about not really liking the packet.
So by the end of the next term the lead instructor for that class, took the worksheets and made word files of them with no real edits. So now the courses documents still suck, but at least they can be edited. That teach got paid for almost 100 hours for that revamp of the course, that didn’t change anything at all. What it did change was for some reason the course became more appealing to more instructors.
The next year the full-time instructor, who teaches the math class that all the nursing students have to take, had to take the year off. So I got to teach tow sections of that class for two terms. This was another class whose materials and textbook are inadequate and the instructor must put a lot into the course every term. Long story short, same thing happened as in the checks and balances course. Well, almost the same thing. This time I actually got paid for a thirty of the hours to help edit the course and at least this lead instructor put a lot of effort into the revamp.
So I did benefit from this revamp, but I’ll never get to teach it because more people above me are interested in it now.
Another term I was approached by the math office about teaching hybrid classes. This is a class that only meets once a week to test or summarize the material for the week and the majority of the class is online. I took that on, thinking that all the teachers who shy away from computer related things would not like this course. Wrong, those classes are now snatched up first because after the initial set up (that I helped with the first term) there is less work for the instructor.
This year I had been approached about a course designed to help students who continuously fail introductory algebra. It is self-paced for the students meaning that they can take 1 to 4 of the 4 credit class during a term, so they can have more than one term to finish a course. The other aspect of this class is that it meets twice a week for tutoring help. What the main job of the teacher for this class is boosting confidence and cheerleading. The students who take this course are so afraid of math that they do not even trust themselves on their answer to 5 times 7. Mercy calls it my coddling course, which it sometimes is. I spend most of my time boosting self-esteem. It is even more of a therapy session at times rather than a math class even though we are constantly talking about and doing math.
When it comes down to it almost all instructors would not like this class because it is not the easy part of teaching. Yes, I don’t have to prep for this class besides putting a big smile on my face before entering class. So I should be reassured that at least this class should still be there for me come time for me to pick classes next term.
So long story longer…
The schedule for spring term went up on the college’s website a little more than a week ago and I still haven’t been called down to the office to pick my classes for next term. When we get to this point every term, I always get nervous and keep an eye on all the TBA’s by the instructor name part of the class listings. Right now there are 17 sections that still don’t have an instructor assigned to them and there are 10 instructors above me on the seniority list who haven’t picked yet.
Is it still possible that I will get two classes? (I have to get 2 classes or we can’t pay the rent.) Yes, there is still that possibility. Some teachers may not be taking classes and some may be just taking one class. I’m freaking out because last term at this time, I was the last person in the seniority list to be able to pick and historically at our college spring term has lower enrollment than winter term.
I am really trying to stay positive about getting enough classes spring term, but I would be
naiive no stupid to not have a backup plan. Could I go to my old retail job and see if they could give me some hours? Sure, but they’ve hired someone all ready. Should I look for a job? Of course! But do I look for a job to supplement my income or do I just look for a job that would be my entire income?
When it comes down to it, I MUST try and find a different full-time job. I cannot have these extremely stressful weeks every three months wondering “Will we be able to live next month?”
So I’m back in the job market. I already asked my dean and my tutoring supervisor for letters of recommendation. They are sad that they may be losing me, but their hands are tied. There is nothing that they can do in the current seniority driven system to help me keep my job.
So now back to positive thinking. I am a damn good worker in any job that I have ever taken on. I am efficient and try to make my workplace better for coworkers, clients, students, etc. I DO have a job right now and am not on the streets. Since we rent, I am not tied down to the city in which I live. Mercy and I are prepared for relocation. In fact, since we lost many possessions this year due to a break-in at the old house, moving would be simple…hell, somethings are still packed…