Is that really a word?
I was thinking, initially, adjuntapathy….
But, I’m not quite sure that is a word either.
What do they mean?
That the adjunct, or contingent, faculty member teaching approximately 73% of all classes in higher education is facing a moment of apathy.
Or, at least this one is.
And quite deeply.
I’ve struggled with my love-hate relationship with my contingent work for about 3 years. I really like, for the most part, my students and the energy they bring to the classes and the lessons they walk away with. I like being a part of higher education, and for as much as people downplay the role of community colleges, I really REALLY like working in the community college environment.
But, following basic social theory of cost-benefit analysis, I think that finally the disadvantages of working as an adjunct faculty member are grossly outweighing the benefits….
And, even though I’m not a brilliant numbers person, I know that when the bad overwhelms the good, it is probably time to get the good goin’ before I drown in the bad.
I think I have stayed past my expiration date as an adjunct.
I kinda just don’t care much about my job anymore.
I care just enough to not get fired and get a paycheck.
And by paycheck, I mean enough money to qualify for every social service program in the country.
Is that really what we want out higher education teachers to be qualified as?
The newest welfare worker.
The newest Pink Collar career path.
Luckily, because I have five (yes FIVE jobs), I don’t need to dig into the county coffers to pay my bills and feed my kids — but, I’m done having 5 jobs.
I’m burnt out.
And I’m apathetic.
And teachers, educators, should NEVER be apathetic. We don’t do our jobs well when we stop caring.
I partially don’t care because I finally have realized I’m worth more than the institution counts me for. And that isn’t just a paycheck. It’s what I contribute. What I do in the name of the college. How I support my students. How I add richness to the college’s culture.
They don’t care what I do or how I do it…and frankly, I’m starting to think they really don’t care if I do it anyway.
It’s hard to care when nobody else does.
There is a HUGE adjunct movement now that is starting to make an impact and starting to stir the pot. They are called The New Faculty Majority and they are doing important work for higher education and everyone who is impacted by higher education (i.e. EVERYONE).
Part of me wants to start a movement in California. Start a non-profit that really starts to fight for legislation that supports higher education faculty and starts to eliminate this whole bullshit standard of adjunct faculty. I can talk for hours about it. I have researched it. I have published it. I have studied it. I have talked the talk in numerous national conferences about it.
I think I might be so disenfranchised that I don’t even care.
Part of the lessons I have learned going to through programming to overcome abusive relationships is that at some point, you have to learn how to disconnect yourself from the emotion that drives you to behave and relearn new behaviors that support your health and well-being, and in many cases, safety, to be able – or strong enough, to move forward.
I feel like I need to recover from my work as an adjunct.
Signs that you are in an abusive relationship include things such as
- Feel afraid to engage with your partner
- Avoid certain topics out of fear
- Feel you aren’t doing anything right
- Being humiliated,
- Being criticized
- Being treated your so badly you are embarrassed for your family or friends to see
- You are objectified
- You start to feel emotionally numb
- You feel helpless
- You have limited your access to money and basic resources
- Use of threats to get compliance and submission
- Isolate you
These are all parts of life as an adjunct.
I KNOW deeply that I am a really good teacher. I know DEEPLY I am very smart. I know DEEPLY that students learn in my classes because I see how their strategies change in my classes. I know I am an asset to my institution. I have no doubt.
I am afraid to engage with my ‘manager.’ I am afraid because I know that he will make excuses for his behavior (another sign of abuse) and continue on to use those excuses in a manner that is degrading, objectifying, and frankly -embarrassing.
I avoid him at all costs. And when I do see him, I go in armed with a shield of bitterness and disengage completely.
No longer do we have access to other adjunct faculty in our department. No longer do we feel we have any control over the direction of our lives.
He makes it clear that I don’t count.
I have learned that in a personal relationship, none of those outlined 13 things are acceptable. In my programs, I have tediously gone over the places where my marriage screwed me up. I have talked and written until I was blue in the face about things I thought were “normal” and “expected” and learned that I was so deeply embedded in a marriage cloaked in normalcy and soaking wet in dysfunction, that I lost my compass of healthy and normal and acceptable.
In that process, I completely lost any sense of self value.
And in this process, I somehow was so fucked up, that I sought actively, chances to prove that my marriage wasn’t dysfunctional…or that it was unsafe or unhealthy or even abusive that I actively sought relationships that would prove my marriage was actually OK.
And those little forays into dark and ugly places, I realized that even there, I had more control over my life and my choices and my opportunities than I did when I was married.
I’ve learned a lot this last year.
Much of it because I couldn’t deny choices I had made in the past anymore. And I couldn’t deny the ugly my life was when I was married.
The facade crumbled.
It broke in this ugly explosion of booze soaked reality with nearly everyone I loved present.
And in the aftermath, I came to realize, that continuing to work as an adjunct is just perpetuating this cycle of abuse and self-hate.
Crazy connection, right?
I got my PhD to prove myself to the world.
Only to realize that even a PhD won’t save me.
Even in higher education, where a PhD is the holy grail…it still makes me a victim of the system.
It keeps me in a powerless position.
And I think I am ready to let it go.
I’ve emotionally disconnected.
Don’t get me wrong.
I’ll go through the motions. Show up for class (well, most of the time – I do have about 200 hours of sick leave that needs my urgent attention), give lectures, talk about theory and relevant articles, grade papers and be present.
I’ll pretend until I have an out.
Which will be sooner rather than later.
I don’t want to work somewhere where I am apathetic and the organization surrounding me ignores me until they belittle me.
I want to work somewhere where I make enough money to support myself without having to work 4 other jobs.
I want a career where potential for living and breathing is an option.
I am grateful I have a job. Don’t get me wrong.
But, the time has come.
The final bells of my career in higher education are seemingly coming to a close.
Almost a sad day.
But, I have learned that when you are not longer surrounded by dysfunction, the world opens up.
I’m not ready to cut ties.
But, the facts of leaving are hitting home.
And they don’t feel suffocating or scary like they did before.
The idea of leaving is refreshing.
Perhaps I’ll find another job at another college.
But, probably not.
And I think that is a good thing.
It is time to leave the rank of the adjuntapathy.