Debating whether or not to stick it out as an adjunct? Start a post on our Adjunct Life discussion group.
Normally I’d be designing a syllabus right now. I’d be waiting to receive my finalized teaching schedule and telling interested students that they will learn which sections are mine as soon as I do. I’d be going over annotated texts to refresh my memory on topics for the first few weeks of class discussion. But none of that is happening this year.
It’s not happening because I’m not teaching. Spring semester was my final term in the classroom as an adjunct. I decided after four years that it was time for me to move on to something else.
For me, it wasn’t so much about my working conditions—I was treated pretty well at the University of Georgia, and I miss the people I worked with. For me, it came down to the lack of opportunity to advance beyond the position I held. I’m the kind of person who is always striving to get better and find new challenges. “Adjunct for life” was never going to work for me, even if the pay was decent. So I decided to walk away from a good thing in order to find a better thing.
Leaving my teaching job has forced me to confront some serious questions about myself. I feel a little bit like Kate Weber when she explained that a major life change caused her to reassess her entire identity. I mean, I thought I was going to teach for the rest of my career. That was my plan in graduate school, at least. The idea of changing paths is taking some time to sink in.
The other question I’m wrestling with involves the professional identity I’ve been developing for the past few years. I’m an adjunct who writes about adjunct issues. How will that change now that I’m no longer an adjunct? Should I continue to cover that topic? Am I even allowed to? Maybe it’s a silly question, but it’s really been on my mind lately. Can I continue to stay passionate about these issues if I’m not living them everyday? And is it fair to continue covering this topic if I’m not giving it everything I have like I’ve been doing for almost three years now with the Adjunct Project? I don’t know the answers to these questions.
I do know that I’m as interested in helping people overcome oppressive situations now as I always have been. Surely that’s worth something. Nonetheless, this transitional phase of my life is leaving me with many more questions than answers.
The strangest thing for me about leaving my job is that I really have no idea what I’m going to do next. Isn’t that crazy? I’ve always believed in finding something new before you abandon the old. It feels so reckless, especially because I’m in my mid-thirties; I’m not exactly an early career professional anymore.
But I know why I left. I had to. I was just barely comfortable enough to ease back on the throttle, but not comfortable enough to relax. As long as I stayed in that position, I would never push myself to find something better. I had to jump so I could learn to dive.
All these questions have been rolling around in my head now during these final days of the summer, when I would normally be preparing to return to the classroom. Have I made the right decision? What will my next step be?
One of my favorite quotes, which is displayed prominently on my refrigerator above a photo taken of my dad, my brother, and me during a backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail, reminds me every morning of the mantra I’ve taken up lately.
“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.”
As I struggle to answer the questions I’ve raised here, I always keep this quote in the back of my mind. I like to think the recent decisions I’ve made remain true to the speaker’s advice.