reality is as sobering as a hammer to the face

24 Jan

Many of you know that I want to teach. Some of you question that goal but it’s real enough and, I thought, relatively attainable. It seems I made a mistake.

My designs on being a teacher focused on being an outsider working on the inside. You know, go into a freshman/sophomore level class and shake up the old status quo. Teach from the Outlaw Bible of Poetry, Chapbooks by rebels, poetry of dirt, gutter and street. And to get to that lofty, if somewhat vainglorious goal, I needed, at a minimum, a Master’s degree.

As I can barely speak English, I realized that I couldn’t get a MA in English because of the second language requirement. I have neither the facility for language nor the patience. It became obvious that a MFA would be the only route.

Many of my friends deride the MFA and, to a degree, I do as well. (Note: To those of you from my school or teaching at my school, I have nothing but high marks, if you want details on issues I have, email me.) But I am not acquiring this degree to assist in my writing or to get published, I can do that on my own, rather I need the fucking thing to TEACH.

As a brief aside, the reason I want to teach sparked in college, my freshman year, in an English Comp class where I had one of the worst, most narrowed minded instructors ever imaginable to exist. This guy sucked balls. Despite all the detours I took to get where I am now, teaching became the goal.

Today, January 24, 2009, I went to a job fair for Community College Teachers, otherwise known as a cattle call to the living and breathing. There were at least a thousand people there vying for two hundred positions. And by thousand I mean while I was there, over the course of the day it could be as high as 8,000.

While I walked around the main room and talked to every school and district it became quite clear that I would not be teaching full-time in the fall with a tenure track position. For those experienced college instructors, you can stop laughing at my naivety at any time. But for the arrogant, narcissistic Jack Henry, this came as a crushing blow. CRUSHING.

After a short break splashing water on my face and regaining my sense of self-worth I went around the room again. I have advise for anyone looking for a Community College English Department based position – and you have an MFA.

1. Pray your MFA has enough weight to gain an equivalence to a standard mind fuck ENGLISH MA. No slam to those that have the ENGLISH MA but I have seen the course work, and it’s a mind fuck. Not every district looks at this the same way, it is subjective. According to at least three HR people, MFA should be fine. Emphasis should. If you have the equivalent, move to 2; if not, win an award, have a best selling book, and work at the University.

2. You have the equivalency but no experience. You are now open to adjunct positions. In California this means you can teach 10 hours in any single CC District. Basically three classes. The odds of getting three in the same district much less the same school are slim.

Even if you have one book, five chapbooks, 200 plus publications, a press, and a journal, no teaching experience, no full time.

3. Apply to every district you can think of and makes sense for travel purposes. You are about to become a freeway flyer. I have applied as an adjunct English teacher in 12 college districts. Based on my income requirements I will need at least 6 classes. Consider for a moment teaching 6 freshman comp classes. If you don’t use drugs now, you will. And this does not mean you get insurance, benefits or related. You are a contract employee.

But you get experience. And that’s the thing.

4. Work in Alaska.
Alaska pays big bucks and needs teachers. It wouldn’t take much to get a teaching credential. You can get all the moose meat and methamphetamine you want, plus they have Sarah Palin.

On the drive home my brain settled down a bit and wrapped completely around my options. Once I get an equivelancy in one District I should be good in others. I will try to get six classes in the fall, at least one or two in winter, six more in spring and a few in summer. Plus apply for more full time positions. Is it how I planned, no, but I do get to teach and go inside the system.

And you never know, I might actually get to teach poetry, but at this point it would be unwise to hold my breath.


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