Working on My Subject Area Masters and the Devastating Consequences (with update)
My health went down when I worked on my subject area masters. Different than an M.Ed, a subject area masters requires you to become an expert, contribute to the academic discipline, and develop a thesis and area of study. As an undergrad, my interest in composition theory, education, and recidivism, led me into a series of interesting papers that felt easy to write, and my department chair and professors supported me with anything I wanted to do, whether it was in the education department or in the English department. For example, I enjoyed the experience of working as a visiting teacher at our local alternative school, and I split my observation schedule between 12th grade English and Kindergarten; splitting that observation time enabled me to imagine vertical alignment and see the big picture as it pertains to childhood development and literacy. I worked on a series of lesson plans for English with another teacher, and I created a lesson plan portfolio on our twelve domains that I donated to the education department when I graduated. Overall, the experiences, the practicum in English, the composition theory classwork, the writing, and the childhood psychology and development classes helped me become a better teacher. When I moved to Texas, I had to basically revisit all of that in order to feel qualified and effective. I worked on weekends, nights, and at all kinds of odd times in order to prepare for my masters. I read incredibly difficult writers and thinkers, such as Kenneth Burke, in order to prepare myself for teaching rhetoric and composition at the college level. I dug into the Theory of the Novel by Lukács, and I reread all of my old college textbooks in order to prepare myself. I worked on my writing using the theories that I learned. I published with my audience in mind, fellow teachers and instructors, and I watched as my writing became more professional and academic. I finally felt prepared.
My health slipped away. On weekends, while other people were out walking and enjoying the beautiful Texas weather, I hunched over my desk. I neglected my child, and I became surly and over-stressed. Taking him to his guitar practices felt like an intrusion on my study time, and working at my school on Saturdays interfered with my writing time. I gained weight. I became unhappy, but I loved my classes with a passion I hadn't felt since I taught English at the alternative school. I inserted the concepts, the beautiful ideas that I learned, into my ninth and tenth grade English classes. I started to teach Advanced Placement English. I navigated the hoard of people that judged me without knowing my struggle. I felt misunderstood. An over zealous and abusive administrator mismanaged me, one in a series of new underprepared principals that I endured early in my teaching career. I started to think that nothing that I did would matter to the world of education because it catered to a long line of people that, in my opinion, were unworthy of their position and relied on connections, instead of expertise, for employment.
The years went by and I became a better teacher. I paid for my own professional development at expensive places like Bard College and Rice University. I earned some scholarships from Bard and Rice, and this extra work helped me become even more professional. I even earned a scholarship as recent as this year from the College Board in order to study in a cohort with a mentor.
But, apparently, somehow, this year, I am not worth as much to my institution. My institution wants to squabble with me about my adjunct pay. The community college that hired me as an adjunct issued a raise, but none of this money trickled down to me; this raise never trickled down to my fellow coworkers that earned the difficult subject degrees that allowed them to teach dual credit classes. Not only that, my institution wanted to pay me for one less section than last year, even though my enrollment increased substantially, and my students are struggling harder with the material. I wonder where the money is going. I wonder why I am not paid more for my education, the sacrifice that I made for my students, the ongoing cost to my physical health which is now named by my doctor, Type 2 diabetes. To define how this has made me feel, this attack on my professional life, could only be described as depressing. This feeling of unfairness, this disregard and disrespect for my contribution, causes me to feel like leaving my institution, the institution that has become so familiar and family like. Meanwhile, this steady parade of people barely making a contribution seems to increase in size.
(Update) Apparently someone on my campus made a little mistake that affected my pay and this issue will be resolved. Still, adjuncts did receive a raise that the district did not issue. Teachers at all levels are trying to achieve a healthy pay schedule so that they can afford to work and live in their districts among the students, typically inner-city, that need professionals the most. Civil workers deserve a decent and dignified retirement. Anything less is an attack on democracy. Imagine if only novices without college degrees are the main source of our education workforce. What would that look like for our children?
Full time teachers that work hard to improve deserve respect. This practice of underpaying teachers and demonizing them must stop. The endless menagerie of toxic people installed into roles they are literally not educated for, these people that make it a habit to undermine the faculty, need flushed from the school system. People that underpay teachers to the point that teachers can't even afford a home, should be removed from the school system. Politicians that attack teachers and insult them by calling them childish names like "groomers" and "Marxists" must be voted out of public office. People that would restrict a students' right to read the books of their choice, should be forced to read the books themselves, write a lengthy report, and then file their dubious and silly claims. The attack on intellectual life, the attack on writers and thinkers, is a sign of authoritarianism and fascism. This is unacceptable. Installing people into roles that they are not qualified for is another sign of fascism.
Lift up your real teachers. The teachers that are real, that want to remain in the classroom and not jump out into administration, are worth your protection. Show your respect by calling them teachers, call them faculty, stop calling them staff, provide them with moments of happiness that make them feel special. Pay them what they deserve without trying to find an excuse to take it away. Treat teachers with humanity, dignity, and respect. Remove people that micromanage and ridicule your teaching staff. Provide meaningful professional development opportunities, not busy work.