Passive Aggressions

I do not claim to know everything about my field. There are plenty of classic works of literature that I have not read. I may or may not be able to recite the names of ten notable composition scholars, depending on the day. I’m still trying to grow and improve as a teacher. I have plenty still to learn. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be applying to Ph.D. programs. But, dammit, don’t assume because we both have the same two initials at the end of our name that we’re one and the same.

We might have the same degree, but we did not have the same education. Similar, hopefully, but not the same. We do not have the exact same teaching experience. We’ve had different courses, different students, different campus environments, different levels of engagement with the actual class on a day-to-day basis. We have not gone to all the same conferences or published the same articles. We’re both well-educated, but we are not the same.

My uncle likes to casually forget all of this.

A man who got a degree in communication because he was too scared to major in English and then got a job in insurance because he was too scared to work in journalism, my uncle started a graduate program in English in his fifties after I began an undergraduate English major. Citing my “brave” decision to pursue English right away as an inciting factor in his decision to go back to school, he earned his degree halfway between my B.A. graduation and my M.A. graduation. Now that I’ve also completed my graduate program, he assumes we are one and the same on the job market.


Other than the type of degree we both possess, we are nothing alike. I’ve been in the university classroom as a student for six years now. He received his Master’s online and hasn’t been in a physical classroom since the 80’s at best. I have a strong background in writing consulting/tutoring, while he has a strong background in proofreading/editing. I’ve spent two years in the classroom as an instructor, which included co-teaching three classes with full-time faculty, designing my own course from scratch, and serving as the instructor of record for the course I designed three times. On the other hand, he spent a summer as an online TA counterpart to a class “on the ground” at his home institution with a set curriculum. I’ve presented at two academic conferences and published an article in the field, and he has done neither of those things.

Our CVs could not be more different. That’s not to say that one of our profiles is better than the other’s. They’re just different. And, on the job market, we are completely different types of candidates.

So, needless to say, I became quite enraged when he called to ask me about the new job I received yesterday as an adjunct at a highly reputable community college in the area. Of course, it wasn’t the phone call itself that angered me. I am very excited to have this opportunity and I love talking about it to anyone and everyone. I haven’t even technically started yet…the newness is far from worn off. But the conversation quickly turned south as my uncle started asking me about how I got the job. In fact, his exact words were:

“I wasn’t going to apply to — because I thought there was no way they would hire me without any experience, but you’ve proved me wrong. What tips or tricks did you use to get the job?”

No experience?! Three courses co-taught, three courses taught independently, a course designed from scratch, several pedagogy courses successfully completed, two conference presentations related to teaching, and a published article in a journal for English teachers, and he thinks I landed the job with no experience. I mean, clearly that’s the case.

No experience. NO EXPERIENCE?!

I would’ve loved to seen his face in person when I told him that I did not have any interview hints or tricks to give him because they offered me the job right on the spot. That is literally what happened. At my “interview” yesterday, I introduced myself to the department chair, we sat down, she got out her copy of my CV, and she said, “With your background and EXPERIENCE, we would be grateful to have you here at —.” No prying questions or tricky statements. No examinations of my failures as a teacher. Just, you’re well-qualified and we want you. She specifically mentioned the TA program I was a part of, as well as the article I had published, as contributing factors. This means I may not be a seasoned professor yet (not even close), but, for a new grad, I have a strong professional foundation, and it has landed me two jobs in the discipline (one writing consulting and one teaching) not even three months out from graduation.

So, we’re the same kind of candidate, and I got a job with no experience? Keep dreaming.





Productive Procrastination Revisited

Things I probably should’ve worked on today:

  • drafting personal statements for PhD applications
  • studying for the GRE
  • constructing a syllabus or two for courses I might be teaching
  • reviewing training notes for my new job

Things I’ve worked on instead:

  • clearing out email inboxes
  • posting on this blog (twice)
  • updating my reading/writing tumblr
  • finishing the Shutterfly book from vacation with my boyfriend

Ta-da! Productive procrastination!

A Short Retirement

As I’ve mentioned before, I stopped teaching back in April when I came to the end of my M.A. program. After I had walked in my graduation ceremony, graded final research papers, submitted course grades, and cleared out my TA office on campus in May, I decided it was time to put my “teacher life” away. My desk copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, my Harry Potter course readers and articles, my pedagogy books, and my binders of assignment sheets and lesson plans were packed up in a crate and put up on a shelf. With no real prospects for a lectureship near my home and the lack of economic resources necessary to move elsewhere, I resolved myself to a life without teaching for the foreseeable future.

The spark was halfway ignited mid-June when I received the job offer for my part-time position as a professional writing tutor. Doing application simulations and training exercises for my new job have returned me to my writing center glory days at the beginning of my graduate degree program. This job is definitely reminding me of the importance of writing center work, and I absolutely love it so far. But it still isn’t teaching. There aren’t assignments to create, syllabi to write, lessons to plan, or activities to try. It just isn’t the same. And with a few applications for adjunct positions submitted and nothing back in return, it looked like I was doomed to stay in retirement.

Until yesterday, when I received a surprising email.

The subject heading was, “Teaching at —,” and the sender was a name familiar to me, the English department chair at the local community college. Several now full-time professors at my university had worked at this community college as adjunct instructors and had nothing but nice things to say. Could I be included among those privileged ranks? Was this it?

My heart pounded inside my chest as I clicked on the email, tortured by every second the internet took to load the message. (I have incredibly fast internet at home, except, of course when I have an email I really, really want to read. Or, you know, when I’m trying to purchase concert tickets). Much to my delight, it was NOT a message telling me that I suck as a teacher and should never dare apply to this institution again. Instead, it was a highly promising message telling me about the possibility of teaching classes (yes, plural!!!) there this fall and gauging my interest in said possibility.

Was I interested? Try to keep me from being interested, lady!

Unfortunately, with the email arriving late on a Friday afternoon and my affirmative message returning to her even later on a Friday afternoon, I am now stuck with the slow and painful torture that is the weekend wait. The email is just vague enough that I don’t know whether she wants to arrange an interview, or whether the classes are mine if I want them. I don’t know the details of how many classes I would be teaching, or what material they would cover, or, as I said, whether I even have classes for sure. So I am left waiting for Monday, hoping for an unexpected weekend email and dreaming of a short retirement.

High Tide

This post is coming to you live from a beach in the Outer Banks!

Well, unfortunately, it isn’t “live” live. I’m not the kind of person to risk taking a laptop literally to the ocean. But the following words were originally scribbled into a notebook by hand with my feet buried in North Carolina sand.

This morning, my boyfriend and I walked out of the vacation condo we’ve been staying in for the past few days. After a short kiss, he turned to head left, toward the ocean, and I turned to the right, toward the sound. Moving alongside the water, I walked alone to Duck’s Cottage, a quaint little books-and-coffee shop just off of Currituck Sound. I ordered an iced mocha, a summertime must-have at any new coffee shop I happen to find myself at, and floated from seat to seat until settling into a small table in the corner. I pulled my tablet out of my beach bag, logged onto my work account for the first time, and quickly set to work on training initiatives for my new part-time job.

In that moment I realized for the first time just how strange my life has become in these past few months. I’m really at a weird crossroads. I’m approaching the six month mark in my first adult relationship. I’m on a trip with a significant other for the first time. I’m sharing a bed with a significant other for the first time. Hell, I’m even freaking out over my romantic future for the first time, too. Various family members have made comments (albeit through back channels) inquiring into the seriousness of my relationship or insinuating that they want to spend more time with me before they “lose” me. Is that my punishment for being the youngest grandchild? Everyone just forgets I’m 24, not 34, and assumes I’m marrying the first person I’ve dated as an adult?

They’re all assuming I’m thinking about marriage when all I’m really thinking about is grad school.

My training exercises for my new job have me more excited for my professional future than ever before. All of the tasks I’m doing in training remind me of working in the campus writing center and have reminded me just how much I love writing center work. How much I CARE about writing center work. And, even though it is only part-time and even though it actually hasn’t even started yet, this little job has reaffirmed everything I’ve learned about myself in the past year and a half. It has reaffirmed that pursuing a PhD in rhetoric and composition with a focus in writing center studies is exactly what I want to do in the not-so-distant future.

My life is at a crossroads, and there are several paths that branch out from this new and confusing junction. Where will time lead me? Maybe this time next year, I will be back on this very beach with him at my side, a year and a half into our relationship. Maybe this time next year I’ll be gearing up to move upstate, or to Indiana, or to Tennessee. Maybe both will occur simultaneously. Maybe I will get into a doctoral program right away. Maybe I won’t. Maybe we’ll get married someday, and maybe we’ll break up. I have no idea what the future holds. For now I’ll just have to live in the moment and let the anxieties of possibilities wash away with the high tide.