There is just nothing enjoyable about being underemployed. I see myself as unemployed, but technically that is not accurate. As another school year nears the end, I should be looking forward to summer, but I dread it. My summer months go by without a paycheck, well almost. I do adjunct for two community colleges, but fewer class offerings over summer semesters leaves me with fewer opportunities to teach, which means a smaller paycheck, which means I barely make enough to pay my bills.
This summer comes with some additional stress. The two-year Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) program I’ve been part of ends. Sadly, the program is only two years. The GTA program has been both rewarding and frustrating. It has been rewarding, because I have seen my teaching pedagogy develop under the instruction of some terrific instructors. My classroom teaching has also improved, as I have learned the importance of applying scholarship to my lessons. In applying that scholarship, I first had to learn how to be a scholar. Researching and writing scholarship was not something I had previously experienced.
While rewarding, there has also been some levels of frustration. I am the oldest in a group of seven by two to three generations. I was not plucked, handpicked, encouraged, nor asked to apply to the GTA program like my cohorts. I did not enter the program to be groomed, nor a winner of writing scholarships, nor anyone’s favorite student, or world traveler. I was a graduate student who thought getting an opportunity to develop his teaching craft while earning his MA sounded like a terrific opportunity. Unfortunately, I am also someone who entered this gig later in life.
My application was initially rejected, but accepted months later because someone backed out. Compared to the others I felt I’d gotten in by default. Although, I came into the program the only student with any teaching experience, I quickly realized that my cohorts had little use for the knowledge or resources I wanted to share. Several weeks into the first semester, I realized that I needed to focus on what I wanted and stopped trying to share with others. Maybe it’s my fault for seeing the group as a cohort. Maybe I should have seen the semesters first day as a sign. I had no students. My section was not opened; therefore, I had no enrollment. Literally, with some last second juggling half of another class was used to create mine. I’ve had no mentor nor advisor these past two years. When I’ve needed someone to discuss an issue or question, I would schedule anyone who had time.
Another degree that begins with the letter “M” comes with modest reward and no celebration. What do I do next? I have thought about another “M” degree. I am too old for a Ph.D. I’ve already applied to several teaching jobs only to get rejection letters and to be told I don’t have any teaching experience. I’m depressed and feeling some self-pity. Reaching out to a peer, he recommends I sit down and write. Get my feelings down on paper. He said that it’s ok to be depressed, that it comes with the territory.
I reach out to my Professional Learning Network (PLN) of peers on social media often. Today reaching out depressed me. I have no mentor, nor champion, nor cheerleader, nor anyone I can lean on for support. I sit on an island.