Lies about Community Colleges

Thank you to the commenter who added a number 5 –In brief, move where you want to live –to my Do’s and Don’ts post.  This is, in fact, precisely my plan A.  Well, it is half of it.  Here is what I am doing:

Plan A. (Part One). Applying for jobs in the Los Angeles area, where I have family and friends, and where the eternal sunshine just might be able to combat my pervasive melancholy.  (Fuck ’em, I’ll join a gym.)  I’m currently contacting people at: universities– including seeking library and admin jobs, online magazines and scholarly journals, non-profits and foundations, community colleges.  (More on that last one in a moment.)

Plan A.(Part Two). Still planning on applying to a limited number of postdocs and jobs (all across the country) on the Spring list, but really, in a different mind-frame.  I’m really sick of feeling like I’m standing at the roulette table, waiting for the ball to drop, and hoping it hits my number.  I think I’d feel so much more satisfied if I could start lining things up to be employed next year, and to know where I’d be the year after that. This practice of having to string together jobs year by year is maddening:  I’m not in my twenties anymore. With that in mind, I’m only going to apply for those spring list jobs that I could be reasonably happy at, and for which I could actually afford the moving expenses without going further into debt.  In most cases, I’m not even going to bother with one year positions– unless, maybe it was somewhere awesome, like NYC, and they helped you find housing, which I’m sure doesn’t exist.

Plan B. Apply for jobs at posh private highschools in Los Angeles and overseas.

Plan C. Apply for jobs at public high schools, move back in with parents, get back on meth.

But let me return to the community college angle.  Last week, when I met with my advisor to discuss my situation, he repeated that old standby, that “community colleges won’t hire PhDs.”  They’re intimidated; they think you won’t really apply yourself to the teaching because you’ll be devoting your time to your secret research projects; they think you’ll look down on them, be a miserable grouch, and ultimately leave.  I’ve been hearing this for years, but is it remotely true?

Well not according to an incredibly nosy woman, who, overhearing my conversation at a cafe with a friend later that day, leaned across to our table and said, “Excuse me, but your advisor is completely full of shit.” I wanted her, naturally, to elaborate, and elaborate she did, in a 40 minute tirade against this cliche.  I’ll boil it down for you:  Community colleges aren’t intimidated by PhDs, but they are completely disinterested in anyone who doesn’t LOVE teaching. Your letter should be about how much you love teaching, your resume should emphasize teaching. And they are really good at smelling a rat so start reading some pedagogy texts now, so they can see you’re up on the field.  (For example, she told me about some crazy model where you teach grammar by not teaching it.  Sounds like a bunch of hooey to me, but if it’s all the rage in education, you should know about it.) I told her that I have a website devoted to my teaching, and she said, “Ah, but how long has it been up?”  If it came online within a year, that would look fishy to a CC.  You need to prove to them that you aren’t SETTLING for a community college, but that teaching at a community college has ALWAYS been your dream.  If you are applying to one in a distant town, talk about how you want to relocate there and live in that community.

So, that’s what I did.  Now, we wait and see if anybody calls me back.

Lastly, I was kidding about the meth, but here is another “Don’t” for you: Don’t start smoking again.  You’ll still be just as depressed, anxious, and pessimistic about your future, but now you’ll have the added joy of being captive to long fantasies that you’re dying of lung cancer, as you find yourself googling “shortness of breath.”

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