By Richard K. Munro
I have been an adjunct professor on the fringes of Academe at Seattle University, Bakersfield College and UVA. I knew a friend who was an adjunct professor at NYU for 7 years. But pathways to a solid career in academia were few and far between it seemed to me.
One of the things I noticed was that marriage and family life were almost impossible under those circumstances. Molto honore poco contante as the Italians say. I was called Professor Munro for $22 an hour no benefits and no future pension. I would say it was an interesting experience, but I truly enjoyed teaching HS much more.
My HS AP students were superior (generally speaking) to my adult JC students. I also had greater freedom to choose my curriculum. At the JC one was mandated to teach the book everyone used. Most were overblown and overpriced. They charged students over $250 dollars for materials for Spanish 1a and 1B. Talk about price gouging. Another reason college is too expensive.
From my JC students I gained private police officers they were astonished that I used inexpensive materials $10.95 for Teacher Yourself Spanish books and CD’s and $7.95 for Collins dictionary. I told them all they needed were those tools, notebooks, colored pencils, and index cards and they could learn any language but they had to invest 3-5 years.
Of course, my colleagues at the JC didn’t really like HS teachers. They resented I took students away from them (AP students tested out). They always resented I taught police officers at 5AM. Working people found it difficult to advance via JC scheduled classes a 1Pm or 4PM what everyone wanted to teach. But to me it was interesting work (meeting people in a different lines of work) and it helped pay the mortgage in the summer.
I studied Spanish for five years in Junior High and High school plus four years in the university and four years in Graduate school (Summers in Spain) I loved studying in Spain (half my teachers were Spanish and the other half were Cuban Americans) and having the opportunity to travel in Western Europe. Of course, Spanish changed my life it was my one expertise besides typing that was always in demand. I worked for the Bank of America, the Marine Corps, and in construction. Knowing Spanish was always advantageous. It kept me in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, everyone else went to Okinawa. I remember Woody Allen joked that being bisexual doubled your chance on a Saturday night; for me speaking another language doubled or tripled my chances for a date. I also think I might have been less garrulous and more polite as a non-native speaker.
JC students were easy to handle, however. I made a choice to be a very competitive k-12 teacher. Instead of a narrow education, I had a broad education. I was certified to teach in English, Spanish, and Social Studies with a bilingual certificate of competence. And I coached soccer and baseball. I enjoyed that when I was young.
At one time I gained 30 credits toward my Ph.D. at UVA but I cut my losses (maxed out my pay grade). It was not a matter of doing the academic work. It was just too costly for very few opportunities. I studied at the Curry School. D- intellectual atmosphere IMHO.
I had 35-year-old PhDs who had never heard of Barzun or Highet or even Will Durant. And you could forget about Spanish or French or British literature. Most seemed to have never read a real book in their lives. They loved the Pedagogy of Oppression by Paulo Freire (complete crap and an evil book). I was a TA for an adjunct who taught a class on intelligence (not in the Curry Schoo). and that was ok I graded about 300 final exams. As an AP teacher, I was good at that. UVA outside of the the Curry School was solid but compared to NYU or Oxford or Salamanca low wattage.
K-12 I earned great benefits for my family plus one year of sabbatical (I spent at UVA and traveled) plus a solid pension I am enjoying now.
I got an MA in Spanish literature in Spain and enjoyed that very much.
Most graduate work in Teacher Ed was merely jumping through hoops it didn’t thrill me. I could have easily gotten an MA in education (I think I was 15 credits short but I did a 5th-year certification and instead of an MA in education I chose an additional certificate in English. In the long run that turned out to be a very good choice.
K-12 education had its flaws -I found it frustrating that most Administrators didn’t really care about education or standards. To many, I was just a cog to fill in a schedule. I worked as a utility player. I taught over dozen preps in three subject areas. I stayed employed but was not happy not being able to teach one curriculum and really getting to know it.
I taught AP US history for five years and AP Spanish and Spanish Literature for 12 years but the demand was not there. They don’t even teach AP at my former school. Everything is via computer and via JC concurrent credit. The bottom line is kids don’t write essays, and don’t research. Now they say kids have AI do their essays and HW.
Brave New World!
The demand and summer schoolwork was in ESL so I gradually specialized in ESL Social Studies and ESL English (all levels).
The advantage was I had mostly immigrant students who were so grateful not to be in Venezuela, El Salvador, Egypt Burma Syrian Russia, or Iraq that they were very happy (and most serious students).
My favorite classes were Spanish for Native Speakers and English as a Second Language.
Most were very enthusiastic.
My least favorite classes were make-up summer school for football players in World History. Administrators would tell me x y and z needed an A or B to be eligible. My response was you should be talking to them not me. Of course, I never taught again for that administrator (he was later fired for indiscretions anyway).
Another least favorite class merely a potboiler was Spanish 1 for Americans. My only interesting students were a pair of Yemeni sisters who were fascinated by Arabic words in Spanish and made for me (I still have a series of posters in Arabic Spanish and English educational and moral quotes of Muhammed). Of course, they were model students. 100% attendance. They also became fluent in Spanish and work at their parent’s local 7-11. Each one had ten children I think.
We have a growing Muslim community. Every Muslim student I knew married and had children. I had one male student who had 8 children by the time he graduated from HS (his wife lived in Yemen and emigrated at age 16). As far as I know, she still speaks no English.
Too many American students just were goof-offs in my experience. It was all I could to tolerate them. OF course, the Administrators didn’t care as long as everyone got at least a D or C.
I also tutored a few football players, privately in Spanish but I did that as a favor.
My best private students were police officers and firemen. They WANTED to learn.
I also tutored the children of teachers in AP US government and AP US History and AP European History. I had a certain reputation everyone I had got a 5. But it was a great experience with kids who wanted to excel.
Unfortunately, I never taught AP European history in HS myself but two of my children studied it in HS (and got 5’s). My own children were AP Scholars. I respect AP because it is a rigorous curriculum. To get a 5 in AP Spanish Literature is no easy matter. To get 5s simultaneously in AP Calculus AP Environmental Science AP US History AP European History and AP English is rare and a true intellectual achievement.
But most Americans were intellectually lazy especially when it came to foreign languages, in my experience. Two of my children are teachers by the way -one is a K-6 Dual Immersion teacher and the other is a HS AP Spanish teacher (who teaches IN his class JC college-level classes also for some extra money. He also tutors Minor League Baseball players for good money for a MLB club. Like me, they went for financial security and tenure via k-12 education. I got tenure after #1 getting a clear credential #2 three years of certified satisfactory work. Of course, you CAN get laid off in k-12 education. But if you are a math teacher, science teacher, or bilingual teacher you will probably stay employed and get a lot of extra work.
I had a wonderful junior HS teacher in Ancient History and I asked him why he wasn’t a PhD in College – He knew Italian, Latin and Greek- He showed me his wife and family four kids -he said you have to make choices I chose personal happiness and family life.
I have no regrets.
Personally, I am very glad I did not hang out in graduate school for years.
Most of my graduate school was really in Spain in a non- college atmosphere. Most of the women I dated were museum docents American express travel agents, nurses or neighbors. Most were readers and well-educated esp by American standards a high school graduate in France or Spain or Italy was at least equivalent to most AA or BA’s in America.
Thinking back very few of the women I dated were college students. or even English-speakers. After age 21 I never dated an English-speaking American girl ever again. Most I met did not have my values and interests. Some of course only wanted to marry for money -big money. I suppose I was naive. I wanted to marry for love and friendship. My own wife had zero money. I didn’t care about that. I promised I would provide a secure life and would work hard. Most college educated American women I met wanted to give away sex -they would be angry if you turned them away but few I met were interested in marriage and children. To me, however marriage and family life were chief goals. I met a lot of semi-educated “Sangerites” (ZPG hard core). Sexual suicide.
For whatever reason, I was seen as very attractive to Latins in the Americas and in Europe.
I think that is because I came from an immigrant family.
My mother and her mother grew up on an Island with 300 people and my father’s mother grew up in rural Argyll. She went to Mass almost daily.
All were devoutly religious and very traditional wives and mothers. They were mostly horrified and shocked by the mores and manners of American women. They would not allow their children to be babysat by American teenagers for example. The mothers of the Latin and Greek women I dated always liked me and welcomed me. I courted the women I dated and showed them great respect. I always respected the parents and grandparents.
I was a gentleman and considered good marriage material. I used to attend religious services with the relatives and parents of the women I dated. They respected that. I didn’t mind attending Greek Orthodox, Evangelical services or Catholic services. I found it interesting. In the service I attended Jewish services and was very friendly with the Naval Chaplain (he lent me books).
I knew a Jewish business associate of my father’s -I liked him- but was shocked when he said he would not allow me to date his (very attractive) daughter. I told him if I dated a Jewish girl -for example, the grandchild of a Holocaust survivor or an Israeli it would be to marry her and if I would marry such a woman I would convert to Judaism and raise our children in the Jewish faith. I was sincere. He was amazed. I think I gained his respect. I believe a couple should have the same faith and raise the children in the faith of the most religious. One of my relatives, by the way, IS JEWISH now as he converted upon marriage a decision I deeply respect.
I lived happily ever after so it worked out for me.
Staying away from the Adjunct Life was a smart decision.
Nice place to visit but you wouldn’t want to live there.