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chris on joe

My sister Chris often wants to contribute to this blog. However, since I "upgraded" awhile ago to Blogger Pro (which means I give them money), she has been unable to post, because Blogger Pro currently won't allow Netscape users to post. So I'm posting for her in this case, since she has lots to say about Joe Lockard's article, to which I linked earlier today. While I found Joe's piece one of the best I've read, Chris ... well, here's what she wrote:

Every couple of days or so, I check out Steven's blog... mostly to see what he's thinking, or what movies he's watched lately, basically what's going on in his life. When I read the May 21 post, I followed the link to his friend Joe Lockard's article, in great part because it is about being an English teacher, and since I'm one, I figured I'd be interested in the piece.

Sure enough, I was, but not in the way I expected to. Frankly, I didn't feel sorry for the guy, though I understand he's had a tough time getting a permanent job. But I didn't totally understand his frustration with not being able to get a full-time job teaching English, especially since he writes, "I cannot conceive of myself as anyone other than an English teacher."

Much of his piece early on describes his painstaking trips each December to the MLA convention, where he hopes to interview for, and subsequently obtain, a full-time teaching job. Teaching English, I presume, because that is his dream job. Again, as he writes of his love for teaching, he says, "As I begin to do the work of teaching, of explicating a text and its ideas, I am as free a human being as exists.... Yet if we cannot earn our livings by teaching, then we have lost that freedom to profess."

Now, I admit I don't know a great deal about teaching at the university level, but from what I understand, university tenure-track faculty members aren't primarily hired to be teachers, nor are candidates rewarded for good teaching; instead, both are looked upon to conduct research, publish in various reputable journals, serve on campus committees, and the like. This is where I kept scratching my head at Lockard's frustration. Have a desire to teach English, and be recognized for your outstanding teaching? Can't conceive of yourself as anyone other than an English teacher?

Welcome to the community college, where full-time jobs in teaching English are available every year, where hiring committees look first and foremost at teaching experience and quality teachers, and the pay and rewards are quite respectable.

Teaching is the primary job of faculty at community colleges. Yes, we serve on committees, participate in department activities, and we have to complete a tenure-review process. But we are judged first and foremost on our teaching, and we are recognized first and foremost for good teaching -- both by colleagues in our own departments and by the campus administration.

Yes, you'll teach more classes at a community college than you will at a university, but if teaching is what you love to do, why wouldn't you give community colleges a try? And the salary? In the Los Rios Community College District (located in Sacramento, CA), a Ph.D. with only one year of teaching experience would start at $47,424; if you have five years teaching experience, $55,480. And each year that salary would increase, currently capping at a salary of $80,090 for 15 years teaching experience. Lockard himself believed that "As junior faculty in the English profession, one without a permanent appointment, there is only one way forward. Send out large numbers of job applications and turn up in late December at the MLA for the few hiring committee interviews that result." However, few of the colleagues I chat with in the halls and mailroom everyday have ever even attended one MLA conference, and they seem to enjoy teaching English full-time regardless.

I understand Lockard has recently found that ideal job, teaching English at Arizona State. I wish him well, and I hope that his new job is all he hopes it will be. I'd like to say he could have saved himself several trips to MLA if he'd applied for a community college job, but what do I know? This month, at American River College, we only hired three full-time tenure-track faculty to start in the Fall (with our two sister campuses in Sacramento also hiring one each), and last year, we only hired two. And only four the year before.

Maybe, just maybe, there is more than "one way forward."


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