Why I Should Keep My Mouth Shut

My wife got mad at me a few weeks ago. Until this semester, I was one of those full-time adjuncts (an oxymoron, I know); I taught four sections at James Madison University and one to two sections a semester at Blue Ridge Community College. This, along with my freelance gigs, my self-published e-books, and my wife’s income, gave our family just enough income to squeak by (as long as we didn’t think about savings accounts or investing or any of those crazy things).

But I couldn’t keep my thoughts to myself.

I went and wrote some honest essays about adjunct work. Seeking prestige and a little bit of extra cash, I decided I would try to publish them and succeeded (The Chronicle published two). I even received checks for a few of them (a welcome addition for any underpaid adjunct). I had considered that my departments, especially at James Madison, wouldn’t like what I had to say about being an adjunct, but I was teaching composition, so I figured that my employers would value that I was honing my craft and presenting valid arguments over the controversial aspects of my writing.

I was wrong.

While I still teach at the community college, I was “not rehired” by the university for the spring 2011 semester. Although I don’t know why for sure –- my department expressed its right not to tell me –- I suspect it was because of the essays. I mean, my students always gave me great evaluations, my observation evaluations came back positive, the department was taking on new adjuncts, and I had even earned a bit of prestige among some of my co-workers. I’m not sure what else it could have been besides the essays on being an adjunct?

I had heard horror stories of adjuncts losing their contracts because they spoke out against the system that devalues them (not to mention their students), but I guess I thought I was invincible. I must admit there’s a little part of me that feels proud that I took the risk.

I started this by saying my wife got mad at me. She finally told me that I never should have published those essays, because it has put our family in such a tight spot financially, and it may have even hurt my chances of getting a full-time teaching job. Yet here I am, blogging about similar things. I want the system to change (partly because I have a son who will probably go to college one day), and I write about it because that’s what I know how to do.

Now I’m not so sure if losing my adjunct contract was worth it.

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