The other day my department chair approached me and announced that she had a special present for me. It's not often I get presents; anything more than twice a year is certainly an outlier. Interested, I turned around in my cubicle chair to find her handing me a gorgeous piece of . . . . wallpaper? Well, not quite, but not that far from it.
I've played this silly HR game before, so I smiled and feigned excitement. "Hey! A certificate! Wow!"
"Yeah," she rejoined, "you could frame this and put it on your wall."
Yeah, my bathroom wall, I thought to myself.
"Totally," I replied with my best Californian accent.
Honestly, I'm grateful to have my job. I wouldn't want to be doing anything else but teaching college students. So I don't really need a certificate to know that my employer who won't allow me to work more than 30 hours/week because the administration doesn't want to pay for the health care and other benefits the law demands I receive if I work more than 30 hours/week appreciates me. I know that my students appreciate me, and honestly, that really is enough for me on the appreciation front.
But if my employer really wanted to do something more to express appreciation for my efforts, I have a better way to spell appreciation than C-E-R-T-I-F-I-C-A-T-E. And my way of spelling appreciation uses way fewer letters. It's C-A-S-H. No, I'm not talking about that guy named Johnny who sang about a boy named Sue. I'm talking about greenbacks -- or their digital equivalent -- in my bank account.
Yeah, I'm going to keep on dreaming.
My employer will do practically anything to help us adjuncts feel better about our position --- anything that doesn't involve cash, that is. The administration is extremely tight when it comes to money. That may be good accounting practice, but it's hardly good business practice. You're retarding your organization's growth when you don't take sufficient care of your employees, especially the ones who take care of the reason why your organization exists in the first place. It's no surprise the turnover rate here is as high as it is.
I persist on because (1) I love teaching and don't want to be doing anything else and (2) I'm consciously pursuing my desired career. This past summer is a great example. I worked my tail off developing the physics class I taught this past summer. But I certainly wasn't doing it for my employer. I was doing it because I cared about my students and I wanted to build a reputation and a portfolio to go with it. If I didn't need the reputation or the portfolio, thus leaving my employer's concern as my only motivation, I wouldn't have done the tenth part of what I actually did. No one feels to sacrifice for someone who consistently shows no desire to sacrifice for them. That's just human nature.
I am in no way complaining. As I said before, I love my job and am very grateful to have it. I'm OK not having the cash I believe would better show appreciation because I'm doing OK as I am. I don't want to go into teaching to get rich. I want to go into teaching because being in the classroom and the lab makes me feel alive. There's other reasons, but that's the first one. I just can't do much with a certificate. Cash, on the other hand, presents multiple possibilities. I could pay a bill early. I could invest in one of my businesses. I could support a charity I believe in. Or I could just enjoy myself with a nice trip or a special purchase.
Like I said earlier, I'll keep on dreaming. And I'll keep working my career plan. One day, I'll have all the pieces fitted together. Then I can pull out that certificate I got the other day and say, "See? This is where it all started."
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