August marks a major career development for me. I'm keeping up my insurance license and remain ready to sell, as much as one can in a recession with high gas prices. But I'm also going to work in two jobs are are more of who I am than what I do.

I'm going to be an adjunct instructor of political science and history. I was already signed up to teach Comparative Government and Major Issues in US History at La Roche College in Pittsburgh. This week I was also approached by the Community College of Allegheny County to teach a couple of political science courses at their main, Allegheny campus on the North Side of Pittsburgh. The schedule dovetails perfectly with my commitments to La Roche, so I'm free to teach one section of Introduction to Political Science during the day, and one of American Government on Wednesday evenings.

It has been a while since I stood at the front of a classroom, and it is something that I really miss. I spent the last twenty-three years in a variety of corporate jobs, including eight and a half years in a bank. I also worked in IT, spent a stint in human resources, and of course gained my insurance license. When things got tough and opportunities scarce, I wasn't too proud to deliver water or do other jobs through temp agencies that weren't exactly of the corporate samurai variety.

All the while though, whether I was allegedly on an executive track or doing something that would disgust a meth addict or bore the dead, I was always a writer and a teacher in exile. That is who I am. It is a big reason why no matter what happened, Line of Departure kept on keeping on. No matter what, I could always write.

Now I can also teach.

It's going to be interesting, in two very different institutions. La Roche is a very small, high-quality Catholic liberal arts college in the suburbs, with one modern, somewhat idyllic campus. CCAC is a big, county-run two-year school, with the center of gravity in the city of Pittsburgh, but with several newer campuses spread throughout Allegheny County. In their own ways, I'm impressed by both, and have known and worked with alumni of both schools.

There are three things that I sincerely hope above all else. The first is that I do a really good job. I want to be the best professor that I can be, for my own satisfaction, but most of all because I'll have over a hundred students paying good money, and investing even more valuable time, to get a quality product. No one should leave my classroom feeling that they got anything less than the best that I could offer.

Belay that; they should get the best that they could get. When my standards sink, I should go back to the delivery truck.

Second, I would like to make this last. Adjunct instructorships are, by inference at least, temporary. I'd prefer that teaching was a more permanent career for me.

Finally, and connected with that, I'd like to be able to make a living at it. It's not the best-paying job in the world, just the one that I've wanted since grad shool.

I start teaching at CCAC on Tuesday; theirs was definitely a critical need, to be filled in a hurry. La Roche starts in ten days. In the meantime, I have a huge amount of work and reading to do.

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Comment by Jim Werbaneth on September 8, 2008 at 11:09am
One of the bigger technological changes from my school daze is the emergence of "smart" classroom technology. I'm typing this on a classroom computer, and it's connected to a touchscreen whiteboard, and a projector. I'm getting addicted to using web pages in my classroom, and drawing on the virtual whiteboard. There's a regular one right next to it, using dry erase markers, and I avoid that like a pig roast at the bin Laden house. The smart board is a gimmick at its worst, but it's still a gimmick that I like.

On the other hand, the web access is great. I was able to look up web sites this morning in my Major Issues in Modern US History Class and introduce them to the students right away. Similarly, I could go into Amazon and recommend books, along with the checking out the price.

Tomorrow I teach Introduction to Political Science, using chalk. I'm old enough to remember how to use it, and spoiled enough not to like it.
Comment by Jim Werbaneth on August 17, 2008 at 11:26am
I'm sorry about your recent experience. In a way it doesn't shock me; a dental school professor told me stories about students expecting the best grades for mediocrity. With that in mind, I'll keep the dentist I have now, instead of some clown with a sense of entitlement.

I have a line in my syllabi about how college is tough, because it's supposed to be tough. It's a place where adults choose to go for additional education, not a warehouse for the children to be kept on a compulsory basis. Whether anyone pays attention or not remains to be seen.

Also, I want to make it clear to them that a good grade, or even passing, isn't a right, but something to be earned. There are no social passes or grade inflation in my classroom.

But we can all do interesting things and even have fun.
Comment by Jon Compton on August 17, 2008 at 9:04am
Hmm. Let's see, I'm now starting my fifth career, so maybe I've finally "arrived!"

Having spent the last five years in grad school I have to admit I have little desire to teach. The last two years I taught the lab portion of the defense modeling course at Claremont Graduate School. Granted, the course is the most difficult of the required coursework in IR, but I found it to be the best and most challenging course I've taken in the program. Yet my students in the labs spent so much time complaining about how much work it was and how difficult it was, that I couldn't help but feel disgusted. To my mind, when you're at the PhD level in a highly regarded private school, you expect the work to be difficult. But here were classrooms full of students that wanted everything handed to them on a silver platter. But even worse, I was shocked by what some of these students, at the PhD level, mind you, did not know. I once spent an hour in my office with a student explaining the concept of what a variable was.

I'm sure you'll have better experiences that I Jim, and I wish you the best. As for myself, I simply don't have the patience for it. Perhaps after I retire.
Comment by Jim Werbaneth on August 15, 2008 at 7:16pm
There are a lot of times I wish I'd gone to law school instead of getting that MA, but it's balanced against the ex-lawyers I've known who went into everything from IT to sculpture. I like The Far Seas too, and I'm glad that Martin landed on his feet, as it were.

It's funny, when I was in prep school thirty-odd years ago, they used to tell us that by the time we retired, we should expect to change careers at least five times. Not jobs, but careers. I mentioned that last year to a good friend (and ex-boss) now on his third career, and he said that he tells his high school student that it's more like seven or eight changes.
Comment by Darin Leviloff on August 15, 2008 at 6:45pm
Congrats. Enjoying what you do is a real perk. A good friend of mine, Martin Andersen (designer of "Far Seas" from S&T) was a lawyer (like me) for years, got a PhD in History, but had a difficult time getting into academia because of geographic inflexibility. A couple of years ago he got a tenure track position at a University where he lives and he dropped his bar license and is loving it (and gaming on the weekends). School even sound similar to yours (Dominican in San Rafael, Ca.) Hopefully, you can achieve a similar path.

I'm sticking with law, but I get to teach religious school to 4th graders on Sundays.

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