Adjunct of the Year & Concern About My Future Career

At the end of May, I was honored by the English/Philosophy Department at Monroe Community College when I was awarded Adjunct of the Year.

I didn’t expect the award to be a big deal — more symbolic than anything — so when I sauntered into the English Department on the designated day and the predetermined time, I was sort of surprised to be greeted by two Adjunct Coordinators and my Department Chair. They had plans.

First, one of the Adjunct Coordinators, Keith Jay, made a little speech about my service to the College.

Honestly, it was like my wedding.

I barely heard him. I saw his mouth moving, but my brain was all: Whaaaat?

Keith handed me a certificate.

Nice, right?

Honestly, the certificate would have been enough!

But then they gave me flowers.

Pretty, right?

And then my Department Chair handed me an envelope with ninety-six bazillion dollars.

Ben looks good in green, right?

Keith asked me to follow him into the hall.

(At that point, I would have followed him anywhere.)

“Your nameplate will eventually be there.” Keith pointed to a hook on an otherwise empty wall. “The plaque is at the engraver’s now.”

I followed Keith back into the English office where he picked up a white glove.

Because I am a dork, I thought: Oh, this is it. This is the part where I get hazed.

I’m not kidding.

I thought I was going to have to clean out the English office, or perhaps the supply closet where everyone goes to get pens and pads of paper and markers and chalk. It can get pretty messy in there, especially around the end of the semester. I seriously thought someone was going to make me pass a “white glove” test.

(What’s wrong with me?)

The other adjunct coordinator, Professor Yulanda McKinney, pushed a black box into my hands.

Nestled inside layers of white silk was a crystal prism.

“Put this on before you pick it up.” Keith said, handing me the glove. “You don’t want to get fingerprints all over it.”

As I lifted the prism out of the box with my gloved hand, I saw it had been engraved with my name on it.

It’s hard to take a picture of a prism!

And I was overwhelmed.

Because I realized no one was going to haze me Yulanda and Keith and Cathy and all the people in my department view me as a colleague.

I may not have my own office or full-time hours, but the people with whom I work respect what I do.

Which is an awesome feeling.

So I was filled with gratitude.

Professor Keith Kay, me (in the white glove) & Professor Yulanda McKinney

Not long after I received this award, I had a dream. I was on a ship with a bunch of my students. I turned around to call to them, but no words came out of my mouth. A voice told me to leave them behind, that they would be okay.

I’ve been struggling with my vocal cords lately.

A lot.

Obviously, the damage is worse.

I keep thinking about that dream.

I don’t know how many semesters I have left in the classroom because some days I just squeak.

Or cough.

It goes without saying that I will, of course, give 100%, but if this September is to be my swan song, 20 & 1/2 years in the classroom will have been a lovely run.

I don’t know what I will do next.

It’s been a long time since I’ve done anything else.

Especially anything that has required me to be quiet.

Have you ever had to stop doing something that you really love? What made you stop? Were you able to replace that thing with something else? Or do you still miss the activity that you had to drop?

Tweet this Twit @rasjacobson

36 thoughts on “Adjunct of the Year & Concern About My Future Career

  1. Again, congratulations on the award! As far as swan songs, and replacing things I love with other things, I can no longer play any sports that require sharp cuts. No more baseball, basketball, soccer . . . and that bothers me. Saddens me. But I can still run and swim, and these pursuits fulfill me. I don’t know what I would do without them. The emptiness would overwhelm me.

    1. I’m glad you have found other activities that fill you up. Because “saddens me” – yeah, I guess that would be it. I think a lot of my identity is wrapped up in my calling myself a “teacher.” I don’t know what I will say when someone asks me: “What do you do?” and I can’t say that anymore.

  2. Congratulations! You seem to communicate as effectively with your pen (mouse?) as your voice, so maybe your salvation lies in that direction. I’ve only gradually lost strengths I used to have, as part of the normal ageing process. I tend to kick against this, which I think in my circumstances is the right thing to do, but clearly not in yours. Good luck.

    1. Hi Margaret! I am just getting back to working on my fiction WIP. I’m almost finished with draft 1, so yes, I love to write.


      I am also a huge extrovert. I’ve always considered my classroom kind of like “my own show,” so I could never do write full-time. I’d implode. Or silently wither away. Plus, sitting on my butt all day in front of a screen would not be a good lifestyle choice for me. 😉 Like you, I might go kicking — but probably not screaming.

  3. Renee, congrats on your award–you’ve got the passion to help your students and lift them up to their potential. Nice work.
    As you know, I retired from teaching ESL students and miss the kids terribly, and the satisfaction of seeing them learn to read and write English. I’m trying to find other ways to give back to society–still working on it!

    1. Erm! You are precisely the person I need to talk to. I know you started your blog and are doing other things, but when someone asks you the inevitable question: “What do you do?” Do you say? “I’m a retired teacher?” And have you made peace with that? I’ve been an educator for so long, I’m scared of what not teaching will do to my identity. I was so lost when I was a full-time stay-at-home mom. I would need to find something else.

      But what can you do where you love to be with lots of people but you have to be pretty quiet?

      Le sigh.

  4. Congrats, that’s very cool! Although most of us would say we don’t do what we do, whether it be work or volunteer related, for the recognition, it sure feels good to be recognized when it is well deserved, which I’m sure it was in your case. Sorry you have vocal over-doer syndrome. Who woulda thunk there was such a thing!?!?

    1. I had never heard of such a thing until I was among the afflicted. Can you imagine? The girl who likes the scream all the time and sings in the shower and in the car? The girl who has been talking talking talking for 20 years in a classroom. That’s a lot of hours on the ole vocal chords. Too much vibration. Or somethin’.

      Thanks for dropping by, Cowboy! 😉

  5. Whoa. That quiet thing would freak me out, too. I also have vocal cord issues, caused by overuse. Anyone who was sitting next to us at the restaurant that day probably could’ve figured that out, no? But I digress.

    I gave up my career in 2006 when my mom required full time care. When that happened, it opened me up to pursue the many, many volunteer projects I’d always dreamed of. With volunteering, I could say “yes” when I was up to it, and “no” when I wasn’t. Most of the things I did were in the education arena – from planting trees on public school campuses, to coaching for “Speech Night Competitions” for elementary students and leadership program for high school seniors. It has been a great way to stay involved, and a rewarding way to give back to the place I love.

    1. Hi Lisha! I am weird about money. I know we have enough. But there is something about making a paycheck that appeals to me. I didn’t like NOT making money when I stayed at home. So while volunteering is fine (sometimes), I tend to have a hard time saying no. For my next career, I need a position where there are finite numbers of hours and finite amounts of work. Because, let’s face it, I turn my part-time adjunct gig into an 80 hour week. I’m really glad that you find volunteering so rewarding. Thank goodness you do because you do a lot of good for your community.

      I want another day with you. 😉

  6. You could always do distance learning… teach online courses, Empire State College is always looking for faculty. Oh and I did have to quit something I loved, being a stay at home Mom. When I got divorced 12 years ago, my ex was like “just get a job” after staying at home for 3 or 4 years. So I basically got a job to pay for child care. 🙁

    1. Hi Margaret:

      I trained to teach online classes when I learned about my vocal chord damage initially.

      Not. My. Thing.

      I like to look at my students and see when they understand something and when they are confuzzled. Online just doesn’t work for me.

      Ironic that you loved being at home when staying at home full-time made me feel so claustrophobic. For a time — until I came clean –I felt myself dying a little bit every single day. Going back to work when my son turned 6 was the best decision I ever made. That said, I’m sorry you had to lose the freedom to raise your own children. Having to work to pay for childcare has never made sense to me.

  7. Congratulations on your honors! I’ve no doubt you deserve it.

    I quit acting, a career I loved intensely, to write full-time. It was tough to admit the desire to change to myself, but once I did, the transition was easy. Go with your gut and your heart. That’s always worked for me—and lots of other people, like Oprah. 😉

  8. I left the classroom 14 years ago when Tucker was due to arrive. Thing is, once a teacher, always a teacher, we just seem to find new and different venues. Congrats. Is so lovely to see someone rewarded for sharing their passion!

  9. I am so proud of you. Congratulations. Teaching is a very rewarding profession. I am glad you are helping people.

  10. Oh holy chipmunks!! WOW! I’m a little distracted by the cash, but not enough to say that I know the award (Award Plus) is so well deserved! I am a little disappointed, however, that they didn’t at least PRETEND they were about to haze you.

    I’m going to have to play catch-up re: your vocal chords, but am sorry to hear you’re struggling/suffering! With all of the writing you’ve been doing, it seems clear to me what the future holds. And such an natural way to continue teaching 😉

  11. Congrats! That’s quite the award! And I’m sure, very well-deserved. I had no idea you had vocal issues, that’s gotta be rough. As hard as it must be to say goodbye to your current career, it’s good to focus on all the good things coming your way. I am switching careers completely (going back to college again this fall) and I have to say I’m excited to change things up at my age. There is such excitement and freedom in starting over.

  12. Renee, isn’t that just like life: it always hands us the bitter and the sweet at the same time. Congratulations on the award – that’s wonderful!
    Good luck with the fork in the road. It seems pretty clear that your talent is with words, whether spoken or not.

  13. This is so interesting . . . how your speaking voice is becoming more difficult as your writing voice blossoms more and more every day. The dream . . . all of it. . . it’s fascinating. I think you’re answer is right there, isn’t it? You ARE and will continue to be a writer, my friend.

    Love the picture of you and your colleagues (and the hazing worries). That was great!

  14. Something I’ve given up as a SAHM is the ability to practice music (any instrument) for 3 consecutive hours. I love my life right now, but I do miss the feeling of shutting the door to a soundproof practice room and hammering out a Beethoven Sonata until it takes shape. Or playing clarinet until my lower lip aches with the pressure. I miss it, but I’m hoping that it’s not gone forever, just on hiatus. We’ll see.

    As for your vocal chord issues – I’m sorry. I’m thinking about Diane Rehm right now, who has spasmodic dysphonia, but still is able to work on the radio. Maybe there’s some way to not have to let go of this part of your life?

    And congrats (again) on the award, and on having such wonderful colleagues. How lovely.

  15. When I first started out teaching the lady who took our beginning teacher course had that, with her voice. She was fantastic, we just had to be really quiet and listen hard. Which was fine as we were all struggling to make our own classes do be quiet and listen so we were trying really hard. She took two courses which worked out to be about 3 hours in front of a group a week.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop