On Tuesday, I officially resigned from my job teaching college English.
I’m sure that to many this sounds ridiculous. At my old job, I had a good salary, paid time off, insurance, and some job security (not tenure, but some security). I was using my English degree. I was doing what I always wanted to do. (Seriously, the job I chose in first grade for our career unit was “teacher.”) My fellow college teachers respected me; I was consistently asked to lead workshops, and colleagues often approached me for advice. And I was teaching in Reno, a city I love.
Why would I leave such a job? Am I crazy?
It really came down to one thing: the working conditions. Many times when we as a society talk about careers, we don’t talk about working conditions. This is especially true when it comes to discussing careers with young people. We talk about the type of tasks a person does in a job but not the conditions under which those tasks are performed. This is a mistake. We should not just consider a person’s abilities and interests when thinking about which careers would be a good fit. We also need to consider what environments and cultures that person thrives in.
For me, it wasn’t that I disliked the tasks. I love teaching. For me, it was the speed and volume of teaching that I had to perform. Each semester, I had at least 96 students. I taught four 50-minute classes back-to-back. Each semester, I had less than 35 hours  to teach students how to read at a college-level, how to utilize the research resources at the school, how to properly format papers, how to argue an original thesis grounded in research, and how to communicate that argument orally as well as in writing. Even after five years of tweaking lesson plans and trying different methods, I still couldn’t come close to teaching all the things I knew my students needed to know to be successful in their other classes.
I also felt very alone. Even though I shared an office with six other instructors, we all had different teaching schedules. I could easily go a few days without running into any of them. I’m a social person. I really do well in small groups where we can take on challenges together and celebrate success together. That wasn’t what I experienced in my old teaching job.
So the task I love–teaching–became something that I really struggled with. I thankfully found another environment that suits me much better: Dunce Labs. This is a place where I really feel connected to everyone. I have the time and space to work with students one-on-one. It’s great!
The lesson I really took away from all this is that we must not just expose students to careers that are right for them in terms of what they will be good at and what they will enjoy. We also have to consider the environment they will be working in. Is that the right environment for them?
P.S. Okay, please allow me to celebrate! I’m officially down to one job! I’m all about Dunce Labs now! Okay, thanks for that.
I taught three days a week for fourteen weeks (3 x 14 = 42 class periods). I had one additional class period before finals. I lost two class periods to national holidays. Thus, I had 41 class periods overall. Each class period was 50 minutes. 41 x 50 = 2050 minutes. 2050 ÷ 60 = 34.167 hours (34 hours and 10 minutes).