Background thoughts

I teach math at Texas State University.  My official title is “Lecturer” which is an adjunct position.  I do have to say that the math department at least pays its adjuncts fairly livable salaries (although it’s not great by any stretch of the imagination), and we are all guaranteed a full load, which is more than my colleagues in most other departments can say.

I got my MS in Math from Texas State in 2007.   I also got married right at the same time.  I was offered the lecturer job, and originally planned to teach for one year while I figured out which PhD program (in math ed) I wanted to apply to.  At that time, my husband was getting several calls from headhunters every week, so we felt confident in our ability to move anywhere in the country.  But then 2008 came, and the economy broke, and we couldn’t really justify moving and leaving his really excellent job just then.  And now it’s 2013, and we have a baby (a delightful one!) and I’m starting to think about my career in a wistful kind of way.

I have some serious frustrations with my current working situation.  Class sizes and lack of advance notice of what classes I’ll be teaching are the main problems.  Of course, since I only have a master’s degree, I’m very limited as to where I can teach in higher ed, and those problems will probably exist anyplace that would hire me without a doctorate.  And so I’m seriously considering several questions:

  1. Do I want to continue teaching in higher ed?
  2. Do I want to put in the time and energy for a PhD?  The money?
  3. Do I want to to do research? What kind and how much?
  4. What is my ideal working environment?  What would it take to get that?

I’m gearing up for the semester now, but these thoughts have been bouncing around my head all summer.  For most of the summer (and previously in the spring), I’ve been shifting around on the pessimistic end of the scale on how I feel about the future of higher education in this county (de-funding, hyper-focus on job preparation, framing education as simply the acquisition of facts), but the technology integration workshop I attended really put me in a more optimistic place.

More on that later…

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7 thoughts on “Background thoughts

  1. bretbenesh says:

    If you were to leave higher ed, what would you do?

    • Programming, probably. I’ve got connections, and I could get a Junior Developer position fairly easily.

      • bretbenesh says:

        That seems reasonable.

        I went from a programming-type job to academia. I like academia much better, although that is obviously a personal thing.

      • Yeah, actually I think that I would feel the same way, which is why I’ve stayed as an adjunct, despite the many downsides. But lately, I’ve been getting fed up with the attitude that everybody just walks in and wings it anyway, so why would you need time to prepare?

        The greatest thing about the tech integration workshop this summer was that they treated all of us equally: adjuncts, tenure-track folks, and one tenured full professor. We were all there to improve our teaching, and we all worked together. It was fabulous.

        The more I think about it, I do want to continue to teach. Which makes the long-term choice between teaching at a community college like Sue suggested, or getting a PhD if I decide I want to do research in math ed. I think I’m going to do the blog project this semester and write an article about it as a way of dipping my toe in the water and seeing if I want to go in that direction with my career.

      • bretbenesh says:

        Just to be clear: I really enjoyed programming, too. I would have been happy being a programmer for the rest of my life. But I like teaching much better.

        But they are both good.

        It would seem like going to a community college or getting a Ph.D. are both reasonable options. Mainly, I just want to keep you teaching so that we can continue talking about it!

  2. suevanhattum says:

    Community college. A master’s is all you need. You might need to be adjunct for a few more years, but then … I love my work. Contact me if you’d like to discuss this option with me.

    • Yeah, that’s an option. The really relevant question then is do I want to do research in math ed? That was the original goal. I may contact you later to discuss, as my thoughts solidify.

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