Teaching and Learning, Pitt, Jealousy, University of Maryland University College, Betrayal, Self-Reflection, CMU, Bull Durham (1988), Dubious Honor, Crash Davis, American Univeristy, University of Maryland Global Campus, Finding Meaning
“Well, 247 home runs in the minor-leagues would be a…kind of dubious honor.”Bull Durham, 1988.
Today marks two occasions, both of them a bit bittersweet. One, I marched and picked up my doctorate on this date, a quarter-century ago. A whole 25 years since my PhD ceremony, and my professional life has been a roller-coaster of betrayals, slights, and occasional triumphs since. I have written about all of them ad nauseum over the past 25 years, too. Learning people like my advisor and my mom were jealous of me was so discouraging that if it weren’t for writing, I might not be here at all to muse about anything.
But this May 18, in the year 2022, I have achieved a milestone I didn’t think possible, not even five years ago. Today, I begin teaching my second summer session course, US History from 1865 to the Present, at University of Maryland Global Campus. This is the 100th course I have taught or guest lectured as a regular since 1991. One hundred courses, enough to earn 2.5 bachelor’s degrees. “Yay, me!”, right?
This is a truly half-full, half-empty post, and so is how I feel about today. As Crash Davis would say, “Well, 100 undergraduate and graduate courses taught in academia’s minor-leagues is a kind of dubious honor.” It wouldn’t make news in The Chronicle of Higher Education or Inside Higher Ed, forget about The Sporting News!
I mean, a full 58 of my courses have been taught at a University of Maryland campus that mostly offers online courses. American University, my primary teaching place for the past four years, laughs every time our adjuncts’ union brings up our want for a new contract to correct our paltry salaries (their latest offer barely enough for Chipotle dinner for four per course). I haven’t taught a course affiliated with graduate-level work since my Teaching Black Studies class at Howard University in 2007, and that was marginally so. I made more money managing my former bosses at the defunct Academy for Educational Development for eight years ($620,000) than I ever have in my 20+ years as a TA, instructor, or professor ($360,000). So yes, hitting my 100th course feels dubious.
News flash: it’s still an achievement, too. That means I’ve taught between 2,450 and 2,600 students off and (since 2007, mostly) on over the past three decades. At least a dozen of my students have gone to earn doctorates, at least another 200 have their master’s and JDs. I’ve written dozens of letters and provide references for scores of former students. I’ve had some amazing revelations and epiphanies while teaching, including on many of the topics I write about for income and publication now. And, though almost exclusively in the lowly position of “ad-junk,” have taught at Pitt, CMU, Duquesne College of Education, GW School of Education and Human Development, University of the District of Columbia, Howard University, and my two current campuses. I’ve also taught for two summers at Princeton, worked with students in civic education, and designed curricula and materials for various education organizations over the years.
I’ve hit home runs, and against quality pitching, too. I’ve also hit threes out of double-teams, caught touchdowns while splitting double-coverages, and made blinding saves off of slapshots. In teaching as much as I have, I’ve had to. One TA in 100 courses, (and the one I did have should have never been trusted with grading responsibilities), one office (American) and two cubicles (Pitt and CMU, and I was a grad student then) in all my years in the classroom. I’ve taught students as young as 12 and as old as 80, too. Short of a mass shooter, I have pretty much seen it all as a postsecondary educator (though I’ve had armed cops as students in the classroom, too).
Really, I hope to remain an educator for the rest of my days, even as I hope that I’m not teaching eight, nine, and 10 classes per year for the next 20 or 30 years, either. For all the joys of light bulbs going off and seeing stereotypes shattered, there’s also the student sitting with their arms folded, refusing to listen, to me or their classmates, blaming me for everything wrong in the world. Crash Davis retired after breaking his record and became a coach in the minor leagues. That’s not so much a retirement as it is a significant role change. Maybe I can achieve the same, and soon.