Juggling 101: Adjunct Summer Activities — Extreme Couponing & Selling Old Books Online

By Kat Kiefer-Newman
Did I post an “off for the Summer” blog just a few weeks ago? You bet I did! Some adjunct-y things have come up, though, and I thought of all people, you would commiserate with me (and maybe laugh a little at my silly, very-juggled life).
So there I was, tearfully saying goodbyes to students. Many of them have been with me for several classes and these goodbyes were particularly bittersweet. I love when they finish, graduate, and move on to the next stage of their lives. I’ll get emails months, even years later, and they tell me what they’ve been up to. I’m not always good at responding (it’s a horrible character flaw, I’m in therapy to fix it), but I love hearing from each of them. Despite my joy for them, I’m really going to miss them. I had the pleasure and honor of knowing a young fire fighter who just graduated and plans to get his BS in Fire Science. I also had the pleasure of meeting several really terrific returning students who are finishing up certification programs. Returning students are just as much fun for me as the recent high school grads — I was a returning student and I often keep in contact with them after they graduate. I have several, actually, that I consider dear friends now.
My students have since-we-met gained custody of children, lost homes and gotten new ones, been married and/or divorced, started and/or stopped new jobs. I had not one, not two, but three pregnant young women in classes this past year – I expect baby pictures very soon. I met a magician, a beautiful goth-girl who wears amazing boots, a guy I can only describe as awesome, a collective of really smart Biblical scholars, a minister, a DJ, several former Veterans, more than one reformed felon finding their way in the world now, and on and on. Next year I’ll meet and fall madly in love with 100+ more students, of course; but for now I feel the loss of these.
Finals were, as usual, full of hugs and email exchanges.
As the door closed for the last time, I grabbed my laptop and took a few minutes to fill out my unemployment forms online. Last summer, I was one of the few adjunct faculty I knew doing this. Times, they have a-changed. Blogs are written about it, now, forums have multiple discussions, I’ve been getting Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter messages from adjuncts telling me (and all group members) to be sure and get the paperwork done ASAP.
We’re all hurting.
And summer is a mixed blessing, for sure.  I love the time to write. I love that I get to spend time with my family. I love that I can organize course lectures and Powerpoints and make some much-overdue Vodcasts. But I also love eating and making my car payment.
Yesterday, I read this bitter but sadly true list on cracked.com called 5 Things Nobody Tells You About Being Poor, by John Cheese. WAIT: If you’re squeamish about foul language, don’t click that link. Cheese outlines the five least talked-about pitfalls for the working poor. As I deal with my local EDD I feel Cheese’s pain. First, my old claim ended, so I had to refile. Next, I had to register for their work program. Hey, I want a job, I’m happy to do it. I just don’t know any colleges that need to go to the EDD for candidates. Last summer, I had to go in for an interview and my assigned counselor kept apologizing for taking my time with the required procedures. This year, I have a phone interview scheduled for Friday. I have all of my documentation about how I’m entitled to this money. My fingers are crossed I do everything right.
Even though this isn’t the college season for hiring, I keep trolling the job listings hoping something miraculously shows up. My friend Emma, who went to the job fair with me a few months ago, was offered a job in another state and since she was down to one class, she took it. Sadly, the job didn’t pan out, and Emma is scrambling once again on the resume treadmill. Because she changed states, she lost her unemployment. She’s a fighter, though, and is contesting that.
Meanwhile, my younger daughter was able to land a terrific summer job doing research at her university. She keeps lecturing me on coupons (she’s a big fan of the show Extreme Couponing) and sale-shopping. It seems she’s now a pro at saving money. I keep telling her she’s planning for the Zombie Apocalypse; she doesn’t find that joke funny, though. My older daughter has been selling all of our old books online. This has been a great help and we haven’t had to cut out luxuries like blockbuster movies because of this extra cash.
I’m sure you have all sorts of great tips for summer frugality. My best advice for adjuncts is to get talking. Summer can be especially lonely and frustrating when we’re out of work, the regular hiring cycle is past, we can’t afford to go anywhere on vacation like other teachers, and we don’t have a daily routine anymore.
Hang in there! Meanwhile, I’m going back to my dissertation edits and prepping for my EDD phone interview. I’ll let you know how that goes.
Kat Kiefer-Newman currently teaches as an adjunct instructor at two colleges in two different departments. In addition to her busy working (and driving) schedule she attends conferences presenting her research, is (hopefully) in the last stages of finishing her Ph.D., takes care of her elderly father, commiserates with her fellow-adjunct husband about juggling their mutually crazy schedules, has recently packed up and sent off to college her second daughter, chats in status updates with her students on Facebook, does not hand out her cell phone number to said students despite their pleadings, and in her spare time she plays in her organic veggie garden. (Also, though she will never admit it, she reads trashy vampire novels.)

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3 Comments
  1. Maddie says

    Our State doesn’t allow adjuncts to file for unemployment when we aren’t working, especially if there’s a contract in place for the following semester of the next year. We only get 12-16 paychecks per year (the extra four are if we work summer semester). Twelve paychecks a year means we go 28 weeks a year without any income at all. Finding a second job hasn’t happened even after “dumbing down” the resume. People assume since I work in higher education that I’m making the same high salary as administrators earn. The good news is that I will probably qualify for foodstamps/EBT and the school free lunch program this year to supplement my couponing and gardening so my kids won’t starve.

    1. admin says

      @Maddie, in which state do you live? Even in states where part-timers may believe they are not eligible for unemployment, they may be.

      1. Maddie says

        I already applied and was denied because there’s a contract in place for next semester. If I’m going to teach in the future, the State says I’m not unemployed. With part-time adjuncts not qualifying for insurance benefits either, it’s been years since I’ve been to a doctor. I would have been better off not going to college or becoming a teacher.

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