More Classes More Money! When is Enough….Enough?


photoby Robert Borger

I have always had more than one job, ever since I started working.  This all started before high school, when I started the typical lawn mowing service for friends and neighbors for fun money.  I actually remember the article I read as a kid about letting people know about your willingness to work, so I put together a flyer and stuffed the mailboxes around town.  Each summer my client base would increase, and by the time I could drive I would stuff my tiny lawnmower on the front seat of my VW Beetle and stick the handle out the passenger window while heading to the different locations. My point here is that I figured out pretty early that more volume brought more money!  The gas tank of my Beetle was always full, and I had plenty of cash for movies and trips to the beach.  Not bad for a kid who didn’t even know he’d be a business major yet. Could this possibly work with online teaching as well?

My efforts continued when I needed party money, ( money?) in college.  I kept cutting grass, cleaned boats, moved furniture and sold drinks at football games.  Once I’d made it through college and settled in Atlanta, I found my first salary job in Financial Customer Service.  My hours were 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., so I had space in my schedule to find a morning job at a temp. service.  This is where fate came in, because I started part-time got hired full-time, and continue to at the same Fortune 500 Tech company. I finally had only one job—benefits, 401K, and a career path!  I figured I would get some promotions and would be planning my retirement party in a few decades.

My tech company paid for my MBA, which I earned online.  I fell in love with online learning.  The moment the program was over, I missed logging in and interacting with others every night.  I went into job search mode to see if I could work for the giant online educator, but did not have much luck.  I started thinking I should look for other schools getting into the online learning game, and got lucky one day when I responded to an ad in for a position.  Before I knew it, I was an online instructor, getting used to Blackboard, learning about student excuses and funerals for multiple dead grandmothers.  I loved having a second job, the extra paycheck, and truly enjoyed being an adjunct instructor.

Soon, I started getting more classes!  I was even lucky enough to get some additional assignments from the school and felt like a valued part of the process.  I was teaching a few classes a month, and getting used to the steady income on the side.  It was just about this point where I decided I might want to do this full-time.  I had a vision of teaching online for multiple schools.  I sent out about a hundred resumes and received two pretty strong offers to teach part-time.  My plan was coming together, what could possibly go wrong?

During Spring Break it all went wrong.  My kids had a week off from school, and the family decided to take our new camper to Louisiana to enjoy the sights. I took official vacation time from the corporate job, and grabbed the laptop for the online classes. I was fully loaded at two schools and starting my first class at the third school. I had the crazy idea I could be a tourist all day, and just “catch-up” at night with the classes.  The 700 mile drive was harder than I thought, and I was exhausted after setting up the camper.  My email was overwhelmed with messages the next day, but the worst one was from the new boss of school number three.  She was not very excited with my participation in the latest discussion board, and some students seemed to be getting ignored.  I spent the third night of vacation catching up, pulling an “all nighter” to grade papers, respond to posts, update email and make sure I was not missing anything else.   I was absolutely miserable!  Even worse, the students had an instructor who was tired, grumpy and overwhelmed.

The final email was again from school number three, and she was wondering if I was going to continue to be this late in my future classes.  My response to her was that it was time to end that opportunity. This was my wake up call.  I was making a good deal of money now but my personal life, and even my professional life were not at all meeting expectations.  I was never able to get enough traction to quit my corporate job, and I am very glad I didn’t.  The economy got ugly, administrative rules changed the number of classes I could teach at once at one school, and all of a sudden things were back where I started.  I now teach about two or three classes a month, with a full- time job and benefits providing most of the income in my budget.

I decided enough was enough. I still have a few late nights grading papers, but it is an enjoyable and positive part of my life that I don’t want to give up.

I wanted to write this entry in case you are in the process of deciding whether bigger is better. Let me tell you: more classes will not make your life more rewarding.  The night I did the “all nighter,” I actually saw purple spots in front of my eyes because I was so tired.  This was my low point, and I am pleased to have balance in my life again.  Our family did have to sell a car and drop the expensive Satellite Radio, but we are a family, and I even have some time to myself.

Maybe I can go back to Louisiana and see the sites that I practically slept through.  How long until Spring Break?


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    • As I read this it reminded me of the craziness I went through a few years back working full time, teaching 2-3 classes at an online school and teaching 2 classes in a traditional classroom all while working on my doctorate. Yes, something had to give besides my sanity. Thanks for the reminder of how crazy life was at one point. – Jim

  1. I totally disagree with you and I think that you blew it by losing the third college. Let me tell you, I have been teaching at 9 colleges online for the last 5 years. I have over 15 classes going simultaneously and I travel several times per year including an international travel to visit my extended family overseas. I am also a long-distance touring cyclist. And I can say that I have never been late in answering my students’ emails nor in responding to my students’ posts. The key idea here is to organize your time and, most importantly, to create a system that works for you. I am married with three children and both my wife and I teach online. She teaches at 4 colleges (4-6 curses each session) and we make it fine. I have to say that we do that on a full-time basis and have no other job. I am surprised that you failed on only three colleges.

  2. good post, really i agree , but i feel it is because of the rising population and rising demands. this can be a factor too. on the contrary i do feel little but with best effort is far better than more with regular efforts.

  3. Great post, bud. This really throws this aspect of what we do into reflection, and speaks to a basic truth of the profession: everyone’s threshold is different, and–unfortunately–many of us have NO clue as to what ours is until we’re well past it.

    Live and learn, right? 😀

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