Sunday, January 12, 2014

Real Jobs Series: Jojo Schwartz Jacobson, adjunct professor and more

I met Jojo in 2004 when I was hired for my first "real" job (i.e. not nannying or selling cakes out of my parents' kitchen).  Jojo is...I don't have any idea how to describe Jojo and I tip my hat to anybody who can sum this lady up with words.  I will say that I adore and admire her and am thrilled she answered my prying questions.
Tell us a little about the various iterations of your career aspirations:
When I was a kid I wanted to be a circus clown. Then an actress. Then an architect. Then a writer. Then I really didn’t know. Then when I was in college I realized I was good at teaching, but I didn’t want to teach high school kids, and I didn’t want to teach college kids either. I realized that community college people aren’t spoiled brats, so I thought “hey! maybe that’s a good idea!” And then I realized that you only need a Master’s degree to teach at community college, so I was sold.
What has been your work history to this point?
I was a camp counselor and a lifeguard/swim coach during summers in high school, and I also taught religious school to kindergarteners on weekends. It looked disparate, but all of those things involved teaching kids. In college I worked at Deux Gros Nez and I was also a tutor at the Writing Center at TMCC. After college I went to Korea and taught English for a year. After that, I went to Boston for grad school. During grad school, I tutored writing at the local community college. It was a good foot in the door, so when I got my MA in English, I started teaching classes at the community college immediately.
Current job title(ish).
Adjunct professor, and part time academic success coach under the PRESS grant
How many hours are dedicated to your job each week?
teaching: 12. Prep time/grading: 9ish because I’m lazy. Grant work/meetings/emails: 10. TOTAL: 31ish
Do you have flexibility in your schedule?
Yes, regarding grant stuff. Not with teaching.
How did you get to this job (college, previous jobs, word of mouth, responding to call for applications, just applied, built the business myself, sold into slavery, etc.)?
Just applied to the tutoring job while in grad school, then word of mouth for teaching because I was already at the institution.
Is a job in this field something you specifically pursued (i.e. I would have taken any job vs. I only applied for jobs in this field vs. it kind of just fell into my lap vs. I never in a million years could have predicted I’d be here)?
I worked towards this for a while, so I guess I only applied for this job? But I also would have taken a variety of other jobs… I could have done community organizing or something more activisty/political.
What factors played into you taking this job (passion, schedule, pay, etc.)?
schedule, pay, and respect. I like that when you’re a professor, the outside world doesn’t think you’re a slacker or an idiot. I like that while you’re teaching, people don’t talk down to you the way they talk down to secretaries/servers/etc.
Is the job what you expected (both in practical terms, like expected tasks, and emotional terms, like does it fulfill you as you thought it would)?
This job is definitely as fulfilling as I hoped, but there’s no room to become a full time professor. Not having benefits isn’t something I expected. It’s sometimes more exhausting than I expected and sometimes less exhausting than I expected, depending on the week. This week it’s exhausting because it’s late in the semester. I didn’t expect the complete lack of job security.
Income(ish)?  Feel free to include non-money types of compensation.
Very roughly, $25,000- $35,000 a year, if I get three classes per semester plus about 15 hours of paid grant work, which I usually do. There’s no job security though, so I might end up SOL next semester. Cost of living is high in Boston, so if I were doing this elsewhere I’d probably get paid less.
Outline for us an average work day for you
Get to work at 8:15, make a handout of notes for the 9am class on the office computer, make photocopies. Wait to see if the student who made the 8:30 appointment shows up. They never do. Teach from 9:00 to 10:20. Meet with a colleague regarding our joint class from 10:30 to 11:30. The latter half of that meeting is spent complaining about students and colleagues we don’t like.
11:30- 1:00, grade papers, write emails to students, make lesson plan for tomorrow’s classes.
1:00-2:30, Maybe a meeting regarding grant work (depending on the week), discuss training tutors to be more effective, listen to old people who have job security blather on about nothing, roll eyes at other young colleagues.
2:30- 4:30 Have meetings with students, listen to stuff in their lives, give them advice about transferring to 4 year universities, give them advice about how to get tutoring and other resources at the community college. Write emails to other professors about grant work while waiting for students to show up. Feel overwhelmed when more students email me. Put off emailing students. Check facebook.  
4:30- Maybe some paperwork, go home.
(This is a Monday or Wednesday. On a Tuesday or Thursday, I’d start teaching at noon, and then I’d have another class from 6pm to 9pm. Fridays I have off usually, unless I have a meeting.)
How much of your energy do you invest into your job?  Do you feel like it’s a good trade for you?
I invest not much physical energy, but I invest a lot of emotional/intellectual energy in my job. I usually feel like it’s a good trade. I’m glad I don’t spend all day in a cubicle or doing lots of manual labor.
Is there room in your job for personal progress or promotion?  Is that something that’s important to you or that you seek out?
There’s the illusion that adjuncts can get full time work, but it’s not actually possible for 99% of us. I don’t like that. I want more job security. I’m trying to do more administrative things so that I can move forward in my career… If I didn’t think I was moving forward, I’d be less happy. It wouldn’t be a dealbreaker, but still, I’d be frustrated.
What are some things you find fulfilling about your job?
Students say “thank you” a lot. I have a lot of face to face work, and I get to see lightbulbs go off.
What are some things that you find challenging about your job (not in a “yay!  I’m being challenged and I’m growing!” but the annoying “I wish I didn’t have to deal with this” way.)
When older colleagues think they know everything but are in fact quite out of touch. I hate it. They make everything worse, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I just have to hope they retire and/or die.
Do you see yourself in this job/with this company/in this field in 5-10 years?  Why or why not?
In this field, yes. I like higher ed. In this job? I hope not. I want to transition to be more of an administrator--I want to supervise and coordinate tutors. If I were more of an administrator, I’d have more job security, and I’d probably be paid more.
Is this what you want to do?  Aka is this “the” job?
Not quite. It’s almost “the” job. If my grant work and my teaching were combined into one position with benefits and job security, it might be “the” job.
Do you feel like you have a relatively balanced life?  If so, what do you think helps you feel that way?  If not, what do you think would need to change for you to feel that way?
Mostly yes. My partner is still in grad school, so I don’t see her enough and she doesn’t help out around the house enough. I hope that changes in two years when she’s done with school.
Of the five markers of a quality life (positive emotion, engagement, relationship, meaning, achievement), which does your job allow you to fulfill?  Does your job allow you enough time/energy to fulfill the other ones in your free time?
Emotion, engagement, and meaning: mostly. Relationships: somewhat. I don’t have a lot of coworker relationships because teaching is by nature a sort of lonely profession. I get student-teacher relationships, but there are boundaries with that because of the power dynamic. Achievement: not so much, and my work takes up enough time and energy so that I don’t really have much time to look for other jobs to get that achievement part fulfilled.
What are your general thoughts about work/this job/life?  
It takes a certain type of person to survive and thrive in this job. I’m mostly that person… but not for my whole life. I have to make sure I keep looking for administrative stuff to do.
Free style (anything else you feel compelled to explain/share):
I don’t really have time… I have to go to a meeting!

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