How not to screw up a teaching career.
March 20, 2008 7:34 AM   Subscribe

I was tentatively offered a lecturer positions at a University for the coming spring semester, which I'm psyched about but has led to a dilemma.

I am still in grad school, but due to some circumstances beyond my control (to put it politically) my getting out of grad school isn't going as quickly as I'd like. So I had decided to stop putting the rest of my life on hold and to that end I put in plan two motions. 1. I applied for a bunch of lecturer positions at various colleges, which for those who don't know, are part-time positions, where you get hired to teach on a course by course basis, semester by semester. Since I am fairly certain that after grad school I want to go into teaching, this is obviously a good career move.

and 2. My husband and I decided to start trying for kids in May.

Now I haven't had a lot of luck getting a position for the Summer terms, I have a tentative one for the Fall, and was just offered one at another university for the Spring. The problem being that if we do end up pregnant soon after starting, I wouldn't be able to teach in the Spring because I'd be due then. If it takes us awhile (pretty much anytime longer than a month or two) though, I could.

The dilemma comes in on how to respond to the offer for teaching in the Spring. I could a) be straightforward and tell them that I'd love the job, but that there is a small chance that I would have to back out if I ended up pregnant and that I could tell them by the end of the summer at the latest if that was going to be the case, or b) take the job and if I end up pregnant, try to back out gracefully, acting like it was a bit of a surprise that this ended up this way.

With a, I'm worried that they won't give me the job at all, and with b, I'm worried that they will be turned off and not offer me any future jobs. Obviously for having a kid the extra money I can make if I could work right up till the end of pregnancy would be best, but I don't want to hurt my long-term potential either.

So which is best? Does academia (or at least the adjunct/lecturer positions) take ok to the backing out for pregnancy? Any have any experience with this?
posted by JonahBlack to Work & Money (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
could you adjust your May startpoint one way or the other to free up next spring?
posted by Oktober at 7:40 AM on March 20, 2008

uh, waiting 2-3 months to start trying wouldn't be the end of the world
posted by Salvatorparadise at 7:41 AM on March 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: That's what I forgot to mention. That honestly, while I realize waiting shouldn't be the end of the world, the way my life has been, it might boil down into being the end of the world. There is a lot of back story going into this comment, but it ends up with the idea of waiting any longer might make me explode. So while I've haven't completely ruled it out, it's not likely.
posted by JonahBlack at 7:53 AM on March 20, 2008

Although you've started trying to get pregnant, it could take a while. Make the best decision you can with the data that you have, and then cross this particular bridge when you come to it.
posted by nkknkk at 7:57 AM on March 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've taught as an adjunct at 10 colleges/universities over the past 20 years. I have also been the administrator in charge of hiring adjuncts for a couple of programs over the years. The contract is always tentative. Part-time lecturer positions are often withdrawn by the institutions because of lack of funding or low enrollments or curriculum changes, and lecturers often back out because they are offered full-time positions, move, get pregnant, or otherwise become unavailable.

Spring 2009 is a long way away. If you can tell the institution by August or September 2008 that you will not be available for Spring 2009, there should be no hard feelings.
posted by hworth at 8:01 AM on March 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

As hworth said, things are always changing at the last minute in the adjunct world. No big deal. From what you've said, adjuncting at this point in your career is a good idea, but there are a few caveats. First, you probably already know that (depending on your field) the money is hopeless. No one would believe how little adjuncts make at some of the schools near me (Boston area). My college pays relatively well, and it's still embarrassing to me as a tenured person to offer adjuncts what we do (and my salary isn't putting me in the top 50% either).
More important, if you are planning to try for tenure-track positions in the future, you have to have a publishing record, and loading up on teaching doesn't help that happen. I've seen people who because of money issues take on lots of adjuncting, and they never get anything written, so they never get tenure-track jobs. It's nasty. You want adjuncting to 1) keep your sanity and 2) get teaching experience, but not so much that it puts you off the dissertation/publishing track, if you're planning on full-time academia in the future.
Good luck!
posted by annabkr at 9:10 AM on March 20, 2008

nkknkk and hworth have got it. You should assume that you're going to be teaching in Spring 2009, until your situation actually changes.

I'd add, though, that you shouldn't ever tell a potential employer that you are trying to get pregnant. There is no tangible benefit to you, whatsoever, and in the eyes of many employers, it will count against you, even if it shouldn't. (It's also a question that a potential employer shouldn't ask, but that's another thread).

What if they were really looking for someone to teach in Spring 2009, with a strong likelihood of Summer and Fall 2009 to follow (they're not telling candidates about Summer/Fall, because it hasn't been budgeted yet) -- and there were two very similar candidates, one of whom says, "my husband and I are trying to start a family, so there's a very small chance that life will get in the way of my starting this job in Spring 2009". The other was wearing a wedding ring at the interview, but didn't say anything about her husband or any kids or plans. Which candidate gets the gig?

Don't shoot yourself in the foot over a possibility. When life gets in the way of your plans, be gracious about letting those around you know if its impact, and they will usually be understanding -- especially when it's a child that changes your plans. Most people realize that it's impossible to exactly time a pregnancy, and act accordingly. (It's hard to be angry when someone says, "I'm going to have to back out of this engagement, because my husband and I are expecting our first child")

Those who would hold it against you would also likely be horrible places to be a working mom. Do you care?

Good luck.
posted by toxic at 9:22 AM on March 20, 2008

I second hworth's advice. Contract lecturing appointments are tentative all-round, so if you let them know by the end of the Summer that you won't be teaching that Spring, I wouldn't expect it to cause any ill feelings.

I also love to teach, but it's worthwhile keeping annbkr's comments about publishing in mind as well. Nowadays you're *very* unlikely to get a permanent academic position without having a good publishing record. Good teaching experience is also helpful, but publishing is key.

I also know of many people who, expectedly or unexpectedly, became parents while in grad school. While the increased workload is very significant, many of them found that it actually helped them focus and would up finishing earlier than they might otherwise have done.

Good luck with all your plans!
posted by alaaarm at 3:41 PM on March 20, 2008

« Older I hate work   |   Bugs - OUT! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.