When I finished my dissertation on Henry James and got a Masters, I was eligible by virtue of having gotten a Masters to teach at Community Colleges, although they were called Junior Colleges at that time, even though I had never had a single class in the fine art of teaching. Apparently, if you teach pre-college you need to take classes on how to teach, but if you are teaching college you don’t because as they say, in college, you teach the subject, not students.
That tells you a lot about the general theory of college teaching. You talk about the subject, and it doesn’t really make any difference whether any students are there or not in the room with you. In fact in many college lectures most of the students aren’t there because the teacher is not teaching students but the subject. So it all sort of works out in the end.
I applied for work at community colleges and I got interviews at 3, some close by, but one up in Monterey took some driving. And I didn’t get a job. But the fall before, just in case the junior college thing didn’t come through, I had applied to graduate schools for a PhD. Also, having flunked out of UCLA, I wanted to prove to myself that I could get a PhD if I wanted. I was accepted at three graduate schools, one a pretty good school back in New York, one a sort of experimental college in the UC system, and the one I ended up at and where I have been as student and then teacher since 1976—30 fucking years. Who knew?
The chair of the department at the experimental university wrote a letter—hand written no less—saying I was there absolute number one candidate, and would I please come. I mean the guy actually wanted me to come and was trying to convince me. BUT (huge BUT) they would have not money to give me or TA job for the first year. Gee Whiz! Thanks a lot.
I would have liked to have gone there. But I had about 500 dollars, a few pairs of jeans, some work shirts and a Volkswagen…After that first year, they would find some money. BUT… I just didn’t see how I could do it—go to a new place, find a job that paid something, take graduate classes, and keep my sanity. I needed more structure than that so I went to the place I still am because they offered me a full TA ship because, as I later learned, they decided to bring in grad students that particular year that had previously taught so they wouldn’t have to spend money training them. I fit the bill to a T.
Money has played a significant role in my career choices. I supposed I could have borrowed some money some where for that first year at the place that had no money. But what did I know from borrowing. I had a great dread of debt and managed to get all my higher education, 10+ years of it, owing $1000. What do they call that now, a Pyrrhic victory?