This afternoon, I went to talk to a class of TAs at SDSU. I had been asked to be there by the TA Coordinator, who had been my professor when I was in grad school. I was happy to go to the class and chat with them, answering whatever questions I could. His idea was that he wanted to give them a recent grad's perspective on how to go about getting a job at a community college.
Again, I need to stress that I was happy to do it. It was fun to be back on campus and to see students who are going through what I went through. It's a difficult time. For those who will be graduating next month, they are really nervous about getting jobs, and we hear all the time about how awful the market is out there. I wanted to go there and let them know that there is hope. I also wanted to give them some "real talk" about what they need to do.
That being said, I was kind of caught off guard when a student said, "My plan is to teach as an adjunct for a while and get my PhD. I want to teach at a university. So how does one avoid getting caught in the trap of community college? I mean, I don't want to get stuck there, so how do people avoid that?"
It isn't a trap. People who teach at the community college level are there for a reason. I'm here for a reason. I'm not here biding my time until something better comes along. This is where I want to be. I told him that there is no trap. People who "end up" teaching at this level are here because this is where they want to be. Sure, they may have had other plans, but sometimes, plans change. People actually like teaching at a JC! *GASP* I told him that if his goal is to teach at a university, he should stay on that path, and that's where he will end up. It isn't a trap. It isn't a punishment. No one is settling for anything.
I don't think I changed his mind. I'm sure he's dubious of my answer. I would like to say that he thought about it later, or maybe he will think about it when he's an adjunct biding his time for his "real job." What I do know is that for other TAs in that class, they were able to see that I like what I do, and I don't feel like I fell into the trap.