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Friday, April 16, 2004

>While I was reading this I suddenly had the (I would say sad) thought that despite all of any WC director's work, people who work there are probably not going to have the commitment level that she or he has since, ultimately, many folks don't work in writing centers as a carreer. It is for them, perhaps, just a weigh station. It is something to do before you get you finish up your work and move on to the real job.<

I'm new to PeerCentered, so I thought I'd begin by responding to this post. My title is English Instructional Skills Specialist for the English Learning Center at Palo Alto College, a position I've held for five years. Yes, that's right, five years. Awfully long time to pause at a "weigh station," don't you think?

I honestly didn't come into this job on my way to something else. I came into this job on my way OUT of something else. I taught high school for three years before I came to the community college. At the end of those three years, I'd had quite enough. I needed a change, so here I am. Initially, I didn't think beyond this position. When I came in the door, I was told that no one stayed here longer than two years. Most went on to obtain their MAs and secure faculty positions. That made sense enough, I suppose. I was in no hurry to do that. This is a comfy gig. I am full-time instructional staff, and I am also a member of the adjunct faculty. I have the best of both worlds. Why change?

After five years, I'm starting to see why. There is no way up or across for me. At this college district, there are no job descriptions that represent a promotion for me or even allow me to transfer laterally. I'm stuck exactly where I am. My only way out is the same way out that everyone before me has taken. Unless I can be content with what I have (which is lovely, don't get me wrong), I will find myself mired in a position that will cap out in salary in my tenth year and will offer me few new challenges once the center is well and truly established, which it should be at that point. My clock is ticking.

Note: I didn't come in the door with MA in hand. I came with a BA, graduate hours, secondary teaching certification, and adult ed experience. So why don't I have the MA and the faculty position yet?

I saw no need to press for the degree until recently. I took a course here, a course there, just to satisfy my own desire for knowledge. I had the career in my pocket, and the college has been quite content with me and my performance. Times are uncertain these days. Budgets are tight, and no one's job is safe. If I get the axe, where do I go?

Back to high school. I was good at that. I really was, but that's not where my heart is. I love the community college, and I'd like to stay. In order to stay, I think I'm going to have to grow, like it or not.

You see, some people DO come to the writing center looking for a career. The problem is that the writing center just isn't a very good career option, not unless this is something you are coming to near retirement. Chances are, you won't be looking to grow, advance. You'll be safe and snug. Writing centers are good at providing safe and snug. Careers, unfortunately, can't really be safe and snug if they are to be truly successful. They must be a little risky, mustn't they?

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