The Professor

professorbackground2The phone rang last Tuesday at 3:30 in the afternoon, and I had absolutely no clue who would have been calling at that time. Usually the only calls we get around then are from the doctor’s office, the dentist’s office, bill collectors… you know the type. So when I answered the phone and the person on the other end asked for me by my given name I assumed it must have been one of the aforementioned group of 3:30-type callers. But it wasn’t.

The lady on the other end of the line identified herself as the assistant dean of whatever, and my brain suddenly started moving a mile a minute, racing desperately to catch up to the conversation that seemed to have gone on without me. There was something about being an adjunct professor, and was I still interested, and could I work days, and when could I come in for a meeting. It was a lot to process in such a short period of time (she had been on the phone for a grand total of two minutes by that point), but my brain just did make it in time for me to say

“Yes” (to if I was still interested)

“Yes” (to if I could work days)

and “Tomorrow” (to when I could come in for a meeting)

Now, I had been to about a million of these type of meetings, where they say they’re interested but then something falls through. It’s a meet-and-greet where everyone’s glad-handing and back-patting, but what really comes from those? But I was wrong yet again. This wasn’t one of those meetings at all. This was a meeting of the minds, a place where two needs met and made a dynamic plan together. Indeed, before I left the room on Wednesday I was officially an adjunct professor at Mohawk Valley Community College.


So I start this new semester barely a week after that meeting — tomorrow is when it begins for me. It’s been a whirlwind, filling out all this paperwork, playing catch up to all the other adjuncts who have been motoring along all summer towards this purpose. But I’m good with all of that. The adrenaline and the excitement of SOMETHING NEW is driving this bus now, and it isn’t letting go of me anytime soon. Once I’m in front of that class tomorrow — teaching — I know that’s where I belong. It’s my calling, and I can’t wait to get it started.

Now, am I going to have them call me Professor? Still thinking about that one.


Dear Journal: The Next Step

HerdsmanInterviewDear Journal,

I’m thinking about a career again, and not teaching, or Target, or any of the various other jobs I’ve had in my life. As much as I enjoy teaching, I think summer school is going to be it for me for the foreseeable future, and maybe that time was past anyway, what with all this new common core stuff that is driving others crazy. And it seems as if the career trajectory at Target is in an endless holding pattern. Maybe I’m just tired of waiting, and working hard, just to ultimately stand still.

But what other experience do I have? I was looking at my resume again the other day, and I noticed that there really isn’t anything past writing that I haven’t covered in my two other “careers” to date. It’s just too bad that the odds are as poor as they are for writers to make a living simply doing that. I write every single day, and I have various projects I constantly juggle, but where is that one home run that will land me in J.K. Rowling land? I don’t know, but I haven’t ruled it out yet.

Sometimes I go into the library and I see these tutors with children, or teenagers, or even adults, helping them learn what they don’t know, and I think I can do that. Indeed, I have done that several isolated times in the past, but it hasn’t gone past a set period of time, and I haven’t really been able to supplement it beyond that. Is tutoring really a career anyway? It reminds me of being a server in a restaurant (another job I’ve done for several isolated times in the past) where you get tips but not nearly enough to live off of in any real way.

Maybe I could be a school librarian because it combines two of my passions — being a teacher of sorts, and being around books and other resources. I’ve joked about it before, too, but it means going back to school and I have enough loans as it is. Why does everything have to be so difficult, even past making the initial decision? I guess I just want things to be easy, but I’ve made it hard on myself and I have to live with it. But I don’t have to accept just one path. Not necessarily, anyway. We’ll see.


Keeping It Brand, Part 13

f2d27“‘Do you have any of those 99 cent eggs?” the woman asked me at 8:15 this morning. I knew her. I had seen many like her yesterday in the afternoon when we first ran out of “those 99 cent eggs.” Honestly, I’m embarrassed to tell people that I don’t have what they’re looking for, especially when what they’re looking for is one of the biggest tenets of the holiday that is coming up soon. But it sometimes happens, and I have to do what I can to make their shopping experience as good as it can be regardless of the absence of eggs, or whatever else happens to be missing.

So what did I do today to help those guests who were disappointed over the lack of eggs? I gave them discounts on other products they wanted to purchase. I labeled and brought clearance products out of the back room and re-merchandised them in the egg section. But the first thing I did was to sincerely apologize, and an honest apology can go a long way toward repairing hurt feelings, in retail and in life.

Funny how working in retail gives me more of a perspective on real life. We spend so much time before the store opens making sure everything is ready for a full day of sales. The floors are cleaned, the windows and bathrooms too. The food is put out and faced off so it looks fresh and full to even the casual eye. The endcaps are also faced off and filled with product to influence even more sales. Money is placed into the registers in preparation for making change, smiles plastered on the faces of the employees to make it all seem more hospitable.

Today was one of those days where everything worked like a machine. Continue reading “Keeping It Brand, Part 13”

I Did What?: My Sordid Job History, Volume 10

coverI remember I was in a room with close to 25 other youngsters aged 7-12, all wearing shorts because it was hot out. We were in a church recreation room in West Philadelphia with two older ladies who were obviously in charge. I was 10 at the time and out of school for the summer – we all were – so I could have been anywhere doing anything, but my mom had heard about this program to help kids do outreach for the church as well as assist in paying tuition to a rather expensive private school that we attended. And I was scared.

You see, back then I was nervous about pretty much everything, the shy kid in the back who doesn’t say “boo” and hopes to keep blending in so people don’t make fun of him. That was me. And I saw pretty early on that the “outreach” we were expected to do meant going out in a public place, talking to absolute strangers, and getting them to sign up for a subscription to a Christian magazine (or several). You can understand why that properly freaked me out.

Now, the ladies seemed nice enough. They were going to split us up every day and head to two different parts of the city where we would canvas people all day long, while carrying around  satchel full of magazines that they could purchase for $2 or $5 dollars apiece, and subscriptions that cost considerably more in the short term but “paid for themselves” in the long term (i.e. eternal salvation). They were magazines with one name monikers like Insight, Messenger, Listen, and Outlook. I personally didn’t think people were allowed to solicit in some of the places we did, but the ladies apparently either didn’t care or thought God would take care of it.

We went places like 8th and Market Streets outside of the subway stop, to catch all the people who were going into the Gallery to shop, or outdoors in the marketplace two blocks from our church in North Philly. But the prime two places were the 30th Street Train Station and the outside doors of Strawbridge & Clothier downtown. On occasion several of the employees of Strawbridge’s would tell us we couldn’t be there, but no one in a uniform came to force us out. So we kept going. Continue reading “I Did What?: My Sordid Job History, Volume 10”

I Did What?: My Sordid Job History, Volume 9

warning_substitute_teacher_postcard-p239009390332992021qibm_400They took my fingerprints, and the only thing I could think while they were doing it was, “Damn, it’s going to be really hard to get this ink off my hands.” But it was all necessary, I knew, the only way to start the occupation I knew I wanted for the rest of my life. Even if the fingerprinting was merely to be a substitute teacher instead of the real thing. Everybody has to start somewhere.

A substitute teacher has to be malleable, to shift from day to day, quite unlike most other professions, which are rote.

I decided to substitute teach when I was in graduate school because the classes were mostly in the evenings, and I wanted to get my feet wet in the profession I was going to school for, which seemed smart at the time. What no one told me, however, was that substitute teaching is so different from actually having my own classroom and set schedule. I learned pretty quickly, though, once I got that first phone call to sub.

First off, the calling system was automated, so I had to set up my “profile” in the system before I could even be called to sub. Once that was set it was all about waiting. Usually the calls would come ridiculously early in the morning, and I would have to re-map my whole day around it. Since I didn’t know the area very well, I would have to ask my wife how to get places, then leave very early just in case I got lost getting there.

I learned pretty early on, too, that it mattered which position I was going to substitute for, if just to help my choice of attire. Once I got the call and it was for P.E. but I didn’t realize the difference until I arrived at the school in a full suit. My shoes weren’t even allowed on the gym floor, so I ended up walking around in my bare feet for most of the day, and I ditched the jacket about fifteen minutes into the first class session. Continue reading “I Did What?: My Sordid Job History, Volume 9”

I Did What? My Sordid Job History, Volume 8

“The buffet. This is where I win all my money back!”

In late summer of 1999 I was on the phone with the lovely people from McDonald’s, telling them the size of shirt I needed, and they were promising me three brand new shirts for my first day working there on the following Monday. Keep in mind I hadn’t really accepted the job at that point, but it was their sign that they were pushing hard to sign me to a long term deal. I felt like Dikembe Mutombo when the Sixers offered him big money to play basketball for them, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to play for the Sixers. McDonald’s wasn’t quite the job I wanted to have on my resume as a 21-year old man who had no designs on working fast food for the rest of his life.

Luckily for me that same day I had an interview with Mr. Gatti’s, a buffet pizza chain with several franchise locations in the Tennessee area. It was my last chance to get out of O’Charley’s, where my hours had dwindled precipitously as the summer tumbled head over heels into autumn. Because I was the only one working, I needed a place that could give me hours and a chance to move up so I could make even more money over the long haul, and I somehow didn’t think McDonald’s was that place. But I was so desperate to get out of O’Charley’s that I was seriously considering it. And then Gatti’s happened.

Funny enough, my first wife and I had just visited the establishment on Kingston Pike for lunch one day and saw the employment sign. I had filled out an application right then and there (back in the time where all applications were still in paper format), but had nearly forgotten about it by the time I received the call from McDonald’s about the shirts. Not less than half an hour later I got a call from Mr. Gatti’s, I went in for the perfunctory interview, and the rest is history. I was happy to call McDonald’s back and let them know they could give those nice new shirts to someone else who wore size XL. Continue reading “I Did What? My Sordid Job History, Volume 8”

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