I’ve been teaching on the run (sounds like I’m a fugitive) for several years now, but I still get questions about what I do, so I’ll write a bit about teaching online. I’ll save the nuts and bolts about how online classes work for another day, but for now, focus on the benefits and costs of this work lifestyle. The major benefit of teaching online has afforded us the freedom of time together as a family, and to become location independent. Sounds great on the surface, but like any profession, there are pitfalls to this work lifestyle as well.
Let me just simplify what I’m trying to say in a Good v. Bad list below…with bullet points. Hey, I’m a professor, bullet points are deeply engrained in my brain now…
The Good List:
- Freedom! Working from home can be liberating, work on your own schedule, and from anywhere as long as you have solid internet. Yes, you CAN teach in your pajamas! The stereotype is true! As for autonomy at the job, I have that and more. While there is accountability built into the system, I do have the academic freedom of creating the type of course I want to teach. It’s creative freedom at its best.
- Time – I received plenty of vacation time as a full time professor, including the summers, spring breaks, and in between semester breaks. We didn’t even earn vacation days. Now as an adjunct (fancy term for part time) instructor, I have even more flexibility to pursue other freelance work, such as life coaching or editing.
- Save money – Just like any work from home (telecommuting) job, I save by not having to commute to an office location, costs of maintaining a car, fuel, professional attire, and the daily costs of eating out or using the vending machines. People forget that a job comes with expenses in addition to a paycheck.
- Homeschooling has evolved into Worldschooling – While Emma was attending international school for the past four years in Thailand, we lived as expats. Once we decided as a family to homeschool last year, we became even less restricted of any calendar constraints, and can go virtually anywhere!
- I love teaching, period. If you love teaching, that doesn’t change when one chooses to teach online. There is still student-teacher interaction, and you can still create an engaging learning experience. If you want to teach online, you need to believe in the format and the advantages it brings, and not ruminate about how face to face classes are inherently better.
- No more office politics – I do not miss (at all) the negative aspects of being on campus, such as the typical backstabbing and gossiping that goes on in any workplace. Not to mention dealing with bureaucracy, or ‘bosses’ who undermine your work. Yes, those things happen in academia, and happened to me.
The Bad List:
- Insecurity – Giving up a full time faculty salary, and the benefits that come with it, wasn’t an easy decision. Ask any adjunct instructor, and they’ll tell you that they were waiting for many years to get a shot at applying for a full time faculty position. Going from a full time to adjunct position is basically a demotion in most people’s minds, and I would not argue with that. A full time faculty position is extremely competitive and secure, but I gave it up for ‘adjuncthood,’ which includes a constant state of insecurity, as there are no guarantees that you’ll continue to get classes. Not all colleges support faculty who want to teach their online classes from any location. Many want their faculty in-house, often in their offices as they teach their classes online (Don’t ask me the logic of THAT). I’m fortunate that I work for two colleges (in states of WA and LA) who are willing to allow me to teach my classes from any location..
- Being online all the time – When you work at the office, there are clear prompts of when you begin and end your work day. After you leave the office, your work day is done (unless you take papers home to grade). Teaching online, though, requires discipline to stay OFF the computer. I can safely say that I probably put in more hours than is required with my teaching load. I’m proud of my work ethic, but not proud that I’m working more hours than I should. That’s out of balance. As a traveling family, we often rely on our internet access for news, communication, and entertainment. So combining that with my online work, it’s a bit too much time in front of a screen for my taste.
- Professional Development – Typically as a full time faculty member, there are numerous conferences and professional development activities that one can engage in to further one’s skills and knowledge base. Teaching from Asia creates a new challenge in this area. I do my best to be engaged by reading books, research, and news articles in my field, but I do miss the face to face interaction and discussion with colleagues in my field of study.
- Internet needed – Make that GOOD internet. Our short stay in a Penang apartment last fall turned into a nightmare for my work. The wifi speeds were too slow. So slow that it reminded me of the dial-up days (avg of 1Mbps download). While I managed to get my work done, it was stressful and not as efficient as it could have been. Don’t take fast internet for granted, people! This fast Wifi requirement also prevents us from exploring some parts of the world where internet access is poor to nonexistent. We’ll have to schedule those ventures during my non-teaching part of the calendar.
On the whole, I can’t complain though. My work lifestyle is devoid of most of the stress that I had as a full timer, and I’ve exchanged that lofty status and security for more time with my family, and I’ll make that trade again any time. I’m grateful to the colleges that entrust me to teach their classes from a distance, and the freedom that this work has provided for myself and my family.
We Say YES to Attitude of Gratitude.
We Say NO to the Status Quo.
Live Small. Live Green.
Give Large. Take Little.
Take Notice. Take Action.