Sunday, 13 May 2007

Hourly Paid - So you wanna be a lecturer do you?

If there is anyone out there who wants to be a lecturer, might I suggest you have a read through the responses to Pity the students. But pity the lecturers more. It's an old post but still as current as ever. If you are seeking a profession that makes you feel valued, appreciated, and fiscally rewarded - forget it!

There are 2 posts advertised at my institution, and yet I am not qualified to apply for either of them because I haven't been publishing academically and am still in the process of gaining my PhD. Never mind the fact that I've been lecturing for 3 years now, and have been writing and leading modules from day one. Or that I have a PGCE, am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and am 2 years into my PhD.

I have been studying at university level for 8 years. I could have been a doctor by now - or a vet - earning a living. Yes - long hours, but long hours that are paid for, not to mention that feel worthwhile. Instead, I am still an hourly paid lecturer and likely to remain so, earning around £6,000 a year. Okay - so I have the summer off (except I don't really, because I have to teach summer schools to make my income up to that princely sum of six grand). I only teach a few hours a week... fine, but what about the hours I spend at home researching, improving my lessons, re-writing lectures? And there isn't any thanks either. The students leave at the end of the year with a small wave if you are lucky. When I left primary education after teacher training, I couldn't get out the door for hugs and little gifts. I'm not expecting hugs off my students in HE, or even gifts, but hey, would a card be too much to ask for?!

Hourly paid lecturers often teach a new course each year, having to teach it from scratch, write lectures, devise seminar activities etc., only to have it scrapped the following year or given to a full time member of staff. When I complain to my mentor I am told it is like an apprenticeship, that this is how it is. What other profession makes you work an apprenticeship after you've qualified? Makes you feel that you haven't qualified when you have? Keeps you from professional development and increase in pay each year? We are supposed to be given fractional posts now, but oh my goodness, would you believe that while I worked enough hours to qualify in years one and two, I haven't in my third year! Bloody great.

We don't find out what we're teaching until September either. So that's all summer hanging around to see if you've got any hours, and when they'll be so you can arrange child care. Then there's the feeling that you can't cope as you work every evening and all weekend, every weekend, just to stay on top, to get the marking done, the reading... whilst husband and children complain they never see you and the house degrades around your empty fridge.

I don't know where am I going anymore. All I have is a love of literature, language and writing, and the desire to share that passion with others, passing on what I know whenever I can, and hopefully inspiring people. It isn't enough obviously. I'm not going to be publishing loads of academic papers in the near future, not if I'm ever going to get this novel written. I don't want to present papers at conferences either. I just want to earn a living and be appreciated. I think I'm in the wrong profession.


hesitant scribe said...

BTW - the strike was crap and did nothing I can see to help the hourly paids, now called Associate Tutors (is that to make us feel better or something?!) I don't think it's much better for the full timers, but at least they do earn a living, and presumably don't keep getting asked when they're going to get a 'proper job'!

Anonymous said...

Eww - depressing. And sadly all true. I have spoken to other teachers from primary level right up to HE, and all complain with one voice about the appalling low pay for the hours they actually put in, lack of support from any direction, how their family life is constantly shoved to one side while they mark, prepare, attend pointless meetings and deal with office politics all the time. I heard that NQT's these days are lasting an average of 3 years, before they jump ship to find something better paid and less stressful.I can imagine this to be true and half of me couldn't blame them. I think they're very brave (insane?) to even enter the profession to begin with.
It really is disgusting how our teachers are treated and regarded, especially by those who have never done the job and couldn't, frankly. When I mention this avenue as a prospective career to people I know, the first remarks they usually make are about the long holidays and cushy hours. Needless to say, not a teacher amongst them...
Sorry you are feeling so awful at the moment - chin up, there are good days too. And I'm sure that many of your students think you're great.

Anonymous said...

P.S: Just checked your post again to see if I read it right-
£6,000 pounds?
Six thousand bloody pounds!?!? For how many hours - REAL hours, that is, not just cotact time? Your hourly rate would be...?

Oh my God! When ARE you getting a proper job then?

JJ said...

I'm sorry you feel so pissed off with it all. You're right too, about pay and value of teachers/lecturers in HE and schools, and nurses and carers in hospitals. It's a bloody disgrace actually: people so often go into those jobs because they have compassion and a desire to do something worthwhile, and yet are totally undervalued with pay and any form of appreciation.

Try not to dwell on it. Remember why you wanted to do it, and do it the best you can.

hesitant scribe said...

anon -

The main problem with being hourly paid is only working for the 24 weeks of teaching, plus summer schools, so basically no pay from August through to end of October, and no pay for Christmas or Easter.

The hourly rate is very good, but still doesn't make up for the marking pay they took away from us last year.

I think the hourly rate is what keeps me there, because I can kid myself I'm on a good wage - but my husband worked out that I'm on around £2.50 an hour, only marginally better than PGCE (when I worked on average 100 hours a week - 50p an hr - but that was an apprenticeship!).

jj - I didn't so much choose this profession as it chose me. I get a real kick out of inspiring people but can only stay in this job because my husband supports me. The family think I'm doing a PhD for the good of my health, for selfish reasons, rather than to enable myself to get a 'proper' job at the end of it, but realistically, what proper job will I get in education?

I spoke to my friend who teaches A level, and she has no free time whatsoever - her husband runs the house and takes care of the kids. Last week a primary teacher said she envied me in HE and I had to say, no, I envy you because at least the kids give you smiles and are happy to see you in the morning as opposed to hung over!

Maybe I'm having a midlife crisis thingy still, but I do think I want to look back on my life and feel I did something useful, and well, I ain't feelin' it at the moment!

liz fenwick said...

You can't leave. Inspired teachers are sooooooooo needed. I know the pay is crap and should be loads better. I look back on my education and I am so grateful to those teachers that inspired and encouraged me! Stick with it if you can.

BTW you haven't sent me your profile yet :-)

hesitant scribe said...

Liz - thanks for that - it really does help. I love being in the classroom/lecture theatre. I love the contact time, and I love it when a student is inspired. I also love learning and get a real kick out of education being a two way process - I'm just getting stressed about the fact that I'm nearly 40 and have no sign of a pension ahead of me!

Also, am too old to re-train to do something else. I just want to earn a decent living and a reasonable amount of free time. Is that too much to ask?!

I will stick with it though :)

BTW - what profile???

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