Teacher Appreciation Week and Affective/”Women’s”/Immaterial Labor and the Gig Economy

I didn’t sit down to write a blog post.

Even if I had, I would’ve preferred to write it for my recreational beer blog (nursingbeer.wordpress.com).

I sat down to plan my classes for tomorrow, and to finish reviewing and enter student essay grades, but something felt… wrong.

I’ve decided to change the tone of the blog for this post. It’s got a little more… me in it.

I hope it makes you appreciate a teacher today, or feel appreciated if you are one.


In my anxiety-induced procrastination today, I found my way to essays about not wanting to grade student essays.

How teachers feel at grading time. via Giphy
How teachers feel at grading time. via Giphy

Those short essays were funny, but they hit too close to home (I just graded essays for two composition classes). In my attempt to cheer myself up before returning to work, I stumbled upon facebook posts and articles about teacher appreciation week. Which, in turn, led me to this petition: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/include-adjuncts-loan-forgiveness-program.

I would encourage anyone who reads this blog to take a moment to go sign that petition, it is to extend public service loan forgiveness to adjunct instructors at colleges. It doesn’t solve the problem in the industry, but it certainly takes a step in the right direction.

Reading that petition made me realize how littled I’ve said thank you to some of the teachers in my life. So, I’d like to take a moment to do that here, and send some thanks to all of the teachers that have shaped me into the person that I am today, whether I was grateful at the time or not. I’m sorry I didn’t realize how brutally competitive, unfairly compensated, and downright thankless your job was until I started doing it. (And for the record, I have a VERY  reliable and reasonably compensated position at a cool college with a mission I am 100% politically behind, so I’m not griping about my own situation here. Really.)

No one who hasn’t taught can understand just how much of the job is about performance, about affective labor, about entertainment, and yet, how none of that part of the job is really taught or compensated. Even the least internalizing instructors must, I imagine, take in some of the affect of the classroom, and I know from experience that a great class can totally make my day, but a bad meeting can wreck me for days.  I know, though far less than those brave souls in TT jobs in these departments , that when teaching emotionally and socially difficult classes — such as courses in Ethnic Studies, or Women’s/Gender/Queer Studies, etc — you relive the trauma of discovering brutal histories of inequality and violence over and over with your students. That shit wears on you. And I know how teaching required courses — such as core degree courses  in composition — faces an instructor with a semi-hostile to openly hostile body of students. That shit wears on you.

Thank you. Thank you for doing it.

I couldn't find a really good "Thank You"Gif, so I figured, what says thank you better than puppies! via Giphy
I couldn’t find a really good “Thank You” Gif, so I figured, what says thank you better than puppies! via Giphy

And no one who has avoided the adjunct shuffle can appreciate just how much it mirrors the “gig” economy, which, if you remember your Italian post-marxists and your early- and mid-century feminists, is really tied to older models of exploitation and precarity. So, if someone tells you that the neoliberal industrial restructuring of the university has afforded you greater mobility, flexibility, and choice, I’ll understand if you scream and tear out your hair. (And again, I’ve got it great in this regard.) (If you haven’t read up, some names for you: Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Paolo Virno, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Emma Goldman, Simone DeBeauvoir, Margaret Benston, Sylvia Federici, Rosi Braidotti…  it is an incomplete list if ever I wrote one, and I’ve bounced back and forth across the century with the names that either came to mind or came to mind after searching things I remember encountering, but my point isn’t about this… today)

So for all the instructors I forgot to thank for grading my papers and giving me detailed feedback. And I am sorry.

I'll let Tom Hiddleston say it for me, it looks much better coming from him, I assure you. Via Giphy.
I’ll let Tom Hiddleston say it for me, it looks much better coming from him, I assure you. Via Giphy.

Sorry for all the times I didn’t read and then tried to sneak by the discussion; for all the times I challenged your authority; for all the times I half-assed my assignments because life was soooooo important; for all the times I made your life harder, your job less fun, and your emotional drain greater. Thank you, belatedly, for all the lessons you planned; all the guides you wrote; all the discussions you led; all the friendships you facilitated; all the ideas you developed in me; all the skills you helped me to cultivate and hone; all the times you “put on a face to meet the faces that you meet” in the classroom.

To all my teachers: thank you, however belated it may be.