By coincidence October 30, 2008, marked two very special events in my professional life: my first anniversary at DeVry University in Bakersfield and the day on which I learned that I was hired as an adjunct instructor by National University.

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My tenure at DeVry has been nothing short of life altering. For me, being hired at DeVry marks the moment when I officially became a “real live” classroom teacher. Although I had already been hired to teach online courses for Axia College of University of Phoenix, there was something incredibly validating about being in a classroom.

I suddenly felt like a legitimate teacher — as if I had finally emerged as an educator.

I can partially thank my experience with Axia as one of the reasons why, as a relatively unproven teacher, I was hired at DeVry (though I did teach traffic school, so that must have counted for something, right?).

I must also acknowledge Center Dean Barry J. Bailey for taking a chance on me.  His decision to let me initially teach two courses on a trial basis has fundamentally changed the course of my career (and, to be honest, my life).

Since embarking on my relatively new career in academia, each new school at which I am hired leads to another opportunity. There is something affirming and encouraging about this experience (and it is one that I hadn’t encountered for some years prior to venturing into teaching).

I have also realized how intertwined my experiences have been at every school where I have taught and am teaching: I continuously learn from each situation, thereby improving my overall aptitude as an educator.

Whether it is sharing best practices with colleagues, receiving guidance from my supervisors or as simple as listening to my students, I am in a constant state of learning.

In the year since I started teaching at DeVry there I have taught 16 sections of the following business, computer and English courses:

  • BUSN-115 (Introduction to Business and Technology)
  • COMP-100 (Computer Applications for Business with Lab)
  • COMP-129 (PC Hardware and Software)
  • ENGL-032 (Developmental Writing and Reading)
  • ENGL-092 (Intermediate English)
  • ENGL-112 (Composition)
  • ENGL-135 (Advanced Composition)
  • MGMT-303 (Principles of Management)
  • MGMT-404 (Project Management)

I continue to grow and mature as an individual and instructor at DeVry and look forward to many more years at this respected and forward-thinking educational organization. I am also anticipating teaching some new courses in the coming months, which should provide added energy and excitement to my experience there.

National University promises to be another exciting step in my career development.  Once again, I have Los Angeles Craigslist Education and Teaching Jobs to thank for this lead and Bettina Moss for giving me another wonderful opportunity.

Again, I can’t stress the impact that a few key individuals have had on my professional progress. Their generosity is even more notable considering that other individuals who I already knew and asked for assistance have sometimes been less than helpful. This is definitely a lesson in “paying it forward!”

As explained on it’s website:

“National University is the second-largest, private, nonprofit institution of higher learning in California. Founded in 1971, National University consists of five schools and one college, including the Schools of Business and Management; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and Media and Communication; and the College of Letters and Sciences.”

Additionally, National is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and is also non-profit — a notable distinction. I previously had known National University as a resource for individuals seeking a teaching credential and an avenue for active educators seeking advanced degrees.

However, National University also offers more than 50 graduate and undergraduate degrees — with more than 1,200 courses online.

National University courses are a quick four weeks in duration: eight four-hour classroom meetings during the week and two four-hour Saturday sessions.

In comparison, DeVry courses are eight weeks in length (with one or two physical meetings a week depending on the course type) and Axia courses are nine-weeks of entirely online education.

I am also teaching for another school, Florida Career College, which recently launched an online program with six-week sessions.

At first I will be teaching traditional classroom-based courses at the Los Angeles Campus (which is near Los Angeles International Airport), but eventually I might teach in a hybrid model similar to that which DeVry uses.

The courses I was hired to teach include the following (though as of today I have only been scheduled to teach one section of the first course, COM-103, Oral Communication, which is set to begin at the end of November.

And, so it is with great gratitude that I look back to my last year of teaching at DeVry and even more excitement that I look ahead to another year of continued career development!

On Monday, July 7, 2008, after enjoying a “one-day vacation” with my family in Big Bear Lake, CA I embarked on a 3 hour and 21 minute, 205.5 mile journey to Bakersfield. There I was scheduled to start teaching another session at DeVry University that evening.

view-of-big-bear-lake

I am only just now able to share the photos from this trip because the past two months were exceptionally challenging, but rewarding. Adjunct teaching is similar to walking a tight-rope without a net: high risk, but high reward. There is no paid leave, sick leave or traditional benefits.

I taught three classes at DeVry:

  • BUSN-115, Introduction to Business and Technology
  • COMP-100, Computer Applications for Business with Lab
  • ENGL-135, Advanced Composition

I also facilitated four to six concurrent online sessions for Axia College of University of Phoenix of:

  • COM-140, Contemporary Business Communication
  • COM-220, Research Writing

Amidst all that I was juggling some consulting projects and myriad responsibilities as the father of two amazing young boys. Despite the limited amount of free time I have, it was important to have some kind of a vacation with my family, even if doing so involved driving 350 miles in 6.5 hours during a 24 hour period.

Had I been able to spend more time on vacation I would have done so. However, my circumstance did not permit it — so I appreciated the time I did have, not the time I didn’t. Although my time in Big Bear was short, it was priceless.

We rented a pontoon boat and spent several hours driving around on the lake just relaxing and taking in the fresh air. I don’t step back and take a break much, especially these days, but it was a wonderful chance to partially recharge my batteries.

After spending the morning of July 7 on the water once more I loaded up my car, filled up the tank (at $4.73 a gallon!) and got what I thought would be a cheap automated car wash (it was $10!). I got on the road at almost exactly noon and was off on my big adventure.

My route included California Highway 18 north (through Apple Valley) to Interstate 15 North (briefly) to Highway 58 West (the starting point is near Hinkley, CA — made famous/infamous in the movie “Erin Brokovich”) and ending on Highway 99.  My stopping point was the Vagabond Inn (North Bakersfield).

The photos below document this pleasant and, thankfully, uneventful road trip.

Fueling up in Big Bear Lake ($4.73 a Gallon!)

Leaving Big Bear Lake on Highway 18

Some kind of processing plant at the base of the mountain

Decisions, Decisions…

Apple Valley (where are the apples?)

Getting onto Interstate 15 (it is the overpass in the distance)

Interstate 15 North

Highway 58 to Bakersfield

Highway 58 Near Hinkley, CA (made famous/infamous in “Erin Brokovich”)

Mojave (home of SpaceShipOne)

Leaving Mojave and heading up the mountain on Highway 58 West

Nearing Tehachapi

Nearing Bakersfield

Smoky skies from various wildfires (see YouTube video below)

The video below was shot during the last leg of my journey. The overcast/discolored sky that was the result of soot and smoke in the air from the Piute Fire (near Lake Isabella, CA) and, possibly, the Gap Fire that was burning in Goleta, CA (near Santa Barbara).

The music in the background is the theme from the movie “Napoleon Dynamite.”  For the music buffs out there it is called “Music For A Found Harmonium” and can be found on the album “Irish Times” by Patrick Street.

It seems to fit the video quite well. Don’t you agree, Napoleon? Gosh!

The “Bond” in all its glory – actually for $40 it is a great value

Scenic view of Highway 99 South from my luxury suite at the Vagabond Inn

All things considered it was a (thankfully) uneventful, yet interesting adventure. There was something unique and invigorating about seeing parts of California many people overlook.

The following day I filmed this video as I drove to the DeVry University Center at 3000 Ming Avenue.

The video below is of me approaching the DeVry campus. The music that accompanies this clip is called “Say Hello” off of the “Centuries Before Love and War” album of the group “Stars of Track and Field.” Notably, I went to elementary school and grew up with one of the members of the band: Dan Orvik.

Despite the often odd adventures I have driving to and from DeVry, one thing is for certain: my commute is never boring!

I received an e-mail from a reader of my blog asking for suggestions as to how she could “break in” to academia as an adjunct instructor.  Although I am far from an expert at navigating the potentially pitfall-ridden pathway to academic employment, I felt it might be helpful to relate some of my experiences so far.

Whether or not they will work for anyone else — or, to be brutally honest, me — is unclear.  However, I am a firm believer that by doing good I can do well, so here goes: Craigslist education and teaching jobs (seriously).

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I mostly use Craigslist for Los Angeles, but have also explored the sites for Ventura, Santa Barbara (which is how I found the opportunity at UC Santa Barbara Extension) and Bakersfield (which is how I found out about the opportunity at DeVry University).

I have found Craigslist to be a great source of leads for adjunct level positions and even some full time ones. In fact, with the exception of my position at Axia, every single adjunct teaching job I now have was the result of a posting on Craigslist.

I first ventured into education by teaching traffic school for nine months — and, yes, I found the job on Craigslist! Despite not being academic, teaching traffic school helped me develop my classroom management and curriculum development skills.

Mind you, I did this of my own free will (there were no court orders or community service hours involved!). I realize the mere thought of traffic school has already made some of you uncontrollably twitch and or gag, but I could not have asked for a more effective “entry level” experience.

It was a great way to test the waters of teaching — especially because those waters were full of sharks and piranhas. Think of it this way: what better way to prove that you are meant to teach than by putting yourself in the worst possible teaching situation and making a difference?

Knowing that everyone in attendance would have rather spent an afternoon making human pyramids at Abu Ghraib, I went out of my way to make the class as interesting and engaging as possible. Granted, I still had to show the requisite outdated videos about road rage, traffic safety and related topics — but I found clever ways to stay within the DMV’s guidelines while managing to have some fun.

I even managed to show a few minutes of the campy 1985 film “Moving Violations,” starring John Murray (the lesser known brother of Bill Murray), Jennifer Tilly, James Keach, Sally Kellerman, Fred Willard and Clara Peller — the octogenarian actress best known for the 1984 “Where’s the beef?” ad campaign for Wendy’s.

One of the highlights of the day happened just after lunch when, as an introduction to the curriculum about drinking and driving,  I showed mugshots of celebrities arrested for DUI to the students and had them guess who everyone was. I knew it was working when the evaluator who showed up at one of my classes unannounced after lunch was laughing!

I am extemporaneomoving-violations-signsus by nature, so a good part of my “material” was improvised based on what was discussed in class.

I found that engaging the students directly and making them a part of the program made the day more interesting for me, but (big surprise!) it actually made them more interested in the class as well.

Of course, being “interested” in traffic school is a relative term — don’t for a minute think I was recreating scenes from Stand and Deliver! That being said, it was a rewarding and (to use a “report card word”) unique experience unlike anything I could have imagined.

Since then I have taught 15 sections of asynchronous online writing and business communication courses for Axia College of University of Phoenix. I have also taught ten sections of computer, English and management courses in a hybrid classroom/asynchronous online model at DeVry University in Bakersfield.

I have also taught one section of a buying behavior course at UC Santa Barbara Extension along with one principles of marketing course and one organizational behavior class at International American University, a private school focused on providing Asian students with an American education.

As for another resource, I have to give massive applause to the members of the Chronicle of Higher Education Forums — what a wonderful resource they all are! There are threads on all sorts of topics of interest to a aspiring academic — and a good number of the members are active and emeritus professors.

Everyone is very willing to share their insights and experiences — often with an unexpected sense of humor (teachers are people too!). I’ve asked (and had answered) questions about which Ph.D. programs to pursue to how I should format my CV.

Its best to sit quietly and read many of the existing threads before jumping in head first — what until you get a flavor for the tone and temperament of the place. If you want to avoid posting threads all together and just want to go straight for raw information, check out the following threads/resources:

I also found my way to a Facebook Group sponsored by The Babb GroupMake a Living Teaching Online — it is definitely worth signing up for; even if you just lurk and read the posts made by others the information is exceptionally helpful.

Hopefully these resources are useful to those of you looking for information on how to transition into a career in academia. Certainly, my experiences are not typical, but then I suppose they are not entirely atypical.

Happy teaching!