The Flip Side of the Power Differential

Yesterday, I did the first truly negative thing I have done in my tenure as ELA Coordinator. I have canceled a class here, or there for a teacher, but yesterday, I canceled many classes for many teachers. Some of them were not expecting it. A brief background as to why? Fewer students in ELA and college conservatism for class numbers as our enrollment shrinks. So, classes that might have been okay to offer a semester ago were not okay to offer this time.

I feel horrible. Friends and spouses have been trying to cheer me up, and I know that this is the flip side of the power differential. I can only do what the college lets me do. Some people would let that absolve them from responsibility, and it does. I had no power over this decision at all (which makes me feel like a total tool. I won’t lie there.), so it is done. It had to be done.

And yet…

I know that luck plays a large factor in the difference between being a full time employee and being a part-time adjunct. I have been an adjunct. I could be an adjunct. I know what that feels like, to try to survive on next to nothing. That I had to spend a good chunk of yesterday, depriving people of bread, of rent, of income, well, that doesn’t sit well.

There are all sorts of rational arguments about how this wasn’t my decision, about how overall in my life I have created more work for teachers than taken work away (the argument there is that the ELA program would have not swollen without my guidance, and that’s true, actually), that I am an advocate for my teachers at every turn. These are all true things, and still do not affect what happened yesterday.

I believe that it is natural to feel down about what happened. What kind of human being would I be otherwise? So, I will feel appropriately, and be as empathetic as I can when they call to talk or complain, or rail against the system. I have nothing that I can give here except a sympathetic ear.

So, if you think you’d like to be management? In charge? Responsible? Better do an empathy check, and see if it suits you. Obviously, not doing too well with it here.

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

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