The love-hate relationship with being a sessional

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Definitely not a picture of Matt/Pixabay

Detailing the leap from educated to educator

Written by: Matt Wincherauk, former editor-in-chief

Arriving for your first class as a sessional lecturer is a weird experience. On one hand, it’s something that, as a university student, I have done a dozen times before: showing up for the first day of class and getting ready to go over the syllabus with the hopes that you can get out early.

But on the other hand, everyone is staring at you to start class.

It’s especially amusing when you open the door and as you walk down the aisle you can hear whispers of, “is he really the professor?” and “how old is he?” Not exactly something that you can dwell on, though; it’s time to get to work. Class to lead, young minds to teach.

It’s been somewhat of a love-hate relationship as a sessional lecturer so far. I currently work for both the University of Regina and University of Saskatchewan as a member of their distance education units. For the U of R, I teach out of Yorkton (Parkland College) and for the U of S I teach in Melfort (Cumberland College). The level of elation that I felt after being contacted about getting a position with both universities was special, followed by some harsh realizations.

Teaching in Yorkton at 10 a.m. meant getting up at 5 a.m. in order to have enough time to make the three-and-a-half-hour commute from Saskatoon. Even Melfort, while significantly closer, would result in a two-hour commute, not to mention driving home after an exhaustive three-hour lecture for both classes.

These days are exhausting, but they’re worth it. The students are solid for first years, the staff at the colleges are always willing to help, and even the drives aren’t that bad once you get used to them.

So, where’s the hate part of this relationship? Sure, it’s fair to say that no one actually enjoys marking, but the hate is my weekly struggle to not let my procrastinating student ways seep back into my life as a professor (success has been limited). And being on the road for 11+ hours a week is never ideal, especially when you have a loving partner and precious puppies at home waiting, as Patrick does for SpongeBob under his rock, for you to get home. None of these aspects of the job leave me with an overwhelming sense of dread like the one when I remember that I could have none of this next semester.

Job security is a worry for all of us, but it’s especially dreadful as a sessional knowing that you could be out a job with little to no warning. Submit as many applications as you can for sessional positions, but it just might not matter if classes have to get cut, or the department just isn’t offering the same number of classes in the winter semester.

The worst of all is finally landing a sessional position and teaching a university class – something that I’ve wanted since I realized it might be feasible in my undergrad – and having that taken away despite my best efforts. What do you do when the thing that you’ve wanted for so long is given to you, only for it to be taken away in just a few short months?

As of right now, I don’t know if I will have a sessional position next semester. Everything that I have heard from both colleges has been positive, and applications have already been sent out for any position that has been posted. However, as I sit down to finally mark these English 100 midterms that have been sitting on my desk, the pessimistic part of my brain tells me that there’s a good chance I won’t be doing this again four months from now.

I’m not sure what the solution is. I just know that the system we have right now feels designed to inflict the most anxiety possible. If you know of any open positions, please let me know. Or if you have dog photos, also let me know. Both are important.

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