Dispatch #091

The Year I Quit Teaching

by ruth crossman

I spent the Fall of 2019 working six days a week at two different colleges on opposite ends of San Francisco while frantically applying to, interviewing for, and getting rejected from, full-time positions as an ESL teacher. 

I thought I was doing everything I was supposed to. I had an MA, eight years in the classroom, and a Girl Scout sashes’ worth of professional development badges and committee chairing accomplishments. 

None of it seemed to matter. The advice I was getting from people in the field who were older than me was t to stick it out and wait for the next wave of retirements. My former mentor from graduate school was pushing me to do a doctorate.

In Spring 2020 I got classes at the very last minute. I ended up with a schedule that had me teaching a three-hour high school continuation course in Potrero Hill and then racing over to the Sunset District to teach a night school course in a church basement where I had no access to a copier, or a projector, or a class textbook. 

As is so often the case with teaching, I was expected to just make it work. I showed up at the high school hours early so that I could make copies for my night students. I bought my own speakers and lugged my laptop with me so I could do listening exercises. 

Every time I didn’t have enough copies, or I was five minutes late to a class because I was stuck in traffic, or I found my students waiting outside the church in the cold because the staff had forgotten to leave the room unlocked for me, I felt like it was my fault. As March dawned and the news stories about COVID19 became ever more dire, I started becoming anxious every time I had to go into work.

When the Shelter in Place order went into effect I saw the writing on the wall. 

I knew that there was no way the noncredit ESL courses which had been my bread and butter were going to make it to the other side of the quarantine. I thought about teaching high school, but wanted to cry when I saw the starting salaries. 

So, I decided to jump ship. When I was officially laid off in May, I took advantage of the turbocharged unemployment benefits and enrolled in an Instructional Design bootcamp. There was a lot of privilege at work in terms of my age, race, and technical acumen which made this feasible for me, but for me this career pivot worked out.

I have been working in the private sector since August 2020 and the effects on my mental health have been amazing. 

I have a work-life balance. I have savings. I can afford small luxuries like a new face cream or a takeout lunch that seemed like huge extravagances when I lived on an adjunct’s salary. I am also valued and respected for the skills I bring to my job, seen for my creativity and expertise in a way I never was within the institutions where I worked in higher ed.

That is one of the most depressing things about the shift for me: realizing that I was much more of a replaceable cog as an adjunct teacher in a union shop than I am as a 1099 contractor at a startup. 

That shouldn’t be true, but it is. I sometimes feel like I have crossed some invisible line by leaving teaching. I wonder if I have sold out my principles by taking less meaningful work in exchange for a higher paycheck. 

But I know I can’t set myself on fire to keep the students warm.
Sent to us on: March 11, 2021

How will the Coronavirus Pandemic shape storytelling for the years to come? 

Calling all Dispatchers!

San Francisco Creative Writing Institute is pleased to announce we were awarded California Arts Council Local Impact Grant! 

With support from the California Arts Council, San Francisco Creative Writing Institute will present Dispatches from Quarantine: hybrid storytelling events and writing workshops. 

The project is scheduled from January 2023 to August 2023! Our first in-person event will be at Medicine For Nightmares in San Francisco on May 3! We will also be broadcasting it on our YouTube channel soon after! Our first online poetry workshop will take place on May 1!

We will be broadcasting the public readings and discussions on our youtube channel as well as hosting four creative writing workshops with writers from diverse genres. The project will continue to be interactive as we will encourage viewers/participants to send in their “dispatches” to be published on our blog, keeping it alive as a living document.

 We invite you to submit a dispatch: 

Suggested Theme:

What is your Covid story? How will you tell it? 

You can send submissions in any format to us via email at: All genres will be considered for publication on the blog.  The theme should be somehow related to this time of Coronavirus. We are particularly interested in posts/ideas/writings from 2022-23.

Submissions can be sent by email to:

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