Jeannette Ronson, 1/13/2014

Current Occupation: English Adjunct Instructor at Norwalk Community College & Southern Connecticut State University
Former Occupation: 7th Grade Language Arts Teacher
Contact Information: Jeannette Ronson is a MFA student in Creative and Professional Writing at Western Connecticut State University. She teaches composition and creative writing at Norwalk Community College and Southern Connecticut State University even though she doesn't hold a degree in English.


The English Heretic


    “How do you explain an undergraduate degree in psychology, a graduate degree in education, and another graduate degree in creative writing?” The man with two days’ stubble on his chin and smeared glasses squinted at my resume then glared back at me. He could either be homeless or an academic.

    My tongue wanted to say, “I’m a jack of all trades, and a master of none,” but I needed the job teaching English composition. I could see the doubt swimming on Stubble Chin’s forehead. In his world, the only people capable of teaching the holy sacrament of language followed the divine order of writing poetry as a pimpled youth, followed by years of studying Shakespeare and eating Ramen, and ending with a professorship at a nondescript college. How dare I defy the sacred sequence by living many different lives and getting a few small essays published?

    Just how do I explain myself? Or, should I explain myself? Stubble Chin obviously had his doubts. He also certainly didn’t look like he had any fun. Ever. So humor was out of the question. Four other English department disciples sat in chairs facing me with eyes widening as I launched into the thirty-second movie trailer version of my life.

    As an undergrad, I had grand visions of becoming a child psychologist. However, since I needed to eat and pay the rent after graduating, I became a secretary. With no Sugar Daddy available, I heaped on extra challenges by marrying poor and having two children while my husband and I could barely keep up with buying diapers. After a several years of running from work to daycare, my daughter told me that I was the best teacher she ever had. That launched me into pursuit to teach high school, but who knew that principals also preferred Mr. Stubble Chin’s sacred order?  Asked to explain my unorthodox life path and being gazed at as a heretic in job interviews, rejection after rejection followed me.

    Finally, desperate for a job, I showed up the day before a semester was about to start at the door of the local college’s English department. Needing a warm body to teach a full class of eager freshman, I was hired on the spot. Funny, but semester after semester my students tell me they’ve never had so much fun in an English class before. Heresy often brings unexpected surprises.

    Now I’m trying to get up the courage to get a full professorship at a college so that I can stop being an adjunct begging for courses that no sane person would teach and regulated to the adjunct leper colony in a room that smells like day-old onion rings. What’s holding me back is being asked, “How do you explain an undergraduate degree in psychology, a graduate degree in education, and another graduate degree in creative writing?”

One comment on “Jeannette Ronson, 1/13/2014
  1. Jan Priddy says:

    Life takes us places, doesn’t it. Good for you to keep on keeping on. One answer to the question is that like every writer of the 20th century, yours has been a life rich in experience.

    I STILL don’t have a degree in English and I’ve been teaching high school English since 1990. What I do have is two studio arts undergraduate degrees (gold smithing and ceramics) and an MFA in writing fiction. But I’d been teaching high school English for 17 years before I earned that MFA. I also teach college classes, but I’m better paid as a high school teacher than I would be paid as an adjunct (though admittedly, I also work harder).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


eighteen − three =