EducationHigher Education

Charity Work: My Life as an Adjunct Part II

*This is a continuation of my previous post Charity Work: My Life as an Adjunct Part I.

I have been commenting on the points that James Hoff has made in his response to being profiled in the New York Times. I have covered a couple of his points in my previous post to this continuation piece. I do not wish to respond to the rest of his points as I am sure they stand on their own and I am not sure I can contribute much more to what he has to say. However, there are a few more points that I would like to make before putting this topic to rest.

Want a Raise?  Think Again.

In order to get a raise to the next pay level you must be prepared to do a certain amount of academic development. Now I am certainly not against going to these sessions to learn and discuss better and more effective ways to teach. I really want to be a better teacher and even though sometimes the topics are a little strange they can be beneficial. So what is the problem then? The problem is that every college wants their adjuncts to do their academic development. This means that in order for me to get a raise at just one school I have to be able to make it to that schools sessions.This is not a problem if I was able to teach at one school. However, because I am trying to make somewhat of a wage I have to teach at many different institutions and guess when each academic development happens to be. If you guessed when I am teaching at another school then you win and go on to the bonus round. Every once in awhile these sessions do happen to be in a window where I can go. In the past five years that I have been trying to obtain a raise at just one school I am not even half way to the number of sessions needed yet. At this rate it will take another five years to reach the next pay level. I am not sure how many other jobs there are that it may take ten years to get their first raise?

Rules, Rules, and Rules 

This point may not be that big of deal to some people but for me it can be a bit of a stress point. Every college has its own rules for everything and sometimes keeping them straight is a bit difficult. For instance, every school has its own rules about attendance. At one school attendance must be taken and reported after every week of classes, at another school they only want attendance taken and reported after specific weeks, at another school only the first four weeks, and at another school they don’t seem to have any policy. This can become a bit confusing so if you are not constantly on top of it and have a bad day you could screw up some federal reporting for the school and your job could be in jeopardy.

Another example is keeping track of email (Dan from SoD just did a pop quiz on this.) One way in which students can track me down to ask questions is by emailing me.  I used to use one generic email for all of my schools but now for some unknown reason every college is mandating that the faculty must use their college email to communicate with students.  Again, not so much a big deal if you happen to be lucky enough to teach at one school.  I am constantly checking several emails all day. They all have different screen names and passwords as well as different clients. Most of the clients work on none of my browsers on my computers at home so it is really difficult for me to even open and read let alone reply to an email.

One last example is class selection.  Every school has their rules about how classes will be doled out to adjuncts. This is generally dependent on whether the school has a union or not. The schools with out a union that I teach at I have no idea how they decided who teaches what or if they teach anything.  I know that people tend to just not be asked back if someones friend needs a job or for reasons I am unsure. Maybe there is some secret death match I don’t know about yet?

On the other hand, the schools with unions that I teach at tend to use some kind of seniority scale but not equally.  One school uses the number of semesters you have taught to determine seniority.  This school then passes out the remainder of the classes based on that seniority. Another school uses a seniority based scheme based on credits taught which leaves a lot of ties. At this school there is a meeting where adjuncts basically fight for leftover classes. If you miss one meeting then you are pretty much out of a job for the next semester (so I end up out of a job from this school a lot since they always hold the meeting when I am at work for another school!)

Why Don’t You Just Get a Different Job.

Yep. I know that is what you are thinking.  If it is this bad then why oh why do you not just get another job. I have thought about this many times. There are two problems with this. The first is that if all the adjuncts just got another job then the colleges would not be able to function because there are just that many adjuncts and the other problem is that I would need to retrain myself to do something else.  While I am not coward to hard work this would be difficult with my schedule. If I take a bunch of classes then I cannot teach as much and therefore how do I live?

Honestly, this is what I do well.  This is what I have always done and probably was born to do.  Ever since I was young I played school, I tutored, and then I was given the opportunity to do what I always wanted to do be a college instructor. To me that was the holy grail.  To teach students who wanted to learn about topics that would send them into the world with a job and I could help mold that.  Every semester when I am feeling down inevitably one of them gets excited about something I taught them or I see one in the hall and they get excited to talk to me.  Sometimes I see them in places outside of school and they run to say hi (one even left her shoes behind as she ran over to me.)  I have helped change lives and I have given spark to topics where none existed before. So this is charity work that I do because I help people everyday attain the education they need to make our country great. Maybe someday I will make a living wage and have an office. Don’t worry I can still buy my own chalk.


Featured Image: Charity Soup Kitchen by author unknown

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JoDee is an adjunct faculty instructor of astronomy and physics at various colleges around her hometown in the midwest. When she is not trying to get her cat, Pixel, off of her laptop she is observing variable stars and researching black holes.

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