Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Where We Hear From Someone Who Loves The Job And Who Deserves A Lot Better

I am a lowly adjunct who often teaches in large state schools and universities within the 100 mile radius of where I live.

My students have varying abilities, but I have high expectations of all of them, and I let them know it. I assign fairly large amounts of very difficult readings, and I expect them to come to class having read them and being ready to discuss. And by and large, they do it. I assign short and long paper assignments, and I grade very harshly, and most of my students work hard to improve their writing and research skills. I treat them as intellectual equals, and frame my class as a learning experience for all of us. Most of the students really respond to my course structure and workload by studying very hard (slackers tend to drop my courses). I have been teaching this way for a few years now, and I am receiving the best evaluations ever in 11 years of teaching.

I love my work, my classes, and my students. And yet I think about leaving academe everyday, not because of slacker/horrible students, but because I can't afford to pay my rent.

I get paid effectively less than minimum wage as an adjunct in the humanities, no benefits, and all this after working my ass off for almost 10 years and accruing more than $100,000 in debt (yes, like most of my students, I put myself through undergrad and graduate school). I have a degree from a respected graduate program, and I am a great teacher, but I am in that window between graduating and getting a tenure-track job that is so debilitating it makes me (and most of my colleagues in the same position) want to slit my wrists. In short, I wish that full-time faculty, administrators, and the academic institutions I work for would appreciate me half as much as my students do.