Thursday, December 11, 2008

Part-Time Poe Checks in from The Pacific Northwest, Where He's Clearly Not Doing Enough For His Students Who Apparently "Deserve" Better.

I'm one of the low people, a bothersome and annoying adjunct who gets in the way of big full-timers, even though I park on the street, don't have an office, and usually make my copies at Kinko's because the adjunct workroom is locked when I'm on campus.

Anyway, I teach freshman composition at a bullshit community college that is run so poorly that I often have to call campus security to open up the classroom building at 8 am, even though that's when class starts. (My students and I huddle together under the awning staying out of the persistent and pissy rain here.)

We're closing in on the final days of the semester - and that last beautiful $498 check! - and my students are working on their last essay. As I try to do a couple of times a semester, I've offered one on one conferences for all students during our normal class time, so that they can get some immediate feedback before next week's due date.

Today I had scheduled nine 10 minute conferences. Last week I passed around a sheet and the students chose any day they wanted, any time they wanted.

Of the 9 scheduled for today, 2 people came, 1 of them 30 minutes after his time, as I was leaving the building. (And he got a conference all right, in a fucking rainstorm. I didn't even share my umbrella.)

During my earlier wait in the classroom, the English department chair stopped in my room. He teaches next door at the same time and was the person who hired me.

He asked how I was doing and I expressed my dismay that the folks weren't coming in. He said, "Well, they have a lot on their plates. And it is quite early in the morning."

And I said, "Yes, but this IS the time of their class. We always meet at this time."

He says, "Perhaps you could give them a little treat for coming, like an extra 10 points on their essay, or maybe something sweet to eat."

I thought to myself, what a fucking idiot, but I didn't commit to such an answer out loud.

He left.

I waited some more, had my one and only good conference, and then waited some more.

Then the chair came back again. "I was thinking of options for you," he said. "Why don't you call all the students who missed and invite them to come back this afternoon. You can meet them in the lobby of the building, or in any empty classroom you could find."

I said, "That would work, but I've got other things going on this afternoon." (I teach another class at a slightly better college 55 miles away, and it's common for part-timers to teach both places.)

Then he sort of shook his head. "Well, we really encourage all of our instructors, especially the part-timers who don't have very good footing, to go the extra mile for our students. They deserve it."

And then he left again.