Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Where Our Readers Urge Colin to Keep Coddling Those CC Kids.

We had a good deal of mail about Community College Colin, and these three seem to best capture the admittedly narrow flava:


Colin - depending on your community college, Orson's advice might be the best advice to give. I recently lost a (full time, tenure-track) job at a Midwest CC because I failed students (the official reason was that I wasn't going to Church....seriously - the President of the college told me students would work harder in my class and get A's if they saw me at Church). Community Colleges do have to straddle that line between being a college and offering education, and being a community tool where adults can go to get the same sort of "you're great!" encouragement they got in High School. In an effort to raise grades, I offered so much extra credit that one student finished the class with a 130%, while most others earned F's - they hadn't bothered to do any of the extra credit work. I was told by administrators and other faculty that it's my responsibility to pass them - especially those students on athletic scholarships.

Talk to your real Dean and send out feelers to see if this is encouraged, say, "I have one student who is getting an F - what do you recommend?" If they tell YOU to work harder, instead of saying "give the student an F", then the arbitrary passing of students is encouraged. If this is the case, chances are it is a dead-end school and most of its graduates will not go on to a 4-year school anyway. In that case, who cares if they get a D for F work.

I've taught at a number of CC's, though, and this seems to be rare. At the majority of CC's, the FT faculty do get upset at adjuncts randomly passing students and watering down courses. If you cannot talk to your faculty supervisor about this, try to talk to their supervisor (and request a different supervisor).

For now, thought, until you find out what the unofficial stance of the college is, keep your head low and do what you're doing.


Colin, take it from a veteran CC adjunct: Even if FT jobs become available, it is statistically unlikely that you will ever be interviewed, let alone get the position. This is not an attack on your character or your expertise. It's a fact of life.

That said, let's move on to another and more important point: You can work your tail off, serve on lousy committees, bend over backwards for students, be friendly with all your colleagues, get great evaluations from faculty observers and students alike, and it still won't make a damned bit of difference. You are an adjunct cog in an increasingly corporate-driven machine that will keep you around only as long as you don't make trouble or cost them too much money. As for your "wrongdoings," believe me: many of us are doing it.

Keep the customers happy, and they will reward you with nice, if semi-literate, feedback. And then you might get to cling to your crappy, low-paying but necessary job a while longer. Standing on principle and maintaining integrity doesn't pay those electric bills, after all.

Care for some advice? Well, here it is anyway: Start making your way, quietly and discreetly, into another line of work. This one is not going to pan out. It may kill your soul eventually, and it will not be worth it.


Were it always the case that an Orson was around for part-timers like me and Colin!

I was bumped unceremoniously from a CC job three years ago, and the last thing anyone ever said to me as I packed my tiny satchel of personal belongings was, "I think you just could have done more for your students."

Yeah, sure. I could have done their homework. I could have excused even more of their absences. I could have eaten shit all day and called it a porterhouse steak. But I didn't.

Happily, there is another huge community college just 40 miles from the first one, and I happily signed on for 3 classes a quarter there. And I smile when I show up, and I let the kids stroll in 15 minutes late, and I give extensions and extra credit out like every day's Halloween and Christmas and Sadie Freaking Hawkins Day.

My evaluations are sky high. My students "like" me. Some of them call me their "pal." Now, I don't know how much they're learning of the material. I do know that they seem happy to see me the next semester when they say, "Mr. X, you can't believe the easy ride I have this semester. You were really rough on us!" And I think, yeah, well, it's all relative Johnny.

From my own calculations, about 25% of my students here are actually transferring to one of the many 4 year institutions in this part of the state. The rest are completing a variety of completely useless associates degrees. So my fudging Fs to C-s and C-s to As probably doesn't matter much. I'd love to see the face of a "real" university proffie when one of my A students saunters in 15 minutes late and ready to completely butcher the first test.

"Where, O little one, did you get your freshman course?"

"Over there," they'll point. "Mr. X over at the Juco. He was my pal!"