Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Adjunct Life Getting You Down? Flip Your Attitude. Olive from Oglethorpe Studies the Schizophrenic Nature of the Beast.

Adjunct teaching is really a great part-time job, if you think about it much. I get the self-esteem high of being an "Instructor" or a pretend "Professor." I get paid more than minimum wage.

But its alter ego, the Adjunct Instructor pretending to be employed full-time, has a terrible job with poor working conditions and low pay. The problem is that no one can seem to decide if I'm an esteemed full-time, TT (tenure track) "Professor", or a FF (fast food), minimum-wage, burger-flipping, chicken-frying, burrito-stuffing short-order cook. It's the schizophrenic nature of the job that leaves me depressed and frustrated, not the job itself.

TT: Could you advise students for us? Would you be willing to teach a full load of classes this semester? Write lesson plans for the whole department? Sponsor a student club? Get published in an academic journal? Pick out a textbook for the college to use next semester? Mentor a few other adjuncts? Help with student registration? Be on a committee? Attend all the important meetings with the TT Phds? Could you return to school, and get another degree to be a better teacher? My students call me by my last name, and often add a title or two in front of my name. I am respected, and am often meet with gasps of awe when asked to fill in "employment" on forms.

FF: I get the same pay as the local pizza delivery guy with good tips, the student who refills vending machines, and the waitress at the BBQ place down the street. Like the pizza guy, I get no benefits, and only work when there are enough "customers" to justify my employment. My office, if I have one, is the former janitor's closet or shower, justifiably abandoned by its previous owners. I risk permanent unemployment from my next bad case of swine flu, since I have no sick leave. I am not trustworthy enough to be given a key to my own (empty) classroom.

How can Adjuncts be treated better? Make up your mind which personality you are hiring. Are you hiring an over-educated temporary FF employee for burger-flipping wages? Then, treat us like one. Don't ask us to stay late for your meeting. Don't dangle promises of full-time employment in our face to "con" us to work harder. Be honest, and tell us you will NEVER hire us full-time. Treat us fairly, and don't make us play office politics to keep our job next semester. Give us at least the same amount of job security as the chicken-fryer. Don't be offended when I put your offer of a new class into a calculator to see how much I'll really make after writing a new batch of lesson plans.

Are our skills worthy of TT respect? Then, hire us full-time. If you are desperate enough for an adjunct to teach a full course load, then you have enough work for another full-time instructor. When you do hire someone full-time, seriously consider my application. After all, I've spent the last few years proving to you that I can do the job. If I'm not good enough to work for you full-time, then why did you hire me to teach your classes as an adjunct?