Posts Tagged ‘adjunct’

As a former adjunct…

May 3, 2014

This article from The Atlantic has been sitting in my browser for a couple of days now. The short of it is that adjuncts are becoming a larger fact of universities, that the quality of education is slipping as the quality of the work environment slips, and that adjuncts are trying to organize in some way to fight for better pay, benefits, etc. Which is noble. I’ve been through the grinder of accumulating degrees, looking for work, teaching classes the majority of students give two shits about, and repeating this for semesters on end. It sucks. I think it also gives me a bit of a box from which to stand and speak. I think it is very noble of adjuncts to fight for a better work environment. They’ve trained to be good at something they (hopefully) enjoy. Having said that, they should just quit. Find something else they enjoy. Something else that pays better and better appreciates your work. I say this in the midst of a similar change. While I was forced to step out of teaching for a bit due to family concerns and getting my schedule to work with the wife, the kid, and the kid on the way, I’ve found that while I miss a paycheck, I don’t miss the job. I don’t miss the bad hours, I don’t miss bringing the majority of my work home with me, I don’t miss any of it.

My advice to students who have yet to graduate from anything is to not look into being a professor. If you can eventually find your way into a tenure track gig, and actually have the university live up to its promise and award you tenure, it can be great. It can also (still) pay poorly. You can be part of an institution that doesn’t care about your field. Where I went to grad school was in the midst of a merger with a local hospital and there was changes afoot with the administration. The end result being some folks in charge who saw the humanities as a whole as just needless blather, but was kept around because composition was needed.  If you were involved in anything other than the hard sciences you were chopped liver. It’s something to consider as the costs of going to college isn’t getting any cheaper and it seems one of the ways universities have looked to cut costs is to streamline the whole schooling process a bit so students only need to take what they “need,” which means a lot of them probably won’t bother with unnecessary fluff like literature, art, history, philosophy, or foreign languages. And as fewer students take those courses, there will be less need for those faculty and funding will dry up.  Awesome sauce, no? Think they will be next on the list of “To Be Replaced With Adjuncts?” I think so.

So. Don’t get into the mess. Quit doing it. Try to land a full time gig at McDonald’s and the pay will be relatively similar and the hours will be set, you won’t have to drive around to three or four different facilities, and it’s less stressful. Fight back? Leave them with no one to treat poorly, no one to teach their courses, until they want to come to their senses and treat us well.   Maybe then we’ll come back. Maybe. Depends if Mickey D’s gives me free lunches, cause that’s at least $5 a day I don’t have to spend.

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I’m an adjunct and it’s killing me

September 6, 2011

I’m not good at it. I think it’s fair to put that right out there. But, under fair circumstances, I do alright. This fall has been hellish so far. I’ve been teaching comp pretty much non-stop for the past year and ahalf. Maybe two years. Which really isn’t all that long. I know this, too. Except I teach online.

You don’t get to see the faces of your students. They don’t get to see you. The entire reward of working with people is fairly obliterated by the computer screen. Having two discussion threads and 25 papers littered with basic spelling and grammatical errors per class , per week, week after week, can be fairly dehumanizing. After awhile, all that you know is that this massive pile of incredibly tedious work descends on you every sunday night and you just wish it would stop. While your employer pushes for greater retention, you just want them to disappear, one by one, until you’re left with something a bit more manageable, or at least a bit less soul  crushing with its omnipresent weight of tedious repetition.

And that’s under the best circumstances, teaching online, at least for me, anyway. This fall has already fallen into the “worst circumstances” category.  The institution (business?) I’m working for decided they needed to revamp their email system for this fall. So, in August, I got instructions for setting up my new email account to use in the fall. Assuming I had a job, which hadn’t been confirmed when all of these emails were going out, but I assumed it was a promising sign. So I set up the account and then pretty much set it aside, believing it was for the fall.

Except for one of my bosses, and I mean “one of,” as in, I have several. And all of are able to simply nip into my class and observe me quietly from afar and all of my students have ready access to complain to them over any real or perceived slight. With a little imagination, you are probably beginning to grasp how nerve wracking this existence could be, with this idea that Big Brother could be omnipresent and that anyone can turn anyone else in and have it given weight, after all, because retention is key.

This one boss was using exclusively this new email address while the summer semester was still going on, while there was still three weeks left in the summer session. So I missed out on his email saying that the class I’m teaching was being revamped. I missed out on the email offering a workshop in all of the new stuff they’ve crammed into this thing. And I missed out on the email reminding me to get the new books for the new course, just in case I didn’t notice that the entire course has been altered for the fall.

Frankly, I was too burned out to care too much by Aug. 8, and I still 17 days in the summer semester. And when that Summer semester ended, I had to simply bottom out for a few days. So, I was pretty much fucked when I opened up my new classes the day or two before they were to begin and saw the whole damn thing changed. I’ve been playing catch-up ever since. My students are miserable and bitchy because the campus bookstore can’t manage to send them any of their books on time, so they can’t access half the work. I’m in a horrible mood because I still haven’t gotten all of the books myself and my students are freaking out because of something I essentially have zero control over. But that hasn’t stopped them from bitching to me about it.

And the worst thing is that I sort of like the new class layout so far. It actually seems easier if Ihad my book or if mystudents had theirs or if any of these emails that I missed had been sent to the email account my other bosses and department secretaries were using.

And what does all of this have to do with writing or literature? I don’t have time for it right now. I’m trying to make time but it’s just not there and when I do find free time, I’m so stressed and angry and tired and just thoroughly unhappy with what I’m doing for a living that I can’t concentrate on anything I really care about. Instead, I continue to just need to crash. To bottom out. To push everything aside for a bit and engage in some mental.emotional candy like obsessively scouring ebay and craigslist for specific toys for the kid or trying to figure out what that song by the cranberries is that I have stuck in my head from 15 years ago (it was Zombie) or watching Ghost Hunters International on Hulu while also bitching about the regular Ghost Hunters no longer being on Hulu.

The thought of picking up pen and paper or opening an office document file and diving into serious editing and revisions is damn near impossible at this point.

Alright. Piss and moan over. Back to the world.