All posts by Eliana Osborn


Valuing My Time

“Exciting opportunity! I mapped out some dates for writing workshops this upcoming spring semester. Please let me know if you would like to volunteer as a presenter.” I don’t blame the writing-center coordinator who sent me this optimistic message. He’s just doing his job, trying to provide learning opportunities for the students who come his way. But reading his full email left me feeling as  if a Nigerian prince were offering me a chance to make big money.

Service is an important part of acad…


Applying While Adjunct

I enjoyed reading George David Clark’s recent piece about teaching statements. My whole focus, as a professor at a community college, is on what I do in the classroom. I still have the statement I wrote as part of my student-teaching application, oh so long ago. I won’t quote it here, as it waxes a bit philosophical and makes me cringe when I recall my naïveté.

There’s another part of the application process that I want to focus on here: letters of recommendation. As an adjunct and as someone wh…


When There’s Too Much Communication

I found myself sucked into a text conversation with a student a few days ago, a conversation that I let go on for far too long. The brief messages started casually, then grew hostile (on the student’s part, not mine), as I wasn’t willing to do what the student wanted. I should have put a stop to it after a simple exchange, but I admit to getting a bit caught up.

I’m in the middle of a semester of too much communication. I’m getting e-mails and texts from students countless times a day. There’s t…


The Future of Adjuncts

I see two possible futures:

In one, I create a line of T-shirts and bumper stickers proclaiming “Adjuncts Do It Better.” I see a huge market here and am sure that I could successfully advertise such products and pay for my kids to go to college. With so many of us, I could eventually move into branded car loans, credit unions, and even mortuary services.

In the other, the word adjunct disappears. I see a hazy future in which 90 percent or more of those who teach in college classrooms are full-ti…


The Doogie Howser Problem

I had a delightful student last semester. Fourteen, dual-enrolled in high school and community college, smart, charming, and interesting. She wanted to be there and did everything assigned. Dream student, right?

The problem was this student’s writing. She technically completed the requirements, but something was off. Her arguments were shallow, or rather lacking depth. Shallow implies a negative, but here the issue was simply a lack of life experience. A 14-year-old doesn’t yet have a lot of per…


Adjunct vs. Tenure-Track

I struggle with staff meetings where the tenured and tenure-track faculty in my department pay lip service to the hard-working, much-maligned, and unappreciated adjuncts who fill out the department. Nice words, twice a year, don’t do much to counteract the pervasive attitude of disrespect.

To be fair, tenured and tenure-track faculty members have to do much more than teach classes. They are responsible for the committees and decisions that make the college run. All of those adjuncts, who saunter…


Take Your Child to College Day

I was worried when Alex stayed after class one night to ask if he could bring his daughter with him the next day. I knew from his writing that he had three young children and a contentious ex-wife, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Then Alex, about 40 years old, explained that he wanted his 11-year-old daughter to come to the college with him during his latest custody turn. He had planned a campus tour, a visit to the writing and math centers, and wanted her to sit in on a class as well. “She’s a…


Taking Cheating Personally

It was the lowest of low-stakes writing assignments: second week of class, end-of-the-period paragraph response to the essay we’d been discussing. Not a big deal. I just wanted to get a view of each student’s skill level.

A few hours later I received an e-mail from a student, sheepish even through the screen. “My friend sat next to me in the computer lab today and copied what I wrote off the screen,” read her message. “She’s my friend, but I don’t want you to think I am a cheater.”

My first resp…


The Annoying Things Students Do

During the summer semester I had a chance to work on a speech that has been bouncing back and forth in my brain for some time. It is a curmudgeonly spiel, tentatively titled either “This Is College” or “What the [insert any expletive here] Are You Thinking?”

I’ve added some language to my course documents, trying to explain things that just drive me crazy. Of course, the biggest offenders are those who don’t even read the papers I give them, so this doesn’t help much. I’m in my mid-30s, and my s…


The Language of Change

Since reading this piece in The New York Times, I’ve been thinking about English courses in a new light. In summary, books have been talking less about emotion over the past century. Mood words are down, though you wouldn’t know it from the proliferation of moody comments all over the Internet.

Why should you care? Isn’t this just an issue for humanities folk? Communication is what education is all about, at least by my way of thinking. Bringing students into dialogue—polished, thoughtful dial…