I’ve spent my first four posts writing about some of the pitfalls of adjunct work. I have been an adjunct since 2007, both at a four-year university and at a community college. Some self-examination since then, prompted, in part, by comments to my posts, has made me wonder why I am still an adjunct.
I started as an adjunct at Blue Ridge Community College in the spring of 2007, teaching an evening composition course. At the time, I was a newspaper editor and I wanted to supplement my meager salary. I had never been in front of a class before, and the semester started pretty badly. The main things I had to learn were how to manage classroom time and how to engage students -- two things that go hand-in-hand. I expected more comments from them than I typically received, which led to me misappropriating time, and to us often getting out early (and not really learning much in the process).
Eventually, my newspaper experience paid off, aiding in my ability to give constructive comments on essays. Students responded well, in verbal thanks and, more important, in their future essays for the course. Gradually they seemed more comfortable. “Whew!” they must have thought, “This guy kinda knows what he’s doing.” That increasing level of comfort was mutual, and the students and I soon began engaging in lengthy, funny, insightful discussions. Somewhere along the way, I fell in love with teaching.
Since then, I have found many things I dislike about being an adjunct: poor pay, minimal benefits, and lack of respect from some colleagues, to name a few. Those negatives came to light especially when I was a full-time adjunct for three years.
So why am I still an adjunct?
I keep doing this work because of the relationship I get to develop with 25 new students in each of my courses, every semester. It’s the satisfaction I get out of seeing them progress, and knowing I may have had something to do with that. It’s getting to stand in the front of a classroom and see students look at a situation in a way they hadn’t before. In short, it’s because I love to teach.
Perhaps those of you, like me, who continue to teach as adjuncts, despite the downsides, can tell us why you’re still in the classroom.