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The Professionalism of Adjuncts: Well-Read, Well-Connected, and On-line

July 13, 2009
Kejimkujik National Park Adjunct. Fog rolling ...
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I was musing this Monday morning, as I often do as opposed to writing, that the life and professionalism of the adjunct makes for top notch blog hits, even from a site not as popular as it could be (well, the site does advertise UNasked advice, as opposed to solicited advice which tends to go over better).  I have realized that writing about the adjunct prof (NOT an oxymoron to those of you who think they may be mutually exclusive) means that I get lots of hits on my website, as well as a number of links and pingbacks.  This led me to look at the life of an adjunct more closely.  Here is what I noticed:

Due to the volatile nature of the job market, most adjuncts:

  • routinely search for new jobs on-line,
  • have impetus to increast their web skills, and
  • participate in new programs.

Because materials for adjuncts are often in short supply due to funding issues, most adjuncts are innovative:

  • they look for the least expensive copy costs
  • don’t spend lots on per diem requests (because they know they can’t get them)
  • routinely scout out the least costly materials for their students to buy
  • know how to get the most out of on-line resources for their classrooms, and
  • definitely keep updated on the new technology that might be the key to getting the next full-time gig.

In order for adjuncts to be competitive within the job market, adjuncts participate more in their professional development:

  • more adjuncts write blogs,
  • participate in discussions,
  • try to participate in unions,
  • push to publish something to get their name out in their field,
  • look for leadership roles to add value to their employere,
  • volunteer for more work than the full-time(read guaranteed) employees, and
  • learn all the new technology that will enable them to teach in more places.

How does this NOT add value to a school? Adjuncts have to work harder for less, even with student evaluations, because poor student evaluations can get an adjunct fired just as easily as making a secretary angry.  It’s not that I have anything personally against the full-time or tenured profs, well maybe a little due to the manner in which I had been treated while teaching at the adjunct status, but I do have a problem with the recent articles hinting at the unprofessionalism of the adjunct population.  Adjuncts work harder for less money, and still don’t get respect.adjunct-pay-scales-with-numbers

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Pharaby permalink
    November 16, 2010 5:56 am

    I completely agree with you. Even with the crappy pay, there’s still a I’ll-kill-your-mama-for-a-gig dearth of adjunct jobs around.

    I’m still open to on-line adjuncting (English), but the one gig I had was a ridiculous amount of work for the pay; I had one course, and assessing papers took me anywhere from 40-55 hours a week. For one course. Plus the complete lack of control I had over the curriculum, which, might I add, was TERRIBLE.

    I’ve been out of work since June 10 and I think I might take my many degrees and job experience to a coffee house to start paying the bills soon.

    Thanks for writing this.

    • brokeharvardgrad permalink*
      November 16, 2010 5:25 pm

      Yes, I agree that the on-line jobs, while they may save schools money, really aren’t worth the time it takes to grade or run a course. I have found some adjuncts making $3/hour with those jobs, by the time the grading is taken into account. It’s a rough world. Might I suggest moving away from teaching and doing some on-line writing? Some bloggers can make up to $100/post, which while not exorbitant, beats teaching on-line any day.

      • Pharaby permalink
        November 21, 2010 11:32 am

        Strangely enough, this is the direction I’m moving. I’d still be up for a classroom-based teaching gig, now and again.

        I taught only comp courses on-line; I’d be interested in seeing how an on-line lit course panned out

      • brokeharvardgrad permalink*
        November 22, 2010 9:41 pm

        They can be a bit more challenging in the explanation dept., as in describing lit crit theory instead of talking it out in class, but the grading requirements of papers are the same. The main criticism I have with online classes is the set book list, or set curriculum with online lit classes. Other instructors have mentioned the same.

  2. Pharaby permalink
    November 22, 2010 11:01 pm

    Set curriculae are usually tricky, but I would be gobsmacked to see a set lit curriculum worse than the set curriculae I have had to deal with for on-line comp classes. It just exacerbates a problem — most Comp I students are predisposed to dislike or fear writing courses, and when the readings are non-existent or boring as hell, then you’re just miserable teaching it, and they’re miserable learning.

    You do what you can, but in my situations, my hands were really tied.

    I wonder, with teaching the basics of lit crit, you could really link to a lot of well-written explanations, and use them to require graded forum discussions. It depends on the platform you’re using, I suppose, and the constraints of the curriculum.

    • brokeharvardgrad permalink*
      November 23, 2010 6:22 pm

      Yes, sometimes the readings for Comp courses are almost assigned by the powers that be as an after comment, or a kind of lumped in with whatever is deemed “literature,” as opposed to building composition skills. I think that the linking to other discussions would be governed by whatever the university sanctioned, because the materials would have to be linked to university sites (discussion forums, class meetings, etc.).

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