|Which campus is this?|
What day is it?
Why is the grass blue?
Across the country, many adjuncts have found their hours reduced in anticipation of the Affordable Care Act. Meanwhile, department heads need to hire more adjuncts in order to make up for the reduced adjunct hours. This means that countless contingent academics will begin peddling our classes at multiple colleges and universities in order to make ends meet.
On paper, most of these instructors will be teaching the same introductory course that they’ve been teaching for years (English 101, World History, Pre-Algebra), but with a new student body and in a new department. In most cases, this means that you have to change your syllabus to reflect a new set of academic, social, and administrative standards. Properly adapting your syllabus will not only impress new department heads who are making hiring decisions, but will also allow you to adjust your pedagogy for new student bodies.
It doesn't sound like this author makes their career as an adjunct at all. I have for NINE years, allow me to share. Having to hustle for work at multiple places now means you must be willing to hustle your stuff like never before.
1. Say "yes" to anything you are offered, take every class that comes your way.
2. Promise the same hours and availability to as many places as possible.
3. Kiss the princely rings of the full timers.
4. Never give your honest opinion on anything having to do with the College/University, Academia, invited speakers, or policy.
5. Go far and beyond the work you are contracted to do.
6. Re-consider how important it is to report plagiarism; you will ultimately be blamed for student's plagiarism.
7. Give away A grades, lots and lots and lots of A grades because an unhappy student means you wont get re-hired.
8. Don't be a well-liked professor. Your reviews should be in the C+-B- range, anything more, and you are a threat to unpopular full time faculty. God help you should a student say to a Dean or a Chair: "I really like Professor Smith, they are so inspirational, not like the other faculty here, and I think they should be hired full time."
9. The word "Union" should never leave your lips, even if you are in one.
10. Take any book they want you to work with, even if it's the worst book you've ever seen, even it means teaching down to the students instead of to the students. This is equally true of any syllabus they want you to use. I once picked up a Composition course at the last minute and the class had no composition books. The regular faculty, who took ill, didn't use books to teach College Composition and Rhetoric, and I was not allowed to change his syllabus, especially to add my own books.
11. Never ever ever ever make a recommendation to a faculty or staff person on anything.
11b. If you plan to stand up for the students, you will not be hired. Attend to the University and College like the Medieval Church institutions they pretend to be.
12. The copy center workers, the tech people, the janitors, the cafeteria staff, human resources, waste disposal, admins, they all out rank you, and unlike you, they are not disposable mercenary help, so treat them with great care, but never tell them how you really feel
13. Affordable Health Care? Don't be so sure. I live in a state that has mandatory health care and it is cheaper to pay the fine than it is to have health care, and by the way, the idiots who make the forms for affordable health care, don't understand how you make $3000 one month, $350 the next month, $1000 the next month, and $0 the next two months, and they will inundate you with constant paperwork about your change of income, demanding weekly income statements and stubs, even if you don't get any, and then, when they write in that you make $3000 a month, because you made that once, they will insist you find your own health care, which costs $515 a month in your home state, and then not understand why you can't afford that amount each month.
14. Homelessness? Prepare for it! You need a last second emergency plan. A promise of a class is only that, a promise, and usually that promise is made by a deranged human being who doesn't care if you cannot pay rent, eat, survive: they had a full time faculty that needed a class, they yanked your classes away two days before the semester started, you have rent due in three weeks, too bad for you.
15. If asked to "put out" to keep your job, it's a logical consideration to make. Personal integrity doesn't buy ramen but it will secure you work in some cases.
16. Expect to wait, wait, wait for classes to be offered. The people who assign classes have things to do, committees to sit on, conferences to go to, beers to drink with colleagues, their own children to mess up, and if it means waiting until 2-3 weeks before the semester starts, even though you have been begging for a schedule for months so you can go and market your time elsewhere as well.
17. If you apply for a full time job, don't expect a reply, not for a job as an admin I, an advisor, a registrar, financial aid, and certainly not as a faculty member. A complete stranger has a better chance than you do, even after years of your loyal service, of securing employment.
18. Prepare to work at as many jobs as you humanly, possibly, can at the same time. This may mean teaching three online jobs, two-three in-person jobs, several sections, plus tutoring (the students not getting the time and energy they deserve), because which one of those jobs pays your rent in the future is a mystery that not even Pythagorus could calculate. And it may mean not spending time with your family, nor time to go to the gym, nor time to blow off steam (no free conferences and anonymous Lit-professor sex for you in Chicago!), nor time to apply for more secure jobs (like meth dealer, prostitute, or mafia hit man), because you cannot say, "No," you cannot take the risk that they wont rehire you, think about you, offer you enough classes to survive, and some semesters are lean, stealing grits in your pockets from Whole Foods LEAN, and some semesters are ample (which you will use to pay down your credit cards that you lived on all Summer), but you have to advantage your position for re-hire as much as possible.
19. If you teach at a religious institution especially a Christian one, everyone pities you, because for some random and imaginary reason, without reason, you can be accused of anything, and suddenly let go, because of the "religious mission" of the zealots in charge.
20. If you do successfully navigate multiple jobs, and you do it for more than three years, and you do it because you love teaching, you love your students, you love your subject matter, and you hope that all your hard work and effort will someday pay off, you can expect two things to happen: i) You will be forever considered an adjunct, used goods, someone's sloppy seconds, and no one will take your CV seriously, especially if you went to a better school than they did, especially if you have more publications than they do. ii) Expect to hear: "I see so much teaching experience on your resume, I'm worried you cannot work in a team environment/you wont have the basic office skills/you don't have the right background/this isn't what you really want to do," when you break down, walk out on your jobs, and apply for a job sweeping the blood and bone dust off the floors in a hospital, in order to have more life stability, retirement, benefits, peace of mind.
21. You will never get a chance to pay off your student loans. Default now. Who needs their social security anyway?
22. Expect the institutions to never take out enough taxes, and especially expect to owe taxes each year. There will be no refund check get-away for you in the Summer.
23. Don't expect the University to play nice when you need unemployment, especially if they know you teach at more than one institution. They will fight you like barbarians at the borders of Rome, and they will not rehire you the next semester for challenging their divine authority.
24. You will not be paid for hours and hours of emails, recommendations, letters, meetings, correspondence, phone calls, not covered by your contract, although you will be expected to act as if you are, and although some weeks, you spend as much time on office work, as you do lesson planning and teaching.
25. When you wonder why you live this life, why you still love teaching, remember the students, the lives you will change and impact for the better....but also remember the promise that the institution made when you first started: "Abandon Hope, All Who Enter Here."