Post Academic

Don’t let being an adjunct make you mad (Part 3 of a series)

"Lol cat angry" by Cro0016 (Creative Commons license)

So I promised I would end this series on what makes me mad about teaching by being more constructive and stepping outside the solipsistic navel gazing of my own experiences.  That’s why I’m going into what makes me mad about being an Adjunct or Lecturer or Contingent Faculty or cheap labor or whatever they call it where you are.  I should say in advance that I’m not an adjunct agitator myself or a future freeway flyer, though I’ve gained more and more respect for those folks over the years–and it’s not just because I’ve stepped into their shoes just a little bit.  It takes a lot to stick with being an adjunct, considering how you have to persevere in underpaid jobs with pretty much no chance for a promotion and deal with the uncertainties of having classes assigned to you or cancelled at a moment’s notice.  For a better sense of adjunct-oriented issues on a national scale, check out the New Faculty Majority website or read the piece Caroline has been linking on the matter, “Confessions of a Tenured Professor”.

I should begin by saying that the way I handled being mad about adjuncting is that I stopped being one.  I am grateful that I got a chance to teach classes that were related to my research and that I found out a lot more about how I feel about teaching in general, but I couldn’t deal with a lot of the slights and anxieties full-time contingent faculty put up with much more admirably than I ever could.  And I was definitely luckier than most, in that I had mentors, friends, and staff who looked out for me and offered me opportunities to help me hang on from one academic job cycle to the next when I couldn’t or refused see the writing on the wall.

Still, the precarious day-to-day condition and the perpetual mindtrip of being a Lecturer couldn’t help but make me mad, which I explain below the fold…


Don’t let ’em see you mad in the classroom (Part 1 of a series)

"Berlin Wall Hulk" by Gorgalore (Creative Commons license)

To follow up on what Caroline wrote last week about how there’s no crying in the classroom, I’m writing about a different kind of not-so-constructive display of emotion that gets stirred up in me when I’m teaching: anger.  Caroline has already picked up on what is the root cause of why I’m teaching-while-angry, and that’s the lack of respect I feel I get as a teacher.  Whether it’s feeling underappreciated as a peon adjunct and TA by admin or it’s more sociological, as the study that women and young faculty get more guff from students (geez, that’s a shocker!) suggests, there are moments where I can feel my inner Hulk about to burst through.

As an adjunct and grad student teacher without a whole lot of job security and a minority (which can come into play, too) who looks young, I definitely have some anger issues over a the sense I get that I lack authority in the classroom.  Really, all these circumstances build on one another: The teachers most at-risk–grad student instructors, adjuncts, untenured faculty–often lack age, experience, and rank, so they also appear the easiest to pick on.  And it is probably harder on women and minorities who might also appear young to project a sense of authority, just as it is for part-time teachers, just starting out in the profession and/or clinging on to it, with little institutional backing.  And don’t tell me that students can’t smell blood in the water when a teacher is uncertain about her/his standing in the classroom, even if they don’t understand the finer points of academic rank.  So how do I overcompensate for being young looking and an adjunct–I get mad!

OK, it’s time to talk my inner Hulk down a bit before I type this whole post out in BOLD CAPS, so read a more even-keeled assessment of what makes me mad about teaching below the fold…


What I shoulda-woulda-coulda been doing for the next academic job cycle

"Winter White Russian Dwarf Hamster in a hamster wheel" by Doenertier82 (Creative Commons)

I’ve been recounting my experiences on the job market this past year, to commemorate receiving my final few rejection letters over the last week.  Now let’s hypothetically imagine what I should be/would be/could be doing to get ready for the 2010-11 academic job cycle/hamster wheel, since part of the academic life is always feeling like you’re behind even if you might be trying to plan ahead.  Considering that my interview yield rate was pretty bad this year, these musings are likely to remain hypothetical no matter if my odds would be any better next year or if the job market bounces back from being the worst ever.  Still, there’s no harm in daydreaming and, who knows, maybe it might help someone else who’s still planning on trying her/his luck on the market again.

1. Beg, beg, beg for an adjuncting position: It can’t help my job search prospects when I haven’t taught in over a calendar year and not at all during the 2009-10 academic year.  I’ve tried to teach at least one quarter a calendar year so that I can at least fudge it on my CV, but I struck out this year, in part due to not being asked to teach by the depts I’ve worked for because of the crappy UC budget and in part because I’m not really motivated to beg to work at a pay rate that’s little better than what I was getting as a TA.  The latter wasn’t so bad when it seemed worthwhile for professional development because I got the chance to teach my own syllabi, but those experiences haven’t exactly panned out.  Like when I applied for an adjunct position at another local school to teach a course that I’ve taught before with a real, class-tested syllabus, only to be used as hiring compliance fodder so that the dept could hire its own student it probably planned to hire in the first place.  But hey, I’m not bitter and, anyway, I was probably that guy when my own home dept hired me.

More stuff I could be doing instead of complaining and blogging, below the fold…