Calling All Adjunct Faculty

The very aptly named New Faculty Majority blog is requesting links to other academic bloggers who are contingent (part time, adjunct, temporary–there’s a slew of terms being bandied about these days, but all mean no job security, little pay, etc etc). Please drop them a note about your own blog.

AdjunctNation is another blog with links to resources for contingent faculty. They’ve already started a blogroll of other adjunct bloggers it seems, though it’s obviously incomplete.

And, since I’ve got your attention, adjuncts, could I ask your advice?

I’m part of a small crew of full time (mostly already tenured) faculty who are working to offer some practical workshops for those who are newly part time at our college (we hired at least 3 dozen this year alone, and we have under 100 full time faculty).  [Note: our faculty union is working on salaries and better health insurance; and our administrators are working on training and paying senior part timers to be mentors, so the workshops are the third leg of the stool, so to speak.]

We recently offered a workshop in Understanding Student Evaluations, which was only mildly successful at addressing the very real fear that bad evaluations.  I think it would have gone much better facilitated by a fellow part timer.  As a result, when we asked attendees (all volunteers who were not paid for attending the workshop, but who will get a letter in their file) to identify other topics of interest, almost all asked for basic instructional tidbits: how to lecture, how to best use Power point, how to do small group work, etc etc.  All excellent ideas, and all relevant to ALL faculty, certainly, not just adjuncts.

But is there some other topic we are missing that didn’t come up in our very small sample survey? Should we offer workshops in negotiating academia? (So many of our new part timers truly believe that they have a shot at a full time position “someday” despite not having a graduate degree at all in the field–we are a community college, but one that requires a minimum of an MA in the field, and for transfer programs, the Ph.D. is preferred).

Be brutally honest, please: what workshops do you think would attract more than a dozen of the over 100 part timers (half of them recently hired)?

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8 responses to “Calling All Adjunct Faculty

  1. Thanks Annie Em (shouldn’t wish it on anyone unless willing but briefly hoped you were an adjunct blogger). There may be enough tenured adj advocates to warrant their own category.

    I’ll pass on your request for advice. FYI Jeanette Jeneault posted a survey specifically about evaluations for adjuncts.

  2. Thank you, Vanessa, for the survey info: I’m on it.

    But no, I spent 7 years as an adjunct (one as a full time temp) when I realized that I was 1. ready to leave Dodge for personal reasons and 2. the only way I was going to get a tt job was to get out of Dodge (and to apply for 100 positions, getting the one in a town I never heard of).

    So now I’m one of the few tenured folks working with our increasing number of adjunct instructors, many who have YEARS of teaching experience, and many who are trying something new: an incredibly diverse group.

    Are you an adjunct blogger??

  3. Thanks for the links to the other blogs!

    As an adjunct, it is those more practical tidbit sessions that I would be interested in. I am still in grad school, and they offer tons of various talks on negotiating academia. However, many times I feel lost at the school where I adjunct. We are very separated from the full-timers, so simple things like special software that the department uses, resources in the library, and grading norms – well, I get nervous about these things. I embarrassed myself the first semester I taught by being completely clueless on how to order books. These little things give me the biggest headache and I would love to have that support to give me a little guide or a “how to navigate the college.”

    I would also love a run-down of my department, like who’s who, what do they do, who to go to for this question or that. That would be very helpful.

  4. @Annie Em ~ retired adjunct here. I decided biting ankles and working for change would be a the perfect retirement hobby… and an even safer pulpit than tenure…

    @EnglishAdjunct… been there and know the feeling all too well. My first slot was two weeks into a semester replacing someone. I got a room number and a syllabus that did not have all the dates on it. I did not even know when finals were. Finding out turned out to be more of a challenge than expected.

    After the first semester, people will talk to you but before then, it’s like why make the social investment in someone who won’t be back. There is always someone who will tell you what you need to know, but you don’t know who that person is. I made a point of being that person and gather that Annie Em is doing the same.

    There are some things, general principles and likely strategies, that should apply across the board anywhere. Others have to come from the home playing.

    Much of the information you need should be online ~ no guarantee that it will be. If there is
    an Adjunct (or whatever) Faculty Association, they’d better know the answers.

    Personally, I found Learning Center staff more helpful and forthcoming than colleagues that 1st semester.

  5. Eng Adj and Vanessa: thank you both for your comments/suggestions: they are so obvious yet so obviously NOT done at my school, so thank you.

    We have, throughout the year, scattered workshops (put on by our equivalent of a Learning Center, so yes, you’re right about that Vanessa) on Blackboard, and other software, but the workshops are not always restarted again every quarter when there are NEW part timers arriving. And, unlike you, Eng Adj, most of our part timers/adjuncts are not grad students (the closest MA/PhD programs are a 2.5 hour drive away), so they are often far removed from college/academic culture (many are transplants to our retirement town; others are retired high school instructors or those who earned M.A.’s years ago and after working in another field want to try teaching, or mothers; a few are folks with M.A’s who desperately want the full time position…).

    That’s the other issue, of course: so many of our adjuncts are adjuncting for different reasons and with different expectations, and widely divergent levels of experience teaching at the college level, so a single workshop needs to address everyone’s needs….but doesn’t always succeed.

    That doesn’t mean it’s insurmountable! I envision us holding weekly workshops on a variety of topics that appeal to the variety of adjuncts AND at some point, offering (and I know we did this 10 years ago on a cd-rom!) an online version of each workshop for those who want a “need to know now” situation.

    So the kinds of workshops you’re suggesting include:
    1. Library Resources
    2. Online learning resources
    3. Discussion of Grading/Evaluating student work
    4. Departmental and/or Collegewide Policies and Procedures (though Eng Adj, why didn’t the dept. administrative asst. just TELL you how to order books? does book ordering not go through the dept. chair? I suppose that’s one way we make sure things work out for new instructors..)

    Even for those hired in the fall who DO have access to some of these workshops early on, having them again winter/spring quarters would be helpful: I’m guessing many folks just forget what they heard in Sept. when it comes to ordering books, say, in November…

    Again, thank you both!

  6. I just thought of another helpful seminar that we have offered here at my college, though I don’t know if it would be helpful or needed at yours. A vast number of our students are from a very specific ethnicity and we have many ESL students. The specific language is one that one probably did not take in high school and the names of the students can be ones that you have never encountered before. To help instructors with this language barrier, the school offers a crash course on pronunciation and specific phrases with this language so you’re not stumbling over names on that first day of class (or throughout the entire semester). So if your college has a large ethnic population, this is a helpful seminar, though not for just adjuncts.

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