The Adjunct Life of Terror

Adjunct life continues. This week I begin teaching at Kennesaw State University, located in suburban Atlanta. As you can see in the picture below, my collection of photo identification continues to grow. That’s the good news. The bad news is this. My classes at Georgia Gwinnett College this semester were cancelled. I was informed of this less than two days before the first scheduled class. So two thirds of my teaching income evaporated within a second. This unfortunate chain of events is further proof that nothing good can happen without something bad also happening.

That’s the way it goes. I understand that. It’s happened to me before, it’ll happen again. That’s the adjunct life. Trust me, it’s filled with all kinds of bullshit you wouldn’t want to deal with. It’s the new normal for many educators.

In a moment of synchronicity, I received this message from a friend in Louisville while writing this post. She also happens to be an adjunct educator. Her message wasn’t good news. She wrote “they canceled my class today and didn’t even notify me. I did my syllabus that was due yesterday and had it all turned in.” When my classes were cancelled a few days ago, it felt like I received a gut punch. I cannot imagine how awful I would feel if, like my friend, I wasn’t even notified. It goes to show, no matter how bad it is for you, another adjunct out there has it worse. Why aren’t these institutions compelled to be professional? If you’re an educator, teaching professionalism is a component of your lessons. However, you’re often not treated as a professional by those that entrust you to teach that very thing to students.

Universities are often replacing retiring teachers with adjunct faculty, so things are never going back to the way they were. For the most part this has a big negative effect on education overall. First and foremost the relationship between professor and student is being blown to pieces. Think back to your best college classes. More than likely you formed a bond with the professor and the other engaged students. That professor/student relationship is nearly impossible to form when you’re an underpaid adjunct scrambling all over town to work multiple part time gigs. In this equation, the educator loses out on the most rewarding part of the profession. The student loses too.

The new classroom relationship is becoming blatantly transactional. A fellow educator friend of mine made a poignant observation of this academic devolution. He said this type of classroom culture means educators are now treated like glorified vending machines. Unfortunately, this type of transaction produces little to no critical analysis. This is just one of the many unintended consequences of this dynamic. I could go on about it further but I’ll save it for another post. The bottom line is that education is being devalued in every way. This has created a terrible chain reaction of additional problems.

Shit treatment of our educators (at all levels) has to stop.

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