I am an educator at heart, and like many of my peers, I view the concept of being a “part-time” teacher as foreign or unnatural. My students are the focus of my life. Their successes are my successes, and their failures are my failures! The sparkle in the eye of another human being connecting the dots for the first time is priceless. Yet, teaching four 4-credit courses a semester at two different institutions, running my own business, consulting for other institutions, and pursuing my own artistic life leaves me very little time to savor the joy of being in the classroom.
Despite my very busy life, I spare no effort to promote student success. I have developed comprehensive course interfaces for each and every class I teach. I have set up detailed grade systems with rubrics in Blackboard. I report students’ attendance and performance through Starfish/Viking Success weekly. I communicate with and give students feedback on a daily basis through social media and/or text message. Keeping up with my students means that I have to wake up at 5 am daily to ensure all that I mentioned is accomplished. I also make a point of being involved in the life of the college, serving on committees and in elected positions in WCCFT and Faculty Senate, attending administration initiatives and volunteering my time at student clubs, graduation, etc.
One might think I am a special kind of adjunct, but more often than not, I hear my colleagues describing how they too work tirelessly to ensure their students’ success. Among ourselves, adjuncts exchange pedagogical approaches, compare outcomes, and support and inspire each other. Sadly, at WCC we are considered by many full-time faculty and administrators to be less than fully professional, just “warm bodies” in the classroom.
It sometimes seems that our engagement with our students and the college as a whole is only measured by the frequency with which we check and respond to emails. No consideration is given to the fact that many of us are spread thin physically, commuting from institution to institution, sometimes holding a fulltime job elsewhere, or that we may not have any free time during the day to check emails on short notice.
I hold a Ph.D. degree in integrative arts, am the art editor of a scholarly journal, frequently participate in conferences, and have many published academic articles and art exhibitions, yet, constantly I and my adjunct peers hear that we are not qualified enough or professionalized enough to be vouched by our departments as positive assets to the college. Indeed, it is often difficult for us to volunteer our time to WCC because of our other commitments, yet many of us try. We know that our students would benefit immensely if a culture of inclusion and appreciation of adjunct faculty (both in terms of compensation and professional recognition) could be developed. It’s hard not to feel like a second-class citizen when many of us have invested so many years of our lives here yet received so little respect and recognition. Many of us follow the latest educational trends and have amazing classroom tricks in our repertoires, but the lack of a culture of professional inclusion does not let us shine in the ways we could.