Working as an adjunct instructor certainly has its challenges. There are days when I love what I do. I feel a deep sense of accomplishment when a former student reaches out to me just to tell me how much of a difference I’ve made in his/her life. There are times when I love what I do because it offers me the freedom to pursue creative endeavors like writing for children and young adults.
And then there are the other times. Times when I feel less than a valued professional because adjuncts aren’t offered simple basic human rights such as health benefits. Another basic human right is to be able to save toward one’s retirement. And how much have I saved toward my retirement? Well, it seems that the administration just doesn’t know how to report adjunct hours so becoming vested in TRS still isn’t possible.
There are times, like every December and May, when a sense of dread comes over me because I don’t know how I’m going to continue putting food on the table. Adjuncts don’t get paid after November. And we don’t get paid again until February. My family members are in shock when I tell them that after May, I won’t get paid again until September.
Without a doubt, this is a reason so many adjuncts work at more than one college, trying to cobble together what might be equivalent to a full- time salary. This has not been my experience though. Instead, working alongside one of my students in a restaurant or serving one as a guest seated at my station has been my experience. How else could I pay the bills after being bumped from a class with little more than one day’s notice?
As an adjunct who has tried to develop an atmosphere of community and solidarity within our ranks, I can’t help but wonder if this task is a futile one. The life of an adjunct is a precarious and hectic one. It’s far too difficult to get a majority of us together in one room. Sometimes, I wonder if there’s something deeper at work, too. As the administration struggles to treat us as more than just warm bodies or fill-ins for classes that need to be staffed, developing a strong sense of camaraderie among us might be too much to ask.
So why am I still teaching at Westchester Community College? Because I love what I do.