» Adjunct By Choice News, Opinion, Analysis and More For the Adjunct Faculty Nation Wed, 28 Sep 2016 20:45:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How to Land a Part-Time Teaching Job Tue, 19 Jan 2016 19:08:54 +0000 A 2009 Money magazine article entitled “5 Ways to Pump up Your Income” recommended college teaching to part-time employment seekers. Let’s be clear: teaching college part-time, as a rule, will not lead to full-time teaching jobs. On average, part-time faculty earn $2,500 per class. No one is going to get rich teaching part-time. However, for employed professionals interested in teaching and/or supplementing their incomes, part-time teaching can be a fun and engaging opportunity.

At many colleges, there are far more adjunct instructors than full-time faculty members. This means there are many part-time opportunities for those who qualify. And while a doctoral degree is required for some positions, professionals with no more than associate’s degree qualify for many college teaching positions.

What Effective College Instructors Say is Important

A book entitled Practical Magic: On the Front Lines of Teaching Excellence

Practical Magic – On the Front Lines of Teaching Excellence (2003) identified reasons award winning community college instructors were inspired to teach. In rank order, those instructors were motivated by the following:
1. A desire to make a difference
2. The love of the subject
3. The love of learning
4. The love of people
5. A positive role model
6. The love of teaching
7. Personal benefits
8. Serendipity
9. Family/friends/significant others
10. A negative role model

Minimum Qualifications for Teaching College Courses

The requirements to teach at a college range from an associate’s degree to a doctorate depending on the course and the institution. Universities hire instructors with master’s degrees for adjunct positions and year-to-year contract assignments. However, most full-time tenured positions require a doctorate. On the other hand, two-year colleges (e.g. community colleges and technical colleges) offer the majority of opportunities requiring less than a master’s degree.

While primary and secondary schools (i.e., K-12) require teaching certifications, colleges and universities do not. Institutions may require professional certifications to teach such courses as emergency medical technician, nursing and real estate. For disciplines like accounting, automotive technology and computer networking, professional certifications may be preferred or required.

Another important point is that students preparing to enter the workforce like to have confidence that their instructors are familiar with current systems used in those careers.  If you were teaching an accounting class at a Canadian university, for example, you’d want to be familiar with something like a Canadian corporate tax software package.

Requirements for Prior Teaching Experience

Professionals seeking adjunct teaching positions are evaluated based on their education and experience. College and universities prefer to hire individuals with prior teaching experience, but that is not always an option. Candidates with a master’s degree who worked as teaching assistants (TA) in college are often credited with that experience.

When there is not a firm requirement, institutions consider other evidence of an applicant’s aptitude for teaching. Experience as a trainer in an industrial setting and experience making formal presentations are valuable. This is especially true for career and technical education courses, such as computer aided drafting or electronics technology. In the end, the verbal and interpersonal skills an applicant displays during the interview are often enough to secure that first teaching assignment.

Hiring Part-time College Faculty

Normally, the adjunct faculty hiring authority is a college administrator or a full-time faculty member with a special assignment. Administrators include deans, associate deans and assistant deans. Instructors who hire adjuncts teach but also fulfill responsibilities such as department chair or curriculum coordinator.

The Modern Language Association (MLA) provides in-depth advice for pursuing “A Community College Teaching Career.” This article addresses both full-time and adjunct employment and includes advice for “Planning for the Interview.”

Characteristics of Effective College Instructors

There are a many characteristics college hiring authorities seek when reviewing applicants for part-time teaching assignments. Job seekers pursuing adjunct positions who possess them are in high demand. These sought-after traits include the following:

• Strong work ethic
• High energy level
• Sense of humor
• Enthusiasm
• Passion for the discipline
• Superior speaking and writing skills
• Desire to help others
• Motivation

Relative to motivation, hiring authorities are looking for individuals who are motivated by the fulfillment they expect to achieve from teaching and are concerned by those who primarily desire the monetary compensation. In reality, faculty members must put in many long hours of preparation. The first time an instructor teaches a course this could easily mean 10 hours a week or more. Occasionally, a new part-time instructor must relearn some of the course material or possibly learn it for the first time from the course textbook.

Other duties outside the classroom include preparing lesson plans, creating assignments, designing tests, and grading. If new instructors calculate their compensation based on the total number of hours worked inside and outside the classroom it may be below minimum wage!

The Supply of and Demand for Part-time College Instructors

The majority of adjunct teaching opportunities exist and two-year institutions such as community colleges. Most of these institutions have a high demand for instructors to teach mathematics, science, and English. There is also an ongoing demand for adjuncts to teach career and technical education courses. For courses with lower enrollments a college may have no full-time instructors, which means good adjuncts are in high demand.

The qualifications for teaching college courses can be demanding, but in many cases they are less than most people assume. For this reason, there is a shortage of qualified, effective adjunct instructors at many colleges. Consequently, part-time teaching at a college or university presents an excellent opportunity to earn a supplemental income. For many applying for a college teaching job leads to a rewarding and fulfilling source of additional income.


Jeffries, Alexis & Rosato, Donna. “5 Ways to Pump Up Your Income.” Money, Dec 2009, Vol. 38 Issue 12.
Roueche, John E., Milliron, Mark D. & Roueche, Suanne D. Practical Magic – On the Front Lines of Teaching Excellence, Washington, DC: Community College Press, 2003.

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Get A “Real Job?” Teaching Part-Time IS A Real Job! Sun, 17 Feb 2013 16:47:08 +0000 by Linda Lyle

For nearly a decade, I worked as a full-time part-time adjunct. Translation: I worked part-time for multiple schools so that I had the equivalent of a full load. A merger between the technical school and the community college where I had been working cut my class offerings in half, so I had to go further afield to look for classes, like two counties away with a commute time to make L.A. proud. Soon, low enrollment and in-fighting cut into my already reduced class offerings until I had to go find a “real” job.

jobA “real” job, as people like to put it, is one where you work for one place, 40 hours a week, with health insurance, sick leave and retirement. It sounded like a plan. I found a job as a curriculum writer for a government contractor. Everything was great at first, like a honeymoon in Barbados. I had a real salary and was able to buy a house for the first time. I had a growing 401-k as a start on retirement. I liked my job, and it helped pay for work on a Ph.D. Then, I was transferred full-time to another department where there was so much drama that Shakespeare could have written three 5-act plays. Soon, there was trouble renewing the contract. Finally, my position was cut without warning.

Then, I took another “real” job working for an accountant. At $11/hour, I was struggling to pay bills, so I finally managed to pick up a few classes at night. I also picked up some classes online as well. My “real” job began to have drama as well since the boss’s wife was the office manager and conflicts escalated.

I did the math and realized that I was getting paid more a month to teach 2 classes 2 nights a week than I was to work 40 hours a week. No, I wouldn’t have insurance, but for what I was already paying for my half of the insurance, I could get an individual plan. I was also commuting forty minutes one way while gas prices skyrocketed.

I noticed that I was not sleeping well, I had bags under my eyes, and I had a very bad attitude. I was miserable. I had toyed with the idea for years that I would get a “real” job for a few years, save up some money, and then go freelance as a writer and adjunct, but fear held me hostage. That is until the day my last boss suggested “my heart wasn’t in my job.” He was right.

I started thinking about my time as a full-time adjunct. There were a lot of perks there too: holidays, spring break, very little drama, no supervisor watching my every move, short commute (sometimes just to my computer), and a lot of freedom to write. Were an insurance plan and a false sense of stability really worth it?

I decided to take a chance because a “real” job may come with perks, but doing what makes you happy is priceless.


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Being an Adjunct By Choice Is Often All About Timing and Persistence Wed, 26 Oct 2011 14:43:09 +0000 By Randy Eldridge

It’s been awhile since my last blog and I sure have missed this place! Why, you are asking, have I not posted? Well, before you just decide that I’ve been lazy and slacking off…which I totally would understand….that is not the reason. The reason is because, as an adjunct by choice, I am always on the lookout for new teaching positions and finally, I was fortunate enough to land another one. Not wanting to get off on the wrong foot with my new dean, and lets be honest, wanting to be asked back to teach more classes, I put most of my energy and focus into the new school. Not to say I skirted my responsibilities at the other places I work at. But I’ve been there for awhile. I have the routine down and know the students. It was time to focus on my new job. I was offered two classes, two days a week. I had to somehow juggle that with my other school and figure out a way to work all of these different classes in. It was relatively painless. And even during the couple of seconds where I started to think it was a huge pain, I realized I could have the opposite problem, and quit my whining.

Randy, you’re asking, what does this do with being an “adjunct by choice?” Glad you asked! Working as an adjunct for a living can be tough. You’ve read the comments on Linkedin and other social media sites. Hopefully, you’re read my previous blogs where I I discuss this at length. Well, landing a non-traditional job, can often involve non-traditional means.

I first applied at this particular school while still working on my master’s degree. I sat down with all of my information, and completed the lengthy application, knowing that, yes, I wasn’t quite finished with my own schooling, but would be withing a quarter or so, and hoping for the best. I submitted the application and watched it do its thing before this popped up: “Sorry, you do not meet the minimum requirements for the position.” Devasted! After I sat and stared at the computer in disbelief, I told myself, “don’t worry, just reapply when you graduate.” No sweat, right? A few months later, Master’s degree in hand, I log back onto the school’s website. Another opening in criminal justice. Great! I logged in, and attempted to resubmit my application.

“You’re already applied for this position.”

Ouch, I thought. I was beginning to take this personally! Besides, I hadn’t applied for this position. It was a new one!

“Ok,” I told myself, “don’t worry. You probably have to wait a year. You have plenty of classes to keep you busy. Its only a few more months. Try again.”

A mere 367 days after submitting my first application, I try again. Same thing! I’ve already applied, it said. This was getting ridiculous. I really wanted to work there. So, I did what any man that procrastinates a year would do: I finally called Human Resources. I attempted as sensibly as I could what was going on to the nice lady at the other end who was obviously biting her lip in a futile attempt to not laugh at me. After much explaining, she told me the person that “handled these things” is out, but she would give me her voicemail. “Am I in a movie? Where’s the cameras?” I remember thinking. Deflated, I left a very brief voicemail, and resigned myself to the fact that the woman whom “handles such things” was probably going to be out for a week, and would have no time trying to decipher my message and she sifted through her hundreds of voice messages and emails. Yes, I admit it. I gave up.

Then, one Sunday, that very same school advertised in the paper for a hiring fair that was going to take place at a branch campus that just happens to be three miles from my house on that  Tuesday.

“Oh, I’m going to that!” I told my wife.

I didn’t have classes anywhere during the four hour timeframe of the fair, so I was fine on the time. I just wasn’t sure how the whole “I’ve been applying through HR for 2 years” was going to work. I got all of my things together…resume, transcripts, reference letters, teaching philosophies, references, evaluations, and drove the 2 miles to the campus. I admit, I was nervous. This was the culmination of 2 years of futility on my part!

I walked in and waited uncomfortably, as a woman who turned out to be exceptionally nice and who happens to be the Associated Dean of the school, briefly discussed the job with someone else. He was a lawyer, that part I heard. Sometimes schools love lawyers to teach CJ classes, some don’t. I wasn’t sure about this one yet. Finally, its my turn. I introduced myself and she asked for a resume. She examined it carefully. Her first words were “This is very good!” Well, I’m a pessimist, and I just assumed she was being polite. She asked me what classes I had taught before (everything), when could I start (give me 10 minutes?), and if I was willing to travel to different campuses to teach (you kidding? I’ll walk if you want me too!). Ok, long story short: The department chair calls me the next day and offers me two classes. Another great guy! Tells me I need to apply online. I explain the whole fiasco, and he laughed. He said it was no big deal…they would take care of it. Huge relief!

Finally, it only took 2 years, but I got in! Its a great school.

I’m fortunate I was able to land a position there. I’m going back next quarter and teaching more classes and I’m still at my other school. So what’s the moral of this story (besides the fact that I’m obviously not very good with dealing with HR)? The moral is that sometimes to be an adjunct by choice, you have to be able to adjust to different ways in order to find those prescious jobs. That, and you have to be willing to a lot of job fairs! What’s the craziest or most difficult thing you’ve had to do to get a teaching job? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Oh, and come back next week. For Christmas, I’m doing a hopefully humorous, but true, piece on student excuses!


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Adjunct by Choice – Adjunct Teaching Is NOT Slave Labor. Ever. Tue, 04 Oct 2011 13:21:34 +0000 randyBy Randy Eldridge

Slave labor. Exploited. Manipulated. Abysmal. Degrading. Not respected. These are all words that I see whenever I’m reading an article or a post about being an adjunct instructor, regardless of what website or article that I’m reading. They’re also words that I hate when it comes to describing some people’s chosen profession. Finally, I will argue that they don’t apply and are completely inaccurate.

Perhaps the most common word I read and hear about it “slave labor.”  It makes my blood boil.  I’m not overly politically correct…my wife will tell you that….but to use such a strong word as “slavery” to describe a white-collar job is a bit ridiculous. Meaningless rhetoric and dramatic language usually does little to persuade those that you’re debating to your side.

Webster’s dictionary defines slave as: 1: a person held in servitude as the chattel of another, and 2: one that is completely subservient to a dominating influence. Working part time without an office hardly qualifies as “slavery” I think.  Also, the last time I checked, being an adjunct in a ‘choice,’ which involves “the act of choosing.”  So much for the slavery argument.

I understand the need to use strong language to try to make your point. I agree with many of the issues that people make regarding the need for higher pay and more job security for adjuncts. But using slavery is no different than calling a politician whose views on the environment you don’t agree with a Nazi.

Go tell a guy working in a factory that has a GED and making 8 bucks an hour that has to ask for permission to use the bathroom that you are “slave labor.”  Better yet, go tell a farm worker bent over 12 hours a day in a field picking artichokes for your dinner that you are a “slave.” Let me know how that works out for you. Or, you go always take a trip to the lovely country of the Sudan and see real life slaves for yourselves, then come home and complain about the lack of  respect you feel.

Exploitation is a little more subjective. According to Websters, exploited is defined as 1: to make productive use of : utilize <exploiting your talents> <exploit your opponent’s weakness> and 2 : to make use of meanly or unfairly for one’s own advantage <exploiting migrant farm workers>. The first definition is pretty straight forward. It’s that second one that causes a debate. Do schools exploit adjuncts? If you don’t enjoy being an adjunct…but still insist on doing it…..I’m betting you will read this and say, “Of course we’re exploited!”

If you’re like me and understand and accept what goes along with teaching on the non-tenure track side of academia, you’ll probably disagree for the most part. Don’t get me wrong. Exploitation does exist among the acedemic world. But what a lot of people don’t seem to acknowledge (because acknowledging it would take away any reason for complaining, right?), is that exploitation occurs in every profession. Some more than others.  Farm workers are exploited. Managers are exploited-my wife will personally attest to that. I’ve read stories of millionaire actors and actress saying they were exploited by studios. Even some of our highest paid athletes claim exploitation at contract time.

To me, it’s all perspective. Am I “exploited” by the three schools that I work at because they expect me to prepare for classes or grade papers at home without being paid? I guess I am. Do I feel exploited? No. It’s kind of hard to feel exploited when I’m grading tests with my family at home and a football game on in the background. OK, that was an exaggeration. I don’t do anything while football is on, but you see where I’m going. What about my friend who teaches elementary school? She has a full time job and benefits. However, she still complains whenever she has to prepare for classes on the weekends. Is she exploited? What about my wife? Is she exploited and being used as a “slave” when her boss calls her at night and needs her to prepare something at the last minute for the next day? Should everyone be paid for every second of every day that they even think about work? Maybe if this were a perfect world. But its not. And it never has been. The argument that some adjuncts make that they’re ‘exploited’ and are ‘slave labor’ is a hollow one. Most professionals do work outside of the office without being compensated for it. This isn’t anything new and adjuncts aren’t the only ones.

The next time you feel “exploited” or think you’re being treated as “slave labor,” look around. Are you at home? Do you have food to eat? A car to drive? The freedom to come and go as you please? Are you healthy? Is your family healthy? Do you have the freedom to choose a different profession if you desired to do so? I’m guessing you do. Underpaid and undervalued, you might be. But you have the freedom to change that if you want. A slave, however, you are most certainly not.

About the Adjunct By Choice: Randy Eldridge is an adjunct instructor and tutor. He teaches criminal justice courses leading to Associate’s and Bachelor’s Degrees. He earned a B.A. in Political Science from Capital University and an M.S. in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati. Prior to entering the world of teaching, he worked as an Adult Probation officer for Butler County in Ohio. He is a U.S. Army and Desert Storm Veteran, serving four years on active duty. When he is not teaching, he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter. He’s currently debating whether or not to pursue his Ph.D.[/private]

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If You’re Complaining, Maybe It’s Time For A New Job Mon, 12 Sep 2011 20:01:41 +0000 randyBy Randy Eldridge

I recently came across an article in the Economist that argued that obtaining a Ph.D. was essentially a waste of time. Not to repeat the entire article, what the author bitterly (in my opinion) claims is that the university system “churns” out Ph.D.s at an exceedingly high rate and that there is an over supply of students. The author also claims that while obtaining your doctorate, you are basically slave labor to your advisors and work long hours for little reward, monetarily or otherwise. Finally, the author argues that obtaining a doctorate doesn’t pay off financially, so why bother.

The comments below the article weren’t much more positive. There were a few that argued as I feel, that obtaining a Ph.D. is a reward in and of itself (idealistic, I know), and that the pursuit of knowledge and discovering something new is reason enough to pursue the degree. However, there were more than few that agreed with the author. They had their PhDs and were miserable. They were treated so badly by their professors. They’re not making $4 billion a year with their degrees. People weren’t bowing to them as they walk into the room. You get the idea.

I was amazed by both the article and the reactions. ‘Wow”, I thought, “this sounds like they’re talking about being an adjunct.”

In the short time that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve very much enjoyed the feedback..both positive and not so positive…that I receive. Most of it is positive. Some of it is people telling me I’m naive and don’t know what I’m talking about. I understand where they’re coming from. I do. Being an adjunct by choice, and trying to do it full time, is most definitely NOT for everyone.  Look on any other site that discusses being an adjunct. You go on Linkedin and find, shall we say, robust, discussions about the pros and cons of being an adjunct instructor.

What surprises me most is what appears to be an almost visceral reaction that some people have about the negative side of being a teacher. I’ve read comments about just how miserable it is. How they’re treated so badly and are looked down upon by full time faculty. I read how they work long hours with no pay and don’t received any benefits and how bad the students are and how they have no place to do their work and they have no job security, and….And oh, by the way, they’ve been an adjunct for 10 years? I’m going to perfectly honest with you. I don’t understand it. If people are so miserable, why continue to do it?I understand people are passionate about their field. I am too. We all want to have work that makes us happy. We all want to be able to use our education in our work. But that’s not always realistic.  I’m sure we all know people with degrees who are doing something totally unrelated to their education.

I also understand that realistically, not everybody can afford to be an adjunct by choice. I’ll use myself for example. I teach at 3 different schools right now. One school offers very limited benefits, and the other two offer none at all. Fortunately, I have insurance either through my wife and I also have military benefits. I’m fortunate. Now, If I were single and didn’t have veteran benefits, I’d have two choices: I could be an adjunct by choice and take my chances and complain that I have to insurance, or I could do what a lot of people in this country do: take a job that I’m not thrilled with in order to receive benefits (IF I was fortunate enough to get a job). I’m pretty sure I’d do the latter. I know I would. I know the system isn’t fair. I agree that it needs to be changed, but complaining about it while you still continue to work in the very same system you rail against seems counterproductive.

To me, it comes down to expectations of the job.

Just as when earning a Ph.D., we all have reasons for doing things. I never thought I’d get rich teaching. Just as when earning a Ph.D., I would never dream that I’d earn one then sit back and start counting the money. It’s my humble opinion that if you get into teaching for money, you’re in it for the wrong reasons. I know it’s hard being an Adjunct By Choice. I recently started teaching at a new school. I had to go through the orientation, meet the staff, learn the system, all the “fun” stuff. I don’t particularly enjoy that part of the job. However, it’s what I choose to do to make a living, so I do it. If it ever got to the point where I really hated it, I hope I would recognize that it’s time to move on and do something else.

I enjoy being an adjunct. I know more than a few who don’t, and I respect that. I’m different, I guess. Or crazy. I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback. If you disagree let me know. I know, being an adjunct isn’t for everyone.

About the Adjunct By Choice: Randy Eldridge is an adjunct instructor and tutor. He teaches criminal justice courses leading to Associate’s and Bachelor’s Degrees. He earned a B.A. in Political Science from Capital University and an M.S. in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati. Prior to entering the world of teaching, he worked as an Adult Probation officer for Butler County in Ohio. He is a U.S. Army and Desert Storm Veteran, serving four years on active duty. When he is not teaching, he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter. He’s currently debating whether or not to pursue his Ph.D.

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Adjunct By Choice: From Adjunct to Full-Time? Maybe. Or Not. Tue, 26 Jul 2011 17:59:36 +0000 By Randy Eldridge

If any of you have read any of my previous blogs, you’re familiar with Dr. Abbott. He’s my department chair and a great guy. In fact, he’s really one of the best people that I’ve worked for, both in and out of the education field. How he does his job, however, is sometimes a mystery to me.

Dr. Abbott has been at the primary school that I teach at for a few years now. He’s well liked by staff students alike.  He’s an adjunct instructor’s ideal supervisor. He treats everyone as a professional and trusts us to do our job. He is respectful and polite, and most of all, he brings out the best in people. Unfortunately, he also happens to be reaching the “burnout” phase in his current position.

How do I know this you ask? Easy. He called me into his office and told me that after summer quarter he was leaving. He told me this in confidence and asked me to not tell other instructors. The reason he was telling me this and no one else was because he was recommending me for the job. I was honored that he thought enough of my and my abilities to that he would recommend me for the position. I also had some trepidation.

Sure, there are times when the thought of having a full-time position is very appealing to me. A regular salary, benefits, paid time off are things we all want. Well, most of us. Unless you happen to be one of the adjuncts by choice like me.

I thought about what Dr. Abbott and I had discussed. I knew that I could do the job. I had a great relationship with the students. I got along very well with the school staff. Other administrators know me and I have a great working relationship with all of them. I could easily do his job. I would do well at it and do things that would benefit the school I could do his job. Wanting to is an entirely different story.

I love teaching. I love being just that. A teacher. Being an administrator is not something that appeals to me. Despite whatever job security and benefits it may bring. I know a lot of adjuncts complain about the downside of being an adjunct. I understand their complaints. I get it. Issues such as pay, lack of benefits, working at home, respect, no free time etc., are all things that those us not on staff somewhere have all experienced.

To me, the benefits outweigh any negatives associated with being an adjunct by choice. It’s obvious I feel that way. I write a blog about it! I love the fact that I get to use my experience and education everyday when I teach. I enjoy watching students progress and expand their knowledge in the field of criminal justice. I like the fact that every once in awhile, I’m actually able to make a difference in someone’s life. All those other negative things don’t really bother me.

What I don’t enjoy is paperwork. And meetings. And sitting in an office 12 hours a day. Most of all, I don’t enjoy not teaching. The thought of it horrifies me! I would feel trapped. I would feel locked up. I would be miserable.

I decided I needed more input into this decision. I had had to speak with my boss. Her name is Mrs. Eldridge. My wife is my best friend. She’s also a saint. The poor woman lives with me afterall. We discussed the possibility of me taking a full time job at length. It is a serious decision. Things would change dramatically. We weighed the pros and cons of it. On the plus side, I would make more money. I would have extra insurance. I would paid time off. On the down side, I would probably work at least 50 hours a week. I would also spend less time with my wife and daughter. Oh yeah, and I would be entirely miserable and probably end up getting fired. “Ok” we decided, “turn it down.”

The next day at work, I spoke with Dr. Abbott. I informed him of my decision and he completely understood. He told me he thought that I might feel the way I did, but knew that I’d be great for the job. I was appreciative of his confidence in me. However, looking inward, I knew that there was only one way it would turn out. Badly.

I know some people that think I’m crazy for being an adjunct by choice. To them, the uncertainty and constant chage is too much. Not for me. I thrive on it. I enjoy it. Sure, I could do Dr. Abbott’s job. I would be successful. At first. But soon, the boredom and monotony would set in. My professionalism would start to crack. Soon, knowing myself as I do, I would say or do something stupid and end up unemployed.

No, I think I’ll just continue working as an adjunct by choice and keep my job.

About the Adjunct By Choice: Randy Eldridge is an adjunct instructor and tutor. He teaches criminal justice courses leading to Associate’s and Bachelor’s Degrees. He earned a B.A. in Political Science from Capital University and an M.S. in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati. Prior to entering the world of teaching, he worked as an Adult Probation officer for Butler County in Ohio. He is a U.S. Army and Desert Storm Veteran, serving four years on active duty. When he is not teaching, he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter. He’s currently debating whether or not to pursue his Ph.D.[/private]

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The Adjunct + Facebook = Disaster? Wed, 29 Jun 2011 17:56:07 +0000 By Randy Eldridge

Ok, I admit it. I’m 42 and I use Facebook. A lot. Maybe even too much. I was never on Myspace or any other social networking site you can think of. I’ve used LinkedIn for a long time primarily for professional networking purposes. Oh, and I also have a Twitter account. I never post on it, though. I signed up for it to follow the rantings of a celebrity that I will not name in order to save myself further embarrassment. I read Twitter…I think it works well in staying current with breaking news, or what’s happening in a particular area that I’m interested in. Other than that, I don’t use it. I mean, I’m not really interested in knowing where Chad Johnson is running today, or where Lindsay Lohan partied last night.

But Facebook is another story. I resisted as long as I could. Then, they broke me. By they, I mean society. I take no responsibility for it. After joining Facebook, I soon realized it was actually pretty useful. Not being a big “phone guy,” I realized that I could stay in touch with people without having to spend hours on the phone. How great is that!? The best part of it is that I can share pictures of my daughter with my parents who live some distance from us. The bad part is, before I got my privacy settings under control, anyone could find me. Well, I didn’t really want to be “found” by anyone. I wanted to be the one doing the “finding.”

When I first began teaching, I didn’t give social networking a lot of thought. I remember recieving a friend request on Facebook from a former student. No problem. We were connected. Then, at my current school, a student I had and who was still attending sent me a request. I clicked on “accept” and we were “friends.”

Besides Facebook, I have also received requests from students on Linkedin. For some reason, I never accepted those requests. In my mind, at the time, it was ok to connect with students on a social level, but not on a professional one. I know it makes no sense.

The last friend request was from a student we’ll call “Lora.” Lora was an average to below average student who could have done much better had she applied herself—came to class, and turned in her assignments. I had been connected with her for some time and had her in one of my classes. She was failing miserably. Then one day, I logged into Facebook and saw that I had a message. It was from Lora. Begging me to please, please, please give her a D in the class because she knew that she was doing badly and she was really, really sorry, but she’d had so many personal problems this quarter, and if I could just pretty please giver her a D just this one time she promised to do better next quarter.

I was shocked, horrified, angry. Angry at myself for having gotten into the situation. I had to think of a way to handle this properly, so I did what a lot of men do when faced with difficulty. I ignored it.

In class that final week, Lora took the final. She did well and passed the class with a D. Not wanting her to think that her message had anything to do with her passing, I spoke with her about her message after class. I told her that it had been inappropriate for her to contact me asking me to “fix” her grade, and that I would no longer be able to connect with her outside of class. She understood. The conversation was painless. I learned my lesson.

Since that incident, I no longer connect with students on any social media. My privacy settings are set. I can’t recieve messages from people I’m not connected to. Students know that I won’t accept requests from them. Not only do I now know that it’s inappropriate, it’s also against the rules of the college where I teach. My school prohibits instructors from communicating with students in any way other than phone or official school email. That doesn’t mean that everybody follows the rules.

One of my co-workers is connected to almost every student in his class. Just last night, I heard one of the students discussing the instructor’s recent trip to the West Coast, and his upcoming surgery. I know another instructor who actually brings up his Facebook account in class and shows the class. I’m guessing these two adjuncts never received a message from a student asking for their grade to be “fixed.” Or maybe they have?

Facebook and other social media can be a great way to connect with students. I worked at one school that made all full-time staff create separate “work only” Facebook accounts to use when connecting with students. They used those accounts to only discuss the school, events, job opportunities and other areas of intererest, never anything personal. Given how connected students are to social media, I think that is a nice compromise. Many times it is easier to reach a student online than on the phone or email.

However, I no longer feel comfortable interacting with students via social media. Do you use Facebook and other sites to connect with your students? Is it a good idea? I’d love to hear your thoughts and about any experiences you’ve had.

About the Adjunct By Choice: Randy Eldridge is an adjunct instructor and tutor. He teaches criminal justice courses leading to Associate’s and Bachelor’s Degrees. He earned a B.A. in Political Science from Capital University and an M.S. in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati. Prior to entering the world of teaching, he worked as an Adult Probation officer for Butler County in Ohio. He is a U.S. Army and Desert Storm Veteran, serving four years on active duty. When he is not teaching, he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter. He’s currently debating whether or not to pursue his Ph.D.

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Student Reviews: Bad Reviews Are Earned Sometimes Sat, 04 Jun 2011 00:45:04 +0000 By Randy Eldridge

“Mr. Eldridge has been the best instructor that I’ve had since I’ve been here.” Great, I remember thinking after reading that and several other positive comments. That comment will always stick with me. It was one of the very first student reviews that I received when I first began teaching. It was those remarks that made me begin thinking that maybe I was pretty good at this whole “teaching thing” and that perhaps I should pursue it as my main career. I mean, if those students loved me, they all would, right?

Well, not exactly. Student reviews can be quite upsetting for an adjunct. Especially an adjunct whose sole occupation is teaching. The reality is, if most of the student’s don’t like you, the chances of you continuing to teach at a particular school are pretty slim. Adjuncts rely on receiving positive student reviews as “proof” if you will, of connecting with students. Some schools rely more on them than others. One school that I worked at…which shall remain nameless…used them almost exclusively in deciding weather or not to offer courses to their teachers. Other schools, such as the primary one that I teach at now, take a more practical view of student reviews. Personally, I like this way much better.

The fact is, its human nature to want to be liked. That’s hard for me to admit. Ask my wife, she’ll tell you. I like to come home after a not so productive day with a difficult student or students and pretend it doesn’t affect me. I did that with probationers too. Not that I’m drawing any analogies, or anything. But not being liked does bother me. It bothers my coworkers and most of the other adjuncts that I know also. No one that I know wants to see themselves being called an awful teacher on some website somewhere!

My first bad review really bothered me. I mean, I was mad! I can’t say what the student said and the student actually cursed on the review! I was shocked. I was upset. Most of all, I wanted to find the student who’d said it and ask him what I could have possibly done to elicit profanity on a review. However, after much thought, I decided against it. Looking back at the class in which I received the negative comment, I have to say, it was pretty uneventful. It wasn’t the most exciting subject for students, but I enjoyed it. I tried hard to pinpoint what could have happened that caused that student to have such anger toward me. He was always pretty quiet in class. Turned in most of his work on time and did above average on the test.  I was clueless.

Through some investigative work, and other students telling me (students love to tell me things; I’m not sure why), it turns out this particular student felt like I’d ignored him and a few others in class. Really? Me!? My first reaction was to be defensive.

“That’s crazy” I remember thinking.

Then, after talking to my wife, who IS best at pointing out my flaws, she did point out to me that I probably did pay attention to certain outgoing students, and let the quiet ones stay quiet.

She was right. She usually is. Looking back, I remember a group of very engaged students. They were great! I enjoyed them. The reality is that I did spend too much time focusing on them. The quiet ones who came to class, did their work, and left were almost invisible to me. That was my mistake. I wasn’t given a bad review. I had earned a bad review.

That review taught me something. It taught me that quiet students need to be engaged proactively. That sometimes they depend on us, Adjuncts By Choice, to actively seek them out and encourage their participation. Sure, it seems like common sense. But as an adjunct teaching a full load of classes, it’s something that I must be cognizant of. Not only do I not want to get a bad review, I don’t want that student to feel like he’s being ignored. I remember what it was like as a student. There were some classes where I wanted to be left alone. There were others where I need a little coaxing. I felt his pain.

My friend Andrew is going back to graduate school. He’s an accountant, and lives out of state, so fortunately—or unfortunately for him—I won’t be his instructor. I gave him some advice: Make sure you communicate with your instructor. We’re not mind readers contrary to what many think. If you’re not happy, tell him! Don’t just give the poor guy or girl a bad review. Talk to him! His reply to me: “He’s the instructor! He should figure it out!”

Maybe that really is the bottom line. As professional educators, our responsibility is to serve the students to the best of our abilities. Some students will be more than happy to tell you exactly what they think of you and others will wait until the class is over and write it all down. Students do have a responsibility to do the work and participate. We have the job of educating them and making sure they understand the material. We are not there to simply entertain them and get excellent ratings. We’re there to teach. Seems pretty obvious. But with 20, 30 or more students in a class, sometimes even those of us with the best intentions earn our bad reviews.

How do you deal with bad student reviews? Does your school weigh them heavily in your evaluations? Do you think student reviews are fair in evaluating teachers? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!

About the Adjunct By Choice: Randy Eldridge is an adjunct instructor and tutor. He teaches criminal justice courses leading to Associate’s and Bachelor’s Degrees. He earned a B.A. in Political Science from Capital University and an M.S. in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati. Prior to entering the world of teaching, he worked as an Adult Probation officer for Butler County in Ohio. He is a U.S. Army and Desert Storm Veteran, serving four years on active duty. When he is not teaching, he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter. He’s currently debating whether or not to pursue his Ph.D.

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Feeling Invisible? Do Something About It! Tue, 24 May 2011 20:17:35 +0000 By Randy Eldridge

“Can I help you?” the young lady sitting at the colorfully decorated table asked me when I first walked into the building.

It was my first night teaching at this particular school. I had only been there two previous times for interviews and paperwork, and did not recognize anybody on this particular evening.

“Yes, can you tell me where room 302B is located?” I asked.

“Sure”, she happily replied. “Can you tell me what class you’re in, and I can look it up by your teacher’s name to make sure you’re going to the right place?”

Such is the life of an adjunct. I’m used to it. In fact, I’ve come to expect it. I chose this life, after all. That doesn’t always make it easy to deal with, however. Making your living as an Adjunct by Choice has many rewards and challenges.

Among those challenges is actually getting to know the permanent staff and faculty at the school where you’re teaching. In this particular “institute of higher learning,” I had only met two people: the Dean and the Department Chair. Everyone else was a stranger. In addition to knowing virtually no one, I wasn’t given anything to indicate that was an actual employee of the school. I’m sure my suit and tie was a pretty good indicator that I worked there, but doing exactly what was anyone’s guess.

The first couple of weeks went by pretty well. I taught the class and enjoyed it very much. Occasionally someone would greet me in the hall or in the instructor’s lounge. Soon, I began feeling invisible. It was like I had just graduated with my Bachelor’s degree, and been given a job in the mailroom. I felt a wave of frustration starting to wash over me, and knew that I had to do something to make sure people, other than my boss and the students in the class room, knew that yes, I actually worked there!

In the world of part-timers and adjuncts, you must be proactive in getting noticed by those you work with. Not one to be extremely extroverted, I teach Criminal Justice and Criminology after all, not Public Speaking, I took it upon myself to make my presence known. I went out of my way to introduce myself to other staff in the instructor areas and in the hallways. I went to ‘optional’ meetings for adjuncts to meet other staff and faculty. I responded to group emails seeking suggestions or input on various topics.

Yes, it was painful at times. I’m fine standing up in a large group of students. I was great talking to criminals as a probation officer. But I found it difficult at first to actively approach those I didn’t know to simply introduce myself. So many adjuncts I see simply come in, teach, and leave. Many times, I’ve seen new adjuncts walking with their heads down and making a beeline for their classroom as if they’re trying to avoid some great confrontation. Now that I think about it, maybe they are.

I was like that at first. Come in. Speak with the Chair if he was available. Teach. Leave. However, the awkwardness of seeing the same people every time without speaking soon overrode any trepidation I had about introducing myself to people. I finally realized that they weren’t going to say anything, so somebody had to!

The turning point for me occurred one day before class. I had arrived at school very early. I was in the classroom about an hour before class preparing for that nights lesson, when suddenly a man I had seen multiple times (but of course never spoken to) walked in and sat down. We said hello and he didn’t say anything. I asked if he needed me for something.

“No” he said and sat silently.

Well, this is weird, I thought. Finally, my Dean and a couple of other people come in and sit down. Very strange. Finally, I ask Dr. Abbott if they needed the room. He informed me (thankfully), that they were using the room for a teaching demonstration of a potential new adjunct, but I was welcome to stay and watch. I did stay. Poor guy. I felt his nervousness, up in front of the class discussing drafting or something with computers or some other field I have absolutely zero knowledge of. I whispered to Dr. Abbott during the interview about the other individuals seated around me. They turned out to be the other Department Chairs and assistants.

“That’s nice” I remember thinking.

Sure wish I had known that before they all walked in and stared at me.

It was from that point onward, that I make a point out of introducing myself to everyone I see in any school I teach. Sure, I could be invisible like so many others that I see. I could walk in, teach, and then leave. But that’s not me. It’s amazing how the simple act of getting to know your co-workers, even ones you only see once a week, can improve your work environment. No more awkward silences in the instructor areas. No more pretending to look at papers as you walk down the hall, pretending to be distracted. Being able to walk into your school, and not have security look at you funny.

And those new adjuncts that I see sometimes, walking with their heads down? Oh yeah, I make sure I say hello to them to. After all, they do work here, right?

About the Adjunct By Choice: Randy Eldridge is an adjunct instructor and tutor. He teaches criminal justice courses leading to Associate’s and Bachelor’s Degrees. He earned a B.A. in Political Science from Capital University and an M.S. in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati. Prior to entering the world of teaching, he worked as an Adult Probation officer for Butler County in Ohio. He is a U.S. Army and Desert Storm Veteran, serving four years on active duty. When he is not teaching, he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter. He’s currently debating whether or not to pursue his Ph.D.

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Even Adjuncts By Choice Have To Pay Our Dues Thu, 12 May 2011 11:00:18 +0000 By Randy Eldridge

My first teaching interview! I was so excited. The Department Chair had called me within a week of me sending in my resume asking me if I was still interested. “Absolutely!” I responded. I was on my way, I thought. Soon, I would have classes filled with students eager to learn and soak up the information I was about to give them. It was going to be great. I would start out teaching a class here and there, and still maintain my normal schedule. It was going to be a piece of cake. Then, I went to the interview.

The Department Chair was wonderful. In fact, she’s still my boss and I consider her a friend. The interview went exceedingly well. Megan is an attorney and former prosecutor and I’m a former probation officer, so we had a lot to talk about — the school, our past experiences, our families. She even told me right off the top how much they paid.

“I have it in the bag,” I remember thinking.

At the time she interviewed me, however, she was in dire need (I should have known something was up when I got that phone call so quickly). Apparently, the school had recently “let go” a few of their adjuncts, and Megan needed someone to teach a class. On a Saturday morning.

“That sounds great,” I lied.

A Saturday? Really? Trying to stay optimistic, I quickly imagined a class that the students love and would be fun to teach. Maybe it’s a forensics class with a lot of hands on training? Maybe, I thought, a class on terrorism where we could discuss real-world events. Even better! Unfortunately, it was neither one of those.

“It’s a report writing class.” Megan said.

An entire class devoted to the sole task of taking students, who generally aren’t that thrilled with writing in the first place, and teaching them how to write well-thought out reports that one might see in the field of criminal justice. On a Saturday morning. Great.

I didn’t really have a choice, did I? I knew that I wanted to teach. I also knew that Megan had a stack of resumes on her desk three inches think from other people who wanted to teach. She’d shown them to me. I knew that getting my foot in the door at the school was important. Despite the scheduling of the class, I considered myself fortunate. For some reason Megan had decided to call me into the interview and had given me a shot at teaching. I ran with it.

I would be the best Saturday teacher they ever had. I wanted to be asked back. I wanted the students to like me. I wanted more classes, during the week, if possible. More importantly, I wanted to teach.

I taught the class and it went well — much better than I had expected. My poor boss even had to come in on three different Saturdays to observe me teaching. She said it was the best report writing class she had ever observed. She also told me she thought something might be wrong with a teacher who enjoyed report writing as much as I did. I agreed with her on that one. At the end of the quarter, the students did their reviews and most of them said they liked me as a teacher. I was happy that I took the class and was hoping for more.

Before the end of the term Megan asked me if I would teach the following quarter. Of course I said yes. Here comes my sweet schedule, I remember thinking. It did get a little better — I got two classes that quarter. And no Saturdays! No, this time it was night classes on Monday and Friday nights. We all know how much students love being in class on Friday nights, don’t we? I thought at least the subjects would be more interesting for both the students and I, which would help the Friday nights go by quickly. Megan later told me she appreciated me taking them, because she couldn’t find another adjunct willing (or crazy enough) to teach those nights.

Both of those classes went very well and again, I received great student reviews. Things were getting better. For the third quarter, Megan offered me day classes. Finally! That term, I had three day classes and a Wednesday night class. I was almost teaching a full schedule and I loved it. I was doing what I wanted and the best part was that I had Megan’s trust. During those first two quarters, I never once missed a class or came in late. I even subbed whenever asked.

Since then, Megan gives me a large choice of classes to teach. Once in awhile she’ll ask me to do a night class and I never tell her I can’t help her. It’s the least I can do for the person that gave me my first shot at teaching. The difference now is that I don’t have to take them. Why? Because I already did it. Just like most other things, you have to start somewhere. In the world of adjuncts, that somewhere often means nights and weekends, or any other time that is not convenient for you.

Honestly, I didn’t enjoy those first two quarters. I have a daughter. I missed going to her events those first weekends and evenings. She wasn’t used to not having me there. I just kept telling myself that it would pay off in the end. And it did. I tease Megan about “forcing” me to work weekends because she knew how badly I’d wanted to teach. In fact, I joked with her just this morning about it as she was on her way to interview a new adjunct.

Apparently, the guy who teaches the Saturday morning class has decided once was enough as opposed to deciding to teach the best Saturday class ever.

About the Adjunct By Choice: Randy Eldridge is an adjunct instructor and tutor. He teaches criminal justice courses leading to Associate’s and Bachelor’s Degrees. He earned a B.A. in Political Science from Capital University and an M.S. in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati. Prior to entering the world of teaching, he worked as an Adult Probation officer for Butler County in Ohio. He is a U.S. Army and Desert Storm Veteran, serving four years on active duty. When he is not teaching, he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter. He’s currently debating whether or not to pursue his Ph.D.

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