By Erik Hanson
The title of this post reminds me of Jon Lovitz’s “The Annoying Man” character from back in his Saturday Night Live days who would yell out, “Get to know me!” Yes, it was as annoying as advertised, but I think that mentality is necessary as a new adjunct—up to a point.
Not every adjunct graduates in the spring, is hired in the summer, and goes through their orientation to begin their fall semester armed with a basic knowledge of their new surroundings. Some, myself included, are called the day before the semester begins and appointed a section that was filled at the last minute. Sometimes that section is offered in the Spring rather than the Fall, when all your students and colleagues are in the groove because they already have a full semester under their belts. Speaking from experience, one can feel very lost; getting to know your fellow teachers is important, but I would go one further and suggest that you need to make them want to get to know you as well.
My first office was (still is) a large room with six desks and a collection of large filing cabinets. It’s fairly obvious that this is a nest for adjuncts, which is convenient in terms of college budgeting. The room itself is about the only thing officially assigned to us, and it took me coming in to meet a student on a Tuesday to realize that anything we MWFers had thought was “ours” really wasn’t—I sat down in “my” chair at “my” desk only to discover that I was encroaching on someone else’s TTh territory. I made it a point to introduce myself with diplomatic hand extended, offered to move (which they graciously declined), and then pushed my work aside in order to talk shop for a bit with this new (to me) face. Luckily, I found myself going from inadvertently creating a new work nemesis to creating a new work contact instead, and warm conversations that consist of comparing notes is much preferred to cold shoulders.
I also discovered that I was fortunate enough to share the office on MWF with a veteran adjunct, one of those utility players who can float from department to department and knows almost everyone on campus. Many of those people tended to stop in frequently to say hello and be introduced to yours truly—which is how I got to meet and know quite a few people on campus as well.
In my personal life, I admittedly tend to be rather reclusive, but at work I like to wander around the halls every so often, which has also served me well. As a student, I took the advice to speak to my professors to heart, and that same advice holds true, but in this context, it means stopping in to talk to your supervisor (the Dean, Assoc. Dean, Assistant Dean, whatever the title) when their door is open—even if it’s only to say “hi” and check in. I’ve even been to the last couple department meetings, although I didn’t have much to contribute. Call it brown-nosing if you want, but observing those meetings has not only been a source of valuable departmental information, but the last essential step in getting known.
I would say that, as long as it’s not in the infamous sense, being known by your colleagues is a good thing.
About the Adjunct: Erik Hanson completed his MA in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing from the University of Northern Iowa, where he also earned his BA in German, during which time he spent one year studying abroad in Austria. Thus far, his teaching portfolio consists of developmental writing and composition courses. In those rare moments when he is not in class or tutoring English students, he can usually be found hunched over his keyboard with a cup of coffee, working on short fiction or developing his novel.