A Non-Answer to Faculty Support

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Mcdonald By Melissa McDonald

I’m starting a new job this semester, and so far, I am seeing good things in regards to faculty support, but that is not always the case. I have been in both worlds—campuses where I have been given support to navigate the new job and others where I have been thrown into the deep end without a life preserver.

In the former category, one of my jobs provided a website for all faculty concerns and questions, and instructors knew whom they should ask if their questions were not answered on the website. In other jobs, pre-semester training and orientation sessions were provided, giving adjuncts at least a taste for the college’s policies and procedures.

But then there are jobs that fall into the latter category. As I mentioned in my last post, in one adjunct position, I was hired the second day of classes and played catch up, all the while wondering if I was really doing my students any good. Had I been given more than textbooks, I suspect I may not have struggled as much, and my students would have fared better. I didn’t even have an office and met with my students in the writing center when I could. In another job, I was hired and given my textbooks on Friday, and classes started on Monday. I was given my textbooks, and that was it. (Probably, by this point, you are wondering why I would ever choose this life if these kinds of jobs are out there.)

Being an adjunct by choice is living life on the fringes. You are not quite part of the department, yet you are teaching its courses, most often gateway courses in which you have students who are new to the campus. They have questions: Where is the dean’s office? How do I drop a course? Where can I get tutoring?

What happens when you are new to campus and have no idea how to answer those questions? If only someone made an easy button for adjunct teaching!

Even if you have years of experience, like me, starting a new teaching job can be daunting, especially if you are unfamiliar with the campus. (And I should know because, as I wrote in my first post, “Who Gives Up a FT Job to Become an Adjunct? Well, Me,” I have moved a lot in recent years due to my husband’s career and have to find a new job every couple years or so.) Unfortunately, in my experience, many adjuncts are simply told, “Here are your textbooks. See you Monday!” Some adjuncts aren’t even given an office. Being the “new guy on campus” with little to no support from the college or university, well, sucks.

We adjuncts by choice not only have to “go with the flow,” but also we need to be proactive on the job. If you applied for the job, then you must have research the college or university. (Or at least you should have.) I like to see what resources are available to my students so that I have an answer when they ask for help beyond the course material. For example, since I teach writing, I look for the presence of a writing lab or learning center where students can seek tutoring. If the college’s website does not have the answers, I ask in the interview or shortly after being hired. (I also try to find out whether the college offers professional development opportunities and technology training to its adjuncts, but I’ll save that discussion for a later date.)

So what are your experiences with being the “new guy” on campus? Were you given the support you needed, or were you on your own? Tell us in the comments.

About the Adjunct: Melissa McDonald is an adjunct instructor, writing consultant, and a military spouse all rolled into one. She earned a BA in English from Nicholls State University and an MA in English from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She has taught composition, technical writing, and literature courses, both face-to-face and online. She also has experience as a journal and a newsletter editor, a webmaster, and a writer. Outside of work, Melissa enjoys spending time with her family, playing with her cats, reading, writing, and cross stitching.

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2 Comments

  1. I was just thrown into the job, myself. So, I asked the Department Head for a copy of a syllabus from another professor, so I could see how the course had been taught before. I then contacted that professor, to ask about their rationale for teaching the course in a particular order, because I just couldn’t see it. Contacting this professor on my own helped give me the mentoring that I desperately needed. I was also tasked with teaching grammar, but found out that my college would provide the test for me. This was frightening to me because I didn’t know what areas of grammar my students were going to be tested on, so I contacted the Department Head again to get a copy of a previous test. They didn’t provide that, but they did provide me with a Diagnostic test that the other professors were using. Basically, I have found that if I need help, it is up to me to ask the right questions. It is also up to me to explore the campus and find out about all the resources the college offers so I can then direct my students to them, whenever the need arises; and since most of my students are also new to college, providing this crucial information is very important to their retention.

  2. My experience was “hear is the textbook and 10 year old curriculum that we don’t want to change unless you do it for free”. Mostly unsupported (Admin was great till near the end). I chucked in my Masters with 3 months to go, after being asked to stop holding a workshop which saw all the students pass, first time ever in a decade, and I said “No!”. Hence the online tertiary tutor:mentor biz ~:-)

    Now completing my Grad Cert in Tertiary Teaching for personal development and to perhaps pick up contract work with online and offline unis.

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