Does Professional Organization Membership Matter to Adjuncts?

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millerBy Melissa Miller, Ed.D., M.Ed.

I’m not really a “club” or activity person. In high school and college, I was not involved in group clubs or sports. I was more of an independent (read: loner) type who preferred activities I could do by myself or in small, limited numbers. I was not the type who joined a bunch of activities, no matter how great they were going to look on my college admissions applications (I still got in). I like people and being social, but it can be a struggle for me to be a part of an organized group with roles and requirements. Within my job, I enjoy leadership positions, but beyond that, I hesitate to become a card-carrying member of a professional group. I’m not entirely sure why this is so, but the reason I’m sharing this background is that I find myself, as a New Adjunct, with a host of opportunities to join organizations, associations, and to become a member of different committees — and it can all be a little overwhelming!

When I became a classroom teacher, I enrolled in the local Education Association at orientation — it was just another station to visit on the checklist. It was short-lived. In Virginia, We are a “Right to Work” state, and this “union” was nothing more than a gift in my mailbox on Teacher Appreciation Day and an occasional e-mail reminder to appear at the local School Board meetings. I did know people who had more positive experiences with the group, but the fact that it was costing me money and I wasn’t seeing any tangible results, combined with some political positions they took locally which I disagreed with, led me to cancel my membership.

I joined the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE) when I taught middle school Language Arts. I wanted access to the resources and our school would only pay for the department chair to have a membership, so I joined myself. As the year progressed, however, I had most of the resources I needed and I used the information from the Council less and less as the demands of the classroom and teaching gave me less time to sift through the information. I did not renew my membership after two years.

When I started working on my doctorate, I wanted to focus on professional development as my dissertation topic. I joined the ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) for access to research and to be able to network with other professionals and students. This was another useful, but short-term membership.

Looking at this list of professional academic organizations that I’ve left in my wake, it may appear I have a difficult time with commitment! But I submit that perhaps this is one purpose of such organizations. They are there as we need them, but as we grow and change in our professions, sometimes our organizations and affiliations need to as well. We may not have a burning passion for the group’s mission, and we may just pay our dues and read the newsletters, but sometimes that’s okay.

So, now I am looking at professional organizations that would be valuable to a New Adjunct. Of course, there is a lot of information available on this website, AdjunctNation. I’m wondering if the readers have any suggestions or valuable insight? Which professional organizations do you belong to ? Did you have any that were helpful as you began your career as an Adjunct?

About the New Adjunct: Dr. Melissa Miller completed her Ed.D. with an emphasis in Teacher Leadership from Walden University. She holds a M.Ed. from Mary Washington University and a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from Virginia Tech. Dr. Miller’s professional and research interests include adult and online learning, professional development, and literacy. Presently, Dr. Miller works as an adjunct instructor and an evaluator, while also enjoying her role as a wife and mother.

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