Even Adjuncts By Choice Have To Pay Our Dues
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.