April 12, 2015

Lessons From an Adjunct: How to Keep Adjuncts Happy

I like teaching.  I'm happy to have an adjunct position teaching.  I'm even happier to be able to teach online so I can work my teaching around doing other things, like playing with my kids.  One thing that concerned me when I started teaching was the very low wages.  Considering the amount of time I put in I probably make an income in the single digits per hour of work.  I have a PhD I worked hard to achieve, and this is how much I make?  It is insulting if I relate this to the amount of respect people have for me.  So I try to focus on the positives.

What are the positives?
I have a job, so the gap on my resume after graduation has stopped.
I really enjoy the class I'm teaching.
I'm getting valuable experience that will help me get another job later (I hope).
I can now say I have taught an online class.
I'm in, and people know who I am now, so word of mouth may bring future employment.
I can push myself to do my best and impress people, leading to good references when I apply to other jobs.

One problem I've been facing with online teaching is the anonymity.  After three months of teaching I had only communicated with four people at the school where I am employed.  Two of those were administrative people involved in hiring me.  I really didn't know who anyone was.  Not knowing who anyone was made me feel like no one knew who I was either, and my opinion didn't matter.

An issue has been building with my class though, and I needed to discuss the situation with a superior.  I didn't even know who this was!  Can you believe that?  I did not know who my boss was!  I sent an email to one of the administrative personnel and found out.  After several days I emailed him with my concerns.  His response was shocking.  He knew who I was and so did another woman who was a department head superior to me, AND they thought I was doing a great job!  They want to make me co-lead for the class!

Within a week I went from thinking I was essentially invisible teaching an online class and not knowing who my boss was to getting a promotion!  How do you keep an adjunct happy?  For me, the respect these people have shown me is HUGE!

What did I learn?  I learned that I need to have better communication with people at my school.  If more adjuncts reach out to communicate with those in the department they won't feel so isolated, and they may realize people value them more than they know.  If more faculty members who oversee the adjuncts let them know they are aware of their presence and appreciate their work adjuncts will feel more satisfied with their job.

Clearly teachers in general need a boost in pay, but recognizing and respecting our efforts can make a big difference in how satisfied we are with our job.

Happy Adjuncting!

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