Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bemoaning the Adjunct Life

After eight weeks, my summer classes have now come to an end. Whereas a full-time professor may only teach one or two sections in the summer as a means of earning additional money, while still having his/her salary spread out over twelve months, I am only paid when I teach as a part-time instructor. As a result, I taught four sections this summer, approximately seventy-six students. Some semesters the students tend to drift away after the first couple of assignments, perhaps because they find the assignments too structured or too intimidating. This semester more of the students remained in the class. I have also experienced more students desirous of higher grades than what they earned; it’s as if they took a class at a community college as a last ditch effort to maintain a scholarship. My classes are no different than when I used to teach at a four-year university. I make about forty percent of my online classes relatively easy if the students complete the quizzes, participate in the peer reviews, and remain active in the discussion forums; the other sixty percent is earned in writing the essays. For some reason, the students flub up the easy points. My own writing classes were not as well structured when I was an undergraduate. Sometimes the teacher had the class write immediately upon entering the class, without having introduced a topic or assisted the class in brainstorming ideas. These essays were then graded mostly for grammar. Twenty-seven years ago, the teaching of composition had not yet been improved through the research of scholars like Peter Elbow.

Teaching online and grading stacks of essays week after week has ruined my sleeping schedule this semester. After a pattern of not going to bed until after sunrise, I’m not even sure that I can get to sleep before 6:00 or 7:00 a.m. It is something that I need to work on over the next two weeks or so. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with the outdoors and plan on spending some time on Saturday walking along the river. I haven’t totally secluded myself away during these past eight weeks; the last three weeks, however, have been devoted exclusively to either reading essays or typing up my grading comments. It hasn’t helped that I began noticing some floaters in my left eye after watching the fireworks for Independence Day. I know that the two events are entirely coincidental; linking the two things would be a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. I’ve had to adjust the lighting when I read now because, otherwise, I would become more conscious of the black shapes moving back and forth. According to my research, these floaters will eventually fall before my line of sight, but I don’t know how long it will take. Not having health insurance, like so many Americans, I cannot visit an optometrist to have my eyes examined unless I can come up with the money.

Two weeks are available to rest and recuperate. I only wish that the money earned during the summer would last longer. The adjunct life requires a substantial amount of money in savings because so much time transpires between paychecks. Maybe I can find a way to conjure up just enough money to survive until mid-September. Adding a little extra money to pay off student loans, for instance, would be an unexpected bonus.