Wednesday, March 02, 2005


The Joys of Adjuncting

With the demise of The Invisible Adjunct, I should probably do my part to make certain that the concerns of adjuncting remain visible in the blogosphere. Since Winston the graduate student has moved to Winston, the spousal hire adjunct, I suppose I'm in as good a position as any to voice some of my concerns as an adjunct. Also, I was a freeway flyer adjunct in Southern California for several years between the M.A. and the Ph.D., so I have that experience to draw from as well.

I will say that my current adjuncting experience is quite different from the earlier one. For one, I am at a single institution, primarily because we do not live close enough to another insitution at which I could pick up classes. All we have within driving distance are Research One schools, with a vast pool of graduate students slaves to staff the classes the profs avoid, and schools that require I make a statement regarding my relationship to Jesus and promising to adhere to a certain code of moral conduct which includes abstinence from alcohol. Not to weasel in on Vodkapundit's territory, but I drink like a fish, so these schools are out of the question. Life without cocktails and fine wine would be no life at all.

Plus there's the fact that all of these schools are at least 1 - 1 1/2 hours drive away, and only pay abour $1,300-$1,600 a course. That doesn't make it particularly attractive. And, of course, they'd all want me to teach composition.

The position here is not too bad. The Freshman Indoctrination course will, within the next year or two, cause some definite problems between me and my department chair, but I'll deal with that when the breakdown comes. Beyond that, I've mainly taught literature and film, and have even been offered a graduate level course for the next Spring semester.

The teaching itself has been enjoyable, sans the actual material in the Freshman Indoctrination course. The students are polite and attentive, such a change from the large Research One school where I did my Ph.D. The material in the literature classes I've been given is quite enjoyable, and I have been given more or less free rein in determining the content of these courses.

Yet I am teaching completely out of my area, at least in terms of my dissertation work.

This poses some massive problems, at least as I see it, for going onto the job market next year (this year, by the way, was an ENORMOUS flop). Where to concentrate my attention? Certainly, the way to success in academia is to teach courses that follow along with your own research--definitely the explanation for some of the narrowly conceived, esoteric graduate seminars I took. Yet I do not really have this luxury. I'm teaching right now in an area about as far afield of my dissertation area as it is possible to go. And Freshman Indoctrination takes up far more preparation time than I'm being remunerated for, and has NOTHING to do with anything I've ever worked on or will ever work on.

So what the hell do I go on the job market on as next year? How do I work in the necessary research to produce an additional article in my dissertation field--work that will require a massive bifurcation of my brain?

Or do I instead try to market myself as the "ultimate generalist"? God knows, I'm not adverse to teaching a variety of literatures, and actually enjoy my work more when there is some variety to it. And I'm enjoying the material I'm teaching right now in many ways more than the material and era I dissertated on.

So I find myself in a dilemma common to many of the adjuncts I've known, wrestling with the disparity between their graduate school work and their teaching.

Of course, it may be the case that I will adjunct at this school for the rest of my life, or at least for as long as they'll throw me the bone of a couple of classes a term for twenty cents on the dollar. Hopefully, my wife will move to an associate professorship on schedule and get a reasonable raise that will allow us to live and pay off our student loans.

Can you be an adjunct forever?

Adjuncts and former adjuncts, comment on your experiences.

I, for one, could not adjunct forever. As much as I like my students, I need to eventually be able to teach classes that will challenge me to research more. My current class, unfortunately, doesn't do much of that. I'm just starting, though, so I have no real complaints. I just couldn't see myself doing this long-term.
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