The “adjunct moment”– one of those peculiar moments when whatever happens could only have happened to an adjunct, or which is a common experience for adjuncts all over the nation.
From getting stuck in traffic between classes, to filing unemployment for the thirtieth time, to forgetting which campus you’re headed to that day, adjunct lives are made up of adjunct moments, sometimes a crisis moment, sometimes just a moment of frustration, sometimes a moment of truth. This is a place to record your adjunct moments.
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In the adjunct office today,
Plenty of adjuncts,
No room for my students!
The crisp, winter air,
The lean, unemployed time ahead,
The tightening of the belt.
An Adjunct Moment:
It’s that time of year again, the season of joy and gratitude, that particular adjunct moment when I, like thousands of other adjuncts, file for unemployment. What a mixture of feelings! On the one hand, the unemployment insurance provides me with much needed money. On the other hand, I can’t help feeling a bit guilty or ashamed that, after fifteen years of professional practice, I must ask for a handout. Of course, when I am rational, I realize that I have already earned these wages, that these wages, actually, don’t even begin to compensate me for the work I’ve already performed or the hours of evaluating papers still ahead. So, I grudgingly take the pittance and prepare for the “lean” time.
Outside the classroom today,
under the hill, in the shadow of the library,
allowed to teach.
When the Humanities building at Mesa College was built several years ago, adjunct conference rooms were included in its design (a telling prophecy of what has been planned). Adjuncts use these rooms to hold office hours, outside which, in order to receive pay for some of these hours (not all of them), the hours and adjunct’s name must be posted (according to contract). Just as often, however, these rooms are used by full-time professors for a variety of purposes. More times than I can count, I have arrived for my posted hours, or have seen a colleague arrive, only to find the room occupied by a student, who had been placed there by a full-time professor, taking a make-up exam: the adjunct moment of finding adjunct space appropriated by full-time sense of privilege and ignorance of adjunct existence; the experience of being invisible.
Purposefully lifting the VitaMix (a lifeforce for your child) with your left arm so as not to further injure your right one. You should have called a PT about it when you got the order two weeks ago.
Doing this every morning.
Last week, I had two of my students who missed their midterms ask if the could make up the exam on account of car trouble. It made me recall that three years ago, I was driving back from the grocery store at 11:30 PM when the car transmission literally gave out, stopping right in the middle of the road. I had to get a cop to push my car with his off to the side of the road, then walk around a mile to my home. I had to teach class the next day at 8:00 AM at a campus approximately 17 miles from my home. This meant I had to get up at 5:30 in the the morning and take two buses and a trolley to get to my morning gig.
But I wasn’t done. After my 11:00 class, I had to get on the bus again, not to go home, but to my 5:00 PM class which was at another campus approximately 25 miles away. Three buses and two trolleys later, I made to my evening class with a little under an hour to spare.
Luckily, my wife was able to pick me up from work after my evening class. it would have been another 90 minutes at least to get home.
For an adjunct, a functioning car is his/her life, or he/she has no life.
Welcome to the fall semester adjuncts! New additions to the adjunct office space include a broken floor fan from a first floor classroom, a broken chair, and a soon-to-retire full-timer’s box of discarded books. It’s just one adjunct moment after another!
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After teaching full course loads at the University of Alabama at Birmingham for 7 or 8 years, I attended a wedding where one of the department’s full-time pampered elite was also present. Outside she looked at me quizically and asked, “Have we met?”
A classic adjunct moment! I can see her face, incredulous that the invisible had become visible. What did you say?
“You probably just recognize me from television.”
She is now the VP for Academic Affairs at Whittier College.
That is hilarious. Somehow, I’m not surprised that she moved into (b)administration.
Today, in the adjunct office space, I searched frantically for the handout I assigned to my class. I looked in my small locker, in my bag, and in my cardboard box. I couldn’t find it anywhere because I left it at home. If only I had an office…
I knew I was adjunct when I applied for unemployment for the 45th time.
I knew I was adjunct when I was 51 years old and still paying my student loan! (I’ll take it to the grave!)
I knew I was an adjunct when I realized that, much to my chagrin, I was a victim of adjunctification.
Put me on a cross,
Send me to the “English Village” (the trailer park),
I’ll work for free!
I’ll read papers ’til my eyes burst!
I’ll make the same comment on every paper!
I’ll turn papers into data
And run them through the scan-tron!
Martyr me! Martyr me!
Please, let me work all summer!
I’ll be a good adjunct!
My final adjunct moment:
After teaching 8-10 classes per semester (3-5 preps spread over several campuses) for the past few years, I decided that this was my last semester teaching.
This is perhaps a moment all adjuncts face, sooner or later. I tell people who ask about retired adjuncts: adjuncts don’t retire, they just die. Your option is a third choice.
I have not been a freeway flyer for awhile, since my wife suggested I teach at only one location ( she wanted me to be home more),but today I was reminded of it when I had to race home between my classes (two hour beak) to retrieve forgotten materials which, if I were full-time, I would have kept in my office; but, no office. Most adjuncts race around from campus to campus daily because they have no choice to make ends meet.
Adjunct moment: I offered to give a nice student a ride home. Walking through the teacher’s lot, she expressed surprise that these old, not fancy cars belonged to professors…i thought, “sheesh you think these are bad, wait until you see mine.”
Other adjunct moment (occurring twice, actual): having to step out of class suddenly because the food stamps office was calling and missing a call from them could mean countless lost hours (maybe even days of multiple trips) in their nightmare of an office. “family emergency” I told the students…it was true, I suppose
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I can totally relate on the car issue.
I used to drive a 1984 Mazda Sundowner pickup truck (this was from 2003-2011). I got it with “only”230,000 miles on it. It was white, rusted, and had a replaced right front fender that didn’t even have primer on it. The previous owner liked large cups so they literally sawed a 5 inch in diameter hole through the middle of the dashboard, you could push down the windows of the car from the outside with a bare hand, so locking the car was kind of a false security measure.
Once, when walking with a student who saw my car, he said, “Dude, you should submit your car to ‘Pimp My Ride.”
In fairness, we never were on food stamps, but we were on the WIC program food free cheese and cereal, and my son got free lunch vouchers at school.
Hang in there good adjunct.
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Thanks. We did WIC for a while too but aren’t doing lunch vouchers as finally, after five years of struggle, my husband got a good job and maybe I can finish my dissertation or at least regroup…I actually had a great adjunct gig making a semi-livable wage last year and second semester they moved me to their urban satellite campus, scheduled me there for this Fall (scheduling so far in advance, what a treat!). Anyway, then they closed that campus due to budget cuts and I’m on the dole again 😉 Adjuncting is better than much of the other retail customer service type work I did previously but then again none of that worked required degrees..
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When you pass a colleague on the way to the campus he just came from, say hi with a handshake and a “long time no see,” spin so as to not lose your momentum, and keep on going so you can make it on time. No time to wonder adjuncts don’t get organized.
You know it’s an adjunct moment when you estimate that you have filed for unemployment yet again, for the 36th time or the 54th time, depending on how you figure, before you begin the grading of papers and exams that finishes each semester with a flourish.
… that moment of truth when you are preparing for classes which you may or may not end up teaching this semester and you get your W-2. You laugh darkly through gritted teeth as you calculate what you would have earned if you had been full-time for the last twenty years.
A letter to the president of the university where I teach, and his response: