Much has been written about the plight of adjuncts…
On how the use of part-time faculty, with no job security or benefits or a liveable salary, has grown in the United States over the last thirty years…
On how, in 1975, only 30.2 percent of faculty were employed part time; by 2005, according to data compiled by the AAUP from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), part-time faculty represented approximately 48 percent of all faculty members in the United States…
On how, as described in a 2007 article in the Journal of Labor Research, “The Relative Earnings of Contingent Faculty in Higher Education,” part-time non-tenure track faculty earn between 22 and 40 percent less than tenure track assistant professors on an hourly basis…
But not much has been written about the moral plight of adjuncting, the impact of feeling disposable, when schools where you commit to working for years discard you without notice. After all, you’re easily replaceable.
I taught for five years at the Art Institute in Hollywood. Despite the lack of benefits, sick days, or liveable salary, I enjoyed it. The students were great, and, after all, that’s what mattered. I prepared lesson plans, I designed syllabi, I created courses, and I led workshops for other faculty, until one day, when no one sent me schedule for the following term.
I knew the schedule was available because students were registering for the upcoming term, but no one had told me one way or another what my course load would be. I had to ask a former student to log on to search for my name. She couldn’t find it. I had not been given a single class. And no one had told me. I simply never heard from anyone again.
I was just removed from email lists, and I was not asked for my availability for the following term.
Just like that, I was gone.
Another teacher of mine, at the same school, showed up for the first day only to notice her mailbox was missing. Her class had been canceled without notice.
Just like that, she was gone.
These stories are not unique to me, but they are not often factored into conversations about the hazards of adjuncting. I was prepared for the low salary and paying my own health insurance, but I was not prepared to feel disposable.
David Gamson writes for The Huffington Post, “As a researcher who studies the history of schooling in the United States, I can testify that Americans have long had a deep and enduring ambivalence about teachers: we value their work, but we pay them less respect and less money than those in many other comparable professions. There are plenty of signs that teaching as a vocation is in trouble in the US…
“Look at how enrollments in teacher preparation programs have plummeted in the last few years in US schools. The hardest-hit state – California – experienced a 53% decline between 2008 and 2013. Other states are not too far behind – Michigan, for instance, experienced a 38% drop, and Texas a 19% reduction, during the same period. Several high-profile educators have either decided to ‘hang up their chalk‘ or encouraged others to avoid the profession altogether.”
And it’s true. I’ve been encouraged many times to get a “real job,” to pursue a viable career in place of my Phd. But yet, I’m still teaching because I feel it is a job worth doing. Because it is a job that needs doing.
Today, on World Teacher’s Day, let us remember that if we want good teachers, we have to give them the respect and appreciation they deserve.