Friday, February 21, 2014

Life Intervenes and "Silly Season" Ensues

If my readers were looking for a blog post this week just past, there was not one.  It was one of those weeks:  The weather was worrisome for the big drive commute and the walk commute, and more importantly, the smaller child was very sick.  Also, I had a good deal of papers to grade and return because the students needed the feedback to continue with their projects.  I even began the week getting observed at School Two.  And I had to chase down an observer at School One to get last term's observation report signed.  And, and, and, infinitum.

The funny thing is, as I sat evaluating papers, planning classes, and working on all the things either late at night or very early in the morning when the small, clingy sick one was asleep, I missed this.  I felt somewhat guilty about not posting this week.  To say there is A LOT going on with the #AdjunctUprising would be an understatement.  University of Illinois at Chicago's adjuncts staged a planned work stoppage, or strike if you will, to bring attention to their cause despite the insane weather the midwest is getting pummeled by.  Lecturers at the University of New Hampshire voted to unionize while many others work towards this goal for their own campuses.  Media coverage of adjunct issues continues on Al Jazeera America, NPR, Inside Higher Ed, and The Chronicle, not to mention in brave student papers at campuses across the nation.

As schools edge towards Spring Break and the halfway point of the semester, many of us search frantically for our next paying gig(s).  In NASCAR they have a part of the year called "silly season," which involves drivers changing teams, drivers losing their rides or sponsors, or teams try to lock in drivers and/or sponsors for the upcoming season in an effort to win the most races.  I believe we adjuncts also have a "silly season," but it is much more serious than the name implies.  Just as a driver could end up without a ride and thus a livelihood, so too could any of us in adjunct land.  People get frantic, then desperate.

Those of us whose full time adjunct positions were cut at School One, which necessitated my employment at School Two and was the impetus for beginning this blog, were told in a meeting that we would not be rehired.  At this point, it looks as though the union there, which I have belonged to since 2006 and is for all faculty, will not protect us.  They failed to write explicit terms for our situation into the last contract though they fended off an attack on adjuncts from management during negotiations.  I suppose they did not foresee their own departments in turn meting out the same abhorrent treatment that was deemed abominable when suggested by those on the opposite side:  cut hours to avoid paying benefits or good salaries.  I still do not know what will happen with the job posting there and am in a wait-and-see-while-plotting-other-routes kind of mood.  Clearly, adjuncts need their own union, and not one that inevitably puts tenure track faculty first whether on purpose or by default.

In the ongoing effort to remain relevant to the academic field, I've been busy submitting some award applications, publications, and sketching out some new article ideas during all this as well.  Oh, and even doing some service work.  Winston Churchill said, "If you're going through hell, keep going."  Some days it feels like that.  The danger in stopping is inaction, apathy, and defeat.  Even if I end up going in entirely another direction, I don't think I can stop moving yet.  Maybe it means creeping only inches forward in a week or a month, but it is motion towards some goal though I'm not sure what that is.

What will happen to the intrepid adjunct population?  I guess that's a story for a later post.  My Magic 8 Ball still isn't working very well.

Chaos Clouds
Chaos Clouds, photo by me

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Day in the Life of an Adjunct

Many of my posts lately have stuck to issues or events related to adjuncts nationwide.  This one is what an average day is like for this particular adjunct, in case some of my readers do not live this life.  This is based on my Wednesday last week with some added aspects for perspective.  It is all true.

On the days that I commute to work at School Two, I get up at 6:15 am.  My first class is not until 11:20, but to get everything done, arrive with time to gather my thoughts and/or make any copies needed, and get to the right floor of the right building I must leave then.  This is a one-hour improvement from last term when 5:15 was my wake-up call.  I must get up on the first ring and go.  I can't really think about what all must be done or I wouldn't get up.  I'd pull up the covers and hide.  

If I'm lucky, the small child does not wake up during the first thirty minutes when I'm getting ready thudding around in the dark trying not to disturb anyone else until it's time.  At 6:45 I wake up my elder son to get ready for school.  I have to be done in our one bathroom by then to let him in.  On my commute days he must walk no matter what the weather and, outside of our block, few people bother to clear their walks.  That's just the way it is.  

I pack the lunches for the little guy and myself that sometimes I've managed to half prepare ahead of time,  and I put the kettle on for tea/coffee/breakfast.  I check my two bags and the little guy's bag, grab the lunches, then put everything in my vehicle.  If it's cold I start it up, clear the snow and/or ice.  If the walks need to be cleared I start them and my elder son takes over.  One of us salts if needed and he's gone.  Depending on traffic, sometimes he is tardy just from waiting to cross the streets.  

I go in, make the tea and oatmeal, then eat as fast as possible.  By at least five after seven, I have to be getting the little fellow into clothes.  Usually he doesn't wake up for this and I stuff him into pants, shirts, coats, and hats.  We make it out the door with my keys, my tea, and at least one stuffed toy.  The sitter's isn't far and I lug him, the stuffed menagerie, a lunch bag, and his bag inside.  I have gotten trapped in my vehicle due to the cold jamming the door lock and the sitter kindly came out to get him then.  I must be on the road by 7:30.  

Depending on luck, weather conditions, and the lack of police cruisers in the way, I usually get three miles from my parking area and hit the traffic wall.  If I'm lucky it's 8:30 at this time.  This past Monday, it was 9:30 because none of the major highways I travel had been cleared.  For about thirty minutes I creep along in traffic: a spectacular 10 minutes per mile.  Finally, I make it to my exit but even then the journey is not done.  I am only going to park on my friend's street because that is free and it puts me in the cheapest bus fare zone:  $2.50 gets me dropped off right on campus but it's $12.50 to park all day downtown.  On a good day, I catch the 9:00 am bus, but it's more likely I get the one twenty minutes later.  

I wait in cold that seems to only get colder for a nice, warm bus.  The ride doesn't take long and soon I'm waiting for an elevator to go to our department's office.  Then, I can grade, make copies, or fill out orders for large copy jobs.  At twenty minutes 'til class I make my way to another building.  I set up and get ready.  The teaching is the best part and that flies by.  Soon I'm telling them goodbye.  I use the time after that class to update my on-line course system with any info for that day because only one of the shared computers in the adjunct office sort of works and the wifi there is so scattered it's impossible to use my own things.  The classroom computer is a good one and no other class comes in, so I use it for about twenty mintues.  Depending on my level of hunger, I sometimes eat there.  

Some days I return to the department to eat and others I sit in a commons area.  On Wednesday, my long day, I have another class at night.  The middle of the day is mine to meet with students (somewhere), do prep work for the next week, grade, or run errands.  Last week I did some work for the adjunct cause, then practically ran to the transit station because my bus pass was low on funds.  I made it with ten minutes to go until closing.  

Around 4 pm I have to think about catching a bus to go get my vehicle.  The bus doesn't run at a time near the end of my night class, therefore I must bring my own wheels back downtown so that I don't have to wait 50 minutes in the dark for the last bus of the day.  Parking gets cheaper at night anyway and is even free after 6 if I can luck into a space.  It is usually about this time that I realize I haven't eaten anything that counts as supper.  That is followed by at least seventeen texts and eight calls from home because the world is ending for various reasons.

Pittsburgh EveningBy the time I am back in my vehicle, I crank the music as loudly as possible to drown out the phone and my guilt.  So long as no one is seriously hurt or injured, I figure they'll be okay.  Also, I have to have some sort of order in my head before teaching a three hour class.  If traffic is light and I'm lucky, I get a space with fifteen to twenty minutes to spare.  This equals coffee.  

Finally, I make it to my room way high in the sky.  Again, class time flies by with my talkative students.  By fifteen or twenty after nine, I'm safely back in my car with all my assorted bags of weight.  The commute home takes less time because there is little traffic.  By 10:15 I'm home again.  I can expect that things will be at some level of disaster.  The small child, who has fallen asleep waiting for me to come back, will wake up and be glad to see me.  He will not want to go back to bed at all.  I'll chase the older one to sleep after having missed his concert, forcing him to get rides there and back because it's dark and not necessarily the best plan to walk.  

I'll eat something left from dinner and check my messages.  If I'm lucky, no one needs any problems solved or questions answered.  By 12:30 it's possible I get to go to sleep.  The next morning, I will take the older one to school then fall back into bed for a couple extra hours.  My School One classes begin later in the day and run in a row.  

But that's another story.

(N.B.  I do all my prep work early in the week so that during this part I only am concerned with adjusting things or making copies.  This does not take into account the time spent doing that or the marathon grading sessions necessitated by teaching five composition classes.)

*Friend of the blog caught my misspelling of adjuncts in the first sentence.  I even proofread!  Thus the life of the bleary-eyed adjunct.)