Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Adjunct Summer is a Comin' In

It is now the end of my second academic season since beginning this blog.  I'm happy to report that much has changed since this time last year.  I've taken a writing education-related position at a university.  I moved my family a few hours away from our former area for this opportunity and it has proved to be a good choice.  I'm able to help students who need and appreciate assistance in navigating all the things about college life.  This is work with meaning located at a beautiful campus where I feel that I belong.

For the first time in many years, I already have signed summer contracts.  I'm not heading into June with my last paydate circled on my checkbook register and already a tightness in my chest about finances.  This summer, my family will not be living in what I've come to refer to as "The Scrape" -- that horrid period of time when all checks have stopped and even though I've begun working again, the new ones haven't started coming in.  That can be anywhere from one to two months depending on various institutions' pay schedules.  Even writing about it makes my stomach feel queasy, which brings me to this request:

PrecariCorps: Agents for Higher Ed
Need more persuasion to help? Get the tenure track ally point of view here.
If my readers can afford to help adjuncts, please consider donating to PrecariCorps. This is the adjunct 501(C)(3) non-profit trolled by the same wonderful clods who went after me.  This link goes directly to their page where more information and the opportunity to give can be found.  Nothing would please me more than to have PrecariCorps' coffers overflow as a response to the ugliness of the past couple of weeks.  Really, paying it forward is far more useful and productive than an extended internet battle with people who will only hide behind their keyboards and laugh with like-minded buddies.  This will indeed make an immediate difference to the lives of real teachers.

This academic year started out at the ebb tide for me--I felt as though the old things were falling away and rushing off.  I admit I wondered if I were in fact going to be left standing on an empty beach or crushed by an incoming wave of awful.  However, now I am working with a great team to prepare exciting new programming for our students in the upcoming year.  My child who was quite ill is doing well again.  The trees suddenly all burst into leaf and spring returned to our cold corner of the planet.  Now is the time to plant seeds of all kinds.  Make them those that bear good harvest in time.

In Solidarity with Contingent/Casual Faculty Everywhere,

The Unarmed Education Mercenary

Friday, May 1, 2015

I'm NOT your Thought-Exercise

Recently, some libertarian legend in his own mind decided that attacking adjuncts from the safety of his tenure-track, but not yet tenured job would be a good idea.  Obviously this is all the fault of adjuncts for their poor life choices, he wrote as if no one had said this before.  There is no need for me to excoriate that post further because former adjunct and always witty writer Gordon Haber gave it the satirical treatment in "Adjuncts! It's Your Own Damn Fault! That Arrogant Libertarian Troll is Absolutely Right!" and Kevin Carson, contributor at C4SS went directly after it in "Brennan to Adjuncts:  F*** You, Jack! I'm Doing All Right!" If you want to see all the hubbub, check out those two writers, for I won't be linking the original piece.

from When a Stranger Calls (2006)
Some time late yesterday, while I was busy working at my new job, those fun libertarian fellows decided that they should google me and proceed to drag my entire life.  Or at least, as much of my life as they can learn from a simple internet search.  It seems that I definitely should have known better than to try to get into the academic world.  (Spoiler alert, suckers:  I'm already here.  The calls are coming from inside the house.)   They couldn't find any of my published research.  I do have a publication and I have four that I need to revise and resubmit.  My book needs a more suitable publisher.  I have an essay also under consideration for a collection.  Sorry that my timeline isn't moving fast enough for the white dude crowd at the elite academic levels.

Here's the thing, though.  It's pretty easy to reduce me or any other person to a set of data points extracted by the most basic of browsers.  Myself, I generally run three or four if I'm in search of anything.  What none of these searches can turn up are the circumstances of my life because those things are not available.  I'm assuming that these adept researchers must have found my Rate My Professor scores because they decided that I 've put too much time into teaching and I must be a horrible teacher.

Enter this fallacy, which I heard espoused by a graduate professor once who was a terrible teacher himself:  If the faculty member has high evaluations then they aren't asking the students to do anything and are just making friends.

It could not possibly be because the faculty member is, wait for it,


Things that are true about me that their paltry search likely did not turn up:

1.  I attended an undergraduate school renowned for its education programs at the time.  Schools that needed teachers called the education department directly to staff their classes when I was there--big, fancy new schools out of state wanted their education graduates.  I also won several awards for my teaching even as a student teacher.

2.  My on-paper evaluations by both peers and students are exemplary.  Are there negative ones?  Yes.  Do some folks think my class is easy?  Sure.  Do people fail?  Yes.  People also usually color in the bubble that my class is more work than most of their classes, but they still like it anyway.  My first teaching mentor told me that my Comp I syllabus was too difficult for the student population.  I used a permutation of that syllabus from that day on because it worked well and continues to do so.  I change the readings and assignments as needed, but it is built on a solid pedagogical framework.  My goal is not to fail half of each class but to teach them to write better no matter where they start.  I teach the workhorse courses of higher education.  I'm not there to berate upperclassmen who like Foucault more than Žižek.

3. My past chair called me "the best teacher she knows." Coming from her, that is no small compliment.  That woman ripped my writing to shreds.  She doesn't hand out idle pretty words.

4.  I have not presented much lately or yet gotten my writing published.  Most of this is due to my workload and my family responsibilities.  Other writers have handled the academic mom subject matter recently here, here, and here. It can be difficult to travel on an adjunct salary or write while grading five to six sections of writing composition.  It is also difficult when one's partner is a Veteran with PTSD whom the government turned down for disability.  But hey:  do more research!

5.  Both my Masters degree and my Doctoral one were covered by tuition waivers.  So why then did I take out loans, which libertarians think I should not have done?  I had a son.  Had I been alone I could've lived in squalor and eaten junk every other day.  When a child is factored in, the parent must provide a safe home, food, clothing, and care.  Graduate stipends do not pay for any of that.  Where was that child's father? Oh, he went away, drained the bank account and disappeared without paying child support.

6.  Since I was a first generation graduate school student, I had no idea what I was doing.  The faculty when I enrolled in my program were older and nearing retirement.  That's where the "Good people get good jobs" line came from.  Additionally, no one encouraged publication.  No one offered to co-author or proofread submissions.  Should I have known?  I guess I could've googled it.

7.  According to my stalkers, I searched in too geographically a narrow area.  I'm not sure how they figured this out, especially when it isn't true.  Perhaps I should post my Interfolio receipts.  For several years, I did remain at one school that paid a living wage and gave me benefits. This allowed me to live a good life.  What happened to that situation is chronicled by this blog.

What I feel may be at the center--I was going to say heart, but there isn't one--of these trolls' argument is that they feel we adjuncts don't deserve their highly paid, cushy two-course load positions.  What they are completely missing is that most of the adjuncts who are speaking up and fighting back against these wage theft, un-student centered processes simply want fair compensation for their work.  I would not care to teach six writing courses were I paid the money that amount of work is worth.  For the record, my time on those is not spent in prep but in grading and providing feedback.  However, this requires a person to understand that teaching is a valuable profession and that students are worth more focus than some esoteric article every couple of years that five people will read.

wrong side of the glass
Dudley finds himself on the wrong side of the glass
I do not aspire to be a resident of the ivory tower such as my attackers are.  That is not representative of me or where I am from.  It is also not related to the lives of my students, for the most part.  To continually denigrate the profession of teaching as less than researching is to give the powers that be even more excuse to cut faculty lines, overload courses, and pay all faculty less.  If teaching is mundane then no training is needed and no extra time consideration matters.  Those folks sitting on their haunches throwing slime at adjuncts and teachers from behind the perceived safety glass of tenure may soon find that their situations have changed for the worse.

After all of this, I realize that I would not trade my family, friends, comrades in activism, students, or life as it is for that of one of my hecklers.  I'll still be here fighting for fair treatment of adjuncts and all teachers, as well as a better future version of education for students when these silly ghosts fade into the internet ether to harass someone else for a few laughs.


The Unarmed Education Mercenary