Caveat: Venter

Think about all of the things that make your brain itch. These are mine.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Classroom From The Freeway

Adjunct work is a rite of passage for many faculty. We spend years as freeway flyers, often zipping from campus to campus on different days and at different times of day, proving ourselves as part-timers before landing a coveted full-time position. While this is a source of frustration for many, I have come to recognize it as a source of inspiration as well.

We freeway flyers often find ourselves adjusting not only to varied schedules but varied requirements, even when teaching courses that meet the same transfer requirements in the same states. This adds to the stress and confusion as different schools ask us to teach the same material in different ways, sometimes insisting upon specific texts or unusual exam schedules. What, through all of that, can we say is good? Variety.

One reason schools look for that adjunct experience—perhaps only surpassed in some regards by Klingon Pain Sticks—when hiring full-time faculty is, of course, that that experience demonstrates that schools are willing, when afforded a wide variety of qualified adjuncts, to continue providing teaching assignments to candidates. After all, what employer doesn't like to see steady employment on a candidate's application? And there is more.

By teaching at a variety of schools, we freeway flyers see different ways of doing things. Indeed, we often find the weaknesses and blind spots of one school and fill them in with techniques from other schools. This is not to say that full-time faculty are myopic, incapable of finding new pedagogical techniques. They do, after all, bring their own sets of adjunct experiences. What freeway flyers bring to the table, however, is the current state of what's "out there" on other campuses. Necessity puts us in close contact with the tools that build one part of school X and a different part of school Y. We can see from on high, even as we inhabit the low posts where we work.

This realization, however, is not enough. We need to put that information into action. Lesson plans and pedagogical techniques are not national secrets, and departments should not treat them as such. Yes, lesson plans can be protected under copyright laws and sold for profit, but that, if we are being honest about education, is not the best use of such material. We adjuncts need to take from X and give to Y as we take from Y and give to X. We adjuncts need to beat down the doors of department and division chairs (my experiences have allowed me to knock politely) and throw radical ideas into the ring for discussion. We adjuncts need to see what is all around us and share it with those who are not in a position to visit other schools as our positions require.

Likewise, full-time faculty need to listen. My experiences have been fantastic in that I have always found open doors and receptive ears where I have worked (and still work), but those who may find a less receptive audience must strive to be heard so they may share their experiences. Isn't this much like what some parents say happens as their children discover the world? The children, because they are still building the experiences that will shape their lives, teach the parents. We adjuncts can do that, even as we learn from our full-time colleagues, and we should. Always.


At 8:14 PM, Blogger Kass said...

Hey Question:

Have you ever taken anything other than Depkote for your seizures? I have tried:
Depkote, Lamictal, tegretol, Lithium and topomax. All with various side effects. Of course, I take mine for Bipolar and not seizures, but I was just wondering

At 10:47 PM, Blogger Andrew Purvis said...

I spent thirteen years on phenobarbitol (age 6 to age 19, including the transition). I was hyper and slept irregularly. I could not focus, had a short fuse, was prone to all kinds of weird moods.

Since switching to Depakote, I have used nothing else, but the side effects tables of the other meds that treat my seizure types (generalized tonic-clonic, primary clonic, simple partial, with only single documented cases of the last two) are no better.

I would love it if Gabapentin worked for my seizure type, but it does not. It is the only AED I know that is not processed by the liver, and thus has a small side effects table.

At 8:44 AM, Blogger amy said...

Well said, Andrew. Hear hear.

At 5:59 AM, Blogger RussianViolets said...

All excellent points, and I have to say from my own three years on the adjunct/grad assistant circuit that you are so right. Being the freeway goddess really helped me not just to budget my time but to think about and adopt the various approaches that I saw at the schools in question while, of course, decrying the nonsense.

At 3:07 PM, Blogger Connelly Barnes said...

Jim Richardson has a different view, that non-tenure professor positions are just harmful:


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