Note: Alice Umber is the pseudonym of an adjunct professor of human development at a university in California.
I spent five years on the tenure track. Now I’m an adjunct, and the move has affected my teaching in ways I didn’t anticipate. I’m not the teacher I once was, largely thanks to the lack of support I receive as an adjunct. Sadly, my students suffer the loss.
I was an excellent teacher on the tenure track, and my evaluations—both from students and colleagues—consistently said so. When I began the job, I had a heavy 4/4 undergraduate teaching load and little classroom experience. But thanks, in part, to my departmental colleagues, who generously gave me their time, advice, and encouragement and shared ideas and materials with me, I quickly improved. In those early years, the countless conversations I had with them about pedagogy, students, and classroom content inspired and helped me to hone my teaching skills. Meanwhile, I dedicated myself to revising old courses and developing new ones. I guest-lectured in my colleagues’ classes and later co-taught with them too.
I also got university support—in the form of course buyouts, seminar funding, professional-development workshops, service-learning resources, etc.—that allowed me to take my teaching to the next level. I designed community service-learning courses and collaborative research seminars. I took students to conferences to present their original research. I helped run internship fairs for students and mentored them throughout their required senior practicum. I got to know them and the university well, and was therefore able to mentor themin their studies and help them navigate campus life. I served as the department’s undergraduate advisor and gladly supervised students’ honors theses, wrote them recommendation letters, and helped them complete graduate-school applications. <Read more.>