Sunday, February 21, 2010

Is part-time teaching the basis for a career?

It's the perennial dilemma for adjuncts:  how does part-time teaching fit into our  individual career plans? As so many have pointed out, there are as many reasons for teaching part-time as there are individual teachers, but I can't help thinking the BIG QUESTION remains: what does that "flexibility" do to our prospects as true professionals? Like many of you, I'm sure, I work 60-70+ hour weeks to stretch myself between teaching gigs, paper grading and class prep. In my case, (this semester only, as one never knows about next semester), the stretch is around 10 university credit hours and a private ESL course or two on the side. All of this nets me--US-- "part-time" or "contingent" status in the eyes of the federal labor laws, in the eyes of health insurers, and so on. Thankfully, one of the institutions I teach for has a part-timers union, but as helpful as that is locally, it does nothing to alter the BIG PICTURE--our contingent status overall. Whose purposes are really served by our "flexibility?" Does twisting ourselves into pretzels to make a living wage in a part-time economy serve US, in the long run?

From the AFT FACE blog, here's an interesting take on why the pretzel gig makes sense at times, titled, "The Part-Time Worker," by adjunct Jennie Smith. My question is, should making a sensible choice to teach part-time come with the baggage it does for our profession in general? Maybe the solution to this dilemma goes beyond unionization to the lofty level of federal labor laws? Maybe we need to be redefined on that level as true professionals?  What do you think?

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