The Life of an Adjunct and the Relevance of First Year Writing

Our final readings for the course put into words some of the frustrations that I (and I’m sure most of you) have experienced at some point or another in our (mostly short) teaching careers. As a part-time adjunct, the Marshall essay expressed issues I didn’t even realize I had—practically unlivable wages (to put it in perspective: before teaching, I worked as a delivery driver for a company called Munchery. While there, I made almost triple what I am now making), unpaid office hours and lack of proper office space (I share an office with 2 others and even though we are supposed to have set schedules for its use, there have been several issues with overlap), lack of benefits, and limited room for advancement, to name a few.

I think the main reason these issues weren’t on my mind prior to reading this article is something he mentions early on: gratitude. He says “I also felt grateful to have a job, proud (if largely unqualified) to be teaching college, and relieved to be able to subsidize my own graduate education, however insufficiently, without venturing outside the academy too much” (112). As I read this, I realized I feel the same way. Even though I am making less money than my previous job, I consider myself fortunate for the opportunity to teach, especially at a four-year college, and one that I hold in such high esteem. Furthermore, I know that others have it worse (larger classes, no office at all, etc). But is the idea that others may have it worse, or that we are, in a sense, fortunate to be able to teach in the first place, a good enough reason to be quiet and just go along with working in sub-optimal conditions? I’m sure the administration would like to think so, as when push comes to shove, it all comes down to money. Marshall makes some great points on the corporatization of education on page 117 but I’ll let someone else jump on that.

The most telling, and frustrating part of the article for me was on the bottom of page 114: “For years, academic professional associations and labor unions have decried the overuse and exploitation of adjunct faculty, but rarely have they taken the offensive in remedying the situation.” In other words, everyone agrees that the life of an adjunct is problematic for a variety of reasons, everyone agrees that something should be done, but no one takes the initiative to actually do something. Even Marshall, who took part in several advocacy groups, apparently was not that successful, as adjuncts today are still experiencing most of the same issues as they were when he started in the 90’s.

I don’t really have specific questions regarding the Marshall piece, but I am interested in hearing everyone’s experiences (especially Giselle, who is far more experienced that the rest of us) and general thoughts on what can actively be done to produce change–not just to talk about it, but to actually do something.


The Wardle article was an interesting read as well. I’ll save most of the discussion regarding her argument for those that are currently teaching 110, but there is one point I wanted to bring up in particular.

I agree that FYC courses have a difficult time in transferring skills to other disciplines, since in FYC, as Wardle states, the goal is to improve writing in and of itself, whereas in other disciplines, writing is simply a tool or means to an end, not the object. I do think, however, that FYC programs do still have some merit. In my undergrad I double majored in English and Psychology, and although the two disciplines are very different when it comes to writing, my experience in English still undoubtedly aided me in Psychology. Learning MLA format, for example, prepared me to learn APA style.

Some questions for everyone regarding Wardle:

Do you agree that FYC is failing our students and should be dramatically re-envisioned, either to “writing about writing” as Wardle suggests, or something else?

I know some of us are working in tandem with other professors in the FYI program. How has that partnership influenced your teaching, and are you experiencing the same difficulties as Karen did in the article?

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