I always do this to myself.
Every semester I think to myself, “Self,” I think, “perhaps this is the semester that you will rest on your laurels. Perhaps this, indeed, will be a semester without major revisions of existing courses, or completely new courses to make up from scratch. Yes, this semester will be a breeze. You will get long put off projects completed. You will enroll in that photography course you’ve been meaning to take. You may even sign up for the curling team, as you have been threatening to do for three years now.”
And then I laugh and laugh and laugh.
Because the first thing you learn as an adjunct is that saying no is never an option. When you get hired by the class, with no guarantee of ever being hired again, “Yes” is the only appropriate answer to any question aimed at seeing if you want to teach a class.
Sometimes they ask me to teach things I’ve taught before. And sometimes they don’t.
But, like the Professor in Gilligan’s Island, who had a degree in Science and could thus do everything from translate Pacific Equatorial tribal languages to build a radio out of two coconuts and a treadmill (although why he couldn’t build a boat has never been satisfactorily explained), I have a degree in History and can thus orate knowledgeably about anything that ever happened anywhere, as long as it happened in the past. Just give me a little lead time to get myself oriented, and off I go.
Ancient India? Sure! WWII? No problem! Medieval Europe? Got that in spades! US history? Seriously? Teach in my field? Is this a trick question? Sign me up! I have a degree in History, after all.
Truth be told, I end up learning a lot doing classes outside of my area. They’re fun that way, and then I have another class in my repertoire which never hurts when the next person wants to hire me to teach something.
Even when they want me to teach what I’ve taught before, the fact is that every few years you have to tear it down and rebuild it. My thinking changes over time. The recent history classes keep moving into the future and new lectures need to be added. New technology requires new ways to teach, which in turn require new stories and units because the break points move.
This semester I thought I’d have it relatively easy. I had one class I’d taught before and had just overhauled the previous year, so it wasn’t due for any major changes – just the usual tweaking that happens every year. And I had another class elsewhere that was brand new, but when you’ve only got two classes this isn’t much of a burden really.
Then I added another class, but I had also taught before, so that was good. Then – for long and complicated reasons having nothing whatever to do with me – I lost that class. Then I was asked to teach three classes at Mid-Range Campus. Of course I said yes – that would bring me up to full time, establish me at another campus in our system, further establish myself as a solution to whatever problems come up, and be fun in the bargain. And you never say no, not as an adjunct. Besides, I’ve got more than a week to get these classes together! That’s not nearly the shortest notice I’ve had, and the classes are all in my field to boot.
Granted, they’re over an hour away, and it’s been so long since I taught the face-to-face versions of these classes (as opposed to the online and streaming video versions) that I may have to redo a fair amount of them. There is that. We’ll see how that goes.
I went up to Mid-Range Campus yesterday for new faculty/staff orientation, and they were lovely people as far as I could tell. They were glad to have me, and I was happy to be there. I even learned a few things, which – given that I have been teaching in this system since 1996 – came as a bit of a surprise. Always nice to be surprised that way.
There remains the fact that I may have to bring a supply of bread crumbs to find my way around for the first few weeks – while walking around on the tour my mind kept filling up with phrases like “rabbit warren” and “fire trap” – but bread crumbs are cheap and there are no birds in the halls to eat them. As long as I leave before the maintenance people sweep them up I’ll be fine.
It will be a good but exceedingly hectic semester, methinks.