Yesterday, I was sitting in the tiny and strange office allotted to adjunct professors at Rutgers Camden finishing up grading journals and responding to the questions and thoughts of my students. It was my first teaching gig of the day. First as in, the one before I wrapped up my assignment at one institution of higher learning and headed over to another totally different one at Pig Iron’s School for Advanced Performance Training. Two voice classes connected to the study of theater for two totally different set of students in two totally different kinds of learning environments, both taught in an hour and a half.
I do this a lot. Teaching. These past few months in particular I carried the equivalent of a full teaching course load (4 classes) as an adjunct across three institutions. The semester before I was at two others. I have no permanent status or relationship with these places, other than that I’ve come to care a lot about my classes and the students that take them. This is a journey I’ve mostly navigated alone – from course focus and intensity to the more mundane administrative stuff like direct deposit and getting the floor swept so my students can lay down for breathing exercises.
I happened to catch Aaron Oster in passing as I left Rutgers yesterday. And while normally, I’d be rushing out and on to the next thing, something made me stop and listen and chat. And we ended up having one of the first real conversations I’ve had in a while with another adjunct about what our work is like. We chatted about Rutgers Camden as a school compared to others we work at, what the students were like here and elsewhere, how we might tackle some of the challenges we encountered.
It wasn’t all that long – maybe 15 minutes – but it struck me as I walked away how rarely I do this. And then later after finishing my second class, I had drinks with Justin Jain and got into a second conversation about a student I’d been worrying over and how I might be able to solve a problem I’d encountered in class.
These two little tête-à-têtes made me aware of something I’ve increasingly noticed: that I think about my students a lot. That they take up a ton of emotional space in my life. That there are all kinds of things I see in them and the schools I work in. That I’m often wondering how this work feeds (or inhibits) the creative work I do professionally. That sometimes it sends my art in new and unexpected ways and that sometimes it zaps all the energy I have.
But most of all it made me realize how rarely I have a chance to share these thoughts with other people doing the same thing.
I’m interested in doing that. In sharing the sometimes funny and lonely and depressing and liberating thing about being this kind of a free agent in this way.
If you’re a working artist reading this who also teaches – a class here and there or the equivalent of full time – I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to share thoughts/experiences below in the comments. And if you’re Philly local, I’m going to try and organize an adjunct quorum sometime in the next month. If you want in, let me know!
I’m not sure what form exactly such a thing would take, probably just a hang out with some food and a chance to chat. Maybe its something that grows into a discussion of best practices for adjuncts, discussion of fair fee for time, or advantages and disadvantages of various schools in the area. Mostly, I’d just love to see and hear from others in this large teaching artist community.
Maybe I can even swing a little cash to swank up such an event….
I’ll have some free time again once the semester ends.
PS – Hey all! I am intuiting the forces of the universe. Robert Smythe has helpfully passed along some great info about a meeting you can attend TOMORROW on this topic. Check it out:
*Adjunct Symposium: Saturday, April 19th at Media Mobilizing Project*
4233 Chestnut St. Philadelphia, PA 19104
Meet adjuncts across the city and learn about United Academics of Philadelphia (UAP) at our adjunct symposium on* Saturday, April 19th from 9am till 3pm*, with a reception that starts at 3pm. The event will include speakers and panels on academic labor and more. This event is free and open to all.
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