As adjunct faculty for two Adult Education programs, I worry every semester whether or not I will have enough classes to pay my portion of the bills. Living in a state with no budget, that fear has intensified. Each semester I patiently wait to see when, where, and what I will be teaching and then cross my fingers that I have enough students to keep my class for the semester. I also do this with absolutely no benefits. As adjunct, I am always considered part-time.
Why have I put myself through this torture roughly every 16 weeks for 15 years? The answer is simple: I absolutely LOVE my job. There is an energy to being on a campus full of students ready to make dreams come true. After all these years, I still feel excited when students begin walking through the door. There is nothing better than to be in the middle of teaching a tough topic and see the spark in a student's eye that tells me he/she gets it! A student recently said, "You make reading books interesting." For many of my pre-GED students, they have read their first book ever with me. In one of my ESL classes, I currently have 26 students who come from 12 different countries. Some evenings I sit in awe as they work together on assignments. Language and culture are not an issue.
As a long-time teacher in the same building, I have seen students come and go. Work, family, health, etc have taken them away. My job is to give them a purpose to come back. Because of language barriers, previous bad school experiences or lack of an education, self esteem, and many more reasons, my students fear their first time back in the classroom. Are they good enough? Will they look foolish? Will their weaknesses be exposed? My challenge is always to calm those fears and to find quickly where their strengths are so we can build on those.
Why do I keep doing the job I do when I could have the security of my own benefits rather than relying on my husband to secure them? Why do I plan everything around the hours I am given at school because if I take off work I won't be paid? It's because whatever small part I can play in making the lives of others better, in helping them reach their personal goals, or hearing for the first time that they are good at something school related, it is worth everything else.