Teaching as an adjunct is like painting a new house.Image


You may, indeed, wonder where I’m heading with that statement, or if I’m drawing a really long bow in search of topics for this holiday weekend.  Stick with me, and I hope that you appreciate the analogy a bit more as it is worked through.

For over 12 years, I taught as an adjunct (under myriad titles:  adjunct instructor, adjunct professor in residence, visiting professor, etc, etc) at various universities and community colleges in the Chicago region.  It was a great experience, to be sure, and I certainly would not change it for anything.  But, I often struggled to define my role beyond teaching, and understand what it meant to be an “adjunct”.

Maybe I spent too much time overthinking the title “adjunct”.  On a basic level, for me, it signaled that I was, of course, “part-time”.  That carried certain benefits: flexible schedule, reasonable hours, no obligation for meetings, and contact with great colleagues and students.  It also carried challenges: uncertainty of available courses, no benefit packages, lack of opportunity for tenure and probably several more that each of us have experienced at one time or another.

My wife and I recently bought a new home, and while I was painting some of the bedrooms, it dawned on me that the painting process could serve as an appropriate analogy for teaching as an adjunct (and who knows, maybe it applies to everyone in education—but I am taking the liberty here of applying my analogy to the world of adjuncts!).

So, here we go:

“The Paint”

The paint reflects my students.  Great variety, culture, and color!  Dynamic and vibrant, or simple and plain.

“The Brush”

The brush represents me (us), the instructor, charged with creating an atmosphere from nothing.  Gathering students in one place for a period of time and trying to produce of work of art, and some lasting impressions.

“The Walls”

They are our canvas, and serve, for me, as a representation of learning.  At the risk of using an overused cliché, the blank walls are our “tabula rasa”, our new beginnings each term, or with each endeavor.

“Elusive, hard-to get corners”

C’mon…you know them.  Impossible corners or little nooks.  It’s hard to tape them, and even harder to paint.  These are our challenges, and they vary for each of us.  The key is to keep these difficulties in perspective to the larger painting job that we undertake.

What do you think?  Does my analogy fit you?  If so, can you think of other pieces to the painting process that speak to us as educators?  If not, can you suggest another visual that can help us all relate to our common experience?  Please share!

Best wishes and safe journeys for the Memorial Day weekend.