Musings on how many courses an adjunct can teach and stay sane

Here’s how it began:
Last semester was my first to teach at two schools. I wasn’t looking seriously into teaching full time yet, but I knew that the opportunities for a full-time position were limited at CC1. So I took a second job at CC2 to get my foot in the door.

Getting a full-time position at CC2 is even more unlikely than at CC1, it turns out. They’re not just growing slowly, they are actually losing numbers.

I still offered to teach for them again, when they sent out a schedule of unmanned courses, but they said they could not say whether they would need me or not. So I took on an adjunct assignment at another school.

This school offered me three classes right off the bat. So I took them. It also pays better than CC1 or CC2, which didn’t effect my willingness to teach, but did make me feel good about it.

Since then (early June), I’ve been asked by CC2 to teach the two classes I requested. I turned them down. There’s no way I can go from two schools to three, not with the classes I ended up taking. The times wouldn’t match up well enough.

So, at that point in the story, I have five classes, a full-time load at CC1.

Then I start reading all these articles by Jill Carroll saying how she taught twenty courses adjuncting all over the county, my county or the next one over by the way, and anyone can do it if they are just determined enough. (Less Whining, More Teaching, Do Adjuncts Need a New Attitude?, My Dog Ate Your Papers… Please note that she is a history professor, not a writing instructor. I am fairly sure that this fact means she has a lot fewer writing assignments to grade.)

I felt very– I hate to admit this– guilty for only having five courses and not making anywhere near as much money as a full-timer.

So without telling anyone else, I agreed to take a third class at CC1. The Chronicle’s forum has an instructor who says he always teaches 6/6/3. So it’s not totally ridiculous.

What I’ve done well:

The three classes at CC1 are all the same course, are taught in a computer lab, are my favorite classes, are the ones I’ve taught forever, AND have “only” twenty students in them each.

The three courses at NewSchool are all the same course, are courses I have taught before, have shorter essays required, and (supposedly) have a low number of students.

What’s not so great:

All six courses are writing courses. And I’m a big believer in practice making practically perfect.

So now what’s the issue:

I just got a call from NS and they want me to teach another two courses, which is a higher load than their full-time people teach ONLY at their school. That’s five courses for NS. And for me that would be a total of eight classes.

Plus side on taking the extra classes:

The pay would be (obviously) better. It would actually jump to a livable wage. And I wouldn’t have to make the trip anymore than I already am because they are after my classes that are already scheduled.

This is a school I’ve applied for a full-time position with and, although they didn’t hire me, they did say to try again next year. And they need the teachers. So my taking on an insane amount of classes, for a single semester (assuming I could do them well), might get the college more on my side.

Negative side to taking more classes:

Er, the eight classes.

And the fact that NS is very interested in research. If I’m teaching and grading like a maniac, when would I have time to research? Of course, I’m also not actually planning on writing a lot during the semester. I have a list of things to do over the Christmas break and, if I have time, I’ll do research this semester. But mostly I’ve planned against doing research this semester.


My husband tells me I would be crazy to consider it. (I must be crazy.) I should write them back and thank them for the offer, but inform them that my time is already scheduled differently. (Which it certainly is.)

And I agree with him.


It’s a lot more money. (Hey, we could actually get out of debt next semester.)
It’s only one semester. (I can do anything for a semester, can’t I?)
It’s a school I think I want to work at full-time. (And a more-than-full-time job might let me know if that’s true. Or maybe not. Since I wouldn’t have any time to meet anyone.)

So I am still mulling it over. Thinking about it. Thinking I might just do it.

And that I really will be busy if I do.

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