Should I encourage or discourage?

I received an email from a person who is interested in teaching college English. She put that into a search engine and found my blog.

I’m a newspaper editor considering a new career as a community college teacher. I was hoping you might have a few minutes in the next week or so for me to pick your brain about how to go about getting into the profession.
I’m still doing my research, but I think I’d like to teach developmental English or English for Academic Purposes, English as a Second Language and possibly freshman composition.

I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism and am trying to figure out what kind of master’s degree would qualify me to teach these subjects. I’m also interested in learning what kind of teaching experience I can get with my current experience and education. Part of my job involves teaching and mentoring young journalists, but I’ve never taught in a classroom.

Here is what I told her:

squiggly-pencilYou can teach developmental English at some community colleges with a bachelor’s. You can also usually teach ESL with a bachelor’s.

Freshman composition is the most common course in English at most community colleges.  You need a master’s to teach freshman comp.

A master’s in English, with an emphasis in any field will be sufficient to teach as a part-timer at the community college.

As a newspaper editor, you could probably teach journalism at the community college part-time, or developmental part-time. That would let you know whether you will enjoy it before you actually get into the financial and time commitment of a master’s.

While many community college teachers only have their master’s, there is a surfeit of teachers in English and to get a full-time position you would need to be willing to move and have experience teaching in the community college.

With a PhD I was recently told I might be better off teaching high school. At least the jobs are more plentiful. I’ve done that, though, and I know I like teaching college much better. It might be something for you to consider though.

Does anyone have pearls of wisdom to share?

Are we (CCs) too easy?

Community College Survey of Engagement says:

For example, 49% of students said they often or very often worked harder than they thought they would need to meet an instructor’s standards, and 68% described their exams as more than moderately challenging.

Yet 67% of full-time students said they spent 10 or fewer hours preparing for class in an average week, and 24% said they always came to class prepared. Among full-time students, 29% said they had written four or fewer papers of any length during the current school year.

“Students aren’t going to learn to write well at that rate,” survey director Kay McClenney says.

Let’s see. My students have written a narrative (oops, no, Ike killed that.), a descriptive, a compare/contrast with research, a research paper, and they are presently writing their definition/illustration paper. They had to write a revision of the c/c, which many schools now count as an additional paper. And they have written a minimum of four blog posts.

I guess I don’t feel too badly about the students not writing a lot of research papers in their other classes. But I do wonder how soon in the school year they asked these students and what percentage actually will go on to a four-year school.

Some of the CCs around here have two-year programs that put the students into the job market. Do they need to know how to write an essay per class to go to work? They need to know how to write and they need to have practice, but there are some courses (like cosmetology and air conditioning repair) which just do not require writing.

Have we gotten out of the habit of thinking of CCs as two year schools? Are we back to “junior colleges” again? Just a thought.

… Btw, I do think that we are too easy. But so are the four year schools. My freshman comp I class has to write a five page research paper with five sources. The SLAC where I teach doesn’t require that till freshman comp II. In freshman comp II at my CC, they are required to write a 5-7 page literary criticism paper with six sources. The SLAC says students aren’t able to write literary criticism papers and those are only required of literature majors.

Adjuncting

Nationally, adjuncts teach 30-50% of all credit courses. At community colleges, adjuncts compose about 60% of all faculty (Gappa and Leslie, 1993).

But “The Effects of Salary” says:

Adjunct faculty make up approximately sixty-five percent of all faculty teaching at the college level…

At CC1, the adjuncts are 75% of the faculty. This is with 53,000 students (Student Served Report) in the system.

Pay

Within a single school adjunct pay can vary based on “market realities” of the hiring pool
from Adjunct Pay Discrepancies Justified.

Why adjuncts are paid so little: They are an interchangeable commodity. Any one of them will do.

Analysis of Adjunct Instructor Pay from Colorado Community Colleges is very clear. It’s easy to read and a quick read, too.

At my CCs I make half of what I make (per class) from the SLAC.

Why people adjunct:

One doesn’t do it for the money, but for one’s vita! I did it for two years and it added great stuff to my vita, which did help me get a real job.

from “Adjunct Salary–How Much?”

Preparation

A poll at Adjunct Nation says that the vast majority of adjuncts spend 1 hour or more for each class meeting in preparation. (297 to 75 [for 30 minutes] or 32 [for 15 minutes].)

Load

Schools allow different numbers of courses per adjunct. For a long time CC1 only allowed five courses per regular school year. Now an adjunct can teach six.

CC2 has an adjunct choice that gives an adjunct five classes per semester (full-time load) and requires office hours. This is not a lead in to full-time work but IS full-time work for part-time pay. It’s a wonder they’ve ever hired anyone with this option.

Summer classes

Faculty around here all teach first summer session but don’t want the miniterm (three weeks in May) because it doesn’t count toward their 10.5 contract. So, if you are up for teaching a miniterm, and your schedule allows for it, you often can. Otherwise, you’re looking at Summer II, a long break at the beginning of the summer and a week at the end.

Insurance

Texas now allows adjuncts to purchase insurance if they have taught for a year and continue teaching at least four courses a year. The cost, in my system, is about $750 a month for me and two minor children. If I teach five classes a year, I take home nothing.

Continuing education

Some expectations:

Document the completion of three (3) hours per semester of professional development activities related to the discipline area and student learning

Attend such meetings and workshops as may be necessary to obtain or renew certification or essential licensure requirements

from Expectations of Adjunct Faculty Members at Yavapai CC in Arizona.

Jaschik’s article discusses a continuing ed system in which adjuncts who complete 60 hours of professional development get a pay jump of $33 per credit hour for three years. (That’s almost double my pay at CC1 or CC2.) For each additional 60 hours of professional development within that three years, their pay jump is continued for another three. AND their title changes from adjunct to “associate faculty.”

I’d like to do that. How can I get in on it?

Teaching English in a Texas Community College: Summary

To summarize, the students at the community college level include dual credit, traditional, and returning students.  Women dominate and the majority of students are under the age of forty.  Many are of low socioeconomic status and more than one-third are the first generation in their families to attend college.

The highest variety of courses community college students are taught can be found in English as a Second Language courses, with as many as twenty-seven ESOL courses at a single college.  The courses with the highest section numbers, developmental writing and freshman composition classes, are evenly distributed among full and part-time instructors.  And college-level literature courses, mainly American, British, and world literature, are almost entirely taught by the full-time faculty.

The full-time faculty teach a typical course load of twelve courses a year.  They teach five classes each long semester and a two course summer session.  Research is not supported, although doing it can improve the likelihood of receiving a teaching award.

One in four community college teachers has a PhD.  And only about one in four is employed full-time.  They are not necessarily the same fourth.  One eighth of the teachers are tenured.  Even full-time jobs are outside a tenure track one third of the time.

Clearly teachers at two-year colleges are demographically different and teach different courses to different students than teachers at four-year residential colleges or research universities.

With half a million students attending two year colleges in Texas, an awareness of who is teaching what to whom is essential to an understanding of the state of the profession.

Other articles on this topic:
Teaching College English in a Texas Community College: The Teachers
Adjuncting, especially in a community college
Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Focus
Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Courses
Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Students

Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Students

Who are the two-year college students taking these courses?           

An increasing number of high school students are on campus taking dual credit courses.  Public high school students usually attend in the evening, but many homeschoolers attend the college for dual credit and they often come in the daytime.  Lone Star College has just added an on-campus, full-time, dual-credit program for at risk students, usually non-white males, who are interested in college but are maintaining less than a C average in high school their sophomore year.  This has been an attempt on the college’s part to help limit the dropout rate and has been very successful to date (Pearson). 

These younger students can offer some frustrations for freshman composition teachers who are expecting eighteen and nineteen year olds in their classes when the fourteen year old on the fourth row can’t come up with a topic for “most traumatic event” in their lives.  This came up on my campus after 9/11.  The teacher told the student that he could write about that.  He ended up in her office explaining that he had been restricted from television that day, as he was only eleven at the time.  For some reason he didn’t want to announce that in front of the whole class.

Then there are the traditional students, ages seventeen to twenty-one.  They comprise 43 percent of the community college classes, the largest percent for a single age group.  The next largest cohort is the twenty-two to thirty-nine year olds, who make up 42 percent of the student population (“Community College Stats”).  So, 85 percent of the students being taught in two-year colleges are under the age of forty.

The gender divide is clear in community colleges.  Women comprise 60 percent of the student population (“Community College Stats”).  The young ladies tell me this makes it a little bit harder to get a date.  I have not heard any male students complain though.  The two community colleges I have taught in are both perfectly aligned with the norm on this.

Most community college students come from low socioeconomic backgrounds (Tai).   A common explanation for that status is single parenthood, which 17 percent of the two-year college population experience.  But parenting can be an issue even in two-parent households.   Some traditional age students are married to other traditional age students, which makes two teenagers married to each other, another contributing factor to low socioeconomic status.

Community college students include 39 percent who are in the first generation within their family to attend college (“Community College Stats”).  This varies from school to school.  One of my colleges has 95 percent first generation students, while the other has 20 percent.  The geographic area that the colleges pull from makes the difference.  At one of my colleges the students primarily come from a low socioeconomic neighborhood, with some rural.  There the rural students are the most likely to already have parents with college education.  At the other of my colleges, most of the students come from an upper middle class neighborhood, with some rural.  At this school the rural students are the most likely to be first-generation college.

To summarize, the students at the community college level include dual credit, traditional, and returning students.  Women dominate and the majority of students are under the age of forty.  Many are of low socioeconomic status and more than one-third are the first generation in their families to attend college.

 

References:

 “Community College Stats.” American Association of Community Colleges.  January 2008. 10 August 2008 < http://www2.aacc.nche.edu/research/index.htm>.

Pearson, Dr. Kathleen.  “The President’s Welcome Presentation.” Adjunct Faculty Meeting for Lone Star College: Kingwood.  21 August 2008.


Articles in this series include:
Teaching College English in a Texas Community College: The Teachers
Adjuncting, especially in a community college
Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Focus
Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Courses
Teaching English in a Texas Community College: Summary

Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Courses

What are the five courses a semester that the teachers are teaching at community colleges in Texas?

The community colleges teach English as a Second Language, Developmental English, and college-level English. 

The number of these courses vary significantly.  Wharton County Junior College offers no English as a Second Language courses according to its catalog, while Lone Star College System offers a total of twenty-nine, including nine classes for listening and speaking, six for reading and vocabulary, and nine for grammar and writing.   A sampling of the community college systems show that they either lean toward ESL, with twenty or more classes, or away from it, with one or none.

Developmental English courses have less variation.  Austin Community College offers none, the least, while Lone Star offers four, two in reading and two in writing, the highest numbers I found.  The most common number of courses was two.

Then there are the college-level English classes.  Since these are designed using the Texas Common Course Numbering System for easy transfer to a four-year college in Texas, the number of possibilities is limited.  There are only twenty-eight possible courses offered under this system (Lower-Division).  These courses include two freshman level courses, which some colleges further designate as Honors or Self-Paced.  The TCCNS further differentiates freshman composition for non-English speakers.  Those two numbers are not used often in two year colleges.

Other writing courses include two semesters of creative writing, a year of freshman business writing, and a single semester or a set of two one-semester classes in technical writing.  The most commonly used of these courses was the single semester technical writing course, followed by the two semesters of creative writing.

Then there are literature courses, offered as a single semester course or two semester courses, with the number for the one semester course being different than the first of the two semester courses.  These literature courses include British, American, and World literature.

Also in literature there is a one semester Chicano literature course and a one- and two-semester series of Forms of Literature course.

The final possibility offered within the Texas Common Course Numbering System is the Academic Cooperative which comes in two and three semester credit hour versions.

Those are the only choices that the two-year colleges have, if they want their course work to be accepted at four-year colleges in Texas.

But the community colleges do not offer this many courses.  Since the highest level courses they can offer are sophomore, this makes sense.  Think of what your colleges offer in terms of sophomore level courses. There is not a great variety.  However, the two-year colleges do offer more than might be expected.  The range in the community colleges I looked at went from ten to eighteen.  Most of the colleges offered two semesters of British literature, two semesters of American literature, and two semesters of world literature.

Why would they offer three different sets of sophomore literature courses?  Obviously variety is an issue.  Giving three choices makes sure that students have a choice of sophomore level English courses, assuming they need them, and it also gives the faculty different courses to teach.

I would guess that the issue of faculty options is the strongest one.  Many of the adjuncts at my schools have taught for ten years, but I am the only one who has been given a sophomore literature course to teach.  All of them have said that they would like to teach a literature course.  So why aren’t they teaching one?  Because the full-time faculty teaches all the sophomore literature courses, including those offered in the evening, with one exception.

The exception to the full-timers’ teaching of literature is the miniterm.  The miniterm does not count toward my college’s 10.5 month contract, so a full-time teacher teaching during miniterm does so for the same pay I get, about $3500 less than their salaried teaching OR they have to teach the miniterm and another course in one of the two summer sessions.  Since this fills up more of their time, it is not a popular choice.

The reason I was able to teach the course is I have a flexible schedule.  Most of the other adjuncts are public school teachers and are unable to meet a three-hour course five mornings a week during the month of May.

Besides the fact that colleges don’t have the students taking enough college-level English courses to warrant teaching twenty-eight classes, there is also the fact that the four-year colleges don’t accept a lot of transfer credit in English. According to their catalogs, the different four-year schools in Texas accept a range of college-level English courses.  Texas A&M lists two courses they will accept.  Texas Tech accepts five, while Baylor takes six. University of Houston will accept seven.  And University of Texas will accept seventeen.

There is not a lot of reason to offer courses for transfer, if the colleges the students will be transferring to don’t accept the courses.  So the two-year colleges wisely don’t offer those.

Of course, a listing in the catalog does not guarantee a regular offering of the courses.  This fall the Lone Star system lists seventeen ESOL and developmental English and fourteen freshman and sophomore courses across the system.  Even those aren’t offered everywhere. Lone Star: Kingwood is offering ten ESOL and developmental English courses and five freshman and sophomore classes.

Those are still a lot of courses; they are especially a lot of courses when the bulk of them are not accepted as credit hours toward graduation or transfer.  The students must be taking them, though, or they wouldn’t continue to be offered.  

 

References:

Alamo Community College.  Catalog.  2008. 8 August 2008 <http://www.accd.edu/nlc/docs/2008-2009%20complete%20catalog.pdf>.

Austin Community College.  Catalog.  2008 8 August 2008 <http://www3.austincc.edu/schedule/s208f/engl208ff.htm>.

Dallas County Community College.  Catalog.  2008. 8 August 2008 <https://www1.dcccd.edu/cat0809/coursedescriptions/detail.cfm?heading=English>.

Lone Star College.  Catalog.  2008. 8 August 2008 <http://www.lonestar.edu/108552.pdf>.

Lower-Divison Academic Course Guide Manual. Texas Common Courses Numbering System. 2007. 7 August 2008 <http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/AAR/UndergraduateEd/WorkforceEd/acgm.htm>.

Navaro College.  Catalog.  2008. 8 August 2008 <http://www.navarrocollege.edu/pdfs/CatalogFinal-printer.pdf>.

San Jacinto Community College. Catalog.  2008. 8 August 2008 <http://www.sjcd.edu/files/catalog_course_descriptions.pdf>.

Temple College.  Catalog. 2008. 8 August 2008 <http://www.templejc.edu/admission/pdf/Catalog2008-09/CourseDesc.pdf#CourseDescriptions>.

Wharton County Junior College. Catalog. 2008. 8 August 2008 < http://www.wcjc.edu/catalogs_n/2008-09%20%20Catalog.pdf>.

Articles in this series include:
Teaching College English in a Texas Community College: The Teachers
Adjuncting, especially in a community college
Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Focus
Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Students

Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Focus

Two-year colleges focus on teaching. They sometimes focus on it to the extent that even tenure reviews ignore presentations and publications (Berry). Teachers are free to pursue research, but do not generally receive much institutional support (Woolston). That does not mean there isn’t any though.

One of my college systems has in-house presentations of research. This can either be work already presented or something someone is trying to get accepted. The other college system does not have this, but they will allow teachers to assign extra work to the students and take a class day of in order to go present.

While the focus of community college schools is one teaching (Jacoby) and not on research, according to an older study from the 80s, those who do research are more likely to receive teaching awards than their non-published counterparts at a rate of 31 percent to 17 percent (Oromaner). And a 2005 study looked at the top ten factors relating to the rewarding of Exemplary Teacher awards in a community college system; four of the ten factors could be considered research (Silvestri). So while there may be little institutional support for research, it is still valued.

Whether or not there is strong support, though, research is important. Teaching the same course or same two courses every semester for years without doing any research is an easy way to burn yourself out and make your teaching stale.

Even as a voluntary adjunct, I’ve found that to be true.

Two-year college teachers stay busy teaching and without an institutional commitment to research, the continued development of scholarly expertise can easily disappear. The course load for the two-year college teacher is five courses a full semester and, for 10.5 month contracts, two summer courses.

References:

Berry, David A. “Community Colleges and Part-time and Adjunct Faculty.” Organization of American Historians. 1999. 10 August 2008 <http://www.oah.org/pubs/commcoll/berry.html>.

Jacoby, Daniel. “Effects of Part-time Faculty Employment on Community College Graduation Rates.” Journal of Higher Education (November 2006). 12 August 2008 <http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-26679697_ITM>.

Oromaner, Mark. “The Community College Professor: Teacher and Scholar.” Eric Clearinghouse for Junior Colleges. May 1986. 10 August 2008 <http://www.ericdigests.org/pre-924/scholar.htm>.

Silvestri, Jacob.  “Exemplary Professors: Factors Leading to the Development of Award Winning Teachers.” On Research and Leadership 17.1 (Fall 2005). 10 August 2008 <http://occrl.ed.uiuc.edu/Newsletter/2005/fall/fall2005_3.asp>.

Woolston, Chris.  “The Community College Scientist.” Chronicle of Higher Education. 25 February 2003. 9 August 2008 <http://chronicle.com/jobs/news/2003/02/2003022501c.htm>.

Articles in this series include:
Teaching College English in a Texas Community College: The Teachers
Adjuncting, especially in a community college
Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Courses
Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Students
Teaching English in a Texas Community College: Summary

Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Teachers

Texas has one of the strongest community college systems in the nation, outnumbered only by the much more populous California. We have sixty-seven two-year colleges (“Community College Studies”), with fifty-five public community college systems (“US”), meaning there are multiple campuses.

For the past seven years I have been happily teaching in two-year colleges as an adjunct. I’ve worked in two different systems, which had very different expectations and requirements. So I know that the generalities I am starting with aren’

t necessarily a perfect picture of where the profession is right now. But it is a beginning.

When we look at the state of the profession in a community college, we begin with a look at the teachers. Who are they?

Twenty-five percent (Tai) have their PhDs.

Twenty percent of those with PhDs are full-time faculty (Jacoby).

Just over fifty percent (51%) of full-timers are tenured, while a little over one third (35%) of full-timers are in situations without tenure or are in non-tenure track positions (“Faculty”).

But the full-timers are usually in the minority.

Although throughout the US’ secondary educational system adjuncts teach around forty percent of the courses, they are often the bulk of the faculty at community colleges (Gappa and Leslie).

An MLA study estimated the number of adjuncts at community colleges across the nation at 45 percent (Papp 701), but others, including the American Association of Community Colleges, estimate that 60 to 75 percent are part-time (Gappa and Leslie; “Faculty”).

In one of my colleges, the part-time adjuncts make up only 50 percent of the faculty. This particular system has a position called “full-time part-time” in which an instructor is hired at the hourly wage for five classes, the full load at that college, on a semester to semester basis and also receives $10/hour for ten additional hours that are on-campus office hours. I do not know how many of their full-time faculty are in this situation, but I know it is normal for these part-time people to be hired for years in a row. It is possible that the MLA’s description of adjuncts would not include these part-time faculty.

My other college system tries to maintain a three to one part- to full-time faculty ratio. There are just over 300 adjunct faculty, I’m unsure of exact numbers because they are still looking to hire, and 108 contract faculty. Despite the large adjunct numbers, the growth of some campuses has kept this system growing. For every new 1000 students on a single campus, the colleges will hire one new full-time English teacher. The growth rate in this system is so strong that they have been hiring at least three and sometimes as many as six full-time instructors every year.

These full-time positions typically have at least eight adjuncts applying for each opening. One thing this shows, if we didn’t already know it, is that not all the adjuncts are part-timers by preference.

References:

 “Community College Stats.”

American Association of Community Colleges.  January 2008. 10 August 2008 < http://www2.aacc.nche.edu/research/index.htm>.

“Community College Studies.”

University of California: Los Angeles. 10 August 2008 <http://www.gseis.ucla.edu/ccs/faq.html#CC>.

“Faculty Members.”

American Association of Community Colleges.  January 2008. 10 August 2008 <http://www.aacc.nche.edu/Content/NavigationMenu/AboutCommunityColleges/WhoAreYou/FacultyMembers/Faculty_Members.htm>.

Gappa, J.M., and Leslie, D.W. The invisible faculty: Improving the status of part-timers in higher education. San Francisco : Jossey-Bass, 1993.

Jacoby, Daniel.  “Effects of Part-time Faculty Employment on Community College Graduation Rates.”

  Journal of Higher Education (November 2006). 12 August 2008 <http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-26679697_ITM>.

Papp, James.  “Gleaning in Academe: Personal Decisions for Adjuncts and Graduate Students.”

  College English 64.6 (July 2002): 696-709.

Tai, Emily Sohmer. “Teaching History at a Community College.”

  American Historical Association.  February 2004. 10 August 2008 < http://www.historians.org/Perspectives/Issues/2004/0402/0402gra1.cfm>.

“US Community Colleges, by State.”

University of Texas at Austin. 30 June 2008. 9 August 2008 <http://www.utexas.edu/world/comcol/state/#TX>.

Articles in this series include:
Adjuncting, especially in a community college
Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Focus
Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Courses
Teaching English in a Texas Community College: The Students
Teaching English in a Texas Community College: Summary

Community Colleges

Plastic: Community Colleges talks about community colleges adding honors programs.

Then it goes on to discuss the fact that more private and public universities are accepting community college transfer students. It mentions that community colleges cost a LOT less than others.

Then it talks about how community colleges aren’t fair to the urban poor who come there if they have honors programs. It says the urban poor aren’t transferring.

Then it ends with a quote, “Even the students who say they want to transfer aren’t really doing so.”

A couple of comments on that:

The urban poor can get in the honors programs. It’s not like they’re restrictive. “Sorry, if you’re from around here and make less than $25K you can’t enter.”

Second, the academics/scholastics who are pooh-poohing the job the community colleges are doing are NOT urban poor. They don’t understand the culture of the urban poor.

A friend pointed me to a great site about the difference between middle class teachers and the lower class students they are teaching. (Unfortunately it is no longer available. Follow the low SES tags to posts on the topic.) It talks about how the middle class values independence and initiative while the lower class values belonging to the group and not making waves. If you don't understand that the lower class students getting an education at the community college are already breaking away from their culture just to do that, you need to read this site.

And, for my personal opinion, a lot of students who say they want to do a lot of things aren't doing so. Ask anyone on campus. They'll say they want to make As. What if they're not. Why not? Because they aren’t trying to make As. They’re not doing what it takes to make As. They just “want” to make As.

Well, I want to win a million dollars. But I’m not buying lottery tickets. So, while I say I want to win a million dollars, I’m not really doing anything about it. Is that the fault of the lottery? No.

If a student says they want to transfer and don’t, is that the fault of the community college? No.