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.


 “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

Conference Questions

How many conferences should I apply to?

It sounds like I am being stuck up, and I certainly don’t mean it that way. But I don’t want to apply to more conferences than I can reasonably attend.

I can write the papers easily. I have found that the more papers I write, the more I have to write. My brain just keeps flowing ideas, related tangentially to one another or to my own personal preferences.

That doesn’t mean I will get accepted at all of them, of course. I was disappointed in the lack of reception to the research agenda presented in my paper for 4Cs.

But how many conferences can I reasonably attend while teaching? Is there a limit to how I should decide to apply? (Obviously national is better than regional in prestige. But what if you can do both? Is that better or worse?)

Looking over tenure recommendations for big schools indicates that two to three national presentations a year are acceptable. I would assume that means that regional presentations must come in higher numbers. (Are there very many conferences in the summer?) Of course, I am not presently presenting sufficiently to apply for positions at large research universities.

Is that a goal? Doing sufficient research that someone in the large university would look at me?

I don’t know. I like presenting. I like writing. But I don’t know that I want to work at a research-driven university.

But if I haven’t been presenting for the past fifteen years and I need to be presenting a lot to show that I can, then perhaps I should continue to work up presentations.

How many research topics can I pursue at one time?

Really my question is: do my topics need to be in one field, so that I become the expert or can I distribute them across multiple interests?

Is it important to build up a reputation in a field? Or is it sufficient to build up a name across the field?

Right now my papers are on:
information literacy for low SES [accepted]
teaching controversial issues, religion and politics [accepted]
an analysis of bias in FoxNews.com political coverage [accepted]
job searches [pending]
the use of fairy tales to introduce literary analysis [pending]
the benefits of pen and computer [pending]
bridging the gap for low SES in digital rhetoric and culture [pending] (Not an example of double dipping, though it does have some facets similar to the accepted paper.)
the rhetorical creation of heroes at the national political conventions [writing]
the rhetorical creation of Americans at the national political conventions [writing] (A subset of the work above.)
Christianity as it is portrayed in the works of six popular speculative fiction authors [writing]
an analysis and comparison of bias in FoxNews.com and CNN.com political coverage [writing] (Again the work above is a subset of this.)

If you look at these topics, you would think I am interested in:
politics (and rhetoric)
class discrimination

You’d be correct. But I am also interested in cross-genre romance, science fiction and fantasy, mysteries, genre-questionable literary works, teaching in general…

So, again, the question is, should I limit my topics? Or can I pursue a broad range of interests across multiple intersecting fields?

Does it matter how much my name (or my school name) gets out there?

Which school do I identify?

The low ses work was primarily done at CC2 where I do not teach at present. So I put CC1, where I have continued the work, down as my school affiliation.

On my other presentations, should I put down SLAC? It is where I hope to work full-time and do work part-time. Will it prejudice the readers against me if I am at CC1 or SLAC? Can I submit without my college affiliation listed?

I guess CC1 doesn’t care if I do research and SLAC does. So if it is not related to work done at CC1 (or 2), I should put down SLAC.

Paper Accepted! To PCAACA

I had a proposal for PCAACA’s “Politics in a Mediated World” accepted. It turns out it was accepted during Ike, but I didn’t realize it. Whoo hoo!

My proposal reads (pretty much) as follows (with liberties taken with paragraphs for more bloggable readability):

FoxNews.com: Fair and Balanced?
An Analysis of Pre-convention Presidential Campaign Coverage

FoxNews.com presents itself as a neutral news source, using slogans such as “fair and balanced” and “We report. You decide.” However, many criticize Fox saying it has a clear right-leaning bias (Slate Magazine, Wall Street Journal, the Huffington Post, MoveOn.org).

Based on a quick perusal of high-traffic sources, it would seem that FoxNews.com is biased. However, the anecdotal evidence is insufficient to determine whether or not FoxNews.com exhibits a political bias in its reporting.

A rhetorical analysis of four days’ postings from FoxNews.com inspected for bias in the coverage of the presidential candidates gives an intriguing perspective. The analysis of digital rhetoric was limited to stories about and pictures of the two major party candidates taken from links on the homepage, the politics front page, and the election coverage main page.

The number of pictures of the two presidential candidates were examined, providing an analysis of bias in visual rhetoric (22 to 14). A simple count of stories, number per candidate, provided a second means of examining bias (35 to 18 with 6 about both).

These straightforward statistics do not take into account negative headlines or unflattering pictures, so to minimize possible skewing, a rhetorical examination of headlines and headline verbs was instigated. Rankings for connotation were determined by trained raters.

Unsurprisingly FoxNews.com is biased, but it is not quite as unambiguous as many suppose.

How do you know what you should focus on?

I’m going to say you should teach. That’s the most important thing. But what’s after that? What is most important (at a college) to get hired or get tenure? (Not relevant to community college teachers because… er, you’ll have to wait for my CCTE presentation–I hope.)

“The relative importance attributed to research, teaching, and service is reflected also in the ranking of activities within each of these categories of evaluation. For example, within the category of research, publishing is deemed a more noteworthy activity than presenting papers (akin to lecturing) or editing or reviewing for a journal (akin to grading). And within the category of publishing, publishing articles in scholarly journals (for other researchers) is considered more important than publishing textbooks (for students), and both of these activities carry far more weight than publishing essays in the popular media (for the general populace) – an activity typically deemed utterly insignificant for the purposes of tenure and promotion review. Finally, within the category of publishing scholarly works, publishing purely theoretical articles often ranks above publishing articles which “merely” apply theory to a problem and, typically, both of these rank above publishing educationally oriented articles” (48).

Shelley M. Park
The Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 67, No. 1 (Jan. – Feb., 1996), pp. 46-84

Call for Papers: Science Fiction Research Association

It was not that long ago (perhaps five years) when I was at a conference where someone said that academics didn’t respect science fiction. Apparently science fiction academics are changing that, with a fortieth annual conference. (That’s pretty high up in numbers to be un-respected.)

If you have an interest:

The website says the conference is:

Engineering the Future and Southern-Fried Science Fiction and Fantasy
June 11-14, Atlanta, GA (Wyndham Midtown Hotel)
Guest of Honor: Michael Bishop
Special Guest Authors: F. Brett Cox, Paul di Filippo, Andy Duncan, Kathleen Ann Goonan, and Jack McDevitt

The deadline for proposals is April 1, 2009 at midnight EST.

I love the idea of southern-fried sci fi and fantasy… But I don’t know that it is what I read.

I’ll have to think about it.

If we propose, and we both get in, let me know and we can meet up.

A Compilation of Gender Isues Noted in Technical Writing Classes, pt. 6

This paper was originally presented at MLA in 1992.

This is the conclusion written and given in December of 1992.

After this paper was composed and submitted to MLA, I taught technical writing three more semesters.

Summer class aberration
The class I taught this summer had two papers in it which contradict two of the gender issues compiled from a review of past major paper assignments. One of the papers was from a male student who dealt with a female stereotypic topic: How Family Affects Work. Kenny explained his topic by saying, “Family areas such as marital satisfaction and child care responsibilities have an impact at work. Some effects that family can have on work include decreased productivity, increased pressure on supervisors, and a need for an expanded family policy. This report investigates these effects and what employees and organizations can do about them.”

Another student used personal anecdotes as a method of persuasion in his paper on job loss. Drew chose the topic because his father had been out of work for over a year. He quoted some research on psychological affects of job loss and wrote, “Many can hide the symptoms of dissatisfaction and low self-esteem. However, with my father, the signs are present if you look deep into his eyes.”

I do not have any explanation for why, in the summer of 1992, two students wrote papers which by-passed the gender differentiated approach to writing assignments.

I do not think that these two papers discount the significance of the issues I noted through examining approximately four hundred student papers. Rather, they offer a new avenue of questioning to pursue. Are they the start of a new generation of students who are not only able to be females using male strategies but also males using female strategies? If they are not, then their aberration from the norm is worth examining. What makes them different and how can we pass the differences on to other students?

Part 5

Part 4

Part 3

Part 2

Part 1

A Compilation of Gender Isues Noted in Technical Writing Classes, pt. 5

This paper was originally presented at MLA in 1992.

This is the original conclusion, which was sent in with the original paper in January of 1992.

Six years and four hundred students have been enough to note some gender issues in my technical writing classroom. Female students write on gender-related topics; male students do not. Female students use personal anecdotes as persuasion; male students do not. Both female and male students use sexist language, despite education and punitive attempts to change their language usage at least for one course.

What are the implications of these facts? Our students reflect the world around them. As Deborah Tannen noted in You Just Don’t Understand, men and women have different styles of communicating.

When they must communicate with each other in groups, both change their styles but the women change more. Female students have to learn how to cope with a previously male-only business world.

Their papers on gender related issues are a way of seeking to learn how to adjust, I think. Female students use personal anecdotes as persuasion because these are seen as persuasive by women; however, not all female students employ it. Even those students who had personal reasons for choosing their topics did not always include this information in their papers.

Neither female nor male students are using inclusive language; it is uncomfortable and unaccepted. So the female students use language which excludes them from the very things they are attempting to gain entrance to by completing their university degrees.

The workplace, including the university, is still a male dominated environment to which women adapt either because of conscious choice or because it is easier to fit in than to be different.

A Compilation of Gender Isues Noted in Technical Writing Classes, pt. 4

This paper was originally presented at MLA in 1992.

Sexist language
A third gender issue that I have noticed in my students’ writing is their use of sexist language. Even though at the start of every semester I discuss with them the implications of using sexist language, cite research which shows its prejudicial effect, and discuss my policy of counting off for the use of sexist language in their writing, my students, both female and male, continue to use sexist language in their papers. And all of them use “he” as opposed to the possible implementation of exclusionary use of “she.” They continue to do this despite the fact that such usage negatively impacts their grades.

One student wrote on the productive employee, “he,” though the student writing the paper was female. Only her one page summary of the paper used inclusive language. I have found a few students who attempt to vary their use of “he” and “she” rather than use a “he/she” split or the plural pronoun. At least half of the students who have used this alternating of pronouns have used the “she” pronoun for subordinates and the “he” pronoun for managers. The other students either alternated pronouns every paragraph or every scenario.

At first, when thinking about this topic of gender issues, I thought that the use of sexist language was connected to the fact that I presently teach at a small Christian university in the South.

In reviewing my student papers, however, I found that the students at a large public university in the Midwest also used sexist language.

I have not found a theory about why students would use sexist language, even when its employment is detrimental to them, but I would propose that either they are more comfortable with the sexist language than they are uncomfortable with the grade or the use of sexist language, when I have specifically prohibited it, is an attempt at a power play.

My present students have a stereotype about feminists as loud, aggressive, and rude. Perhaps this view influences their language usage. They want to fit in with their peers and find this more important than a paper grade. Sometimes I wonder if their language would change if their circles of influence frowned on exclusive language, but only sometimes. The rest of the time I try new techniques for presenting the material so that they will understand the importance of using inclusive language. So far I have not found a means of impressing them with the real world significance of their language.

To be continued…

A Compilation of Gender Isues Noted in Technical Writing Classes, pt. 3

This paper was originally presented at MLA in 1992.

Argumentation style differs
During the course of my teaching, I have noticed a difference in the argumentation styles my students have used in presenting their papers.

Personal argumentation
Only my female students have ever included examples of personal argumentation in their papers, even when the topic assigned was a business proposal for their own businesses.

For example, Joyce worked on the topic of superior-subordinate relationships in the workplace and included her personal code of ethics for dealing with these situations in her paper. She set this up appropriately and presented an interesting discussion of her personal philosophy and how she arrived at the conclusions she reached, mostly through her religious and career experiences.

Cindy presented a business plan for a cleaning service, work in which she gained experience helping in her mother’s business. One point Cindy made read, “A few years ago, I helped my mother clean houses when she started her own business. I also helped her set up appointments and buy supplies.”

Another student, David, created a business plan for setting up an accounting service. The person who provided most of the information through interviews for this paper was Mr. Hancock. David quoted his advice on starting a business and some pointers for making the business successful in the first year. Nowhere in the paper is it mentioned that Mr. Hancock is David’s father.

Overall the women seemed to use more personal supports for their line of argumentation than did the men. This usage fits in with current linguistic theory which says that men do not respect personal anecdotes as persuasion, but see them as intrusive and unnecessary (Roberts, Davies, and Jupp).

Work Cited

Roberts, Celia, Evelyn Davies, and Tom Jupp. Language and Discrimination. Boston: Addison-Wesley, 1992.

To be continued…