This fall, I’m teaching six classes, or 20 credit hours, split between two institutions: Local CC, where I teach Developmental-level reading and writing, and Commuter-Rural CC, where I teach basic college-level English and Writing.
At Local, I have two classes of writing and one of reading (11 credits total) and roughly sixty students; at CRCC, I have a Composition I course (21 students), a Technical Writing course (25 students), and an online Intro to Literature course (30 students), for a total of 9 credit hours and 76 students there — and 136 students total.
This is the largest group of students I’ve ever had at one time, though I’ve come close before. If I spent one hour on every student over the course of the term — which would include grading all of his or her papers, all of our e-mail correspondence, and any by-appointment in-person time — I would spend almost 6 full days (no eating, no sleeping) doing nothing but working on or with students.
At both colleges, I’m considered a part-time adjunct instructor. At CRCC, the lowest paying of my two jobs, this means I have no benefits and share an office with five other instructors. If I spent one hour per student per class during our ten-week-plus-finals term, that would be 6.9 hours per week on CRCC student work; if I show up and teach both in-person classes, that adds an additional 5.5 hours per week. So that’s 12.4 hours a week for CRCC. Let’s add three hours a week for preparation time, and three hours a week for mandatory office hours (usually, prep time happens during office hours, but I usually need more than 3 hours a week of prep time). So, working 18.4 hours a week at CRCC, I would be making just at $20 an hour. Add in the hour-and-a-half round trip commute, and that benefits-free pay drops a bit more.
That figure works only if I spend less than half-time working on my classes and never need more than 7 hours a week to grade papers. Considering that, beginning in week three, I will have stacks of up to 50 papers at a time, that may be difficult (50 papers * 10 minutes per paper = 8+ hours).
Full-time instructors at CRCC in my department begin at a salary of around $45,000 (though many are paid much higher) and are expected to teach 5 classes per term. (They often teach fewer than this; I have no idea why, but I think there are deferments for committee work). Unlike adjuncts (and I am an exception this year), they have the option to develop online classes that they may then teach multiple times using the same setup, which means sometimes prep time can be lower. They are expected to hold office hours every day of the week (5 hours total) and participate in at least one committee. At 40-hour-a-week pay, they make roughly $34.50 an hour + benefits and, oh, job security.1
To make that same amount at CRCC, I would need to work only 10.8 hours every week: since I’m standing in the classroom for 5.5 hours and required to hold 3 office hours, that leaves 1.5 hours of outside work in order to equal the same pay as a full-time staff member. That totals out to exactly 13 minutes per student per term. Or I could work more and make much less.
The trade off? I don’t have to go to the department meetings or be on campus every day — which is a good thing, since I have to teach somewhere else to survive.
1 This doesn’t even get into whether I think $34.50 is enough to pay a full-time teacher, whether I believe (I don’t) that full-time teachers only work 40 hours a week, or whether there’s a generous qualification gap between full-time faculty and part-time faculty (there is a gap, but in my department, it’s not expressible in education).