And you thought being a student was hard...

Before my time as a Communication professor at Ivy Tech, I spent many years doing corporate and organizational training. When I decided to become an instructor, I thought it couldn't be much different from what I did for companies. Boy, I couldn't be more wrong! Although I'd never tell my students, I learn more from them than they will ever learn from me!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Meetings, meetings and more meetings

I have to say, I feel a little off this semester. Things have been running smoothly. My two f2f classes are fantastic, very responsive, having a lot of fun with the discussions. I'm also quickly weeding out those who don't want to work, but more on that in another blog! My online courses have also been moving quite swimmingly, although my online speech students can be frustrating. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. How is it my heart isn't racing in anxiety to get things done? Because everything is already done? How is that possible? Oh, yeah, only have to come in to work two days a week!

With the crazy snow hitting all of Indiana, we have had several meetings postponed, so now they are piling up! I have at least one meeting a week between committee meetings, spring in-services, and regional meetings. Whew! I know most people aren't big fans of meetings, but remember, I come from an organizational communication background. Even when bored, I have a tendency to internally break them down from a theory point of view. Keeps me on my communicative toes! Off to another meeting.

Friday, January 15, 2010

SPRING semester? Liars, all of you!

We had snow days last week during registration. It's cold outside, there's too much snow, and I'm here at home instead of in my office. Ah, work from home bliss.

The usual first week emails and paniced messages have already crossed my computer, but with so many less students, it doesn't feel so crazy. This is the first semester since I started that I was completely prepared by the first day. Once again, 2 of my 6 classes don't start until the second 8 weeks, but I'm okay with that. I feel like, since I know how crazy that will be, I will be much more prepared for the chaos.

I have a lot of committee meetings this semester, so I need to get working on getting subs for the classes I will miss while I'm down in Indy. Maybe it will be warmer 200 miles south of me? I swear, I'm going to start teaching full-time online and move to the Caymen Islands to work.

Friday, January 8, 2010

I'm soooooo happy to be back!

Although it was a shorter break between final grades last semester and late registration this semester (which we full-timers are required to work), I have got to say, I am so glad to be back. We had nonstop illness at our house. First the hubby was in the hospital to have two stents put into his heart (he's doing much better, thank you), then the four-year-old got pneumonia, requiring two trips to the ER, then the two-year-old became sick Christmas Eve with a cold and a wicked ear infection, and just as soon as he was on the mend, I came down with a crippling case of bronchitus, which, currently, I'm still suffering from. Ugh.

After a short break with only a few days of productive work, mostly on housecleaning and thinning out the sinful amount of toys my two boys own before refilling their playroom with all their new Christmas toys, coming to the office means having the peace and quiet of getting some work done. Whew.

Due to some administrative decisions, the powers that be have decided that they are capping online courses at 30 students (which they won't do for f2f classes for some money-grubbing, I mean, fiscally responsible reason), so less money in the paychecks, but less stress for the mind. I also scored a sweet schedule this semester - only teaching and having office hours on Thursday and Friday. Hot damn!

I'm really looking forward to the spring semester starting up next week. But, for this week, I'll clean up my office, get Blackboard up and ready for the new classes, and help some students register for classes.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Those Who Can't, Teach

Once the in-your-face pressures of teaching is done, I take the time to contemplate what it is I do, and what I'd like to do from here. Have you ever thought about teaching college? Do you wonder what it takes? Do you wonder if you have what it takes? Here's what this job really looks like, and what you need to do it.

First of all, to teach at a college level, you have to an advanced degree. Although, in very rare cases, you may be able to teach basic level courses, such as Intro to Writing, Intro to Reading, Basic Math, etc., with a Bachelor's degree, it is almost impossible to find even an adjunct position, and completely impossible for full-time positions. A Master's degree, at the minimum, is required with at least 18 credit hours of graduate work in the field you want to teach. Most community colleges are fine with just a Master's degree. Some 4-year colleges and universities will allow an instructor with a Master's degree and some teaching experience to teach 100- or 200-level courses, but unless you are in a PhD program, they often will not let you teach upper level undergraduate to graduate courses.

Once you have the education level down, some teaching, or in my case, training, experience is an additional requirement. Computer skills are a must, especially if you want to teach online.

So, you've accepted the challenge, you want to teach. In reality, here's what it will look like. First, after applying an interviewing, you'll probably have to give a presentation or teach a topic, usually chosen by the employer. Once you pass that, you will become an adjunct instructor.

What's an adjunct instructor (also called visiting instructor at some universities)? An adjunct is a part-time, offerred employment on a semester-by-semester basis. On the plus side, you get to decide which classes you'll teach and which ones you don't, you'll rack up lots of teaching experience, and you can work at multiple colleges. On the negative side, you're last to choose classes (full-timers first), no benefits, the pay sucks, hard to find work in the summer, and you often HAVE to work at multiple colleges to make enough to live on.

How long do you have to work as an adjunct in order to get promoted to full-time? That's a much harder question to answer. Are you willing to move, and to where? Is your school experiencing an enrollment increase, and do they have the money to open more full-time positions? What do you teach? I've heard of people who wanted full-time positions but couldn't move, so they ended up waiting years, 10 or more in some cases, before getting a full-time position.

How long was I an adjunct before I got a full-time position? I'm almost embarrassed to say it, but only one semester. I had the luck of starting as an adjunct at a new campus of Ivy Tech, worked 6 days a week (if you can call that luck) to show my dedication and willingness to do whatever it takes to get things done, and teach a subject (communication) that is a requirement and had no full-time instructor at that campus.

Because it is so odd to get a full-time position so quickly, I have worked really hard to make them grateful for choosing me over my more experienced colleagues. I took positions on two statewide committees, numerous region committees, became involved with on-campus activities, and brought new communication courses to our region.

In future posts, I'll talk more about the actual experience of teaching college. Everyone's experiences are different, so if you interview for a school, you'll want to talk to an instructor from that school, but some things, like whiny students and administrative decisions that make your life harder, seem to be pretty universal.

This job is not for someone with thin skin. It takes an ability to let things slide off your back, patience (as any change, good or bad, takes forever to happen), and a good sense of humor. Still interested?