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JANUARY 10, 2008    

Another semester begins (hope springs eternal)

One of the great things about teaching—and there are several—is that every few months you get to start over with more or less a clean slate. Each new semester is an opportunity to redeem yourself if the last one didn't go well or to build on the success of the previous sixteen weeks if it did. Fortunately I've never gone into a new semester expecting it to be a disaster, although that sometimes happens anyway.

Names on list from adjunct faculty meetingTonight we had our typical start-of-semester meeting with our adjunct (part-time) instructors. It's an opportunity for everyone to meet one another, to ask questions and share ideas about classes and teaching techniques. Since we constantly are updating hardware and software in our half-dozen computer labs, we usually have announcements about the latest changes to share.

I came away from tonight's meeting humming a tune (don't remember which). It's always energizing to talk with a dozen or so bright, personable and committed professionals who spend a part of their week teaching in Visual Communcations & Design at Cuyahoga Community College.

I still remember what it was like when I was a part-timer, and these meetings are my attempt to try to improve on my own experiences. The information about procedures and new equipment is valuable, but I think a more important goal is trying to make everyone feel as welcome and comfortable as possible.

The good thing about teaching part-time is that you only have to show up, teach your class, and go home. For the adjunct instructor, things like college-wide assemblies, committees, and mandatory meetings pretty much don't exist. Aside from teaching your class, responding to students when needed, and turning in your grades, other college activities are optional. Having just finished three days of mandatory meetings, this looks pretty good.

The downside of teaching part-time is that you never truly feel part of the institution. You're always on the outside, the one who doesn't get the inside joke or the latest gossip. You may see a student in one class and never again, so the rewarding experience of watching students grow, change, and set out on their own—another great thing about teaching—is something you rarely experience. You may not see much of your fellow faculty members either, except for those who teach immediately before or after you. It's easy to feel isolated.

When we get together as a group it's as much a social event as an information session. I always think it would be good to do it twice a semester, and others have told me they'd like that too. Unfortunately once the semester gets underway this idea gets swept away with everything else going on. Maybe I'll put a date on the calendar tomorrow and try to make it happen.

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