Occasionally, an adjunct instructor, who works in my college, will accept a contract that he/she is not qualified to teach. Perhaps, the instructor realizes that he/she is in over his/her head and steps down, or maybe, students begin to realize that the instructor is not being effective in the class. In this situation, students will often begin to complain, because they are not gaining the information that they should in the class. This realization and their complaints, which will be loud, frequent, and will draw attraction from others in the class, will often lead them to the dean’s office where they will share their concerns. Regardless of the outcome, this is not a good situation for an adjunct instructor to be in, especially an adjunct instructor who wishes to continue to teach in the higher education environment. This is not a “fake it ’til you make it” situation; this is a “make it or break it” situation!
Therefore….today, we will focus on only accepting contracts for classes that you are qualified to teach.
But how do you know? If you have never taught a class before or this particular class before, how do you know if you are prepared to teach it. How can you become comfortable teaching new content if you don’t gain some experience by taking a chance?
4 Ways to Determine If You Are Ready:
- Consider knowledge you have gained through your own education and professional experience? Have you taken similar course in graduate school? Do you have professional experience that will assist in teaching the class?
- Ask to review the course syllabus (if one is available).
- Talk to a colleague or mentor for guidance
- When you are accepting a new contract/class, consider the amount of time it will take to prepare the course. Do you have adequate time to devote?
Students are the customers. Instructors are paid to provide a service. The service is their knowledge – their expertise on a particular topic. When you accept a contract to teach, you are telling the university and your students that you have knowledge on that subject to share. Students are paying for this knowledge. The university is paying you to provide it.
6 Things to Consider Before Accepting a Contract
- Ensure you will have plenty of time to prepare. Consider the time it will take to create objectives, a syllabus, and assessments (if there is not a centralized curriculum) as well as time it will take to prepare lessons, grade assignments, and take care of day to day clerical responsibilities.
- Consider other obligations you will have during the duration of the course (work obligations, family obligations, personal obligations).
- Review the college calendar. Make sure you are available to attend all class meetings.
- Consider how you will make yourself available to students outside of class. Will you have time to meet with students – before class, after class, by phone? You must ensure that students have access to you. It does not have to be 24 hour access. But it is important to return emails and phone calls promptly and honor requests to meet with students to discuss school related matters.
- Access resources that are available to you. This may include resources that are available through the publisher of the textbook being used. You may also consider asking a mentor or another faculty member who teaches the course to share resources.
- Consider things that you can do to make time to plan and prepare for a new class. Are there things that you can remove from your “plate” to make time for planning?
Consequences of Being Unqualified or Ill-Prepared
Regardless of your reason for accepting contracts, there will be consequences for bad or ill-prepared instruction or lack of preparedness. You may receive bad reviews or evaluations from your students or a mentor assigned from the college, who is observing your class. In addition to bad evaluations, student may complain. Their complaints may lead to further investigation from faculty or administration in the college. This could impact your ability to teach for the college in the future. The department or college may not offer opportunities to teach in the future. Ultimately, this could ruin your opportunity to be invited back to teach in the future, which could also impact future career goals if you wish to be hired to teach full time at the university.
You are making your mark with every class you teach. Make sure you are making the mark that increases your chances of being invited back. Make sure you are making the mark that will increase your chances of gaining full time employment with the university.