My new life as an (adjunct) professor

I am in week 4 of teaching a remote, asynchronous course at Columbia College Chicago. Despite the fact that I have not met any of the students in person, it’s going pretty well. I like the students and their blog proposals, their discussions are fun and their reactions and questions are interesting. They are also forgiving of the couple of times I’ve goofed up on the assignments, which I appreciate.

The biggest surprise to me, a hardened veteran reporter who can’t ever remember missing a deadline, is how badly I feel when I have to mark assignments late or missing. “What’s going on with them?” I wonder. “Do they know the deadline? Are they sick or overwhelmed with work, family, school?” Columbia, a media arts school based literally under the L tracks, draws a wonderfully diverse and creative student body and the students are often holding down one or more jobs while they juggle their studies. I really want every one of them to succeed.

Deadline clock
Image by Gino Crescoli from Pixabay

Get a grip, I tell myself. They are not going to learn to meet deadlines until they have to meet deadlines. I still remember the glare of a city editor when I pushed too close to the ticking minute hand on the newsroom clock. My professors in my long-ago Marquette University journalism school, were heartless in giving us an F for any missed or late assignment. It put the fear of deadlines in us, not to mention the fear of failing.

Yet, how can I do that? This is a different era, thank goodness. Although I and most of my friends worked part-time, college costs were a lot less in those days and we didn’t have to deal with a pandemic as well. None of us were responsible for younger siblings or our own kids in those days.

Teaching requires imparting hard truths as well as supportive coaching. For now, I’ll grant extensions and gently nag them to get the work done on time. I’m not sure what my attitude will be when we get to week 8 or 9 or 15. It’s hard to shake off a lifetime of deadline behavior.

4 thoughts on “My new life as an (adjunct) professor

  1. Janice Castro

    They are lucky to have such a thoughtful and also pragmatic teacher/mentor. What is their average age? I think it must be difficult to use the normal penalty system, knowing that psychological stress is such an issue at this time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Linda Deutsch

    Love hearing about your new life. I hope you have connected with my dear friend and your Columbia College colleague Jackie Spinner. You probably know her from JAWS.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gerald Martineau

    Hey Pat! Your comments brought back memories of when I was recruited to teach photojournalism 1 and 2 at Northern Virginia Community College Alexandria campus in the mid 80’s. In addition I might add to working full time at TWP, having a wife in college part time and two daughters younger than 10. I taught two years. I would show up for class on my Honda 350 motorcycle with a slide projector strapped to the luggage rack! The diversity of my class was amazing: serious students, some who just wanted credits, back to school middle aged moms and retired truck drivers. I often wonder how I may have influenced their photographic interest. Though one student, Mary Calvert, left my classes with two A’s, then to a paper in California and back to DC for time at The Washington Times paper then becoming a self starting freelancing and eventually being a runner up for the Pulitzer Prize a few years ago.

    Liked by 1 person


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