The “Guns or Butter” theory(?) I repeated to myself as I read an article explaining the reasons for all the Adjuncts’ troubles in Academia. Yes, perhaps this does explain their situation generally. Thinking for a moment, I muse to myself that a fitting name to the effects of this theory and the repercussions it is having on the present teacher’s economic situation, boils down to what I, myself, am encountering , the unfortunate “Bread OR Butter Dilemma”, .
I ponder on my own following “Bread or Butter” choice. Lets see, which to choose, a crown for my tooth, or my next course in Educational Leadership needed for state certification? Both cost around the same price. I sigh and think of the elderly, whom it has been written, must choose between spending money on food or for medications. Of course, my decision will not have such dire consequences, but both these choices, at this point in my life, are critical for me as well.
Since 1991 I have been an Adult ESL instructor, working part time, four evenings a week as well as on Saturdays, partly to supplement my regular inadequate teacher salary as a Special Education teacher. Partly, I say, because I “fell in love” with this fascinating field of ESL and so it has become “labor of love”, enduring all the inequities this field has to offer in the state in which I live.
Adjunct professors have been complaining about their poor teaching conditions for a while now. But their plight is not unique. Those of us who are part- time, or full- time Adult ESL instructors are exposed to the very same problems: poor working conditions, no pensions, no health insurance, no sick days, low salaries, no benefits period. Those no’s sound ominous and unfortunately are multiplying. Most of us are part-timers because we must supplement our incomes. Thus these part time positions become important second or even third part- time jobs.
Because contracts are not often given in this field, in my state, and because we are unable to assert ourselves as faculty members, having no contracts means unions won’t deal with our situation. They are presently in difficulty anyway, dealing with a few school districts who are offering NO salary raises for this year at all. (C’mon y’all, not even a cost of living raise??) The unions’ plates are full. There is no room for our troubles.
Reasons for hiring adjuncts and part time instructors are the obvious budgetary reasons we know by heart and can recite in our sleep; We are simply less expensive to school districts (,with ever tightening budgets,) as part-timers, adjuncts or otherwise, than as full time staff where the rest of the monetary obligations must come follow. The “guns or butter” theory certainly applies here. Mentally, I start composing a letter…………..
Are you listening? We don’t want to hear any more ” Thou shall’t not have’s”. We have heard you! Now please hear us. We want to hear you TALK SOLUTIONS!!!
Your Teachers (THAT YOU NEED)
Budgetary restrictions mean we also can never be sure that we will be hired for the following semester. If student enrollment is down, classes are closed, other classes become multilevel and an instructor is eliminated. STRESS did I hear you part- timers shout? Well, so much for OUR job security you adjuncts.
Along with tight budgetary restrictions have come mountains of record keeping in Adult ESL. Part-timers are drowning under the weight of the paper work, created by the State Legislature. Accountability yes, craziness? NOOOOOO y’all! It has become so heavy that some have opted to leave the field, stating that they cannot cope with the paper work here and the paper work required in their full time jobs as well.
I find it puzzling that we as teachers, down in the trenches, Do have a handle on many of the issues in our field that are being decided by politicians, some with very little to no experience in Education. Yet we are rarely consulted. Why not go to the real experts? Why not ask us for our input? Now, wouldn’t that show REAL leadership! Lee Iacocca, a brilliant manager himself, who saved Chrysler from extinction, once said:
“We are continually faced by great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems”.
This quote speaks volumes to our present situation, don’t you think? No, the inverse needs to happen. We, as Educators, with real experience, must enter the political arena in greater numbers to make a difference. Resources may be limited but all the more reason not to depend on those with little background in Education to decide our futures. Yet, I ask myself, how is this to happen when the “luxury” of our limited incomes does not afford us the opportunity to make this kind of decision, when we are still at the level, economically, of being forced to make the choice between a crown for our teeth, or our next course? With limited state resources to provide increases in salaries and accompanying benefits and no relief in sight to this dilemma, narrower, more limited life choices are being thrust upon us . As I ponder the choice I must make, the “bread OR butter” options we have facing us, my dear colleagues, more aptly describes our present, collective situation.
Opinion by Tanya Tweeton, Broward County, FLORIDA
2003 ESL MiniConference Online