Over the past year, I've dealt with quite a bit of depression over the fact that working as an adjunct professor - despite the fact that I am incredibly passionate both about teaching and about the specific course I teach - means that I receive very little attention or respect compared to full-time faculty at the institution where I teach. And this, of course, is not unique to my university. It is the story at universities across the U.S., no matter how wonderful, ethical, or "spiritual" they may be.
Did you know that, on average, 51% of the instructors at U.S. universities are adjuncts? At the university where I work, the number rises to 70%. However, where I teach, a large percentage of the students' favorite instructors are adjunct professors. This is, I believe, because we work not for the money, but because we are passionate about the teaching itself. In one national survey, 57% of adjunct instructors reported that "I teach because I enjoy it; compensation is not a major consideration." At my university, this is true as well because we adjuncts are passionate about the subjects we teach, many of which contain a profoundly spiritual component.
As adjuncts, we receive no health insurance, no office, and low pay. The national average for an adjunct instructor is $2700 for a three-credit semester course. However, I - like many professors at my university, both adjunct and full-time - view my teaching as a sacred responsibility to the students. In addition to giving myself fully and enthusiastically to each class period, I make a point of meeting for coffee with every student at least once during the semester. During that time, I ask them to tell me the story of their own spiritual journey, and I am always in awe at the intelligence, motivation, sincerity and compassion they express during these sessions.
This week it really hit me what a privilege it is to teach at an institution that is oriented toward a contemplative education. In this regard, my university is unique in the nation, and most probably in the world. If I left my position, there would perhaps be a thousand other instructors just dying to take my place. I believe it is always a good idea to count our blessings and to ask strength from the Creator to continue passionately carrying out our sacred calling. Even if society does not value us by conferring upon us fame, status, or financial compensation commensurate to our calling, I KNOW that THE CREATOR still values us. And, in my field - based on my experience with six years of college-level teaching - I would say that THE STUDENTS do as well.
Photo: Burned tree, Hewlett Burn, Poudre Canyon, CO, February 27, 2016
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Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.