How many times were we asked to endure yet another all college meeting or faculty forum or board of trustees cabal where teachers were celebrated? Meetings where adjuncts were told by Vice Presidents and Presidents and Chairmen about how our work drove the college’s credit sales, professional/academic programming, and increased academic reputation?
A round of applause.
A nod from the full time faculty, staff, administration, and students in attendance.
Everyone moves on.
I always wanted to ask “what exactly are we celebrating?” I have no problem with recognizing professional and pedagogical excellence. I’m a long time advocate for affirming what works and then replicating success. Like the restaurant industry, though, higher education tends to hyperventilate whenever less than perfect scores are rendered in response surveys. Seemingly ancient grievances across the faculty also need to be disrupted by some good old fashioned “nice job” and “let’s do more of that.” So, yes. Let’s focus on the positive.
But, over time, I started to view the beginning of the term “celebrations” as an insult, like a neglectful management staff and owner offering a nice meal every once and a while to an abused kitchen hands and servers: I know we only pay you $2.22 an hour and cut your hours without notice and fail to market our restaurant so we can increase traffic and improve your tips; and I know we need to follow through with our pay increase promises upon hire and replace those seven year old knives and replace the stock pot with the nozzle that’s held together with duct tape and dreams; oh, and let’s not forget the dishwashers who are forced to use bleach all day rather than proper liquids–we swear those skin rashes will go away in a day or too — but here’s a hamburger!
Professional respect is measured by increased equity, better working conditions, a livable wage, benefits received by other faculty and administrators, and a real “celebration” of what we do best. We teach and manage classrooms; create and sustain curriculum; engage and develop new learning opportunities for all students; embrace new technologies and distance education with the same degree of scrutiny and resolve we bring to every other aspect of our profession; negotiate and mediate student concerns, complaints, and increased ‘customer service” demands (and oftentimes like a prison-based phone bank call center).
This is what we do.
What we do has a professional and monetary value.
Do us all a favor: celebrate less and mobilize our talents in a way that increases equity for all. Then, and only then, will the hamburger not taste like the shit sandwich it is . . .