Dear Fellow Adjunct

Dear Fellow Adjunct,

Hi, how is it going? We’ve been sharing an office space now for about 8 weeks and I just have a few words I’d like to share with you.

First off, you are quite nice. You’re clearly devoted to your work, and frankly, after the past few years of slowly becoming desensitized and burnt out, it’s quite refreshing to meet a young teacher like myself who cares. Who cares as much as I once did. 

I know we don’t know each other well. This, of course, is my fault. I am deliberately being cold and distant. Call me a bitch, although I haven’t been one to you, if you’d like. Honestly it is for your own good. It is clear, from the conversations we’ve been having that you think I’m friendly and want to be your friend. Why, yes I’d like that very much. You’re a sweet girl. We both share similar tastes in film, books, and clothes. We both are obsessed with same celebrities. Franky,I think we could have been good friends in another life. There is one thing though, that I must tell you.

Well, I don’t know how to say this without sounding horrible, but here it goes. I don’t want to hear you complain about your students. I’m tired of you reading crappy run-ons an fragments that your students write. Are you honestly surprised that your students perform this way? We aren’t at Harvard (oops the cat’s out the bag readers). We are at a mediocre school that sits on the outskirts of a city (I am being deliberately vague, readers).

Here’s why I don’t want to bitch with you about my students, because frankly it depresses me. There was once a time when I too, would have indulged in this complaining. I’m over it. No good comes from the whining and bitching. None. It only makes it more challenging to grade the papers.  I too have given them the key to writing brilliant paragraphs. I too have spent hours giving the m feedback they ignore. I understand your pain. I too was surprised when I first started teaching. The thing is I don’t want to bitch about it. In case you haven’t noticed, I always change the subject when you discuss your students. I’d rather talk about Malaria, or Darfur than your students and their inability to follow instructions.

So, while you’re lovely, no we can’t be Facebook friends. If you’ll notice, your reference to this possibility was ignored, as if I didn’t hear it. It’s not that I don’t like you. Maybe  in another life (maybe if we’d gone to grad school together and been TA friends), I would have befriended you and we could have been shopping buddies. Currently, we are co-workers, lowly adjuncts in a cruel cruel world. It’s depressing enough without the complaining.

As far as our relationship in the office is concerned, please do not  worry. We can be friends; well acquaintances. We can talk about anything you want–except teaching.

Please forgive me. I just can’t take it. I can’t take the complaining.

All the best,

One Mean MFA

p.s. I hope you don’t get burnt out as quickly as I did.


Why Adjuncts Struggle to Break Free

I’ve been part-time teaching at two schools this semester and have been trying to figure out why my grad school professors warned us not be adjuncts. Well, today as I started grading a stack of papers that has recently dwindled from 110 to 90 papers, I now understand my professors’ advice.

In order to live comfortably as an adjunct you must teach at least four to five sections. These sections usually include at least 20 students which means come paper time you’ve got at least 100 papers to grade and comment on. While you’re grading papers and teaching 5 sections, full-time professors are teaching 3 sections, not worrying about money, and working on publications. That’s right, they are writing and focused on their careers, while the only writing you’re doing is the writing on student papers.

Recently a girlfriend of mine, who also has her MFA and was an adjunct for a while and is now a full-time instructor, called me. We spoke at length about focusing on our writing versus our students. She and I are tired of being super teacher. Being super teachers is not going to get us a tenure track jobs. This has always been my goal, and has recently become hers as well.

So, what have we decided to do to brighten our futures? The fifth of every month we will be emailing each other our writing. I’m working on perfecting my novel by adding some sections and lengthening the sections I have, and she wants to pump out some short stories. We attempted to establish some kind of consequence for not doing the writing, but decided that we weren’t afraid of each other so we established a reward instead. When we send each other our work, we will also send each other a $10 gift card to Barnes and Noble.

Our first exchange will occur on the 5th of November, and I’m eager to have a deadline and someone I trust to give me feedback. I’m hoping that this exchange will enable us both to see our work published and lead us towards being tenured professors.

In the end, what it all boils down to is worrying about yourself. In this competitive society, it is necessary to focus on you. It sounds narcissistic and selfish but I don’t really care, I’m in it to win it and if you’re an adjunct who is a super teacher, you should consider focusing on yourself even if it is brief. We must stop feeling guilty if we don’t our students their papers back immediately. Those things can wait–your career can’t.

Are there any super-teachers out there that agree with me? What about those of you who don’t? Why not focus on my own writing versus the writing of my students? Am I horrible person for thinking this way?

So you want to be a racist?

So, I was grading papers this evening, and for the first time in my teaching life I came across a paper that I’m going to label as “racist.” It is important to note that the students had to read an article suggesting that American colleges and universities have issues with diversity and community. The students were asked to propose a solution to this or prove that the author was incorrect and that there was no issue. Overall the papers were not that great, but when I came across the “racist” one I was forced to stop in my tracks.

First of all, the paper was not a good one. The quality of writing was not up to the level that I expect my students to write at. It was choppy and needed a lot of work with argument, thesis, and organization. That being said, the student then had a paragraph that had some pretty racist comments. The student was discussing segregation and how it wasn’t something society accepted, but it made sense for people to stick with their own kind. This was always qualified by the student suggesting that some groups made white people uncomfortable because of how they were different.  The student also wrote how people in one race only exposed to their own race would be uncomfortable around people different from them and would only communicate with their own race because of their comfort level. I’m paraphrasing of course but I think you get the picture. I would love to post the paragraph up here but I like my job, and would like to keep it.

I do not by any means want to make excuses for this student, but is it possible that maybe this student trying to say that people mingle with people they feel they already have a connection to, a similar background? Is it possible that the student is just using this paragraph as an example of that? 

To be honest, I don’t think the student realizes what they are doing. Or maybe I want to believe they don’t realize it. Think about it. This is this student’s first college English paper. If this student isn’t the great communicator, isn’t it possible that this is a mistake or should I say miscommunication, that happened late at night after trying to pump pages out?  

I’m trying to decide if I should use this paragraph as example when I’m teaching. I’m concerned, first and foremost, the student will be highly offended. I’m also worried that it will lead to a blowout in the classroom where students start spouting off and possibly over reacting.

Currently, I’m at quite a loss for words. Paper grading really takes it out of me.

Ready, we’re talking Spongebob ready!

Well, tomorrow I start teaching. I got all my teaching materials, and a super organized and detailed syllabus. I’m hoping to be basically teaching on auto-pilot. I know this is a dream but a girl can dream, right?

I’m super excited to get this semester going. This semester is the last of my coursework and the end of my rough draft of my thesis. I’m also hoping to lose some pounds that I’ve put on in the past two years. I”ll be attempting a new workout schedule as well as hardcore brown bagging lunch. Today I went to Target and bought those ice substitute packs, a lunch box and an aluminum water bottle. I also bought turkey meat and wraps. I’m ready!

While, I’ve always been a big brown bagger, I have had moments of weakness and have given in to some bad food choices. We have a Wendy’s on campus. How can one say to no to their Junior bacon cheeseburger? Or the Frosty? I will say, in general I do pick salad, but on a bad day, a Frosty is as good as a beer. MMMM Frosty. I digress.

I’m hoping that my really awesome four day weekend schedule that I have arranged for myself will also enable me to get some serious work done. I’m thinking I’m going to devote half of my Monday’s strictly to thesis work. Then as October progresses, I’ll devote half of Monday to my thesis, and about an hour to job hunting, and apartment hunting.

So, tomorrow I march onto campus READY! Ready, we’re talking Spongebob ready. I almost put another exclamation point at the end of that sentence and since I have Seinfeld on in the background I had second thoughts.

Wish me luck!

Why can’t I get it together?

I am one annotated bibliography away from being on summer vacation and you know what? I can’t seem to buckle down and do it.  On Monday after I finished grading student papers I went to the park to relax and read. Then yesterday, I spent an inordinate amount of time working out. I’m talking two and half hours. This morning I could barely walk, but I’m hoping in a month or two my tushy responds to the obsessive exercise that I have been doing. Today, I finished a silly assignment I knew wasn’t going to take any time on and went for a nice long jog. I then cleaned like a fiend and now I’m blogging.

Why in Haydes can’t I just finish this bibliography? Who knows? I’m hoping I get focused enough to get it done tomorrow so I can hand it in early. If I turn it in early I’ll skip class next week and get an early start to summer.

Wish me luck.

De-Cluttering the Brain

In an effort to stay focused on my classes and teaching, I have completely neglected this blog. While I’m still in the middle of a summer session as both teacher and student, I am ashamed to say I have fallen off the wagon. Last summer session I was banging out pages and pages daily for my thesis/novel. I was focused and had a great schedule for both exercise and writing.

Once the second summer session began and I had to start teaching, my schedule was totally distrupted and I still (sadly it’s been three weeks) haven’t been able to get back on track. I can’t quite figure out why I have lost focus and I guess in the end it probably doesn’t matter. I just need to address the fact that I haven’t done any new writing in almost a month.

I have attempted to outline my novel and I am confident that with an outline the pages will come. I’ve always been a huge advocate of the outline. It is a great tool that I force my composition students to use, regardless of how much they like it. While my thesis isn’t something “academic” it’s still a large piece of writing that needs to be well structured. I am glad I haven’t completely forgotten about my thesis.

Writing this blog has been a great venue to get my thoughts out. In de-cluttering my brain I’ve been able to focus on my thesis. I’m hoping that since I decided to get going again, I’ll be ready to work on my thesis.

I’m a little nervous about the deadline for my rough draft. I need to have a completed rough draft of a novel by December. While December is seemingly far away, it’s closer than it appears; like a rear view mirror and the objects in it. Summer classes have a way of decieving. It seems like you’re getting so much done because you’re in class, then doing work but before you know it summer is over and it’s time to start again.

Since I was enrolled in summer classes last summer session, I haven’t really had a chance to recouperate. I’m grateful that I get a three week break between summer two and fall. I’m a little more than halfway through summer two and I already feel burnt out. While today I was incredibly productive, and I still feel a drive pushing me to finish some reading and grading, today was the first day in a while where I’ve gotten a lot done.

It’s a good thing I’m not so focused on the final grade. I do hope that doesn’t bite me in the ass when I eventually apply to PhD school. When I started grad school last August I was grade obsessed and it started to take away from the learning and enjoyment of higher education; so I decided I’d do my best regardless of a final grade of a B. In the end, I’m there to produce a thesis and read and learn about a bunch of literature. I’m not there to get straight A’s; although straight A’s would be great.

I keep going with this post because it feels good to just talk, to write. I feel better already and I’m thinking I shouldn’t have neglected this wonderful space that is One Mean MFA’s blog.

One last thing, teaching and writing is daunting. It seems that when I teach I put so much of myself into the classroom that it takes away from me putting myself into my writing. Today when I was grading papers, I found myself really giving my students a lot of insightful–and long comments. While I really want to help them grow as thinkers and writers I know that most of them just want to pass. They don’t care and I’ve noticed that many of them just flip to last page just to see the grade. So why the hell am I giving them these detailed comments? I’ll devote a post on this later.

Well thanks for listening. I feel invigorated and ready to focus on the rest of my reading and definitely the writing I need to get done for this week.

How to: Design a summer composition course Part 2


 So here is my summer syllabus. I would love some criticsm, suggestions. I can always make adjustments to it. I’m quite pleased with it. I am a bit worried about getting all this grading done as quickly as the syllabus demands but I’m sure I’ll survive.

Thanks in advance for your help.


OneMeanMFA’s Summer Syllabus

We will be using a modified portfolio system.  Each portfolio will consist of two major papers, each undergoing a draft and revision process, as well as an additional significant revision of a previous paper.  Clear, written descriptions of all writing assignments will be distributed to the class, as well as the evaluation criteria that will be used.  Response papers and other writing assignments will be reflected in your class participation grade.  The grade break down is:


Paper 1: 100pts                        

Paper 2: 100pts

Paper 3: 100pts

Paper 4: 100 pts


Quizzes: 10pts each (40 pts)

Paper Outlines: 25 pts (100pts)

Annotated Bibliography: 50 pts

Final Portfolio Assignment: 50 pts

Participation/ Attendance: 10 pts


Class total points: 650pts


You will receive substantive comments on all written work through both instructor and peer comments. 

1)     Paper One: Prompt based paper using reading one. You will use the reading to support a topic that works outside of the reading. This paper is worth 100 pts.

2)     Paper Two: Prompt based paper using reading one and two. This paper should use reading two more than reading one. Roughly 60% reading two to 40% reading one.  You will use the readings to support your original idea that works outside of the readings. This paper is worth 100pts.

3)     Paper Three: Prompt based paper using reading one, two, and three. This paper should use reading three more than readings two and one. Roughly 50% reading three to 25% readings two and one. You will use the readings to support your original idea that works outside of the readings. This paper is worth 100pts.

4)     Paper Four: This is a research based paper. You will be required to use reading four  and outside sources. You will need a minimum of three outside sources and a maximum of five. Two of these sources should be books and not retrieved online. You may have a maximum of two online resources, available to you via the library’s electronic journals. This paper is worth 100pts.

5)     Final Portfolio Assignment: This is a written assignment that will discuss your progress as a writer, what you have learned in this course, the strengths of this course and as well as the weaknesses. You will also discuss what grade you believe you have earned. This paper should be no more than 3 pages and no less than one and a half. This assignment is worth 50 pts.

6)     Paper Outlines: You will outline your papers paragraph by paragraph. Inserting which quotes from the readings you plan on using in the final draft of the paper. This assignment worth 100pts.

7)     Quizzes: I will give you a short quiz on the reading in the first 10 minutes of class. Each quiz is worth 10 pts.

8)     Annotated Bibliography: You will take the resources for your research paper, cite it, then give a brief summary of the resources as they will apply to your research paper. The summary should be no less than 2-3 sentences and no more than a half page. This assignment is worth 50pts.


Week One:

 June 23rd


Contracts in

Writing Sample

MLA Formatting

What makes a good paper?

Prompt Paper One

Assign Reading One:

June 25th

 Reading Quiz One

Free Writing Exercise

Discuss Reading

How to outline a paper

Begin Paper Outline


Week Two

 June 30th

 DUE: Rough Draft Paper 1

Review thesis writing

Peer Review

What makes a good thesis?

Begin Changes to Paper


July 1st:

 Continue discussing prompt

Create Paper checklist

Peer Review revised paper 1

MLA formatting Review

Work on paper

Assign Reading Two 

Week Three

 July 7th

 DUE: Final Draft Paper 1

Quiz Reading Two

Free Writing Exercise

Parallel Readings

Discuss Reading Two

Prompt Paper Two

MLA Review: Quotations/ Evidence


July 9th

DUE: Rough Draft Paper 2

Peer Review


Work on papers

Assign Reading Three 

 Week Four

 July 14th

 DUE: Final Draft Paper Two

Quiz Reading Three

Free Writing Exercise

Parallel Readings

Prompt Paper Three

How to Research: Using the library


July 16th

DUE: Rough Draft Paper Three

Peer Review


Work on Papers

Assign Reading Four

MLA Review: Organization


Week Five

 July 21

 DUE: Final Draft Paper Three

Quiz Reading Four

Free Writing Prompt Paper Four

Parallel Readings

Introduction to writing a research paper

How to write an Annotated Bibliography

 July 23

 DUE: Annotated Bibliography

Continue Discussion on Reading Four

Outline Paper Four

Introduce Final Portfolio Assignment

Week 6 (We’re almost Done!)

July 28th

 DUE: Rough Draft

Peer Review

Work on paper in class

July 30th

DUE: Final Draft

DUE: Portfolio Assignment

School’s out for Summer!