One of the main perks of working part time is, well… working part time. My ideal schedule involves dropping the kids at school, working for a few hours, either prep-work at home or in-class time, maybe go for a run or work in the garden, and then pick my children up after school.
At a couple of institutions, this worked. I went to campus, taught my class and came home. Though… this meant that I didn’t interact with other faculty and as a result I felt isolated from the rest of the department and a bit lonely professionally, and because my social network is made up primarily of non-scientists, something vital was missing for me. At my current institution, I regularly interact with other faculty and a slew of support staff. They are a dedicated and inspiring bunch, which means there is a lot of opportunity to get involved in community outreach events and co-developing new teaching modules or student research activities.
In terms of my area of research, I also fill a professional niche here that had been empty for several years, and students have caught on. I get lots of requests for extra meetings to discuss material that doesn’t pertain to coursework – how to get involved in local research, advice on graduate schools, or writing letters of recommendation for example.
This has been largely a positive change. Being around passionate and motivated co-workers is inspiring and provides a positive and collaborative work environment. I no longer feel isolated. Talking to students about research and graduate school is great too – this is why I am here, right?
Problem is, I don’t get paid for any of this.
As adjunct faculty at my institution, there is a clear list of required “duties.” These include the obvious components of developing and implementing a course – preparing a syllabus, writing and grading quizzes, homework, or exams, referring students to counselors or tutors, holding office hours, and actually holding class during the scheduled time. There are other duties that full-time faculty members are responsible for, things like attending department meetings, evaluating tenure, serving on hiring committees, and serving as a faculty advisor.
But the less isolated I get (good), the more this extra work creeps in (bad).
I know that extra uncompensated duties are part of any career-track position. However, I am not really on that track. I chose to work part-time in order to spend more time at home. The more of these extras I take on, the more I find myself working on the computer in the afternoon instead of playing with my kids, or having a friend pick them up from school because I have a work meeting, all defeating the purpose of working part-time.
However, these “extras” are things that help remind me of why I am in this field in the first place. I love science, and being around other people who love science is inspiring. If I just teach my class and come home, I don’t get the motivational boost of collaborating with colleagues and professional isolation sets in.
I have, for the most part, done these things willingly and happily. I am here because I am committed to science education. This is why I sought a career as a professor. I earned a PhD in part because I love turning students on to biology and research, and these are the types of activities I envisioned myself doing as a full-time professor. But I am not full-time. At some point, I will have to become comfortable saying no to some of these requests. Though as I write this, I am still saying yes.