View Full Version : Calling All Community College Faculty

11-28-11, 6:06pm
There is a posting for an ESL adjunct at a local community college. I applied for their full-time position last February and did not get an interview. I believe they leave this adjunct posting up all the time to build a pool, as I was on campus for my current job a few weeks ago and happened past the HR office, where it was not posted in paper form like the rest of their positions.

I would like to try out teaching an evening class in ESL. I have a K-12 license and an M.Ed. but no experience with ESL; all my experience is with elementary grade Spanish. However, there are many aspects of language learning that transfer across age levels and target language and I feel confident that I would be effective. I am in a position now where I work with adults, too, so that would help my experience level.

Contemplating next steps. I keep coming back to this idea, so it's not a whim. Since I didn't get an interview before, I don't want to just submit the same online application again and call it good. Do I call HR and ask what the deal is? Ask for feedback on my previous application? Good things to bring up in the cover letter to get a look in this kind of scenario? I don't want to put anyone off by being too aggressive, but then again, what have I got to lose?

Any help is appreciated. Thank you, all!

11-28-11, 8:18pm
I've taught at a community college and I found it very political when it comes to hiring. I don't know if that is the case where you are applying, but if you know someone who teaches there -- even if it is in a different department -- you may want to ask him/her to put in a good word for you with the appropriate person.

11-28-11, 8:57pm
I second what cdttmm said. I taught in a community college for long enough to get tenure and it was quite an effort to get the position and the work wasn't all that easy, either.

I suggest that you send your paperwork in to HR but that you ALSO send a copy to the chair of the department that offers the course. Follow up with the chair and it works best if you can create a brief face to face meeting. Full time positions are filled through a committee process but usually adjunct faculty are just hired by the department chair. NOT THE HR department, even though they really, really want all of your communication to go through them. So find out who the chair is, and if you know anyone in the department, ask what it is like, get a meeting with the chair and bring your resume and your best interested expression, and your charm. It does make a difference.

The fact that you are a TEACHER is a very good thing for CC. We used to get lots of fresh new PhDs who couldn't get a university appointment but wanted to do research and to discuss their research with students, etc. These kinds of candidates often didn't really have the teaching interest or the ability to come to the level where our students were learning. So I suggest that you emphasize your varied teaching experiences, your willingness to work with people where they are, your emphasis on experiential learning, small groups, all those things that are needed by learners who are not the usual post-secondary crowd. LOTS of what you know about teaching kids is absolutely applicable to teaching adults but you need to couch it in the expected terms.

Of course all this is probably stuff you already did when you prepared your initial application. Sorry if I got a bit carried away. I am no longer in community college but it was certainly a formative experience for me. I loved a lot about it. I hope you get this adjunct opportunity so that you can get some excellent evaluations and use them for the next full time position that opens up.

Good luck.

11-28-11, 10:05pm
Teaching ESL is a pretty specific discipline. I'd ask HR what the specific qualifications are.

dado potato
11-29-11, 12:27am
I had a few years experience teaching in a community college. Every college is somewhat unique in the "ebb and flow" of personnel. My own appointment, I believe, was highly determined by the recommendation I received from a colleague and friend of the dean of the faculty.

In your case, you are equipped with what looks like a smashingly good set of skills and academic training. If you have references or recommendations, I would suggest putting them out there alongside your academic and job experience.

If I were in your situation, I would begin with an axiom that you would be a tremendous asset on that community college faculty. Therefore, I would not solicit feedback about why you were not hired before. (Obviously, they made a mistake before.... not as bad as the invasion of Gallipoli, mind you... but now you can give them a second chance to hire you, all for the greater Good.)

11-29-11, 3:51am
Im not a community college teacher, but I follow the industry press on academic hiring quite closely. The adjunct opportunities can be good for supplemental income in some fields (business, law) but in humanities and social sciences adjunct positions are often highly exploitative -- low pay for long hours, no job security, etc. As a real teacher with significant classroom experience you may have advantages. But you also might not be considered at all if you don't have a master's/Ph.D specifically in TOESL/TOESOL. That is a field that has a lot of programs training people for fewer and fewer jobs, so I am guessing the competition is probably pretty fierce.

I'd try to do some networking or interviewing with at least a few of their current ESL teachers. See what they say about the hiring process and the work environment. Even just looking up names and googling people to get their linkedin profile info might give you useful information about what their educational background/degree status is. I would try to do at least some of that kind of background research before approaching the department chair.

Approaching HR is also a good idea, but I would also try to dig around a bit more with people who actually teach the classes to get the real story and find out if this is an environment you even want to consider working in. I don't want to be dramatic, but there are a lot of very unhappy people out there in adjunct land -- some happy ones, too, but my strong sense is that there are many many fewer of those. Read the job advice section and forums on The Chronicle of HIgher Education's online site for awhile and you'll see what I mean.

Hope this isn't too Debbie Downer. I have just seen a lot of people who justify going into graduate programs (esp. MA level programs) saying "I don't want a R1 tenure track position, I'll be happy just teaching at community college level" without ANY apparent awareness of how challenging the employment situation is in most disciplines at all levels of the higher education system. Not that jobs aren't there, but it is often a lot harder than people think. If you are fine with adjuncting as a PT/sideline thing, that is fine and it can be a good option for supplemental income. But it is hard work and trying to make a living wage doing it is VERY, VERY difficult.

I'll stop now. I'm even depressing myself. :(


11-29-11, 4:09am
PS: Kelli, just as an experiment I went into the Chronicle's job section and searched for community college ESL positions. One adjunct position (in Texas) came up, with this description:

Adjunct Position Summary
Adjunct faculty are hired in a part-time capacity on a semester-by-semester basis, contingent upon the needs of the System. Lone Star College System accepts application material year-round from qualified applicants willing to teach on a part-time basis. Adjunct (part-time) faculty hiring is based on student demand. We offer day, evening, and weekend classes. Classes are offered at various times and locations during the academic year. As a rule, adjunct faculty may teach a maximum of five classes per academic year.

Required Qualifications
Bachelor's or higher degree in TESOL, English, a foreign language, linguistics, related field, or a Bachelor's degree with a TESOL certificate, or a Master's degree with 18 graduate hours in English, TESOL, linguistics, foreign language, or related field. TESOL certification must be University or 9-12 certification.Adjunct Salary$37.80 per contact hour.

So it looks like at least some places will consider you with an MA in a foreign language. NOt sure if that is the case with your community college, but worth inquiring further. As a teacher you know that each contact hour means roughly 2-3 hours of prep, grading and advising that is NOT compensated by the "salary" offered above. Probably more for a new course in a totally new to you field. See what I was saying about how grim it is?

11-29-11, 6:36am
Wow, lhamo, you sure have nailed it....it is grinding in many ways. Most happy adjuncts I have known just "love teaching" and don't mind the slave wages and hard work. There isn't much glory, for sure.

But I liked it....

But I am no longer doing it....hmm

11-29-11, 8:13am
Well, hmmm, you guys, you have me rethinking. I basically was teetering on burnout level at my other teaching job last spring, but thought maybe a change of pace and some more autonomy over my schedule/workflow, somewhat like I am experiencing in this current position (one-year, grant-funded :( ) would invigorate me. I will continue to think about it.

I think the "love of teaching" thing is pervasive throughout the system. There is a perception that passion is enough :( Anyway, that's a whoooooole different ball of wax.

leslieann, what are you doing now, if you don't mind?

11-29-11, 5:05pm
Well I've heard tell that ESL is one of the few things you might be able to teach adults without a PhD or even a Masters. Then again I'm not sure that was teaching college, or more just teaching in the community (I think some high schools even have adult classes in ESL for instance). This of course is California, where there is the immigrant population (as in any border state I guess).

To teach most things at colleges, yes PhDs are becoming more and more necessary (not a strict requirement yet, but it is heading in that direction). And yet while we rule out more and more potential teachers college is becoming more and more unaffordable - hmpf - that's a rant for another day.

11-29-11, 5:23pm
I think regardless of what field you are considering going into, one of the best ways to spend your time before you commit to a switch (or training that will enable you to switch) is to do as much networking and informational interviewing with people in the field as possible. You think you want to be a lawyer doing IPOs? Talk to some about what that really involves and what the process is for making it to partner. Or you have a passion for social work? talk to some social workers and try to mix it up a bit -- see what the different options are and whether you can target a part of the field that will pay a more reasonable wage and have better working conditions. There are soooooo many smart people running around with Ph.Ds who can't get a job because they just assumed that they were going to graduate and walk into a job just like their favorite old professor at State U or Ivy College. Nevermind that in the humanities and social sciences the production of Ph.Ds. on an annual basis has outstripped the available tenure track jobs by nearly 2:1 for at least two decades. Yes, it is that bad. And unfortunately there are still waaaaaaay too few "so what are you going to do with that Ph.D. if you don't get a teaching job" discussions or programs out there, because professors don't want to admit that they have duped people into thinking a job market exists that really doesnt.

Sorry, ranting again. I really love teaching, to be honest, and am still a little (just a little) regretful that I left academia. But I see so many people -- smart people, talented people -- going into it blind and then just keeping their blinders on for years and ending up in a really bad place. It isn't pretty, and it is avoidable.

Again, hope I'm not being too much of a Debbie Downer here. There may be great opportunities in this field in your area, so do continue to investigate if it interests you. Teaching one course on a trial basis might be a good way to do that, but I would also continue to network. You WILL get more job opportunities through networking than through blind applications. People want to work with good people, and if someone likes you and has confidence in your abilities that can sometimes win out over on-paper qualifications.

Good luck!


11-29-11, 6:57pm
I'm trained in teaching ESL, so am not concerned about that. I meet the requirements in the posting.

Someone mentioned LinkedIn again today. I toyed with it, but maybe now is a good time to beef up my profile and connections on there.

I have lots and lots of career/business ideas, and need to focus on implementing some (after we move into our new house). I was talking with a friend over lunch and finding myself drawn to just putting together a series of long term sub jobs! I was saying things like "you can just teach and not be drawn into all the politics of working in a school . . . all the committees and the icky parents" (sorry, parents, but some ARE icky even though most are nice). So maybe it's really about getting in touch with what I really want to be doing . . . you all know this is kind of an ongoing thing.

Will continue to report!!

San Onofre Guy
11-29-11, 8:23pm
On a side note, I used to teach insurance and risk managment classes through a private institution. I don't have a Masters Degree and when a local community college began to offer similar classes they approached me due to my reputation as a great teacher with real life examples of a Risk Manager with over 25 years of experience. I would gladly teach, however without a Masters Degree I am an imbecile. I do occasionlly guest lecture at a local Cal State for an adjunct and the end of year evaluation the students want to know which classes I teach.

My Dad used to teach construction classes until the late 70's when they required to have teachers have Masters degrees in his locality. I guess being a Professional Engineer and experience in expert testimony for forensic engineering due to 40 plus years experience sitting on National Standards Boards wasn't good enough.

11-29-11, 10:31pm
It is just one of the ways they narrow the pool of candidates. Silly, yes. I mean really, you would tell Bill Gates or Steve Jobs that they weren't qualified to do teach courses on entrepreneurship and innovation -- or even apply for an admin job -- because they are college drop outs?

It is also one of the ways that they can try to prove objectivity in hiring. Backdoor networks exist, and sometimes people still do get jobs based on who they know/who they are versus what they know/what they can do. HR departments and minimum job qualifications do, in some cases, prevent people from hiring unqualified people for other reasons.

Personally, I am much more concerned about what someone can do versus what on-paper qualifications they have. One of the best hires I ever made was the guy I hired for education project work who was a middle school dropout here in China. But he was smart as a whip, a published writer (many, many books and collections of essays and poems), and had audited an entire undergraduate course series on bilingual/multi-cultural education. No degree in the end because he couldn't pass the required English tests. But fluent/highly literate in Tibetan and with strong skills in Chinese, too. Oh, and several years experience as a classroom teacher in spite of that middle school dropout thing (he had gone on to monastic education for several years but that isn't recognized in the local system here). He never was very good at admin stuff, but he is still one of the most valuable employees at my previous organization. In comparison, some of the college graduates we hired after him turned out to be real duds, and didn't last long. A degree is often just a piece of paper, but unfortunately in too many situations it is the ticket that gets you in the door.


12-4-11, 7:11am
Perhaps your application was up against other candidates who had strong ESL backgrounds and it is no way a reflection on you being completely unsuitable for the post.

Is there any way you could get ESL teaching experience at private language schools? It's often easier to break into the private sector than the public in that respect. Obviously the rules and regulations will differ, but when I was an English language teaching assistant in state schools in Spain, I was offered extra teaching work with private language 'academias' a few times via word-of-mouth.

12-4-11, 9:06am
Is there any way you could get ESL teaching experience at private language schools? It's often easier to break into the private sector than the public in that respect. Obviously the rules and regulations will differ, but when I was an English language teaching assistant in state schools in Spain, I was offered extra teaching work with private language 'academias' a few times via word-of-mouth.

Thanks for the idea, mira. I'll have to look into it, but to my knowledge, there isn't much of a private industry here, at least in this area. All the people who need English instruction seem to get it through nonprofits or public education organizations.

12-6-11, 7:07am
Hi, I have taught at community college level and in fact have picked up at few classes this semester in addition to my real job. If you like to teach, and you want to gain experience, and the idea has been nagging at you, for heaven's sake, send the dept chair a resume (or cv, if you want to be academic about it) and an email, and see if you get an interview. Now is the correct time to do this; if the department chair is short, you will probably get the job. You will get paid 6-10 dollars an hour when you factor in your learning curve, but if you want to do it, it's a great learning opportunity. No one is talking about making it your permanent career right now. You have nothing to lose but 10-15 hours a week (or 20, if it's the first time you are doing it), and ESL is an expanding field. Once you are in, you are in, in my experience, but I do have a PhD in one field. The teaching I am doing at cc level now is with my masters, in another unrelated field. Not sure if it helped me get this gig. Why not try it for yourself and see?

12-6-11, 10:57am
I am in the adult tutoring business. One of the things you might think about is to train for and do some volunteer ESL work as a tutor. That way you would have a bit more background for a future application. Our volunteer tutors log hundreds of hours and really learn a lot.

12-7-11, 7:37pm
Fidgie -
my college was recently looking for a music instructor, and received over 500 applications. These are tough times. We've got ivy league Phd.s applying for adjunct postitions.