I teach as an adjunct at three schools. One of the three, however, dropped my class this semester due to low enrollment.
I taught Survey of the New Testament online at a Christian liberal arts university, and I taught World Religions at a local community college. What I learned from teaching these two courses this semester surprised me. Here are a few things that I learned:
(1) Knowing more than my students know on a given subject is not always enough to give me confidence in my teaching ability in that specific subject. I have a BA in Religion, but only took two classes that had to do with religions other than Christianity. I have a MA in Biblical Studies, but I only had one course in theology that discussed other religions, and even then it was set in the context of a Christian theological interaction with other beliefs. I am currently in a MA program in Applied Theology, and have done nothing with other religions. Teaching a World Religions course, therefore, has been difficult, but helpful in learning to step out of my comfort zone.
(2) Students cheat. I already knew this, but it has really come to the forefront this semester, particularly in my online course. If a professor would not let a student bring in a book or commentary to copy onto his or her final exam in class, then why would I allow a student to copy-and-paste a website into an online exam essay question?
(3) Grading takes a lot of time. A whole lot of time. This is the first time I’ve taught two courses in the same semester. I assign a lot of writing (the most students read and write, the better prepared they are for life in general, not to mention upper level courses). I, therefore, must read a tremendous amount of writing and grade it (with ample comments). I think I read about 600 or so pages of student writing this semester. Adjuncts don’t get graders.
(4) Some students will always hate your class. There are usually more students who put all 5’s on the student evaluation than students who put all 0’s, but you will still have some who give you all 0’s. It is frustrating, given the amount of time and energy I put into designing a course, writing lectures, designing discussion forums, and gathering materials (not to mention reading and grading – see #3). But it happens. Some students won’t care how much you put into it if they didn’t get the grade they wanted (or if they have to read too much, or write too much, or actually have to show up, etc.).
(5) The students who send you emails of encouragement will always make up for #4. I’ve already received 2-3 emails from students thanking me for the class and telling me how much it has changed their perspective on the New Testament or on religion, and how much they got out of it. If only one student gets a ton out of a course, it is a success. You usually get out of a class what you put into it, and this has been true for each of my students this year.
Next semester it looks like I will be teaching NT Survey online and NT Survey in a face-to-face classroom, both at a different institution. I’m excited to see what new things I learn next semester!