Thursday, August 22, 2013

Wish you could have been there...

And the winner is…              “Yes, you may teach the course, but at a reduced pay scale,” I was told when I asked about having ‘only’ six students for my poetry writing class. For me, six seemed a good number; with too many poets in one class, it’s impossible to give enough personal attention.

I hadn’t been thinking of that this morning when I visited a nearby antique mall comprised of many booths with very different offerings. In one, I found a German beer stein that looked a perfect gift for my fellow lecturer, Bernie. I knew he’d love it, knew it would come as a surprise.

At our adjunct meeting that night, I planned to give it to him.

Because I was thirty minutes late, he chided me when I arrived. Our buffet had almost finished; he had eaten. When I sat across from him with my tray, I explained my tardiness by telling him I had to get something for him. He seemed puzzled.

I handed him the stein I’d placed in a manila envelope. “Open it carefully,” I instructed.

He did. Instantly, he beamed. “I love it,” he told me as I wolfed down my last bite of very dry chicken.

We sat in a room filled with other adjuncts. Many I knew; like me, they’d been teaching at the college for years. Like me, they’d seen their acceptable class sizes almost double as a means of cutting costs. Fourteen pupils was the norm when I started there; now it is 24-30.

But none of us complained; we shared an equal burden. All of us hoped things would get better eventually.

To my surprise, we didn’t have a guest speaker. I figured that was another cost-cutting measure, a disappointing one because we’ve had some great presentations in the past.

This time, their tactic for keeping us interested was being brief. Although they did that well, there was only one bright spot, a highlight of sorts.

Our Vice President announced, “Now is time to present the adjunct of the year award.”

Quiet prevailed. All of us knew that the award came with an attractive check that most of us could use.

“He’s taught English 111, and his students have endorsed him,” said the V.P. “He has done everything we’ve ever asked him to do. He’s a very disciplined educator.”

I looked around. So far, I could only think of a few adjuncts he might be describing.

“When he retired from teaching at our local high school, there was an article about him in the paper. It announced that a legend had left.”

With that, the Vice President offered the plaque and a check to my old friend, Bernie.
He put down the envelope with his mug, ambled toward the podium.

I stood up to applaud. Finally, though it had taken years, our Community College had done the right thing. A lecturer who had done so much for so many students had been appropriately congratulated.

Bernie and I left the meeting together. For the first time in years, I was very glad I’d come.

                                                B.Koplen 8/22/13

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