I’m supposed to hold office hours for students in my Literature and Advanced Comp classes. Honestly, I try to avoid meeting students in my office. Because it’s not my office. And I’m kind of ashamed of it. I’m not opposed to shame. Shame can be instructive. I’m just tired of this particular shame. What do students see when they walk into the adjunct office?
- A cramped, windowless room filled with awkwardly arranged desks littered with paper, books, and one old printer that barely works. (The other day, someone moved a desk from against the wall and opened the drawer to find a long-lost bottle of headache medicine that expired in 1986. Srsly.)
- Up to a dozen tired-looking adjuncts working away like 21st century Bartlebys, squinting at student writing or hunched over typing up their latest boring assignment.
- Mice. Possibly. I can see evidence of their presence in the mornings when I come in and find that the bagel someone left behind yesterday has been munched to bits by tiny mouths. There are also cockroaches.
- Half-broken computers circa 2003 with keyboards so crusted with crusty crust that I always sanitize my hands after touching them.
- A shelving unit along the wall. Each shelf is helpfully labeled with an adjunct’s name. This is where I put my stuff. I like to think of it as the shelving unit of shame. Instead of listing my office number on my syllabus, I should write: “my shelf is in Room 1233.”
Sometimes full-time faculty members walk by and dare to glance inside the sad adjunct office (we’re above the 10th floor, but we’re still the “sad women in the basement,” as Susan Miller called us.) They look curious. Who are these Martians teaching the Freshman Comp classes that I do not want to teach? But the curiosity passes; they always move on quickly to their Very Important Research and committee chairmanships.
I try not to hold office hours in the office because students pick up on our invisibility. They walk into this shitbox and realize immediately (if they didn’t know before) that we are nothing. That we are less than nothing. What kind of teacher would have to work in a mice- and cockroach-infested high-rise dungeon covered in goo and oozing with palpable despair?