I read your post with some recognition and increasing dismay. At
first, I was checking your signature to make sure you weren’t in my
"neck of the woods" (you’re not!) and that you weren’t talking about
the community college where I work. Whew!
For you and others with similar experiences, I have a strong piece
of advice – speak to the Academic Dean of the Arts department and
let them know exactly what you told us. If the Dean of Arts won’t
listen, go the overall Academic Dean.
There are a couple of reasons for this. First, if there is demand
for basic instruction that isn’t being met, they need to do
something (and will want to do something) to accomodate that demand.
It’s money in the bank for them. And highlighting the fact that
there are advanced “students” who are willing to pay for
non-instructional lab time should also be an eye-opener to them
about an opportunity to further bolster their finances.
Second, the issue of pay for part-time / adjunct instructors in
community colleges is a widespread one. I don’t know of any adjunct
instructor who doesn’t wish they were being paid more. However,
“stealing” a third of your pay by not showing up to class is beyond
the pale, any way you look at it. If the Dean isn’t aware that this
is happening, then s/he needs to be. If the Dean knows and approves
of the arrangement, then the students need to be informed of the
issue. If the instructor can’t fill the scheduled time, she should
either change the class schedule or adjust her pay schedule.
Going to the Dean with an offer to help be part of the solution to
the problem – being willing to brainstorm ideas, communicate with
other students, design a “fix” for the issue – will get you much
further than a simple request to vent. Taking with you a list of
specific issues and their impact on new students and the college’s
ability to attract and retain new jewelry students, with
recommendations, will get you even further.
I firmly believe that the community college programs in the U.S. are
generally turning out silversmiths with good basic skills and a
practical knowledge of the craft. Many hobbyists use these programs
as multi-year “clubs” – and there’s nothing wrong with that. But
it doesn’t mean that the instructor can get around the basic
instructional time they are being paid for.
In our program, we have people who have been taking the advanced
class for more than 10 years. They do it not only for the access to
the labs and equipment, but also for the comraderie and energy of
working with people of like interest. That class also sees a lively
population of other students flowing through it on a regular basis.
There are a couple of things that make this class remain vital. The
instructor is conscious that there are multiple populations in it.
Her assignment sheets at the beginning of the semester reflect that
– one for the repeaters (if they want assignments as guidance) and
one for the newbies (to teach the skills). Each semester, she
teaches a different mix of advanced skills, combined with the "core"
advanced skills. So while you always get things like mokume-gane,
true marriage of metals, and advanced forming, you’ll also get
different topics like granulation or kuem-boo on a semester-by-
Also, the energy is very positive – the oldsters help the newbies
and foster a sense of the jewelry “community.” At the end of each
semester, there is a public show and sale for all who wish to
participate. Critique at the end of the semester is also combined
and very positive, with some of the oldsters showing “things to
aspire to” and also finding inspiration from the fresh, new
approaches of the newbies.
In my mind, that’s how it should be, and that’s a unique approach
that you’ll find in the community college-type jewelry program.