I admit the title of this post is a bit tongue and cheek and might potentially trivialize the larger crisis in higher ed surrounding adjuncts. That said, adjuncting has been an integral part of my experience at UMW over the past eight years (and my life in highered for the past sixteen years). My current day job is in the field of instructional technology, but my professional training is in 18th century American literature, cultural studies, and film (with vary degrees of ongoing attention to all three). Ultimately however, I was more of a teacher than a scholar because I spent a lion’s share of my time at the CUNY Grad Center as an adjunct at one of CUNY’s various campuses. What’s more, I’m a shitty writer and researcher but fairly decent communicator and performer ,both of which are crucial to good teaching. I never did finish my Ph.D., but my experience adjuncting convinced me teaching undergrads is my calling, even after graduate school and the path to being a professor had lost its allure.
My foray into instructional technology in 2004/2005 was, at the time, a practical way to make ends meet and finish my dissertation. Little did I know it would be such a rich field that would quickly become the basis of a career almost unimaginable to me while in grad school. Even cooler, it was still firmly grounded in teaching and learning which was something I had almost a decade of experience with when I came to Fredericksburg in 2005. Eight years later and I’m still at UMW. I’ve taught eight different courses in three different departments. One of those courses, ds106, kind of went viral. Fact is, for me the teaching I’ve done at UMW has been just as important as the instructional technology because the one reinforces the other—and vice versa. The separation of instructional technology from teaching and learning, which epitomizes the LMS for me, is the death of both arts.
And while the pay for adjuncts remains criminal, I was lucky enough not to solely depend on that income (though I certainly have come to depend on it the more kids we have). But more than that, it’s the freedom adjuncting at UMW has afforded me to experiment wildly with various courses that has been awesome! And while all courses are not created equal, and I’m constantly trying out new topics, new approaches, and new material (which can get exhausting and full fo failures), I absolutely love what the experience has provided me in terms of remaining tuned in and turned on to what happens in a classroom. Ideas are shared, minds explode, and we are forced to wrestle with the concepts that shape who we are.
So, in today’s EagleEye (which is UMW’s faculty and staff newsletter) I played off my history of experimental teaching at UMW and posted about the installation piece Tim Owens and I did at the recent Open Education conference. I posted on EagleEye about the distinguished adjunct professor Brian Oblivion recent guerrilla art installation. I know it’s kind of stupid, but at the same time it’s also fun. It’s indicative of the play at work in the UMW culture that has made it more than just a job, it has been an unbelievable opportunity to explore what’s possible with teaching, learning, and technology. Running your online course with an alternative identity is just one example of interrogating digital identity online through an experimental pedagogy of uncertainty—and kudos to UMW for not sacking me long ago 🙂