The Presently Absent Adjunct – For Dr. Lee Skallerup

ray of sunshine

I was recently tapped by Dr. Judy Arzt (@JudyArzt), Associate Professor at the University of Saint Joseph in Connecticut, to respond to the Sunshine Award challenge. This nod came at a disheartening moment, one that reminded me of the stark differences between K-12 and Higher Education. Just as I was encouraged to spread the sunshine as a part of a K-12 blogging initiative, Dr. Lee Skallerup (@readywriting), a proponent for contingent labor rights (and so much more), was presenting to an empty room at the Modern Language Association’s 2014 Annual Conference. My heart dropped when her tweet came through my feed:

#crickets at Dr. Skallerup's #MLA14 Adjunct Presentation

I’ll spare everyone the ensuing nonsense of bloated retorts. Instead, I’d like to thank Dr. Skallerup for standing up for those who could not stand up for themselves in person. To prepare one’s voice, to pay for one’s presence, and to subject oneself to the absence of others is a service to the field, regardless if it is recognized by those with the comfort of job stability or not. Dr. Skallerup presented for the presently absent adjuncts being taken advantage of every single semester, and although that conference room may have appeared empty, it was in fact filled with contingent forces for which no seclusive, pompous, national conference could ever accommodate.

So here’s my attempt to spread a bit of sunshine on this Sunday, both to fulfill the Sunshine Award challenge but also to lift the spirits of Dr. Skallerup to show her how important her energy and efforts are to all presently absent adjuncts. (I’m attempting to pair the positivity of K-12 via a blogging initiative with the reality of higher education circumstances. Patience with disconnect is appreciated.)

11 Random Facts About Myself

(1) I straddle both worlds, K-12 and Higher Education; approximately 40% of my twitter followers are K-12 educators, with the remaining 60% coming from Higher Education. My twitter feed is a mash-up of bitter adjuncts, passionate K-12 educators, bloated tenures, and radical writers. (Sit tight with my stereotypification.) (2) I taught 9th grade English for seven years before transitioning to post-secondary teaching. (3) For two years I taught First Year Composition (FYC) full-time. (4) By my third year, contracted employees became more economical for the college to use. My full-time position was cut. (5) I became a contracted adjunct in 2012 after teaching full-time for ten years. (6) Timing was serendipitous at this point – as I was experiencing the college’s slap of reality, I received an offer to pursue a doctorate in Instructional Technology/Multimodality and Digital Storytelling from the University of West Florida. (7) So here I stand. An adjunct. A doctoral student (again). (8) And I am at a crossroads of sorts, wondering if I want to enter a toxic institution, again, and risk getting burned or (9) explore K-12 opportunities. Because here’s the truth, (10) I find more inspiration and positivism from my K-12 associates than I do from Higher Education in general. (11) I believe that higher education is eating itself alive, and I’m not into that sort of thing.

11 Questions from Dr. Arzt

(1) What teachers inspired you and why? Dr. Skallerup has inspired me to become more visible with my struggles, even if I may be jeopardizing my future opportunities. I have realized that those future opportunities may be mirages – I’m looking for another oasis at this point. My reality check comes with each tweet from Dr. Skallerup (@readywriting).

(2) If you could change your college major, what would it be and why? I majored in African American Literature and now find myself teaching multimodal composition courses. This disconnected connection epitomizes my desire to expose the narrative of everyone through stories, and I wouldn’t change this at all.

(3) What is the best part of being a connected educator and how do you stay connected? When I can provide support and a voice for those that are frustrated, angry, or battered, I have found my moral, collective, connected outlet. Technology is one component of this, but connections flourish only with sincerity and intent. It is with this post that I hope my sincerity of appreciation is shown for Dr. Skallerup.

(4) If you could make one significant change that would shift the course of education, what would it be? Remove hierarchies from all levels of education, both intellectual and economical.

(5) What are your favorite tech tools and why? Twitter, WordPress, Google Hangouts – It all goes back to voice and projection of self. I’ve found voice magnification to be the most clear with these three tools.

(6) What do you do to escape? I don’t escape. I do not have the luxury of escaping. Sure, I travel, read, socialize, etc., but the absence of contingent stress is never experienced when a time-sensitive contract is ticking away in my employee file. My/our stress is always presently absent. I always feel the pressure and weight of academic labor. It is manifested in my shoulder pain, headaches, and insomnia. I try to escape by compensation. Freud would say that I compensate for my anxiety by coining my own delusions, which is why I have deemed myself the Pollyanna of HigherEd – I suppose positivity is my escape.

(7) What fields/careers would you recommend to young people today? It’s a generic response, but one that I know will sustain youth for the difficulties of reality: Do what you love. If you don’t love it, at the guttorial level, don’t do it. The world will have its way with you then cast you aside.

(8) If you could live your life as another person, from history or living today, who would you choose and why? I’ll stick with my lot in life. Blessings do not come from full-time employment, recognition, or visibility. I’m working on accepting this notion.

(9) Would you rather be a kid or an adult, and why? My childhood was a tumultuous one, so my perspective of childhood is a bit skewed. Perhaps this explains why I view the current nonsense in highered as inconceivably ridiculous. The solution is apparent and warranted, yet those on the playground will not rally together to create fair rules of the game. I don’t want to be a child on that playground.

(10) What is your favorite charity, and why? My maternal grandmother passed away from brain cancer when I was 12. My mother passed away from cervical cancer when I was 13. My maternal grandfather passed away from lung cancer when I was 15. My paternal grandmother passed away from pancreatic cancer when I was 27. I live with the fear that cancer is my destiny. The American Cancer Society and the Hospice Centers of America have helped me deal with this possibility and grief.

(11) What do you think is your greatest strength? Nothing has come easy for me in life, creating a resiliency in my character that is remarkably strong. I know that struggles and difficulties will pass because I have so many in my own past (past being the keyword). I hope Dr. Skallerup sees the resiliency that others see in her as well.

Concluding Thoughts

I get the feeling that many of my Higher Education followers roll their eyes at the approaches of K-12 educators, and I’m okay with that. Pollyannas are obtusely persistent in effective methodology, and the eye rolling does nothing but confirm that spreading sunshine through a silly blogging initiative is what’s needed most. Dr. Skallerup needs the support found and so readily available among the teachers in K-12, provided without hierarchical antics and posturing. She represents the force of contingent labor which continues to grow, rise, and exert anger, and failure to stand with her/us is failure to recognize that others’ heads will be served on shiny platters soon to march into the ivory tower. Take some notes from K-12, organize, spread the sunshine, and *for everyone’s sake* simply recognize the presently absent adjunct by giving her/us your attention.

Thank you for all that you do, Dr. Skallerup. Support and sunshine from afar.

- @shieldsmolly

*The following are my tapped bloggers for the Sunshine Awards challenge (Read Dr. Artz’s post for a recap):

(1) Allison Hogan

(2) Stacy Dillon

(3) Daisy Marino

(4) Doug Robertson

(5) Julie Smith

(6) Ishai Barnov

(7) Shira Leibowitz

(8) Michael Buist

(9) Caitlin M.

(10) Mareena Kohtala

(11) Marisa Wren

11 questions for the above bloggers:

(1) If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

(2) What accomplishment are you most proud of?

(3) Complete this thought in one sentence: “I am _____.”

(4) When was the first time you realized you are good at your job?

(5) What makes you lose hope for humanity?

(6) When in your life have you been humbled?

(7) What was your first car?

(8) What movies inspire you?

(9) What movies do you despise?

(10) If you could change one thing about education, what would it be?

(11) Define happiness.

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