As an adjunct faculty member, a mom, and a doctoral student, I have struggled with balancing my life and making room for everything. A typical afternoon of my thoughts looks like this:
My nine-year-old son needs money for band, and my twelve-year-old daughter needs a doctor physical to play school sports. She is growing so much her shoes never fit and she needs new ones ASAP. My husband has errands he needs me to run because he’s working late. Dinner needs to be made, and the kids have activities and appointments in-between. Don’t forget to bring water because it’s hot. Oh, yes, it’s hot and the plants need to be watered. Don’t forget to help with homework because son has a spelling test tomorrow. Can the kids squeeze in doing some chores tonight? Oh shoot, the fridge is low on food, and we are almost completely out of cereal. Add it to the list before you forget. Students from college 1 are calling and needing my help. I have a half a dozen questions in the individual forums from college 2. A new class needs to be set up. Another revision on my dissertation needs to be made. Soon my IRB documents will be due and they require great time and detail. Then there are my house to-do projects, emails to answer, my mom to call back, and social media if time is left. I’m three weeks behind on new episodes of “Fixer Upper.” Maybe I’ll watch one while I’m answering work emails. Nope, son just threw up. Time to do laundry. Whoops, I left clothes in the dryer. “Mom! Can you come here?”
Any of this sound familiar? Most adjuncts I know struggle in similar ways. Many of us are working a full-time job and teaching on the side, or we are teaching for multiple institutions trying to make a livable salary, plus we have all the rest of life going on.
One of the biggest complaints of adjuncts is that they receive little pay and benefits, yet on the other hand, because they are not compensated for it, most administrations do not require their adjuncts to engage in scholarship. To be honest, over a decade as an adjunct, I rarely engaged in scholarship for these very reasons.
As my dissertation research has showed me, this dichotomy is a problem. There are many individual benefits alone to engaging in scholarship, even if it is something you are doing on an occasional basis. It can build your resume and CV, allowing you to grow in your academic career; and perhaps even more important, it can help you become a better teacher. Yet, as adjuncts, we can’t be asked to do another thing, especially for free. We feel overwhelmed and underappreciated. If we got asked to take on one more thing we would lose it.
However, since starting my doctorate three years ago, my perspective on this has completely shifted.
If you are familiar with the Ernest Boyer model of scholarship you know there are different types of scholarship. Scholarship isn’t just about conducting research; it is also about our most important role as an adjunct: teaching. Since I have been in my doctoral program, I have been surprised at how I have grown as a thinker and teacher. Perhaps best of all, it has re-ignited my passion for academia and for teaching. I now want to engage in scholarship; it has become an enjoyment for me and not something I have to do.
As a fellow adjunct I encourage you to consider engaging in some form of scholarship this year. While you might not have time to invest in a full research project (discovery), perhaps you have time to read and reflect on your pedagogy or on changes in your field so that you can grow in your role as an instructor. It is worth squeezing into your crazy calendar. And, you might even find it to be something you want to make a regular priority because you enjoy it and it makes you a stronger teacher.