From the category archives:

The Academy


by Dr Davis on October 10, 2012

I am overwhelmed by the work I am doing. I am not sure it is more than I have done before, but I am just too busy to even sit down and think most days.

So, I decided I would try to figure out what I was doing and what I had done and see if I just forgot how busy I was before.

Three years ago I taught a 5/5/2 load; wrote and had published six articles, two reviews, one chapter, and one book; created and published a digital poem; gave ten conference presentations, seven of which were national or international conferences; mentored a new PhD through multiple conferences; read entrance exams for the graduate business department; served on the writing committee; spent six hours a week in office hours; held those office hours on a couch after the hurricane destroyed several buildings on campus and did severe damage to the one I was officed in; lost my mother; and wrote and presented several poetry readings.

Two years ago I taught a 4.5/5.5 at an inner city community college, including two totally new preparations; created, launched, and arranged a monthly update for an online literary journal; organized a panel for a national convention; gave three regional, one national, and one local conference presentations and one invited talk; served on the Executive Council for a regional conference; read for AP Language; won a competition for creation of a proposal and white paper for the college’s QEP plan; attended QEP meetings and wrote a complete QEP proposal and white paper; served on the committee for online textbooks; held office hours ten hours a week; created and published a digital poem; and wrote and published two articles, two poems, one review, and two chapters. This was while driving in one-hour each way from the suburbs to downtown and taking my stroke-limited father to lunch at least once a week. (Thank you, HCC-Central, for working on my schedule so I could do that.)

Last year I taught a 4/4 load, which included having four classes of students to my home and teaching five composition classes (four fyc and one business writing); taught four new preparations, including a course in an area which was a minor interest in undergraduate and PhD, but whose topic had been off my radar for over twenty years; spent two hours a week in a conference learning to teach that preparation; resurrected an honors society and held four events with the newly re-created group; created and updated the honor society blog; contributed to the departmental blog; wrote one article which was published and two chapters which are in press; published three poems; wrote four grants and won two of them; gave four conference presentations and did three original poetry readings, two digitally; served on the Executive Council for one regional conference; created and updated the website for a regional conference, including creating original art for the site and acquiring online payment abilities; was chair and organizer for two regional panels; read for AP Language; created and gave a presentation for graduate students on conference presenting; acted as a graduate student mentor for two in-coming graduate students, which included reviewing papers, suggesting conferences, having them over to my house, and taking them out for lunch; participated actively on the departmental library committee, with full responsibility for rhetoric, composition, and linguistics acquisitions; participated in the composition committee; read for freshman and graduate student assessment evaluations for SACS; took a digital story-telling professional development class; took two photography professional development classes; attended twelve professional development luncheons; beta-tested a new CMS; held office hours seven hours a week, met in conference with all my fyc students twice, and stayed in contact by email and texting with the students from 9 am to 9 pm seven days a week; and studied twelve professional development books.

This year I am teaching a 4/4 load, including one new preparation this semester of a graduate class in the history and theory of rhetoric and four different preparations next semester and teaching one of the classes with totally online texts; classes next semester include a new book, so a total revamp of a class I have only taught one semester before; creating an iBook for Early British Literature; teaching a class with the brand new iBook; serving on the Executive Council for one regional conference; updating the website for a regional conference, including changing the online payment and registration abilities; creating the program for the regional conference and organizing and creating a digital presentation showcasing student work from our university; advising students!!!!; participating actively on the library committee, the UG research committee, the composition committee, and the business writing committee; presenting for two conferences, both regional and both on technology–the focus of a grant I won…

I am behind in my writing and being accepted to conferences. I received an R&R I have not gotten to and I am supposed to be revising my dissertation and getting it to the publisher by the end of the year. I have no conferences next semester and no abstracts out for writing or presentations.


Busy, busy

by Dr Davis on October 3, 2012

I have been crazy busy, but I have some things I am thinking about and readings that I want to incorporate.

I am going to include the blog posts here so I don’t forget them. Hopefully I will be able to get to this soon. I think it is important.

Dr. Skallerup or Ready Writiing’s To Blog or Not to Blog?

My own Live Blogging

Ethics of Live-Tweeting

Advice on Academic Blogging, Tweeting, Whatever


Leaving Adjunct Career

by Dr Davis on September 30, 2012

A post at Inside Higher Ed on why one adjunct left, that also reflects why many stay–despite minimal pay, no benefits, no raises, and no hope for a long-term position.

A sobering read.


MLA JIL Parody

by Dr Davis on September 29, 2012

Some of the parodies are hysterical. Some are so scary I am afraid they are legit. One (Bates College) sounds like a job I would enjoy.

MLA JIL Parody. The parody is real.

Do NOT mistake these for the actual MLA JIL postings. Those are far less likely to result in a hire.


Should I show this to my grad students?

by Dr Davis on September 28, 2012

It is not quite funny enough to be persuasive, but it gets close.

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Flipped Classrooms

by Dr Davis on September 23, 2012

Now, first, let me say that I think that flipped classrooms are a great idea. I think that having the students do engaging work in the classroom, as discussed by a long-time blog read Casting Out Nines. One of my friends is presently flipping her classroom and I am excited about her work.

However, EdTech Magazine‘s “Colleges Go Proactive with Flipped Classrooms” begins with a statement that can easily be read the wrong way:

Professors are moving away from the straight lecture approach and running more hands-on learning and group activities in class — and they’re using more technology to get it done.

When I first read it, even though I know what a flipped classroom is, I thought the article was saying that lectures were disappearing while group activities were being done in class. The third paragraph clears up this misunderstanding by explaining that students watch the lectures outside of class and do group activities in class.

There’s a big difference between having no lectures and having lectures but not in class. (Yes, I know the first sentence can be read that way. It is not the most common way of reading it, however, even by someone who understands the flipped-classroom concept.)

I have heard people question flipped classrooms because “If the teacher gives the lecture online, why do the kids even have to come to class?” and “You just want to flip the classroom so you can stay in your pajamas all day.” (WHAT?) These are academics saying these things, by the way.

If students can come to class already having heard the introductory material and then while they are in class practice applying that material, I think everyone will be better off.

Let’s flip classes, not burgers!


Doing Away with an Entire English Department

by Dr Davis on September 19, 2012

Apparently if CUNY faculty don’t like what CUNY administration thinks, even though CUNY rules require faculty agreement, CUNY administration can get around that tiny little issue of checks and balances by dismantling the department.

One CUNY school’s English faculty voted against reducing the composition class from four to three credit hours. That faculty has been permanently disallowed the ability to ever teach composition for CUNY again. All students at their campus will have to travel to another campus in order to take composition. For a student barely able to attend, this will create hardship. For the faculty being let go for taking up their university-granted rights of a vote, it means all the adjuncts and most of the full-time and even the tenured faculty will be out of a job in 2013.

Read more here.

CHE Fora responses are also interesting reading.


To Hope or Not to Hope… Is that a question at all?

by Dr Davis on September 17, 2012

“Earning the PhD and a False Sense of Hope: My Experiences (So Far) in this Racket Called Academia” is Dr. Kelli Marshall’s discussion of her academic educational and career experience.

I do not think that what she has gone through is unusual.

I am afraid that it is going to become more common than it is already.

To sum up her situation:
Dr. Marshall received a PhD in what most people thought was a relatively marketable humanities area. (“Groundbreaking” one of my friend’s in a very closely allied area’s T&P outside letter said.) She had far more experience teaching than her cohort. She has publications. She took a VAP. Her husband left a good position for her move. She lived on unemployment.  After several years, her husband has a full-time position again and she is an adjunct–in line to become a long-term adjunct (which I can say from personal experience does NOT sell well) and concerned because of recent postings requiring a PhD received within timeframe.

Then she saw some job postings that specifically precluded her from even applying because they carefully requested a degree gained within the last three years.

Reactions to that information among academics was strong, as you would expect.

Sell-by date for PhD degree problem:
Inside Higher Ed’s Restricted Entry says: “‘We were told to ride out the storm, but it seems we were lied to,’ he said. “Everyone knows that there is this bias against lecturers and adjuncts. This ad codifies it. It is brazen enough to just put it out there.”’

A blog post, Old PhDs Need Not Apply, says: “ I find the language to be astonishingly dismissive of the reality of the humanities job market. As Eduard Gans states below, there are any number of reasons (besides already being in a tenure track job for 3 years) why someone might be 3 years or more out from their degree, completely qualified (eh hem), and looking for work.”

Dr. Lee Skallerup Bessette writes in her Inside Higher Ed blog post on the topic:

I think many, many long-time (heck, even short-time) adjuncts and non-tt faculty’s hearts sank when we read, in plain language, what we had long suspected and feared (reading the comments on this blog didn’t help, either): we are not what departments are looking for. We have priced ourselves out of a job (or aged ourselves out of a job. Or we’ve past our “sell by” date. Whatever.).  There is a sick irony to being the lowest-paid people on campus and then being told we don’t qualify for a job because we’re too “expensive.” This is the paradox of higher education today.

My experience with the job search process:
I worked on my PhD in the “glory” days of English in higher education. I called my alma mater from my PhD university and asked for a full-time position, which request was granted in less than a day. I moved home to full-time work with the written guarantee of a raise and a tenure-track position as soon as I was no longer ABD.

Instead of working like a maniac on my dissertation, I had babies and became a stay-at-home mother. I had no expectation that getting back into the job market would be difficult–after all it hadn’t been hard to get into it.

Then, finally, after three moves and a number of years, I finished my dissertation–just barely within the 12-year time limit allowed by the granting university.

I voluntarily worked part-time as an adjunct for six years. I was still homeschooling my sons and did not want full-time work.

Then, when I stuck my toe in the job application process when a great job opened up where I was adjuncting, I discovered that long-term adjunct work was a problem. I also discovered (as I probably should have known) that I needed research–conference presentations and publications–to get hired.

So, I began working as a full-time adjunct and pumping up my research.

In two years (April 2008-August 2010), I:
taught 20 classes
had 15 articles or chapters accepted and published
presented 22 papers at regional and national conferences

I was able to do this only because my family was also completely committed to my having a career in my field (and willing to do without my full participation for a while) and my husband’s job paid sufficiently that we could fund 22 conferences.

My abnormal experience:
In August of 2010 I applied for two positions.

In August of 2010 I received an offer of employment in one of those positions (a non-tenure track but relatively stable long-term assignment in a system without tenure).

Then in April of 2011 I received an offer of employment in the other of those positions (a tenure-track position that looked relatively stable as well).

I accepted both.

I loved the community college I worked at and in many ways wish I were still there. But the political situation and my experience with non-tenure track faculty being booted out (at another, private institution) led me to believe that the tenure-track position was more likely to remain stable–and it was at my alma mater, my home institution, and thus was the job I had always wanted to have, whenever I finished my mothering duties.

So I, of all people, know that there is hope. I did all the “wrong” things and I not only received one full-time, long-term job offer at a school that I miss with colleagues who were amazing, I also received a second tenure-track offer at another good school with great colleagues (some of whom were already my friends).

And my take on the question of getting a PhD:
Despite the fact that I got the job(s), despite the fact that I teach graduate students, I would NOT recommend that anyone who needs a salary get their PhD in my field.

I have tried to discourage the up-and-coming PhD candidates to stop and think and do something else.

My experience with recommending against PhDs:
The students don’t listen to me. They know I received a full-time, tenure-track position and so they are sure that they will as well. I’m not “special.” I’m not a “superstar.” They know that. And they fully intend to be a superstar.

So, in a way, my own experience is counterbalancing (and overbalancing) my advice.

In a way, that is to be expected. These students are professional students. They love and admire their professors and want to be just like them. Their passion is for becoming a professor in their field. Why would a little salt on a wound that has not yet appeared hurt them? It doesn’t.

And what about those who are writing about the issue of PhDs and no jobs… At least two of the people cited above are still working in the fields they love BECAUSE they love it, DESPITE the knowledge that it is unlikely they will receive a tenure-track offer. They are recommending you don’t get a PhD either, but their lives ALSO tell you that it is worth it.

Sometimes our actions speak so loudly no one can hear our words.

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What is Academic Literacy?

by Dr Davis on June 7, 2012

Since I work with students to help them improve their writing, I was looking for something specifically on writing in academia. These notes are more for grad students on entering the disciplinary conversation, but I thought they were good points.

1. Engaging with the key ideas and concepts of the discipline in ways that reflect how “experts” in the field think and reason.
2. Transforming what you have learned into a different form for use in a new context or with a different audience.
3. Making links between concrete knowledge and abstract theoretical knowledge
4. Engaging in substantive conversation
5. Making connections between the spoken and written language of the subject and other discipline-related ways of making meaning
6. Taking a critical stance toward knowledge and information
7. Using metalanguage in the context of learning about other things

Website for English Learners Academic Literacy and Thinking

Pauline Gibbons’ English Learners Academic Literacy and Thinking


Interesting to See What Others Do

by Dr Davis on June 5, 2012

Texas Tech’s Academic Workload Calculation does not include everything that is essential at our school. But it does include some that are not given at our school (and could/should be).

Texas A&M’s Workload Policy is also interesting.

A&M has better workload percentages for supervising TAs.
A&M is also very explicit on chairing versus membership on a thesis committee. We do these “free.”
We also don’t get any credit in the “Teaching Program Development.”

Both A&M and Tech offer course reductions for new TT faculty. Our school, as far as I can tell, has never even considered such an idea.

We could really use more than A&M offers for Coordination.

The one place we are better than either Tech or A&M is that teaching a grad class = 2 undergrad classes. (So it’s not 1.5.)