Avoiding Academic Rigor Mortis: From Teaching Zombie to Animated Scholar

“Avoiding Academic Rigor Mortis: From Teaching Zombie to Animated Scholar” by Dr. Suanna H. Davis, most recently of Houston Community College

As an adjunct teaching up to six classes of writing a semester, including developmental, freshman composition, and upper division courses, I was busy. I was so busy teaching that I became what one friend likes to call a teaching zombie. I went to class and taught. I went home and graded. I answered emails and phone calls from my students.

I wanted to be a good teacher and I worked hard to be a good teacher. I believe that I was relatively successful at being a good teacher; however, my narrow focus was beginning to lead to burn out (Friedman 595). Even I did not reach the stage of true burn out, “[s]tudents suffer when instructors stagnate” (Thompson 43).

zombie-teacher-from-schooluniformfancydressMy desire to finally go back to the profession full time (after six years of voluntary adjunctism, seventeen years after I left a ft tt position for family reasons) made me realize I needed to reengage with my discipline community (Prieto, Soria, Martínez, and Schaufeli 359). I had not been attending conferences nor had I been attempting to be published.

As I began to re-engage in conference presentations and to write for publication, I realized that I had stagnated in my teaching. I did some things well, but some things I knew to do I wasn’t doing and other things I was doing even though I knew they weren’t the most helpful to my students.

I was like the zombie stumbling through the streets with arms outstretched, “Brains!”

Once I had the challenges of presentations and publications, though, I was stretched to excel. My life became anecdotal evidence for the pedagogical ideal that if you expect more, more is achieved (Fines).

Writing and producing the genres of the academic discourse community–student study guides, pedagogical essays, and scholarly research–I became more entrenched in the culture of the community (Miller). My successful engagement with the genres of academia animated my teaching, eliminating rote presentation and enriching both my practical and theoretical approaches to pedagogy.

How did I continue to teach a full-time+ load and go from zero publications to two dozen, writing and publishing multiple articles and chapters, a book, and all the rest? That’s what you need to come to our presentation to find out!

The photograph is from worldoffancydress.com.

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