revisionspiral reboot!

balancing-stonesThis blog, the third iteration of revisionspiral, is devoted to “balancing” the demands and whims of being a professor at a teaching-focused institution. I used the scare quotes around “balancing,” but I might as well have also used them around a few other words in that sentence . . . it’s complicated! Let me explain.

Balancing. Some people think “balance” means giving equal attention to multiple things, while others conflate it with the concept of “everything in moderation.” My take is that things are in balance when you’re not collapsing from too much or not enough of anything (too many meetings or not enough sleep, for example), and the things you value–work, family, community-engagement, whatever–are all getting enough of your attention that you are not plagued by feelings of guilt.

Demands. This can be a tricky term with faculty, who I think, often confuse what they wish they could do or what their colleagues are doing with demands of their jobs. For example, I may have an over-achieving colleague who publishes three articles a year or a chair who is leaning on me to join a work-intensive committee, and I may feel a lot of pressure to publish more to keep up with the over-achieving colleague or to join the committee to placate my pushy chair, but the fact is, in this example, neither publishing more nor joining another committee are true demands of my position. I think one of the keys to “balance” is recognizing when something is really a demand of our job and when it is something else.

Professor. Adjunct instructor, lecturer, professor . . . there are lots of terms. Do you profess? In front of others who have paid for the privilege? Does an institution of higher learning issue you a paycheck for this activity? If you answered yes to these three question, you are who I’m talking about.

Teaching-focused institution. It seems like all institution presents itself to potential students as teaching-focused, but I’m talking about the institutions in which faculty are expected to put more energy into teaching than into research. The more might mean a tiny bit more or it might mean that the expectation is that all your energy goes to teaching.

Here are some of the topics I anticipate covering here:  

  • Making and defending time to research and write
  • Finding ways to integrate your teaching and research
  • Keeping email, meetings, and other tedium to a minimum so you can focus on more meaningful things
  • Noticing the differences between Demands and demands (capital D versus little d) so you can make deliberate decisions about how to focus your attention
  • Resisting the culture of academic elitism that often makes those of us at teaching-focused institutions feel defensive about what we do
  • Teaching strategies that promote social justice