My Vision for College Faculty
(Image created using Canva, which evidently has trouble spelling)
My vision for college faculty is that they are able to pursue their job as a calling. In saying that, I do not wish to pass judgment on those who view their faculty work as work. I see nothing wrong with that. But I am also not talking to them. It is my vision that, if a professor felt called or inspired to become a college professor, then they would be able to experience this call and this passion and this inspiration as a daily part of their job.
For many years I thought that loving your job was a naïve delusion. I believed that work was work and passion was passion. That is, work is something you do for someone else for a fee, and that this fee is helpful for funding a lifestyle and that passion. I remember telling my wife some version of, “there is no such thing as loving the work that you do.” I had had an epiphany, or so I had thought. Along with this epiphany was my new understanding that being a college professor was essentially identical to stapling upholstery to plastic consoles on a manufacturing line.
At that time I had read a few articles online written by professors who explained that loving your job was a myth that would inevitably lead to disappointment (I found a new example here; there are hundreds of articles about people leaving higher education). I found some solace in this. But I mostly found myself at home in bitter resentment about higher education and academe. I began writing essays where I shared my own observations about higher education, which were dripping in sarcasm and moral superiority. I would talk about academe the way one might talk about waiting in line at the grocery store for 30 minutes to buy apples at $20/lb. Scoff, scoff, scoff.
I won’t go any further into the low spot, because that is not what this post is about. I only wanted to share that the low spot occurred. It is not my vision for higher education or for faculty. Thankfully for me and my students and my university and possibly you, the low spot was not permanent.
Here was how I got out of my low spot: I learned by following the advice here that passion can be grown by working on a skill itself—which, in this case, is teaching and writing and conducting institutional assessments. I decided to give myself over to developing the skills of being a college professor, and wouldn’t you know it? I began to reclaim my passion for those things.
What is interesting is that I found myself doing exactly those things in the classroom and on the written page that had initially drawn me to the profession. I was able to be more of myself. By focusing on the development of my skills for teaching, writing, and assessment, I found myself more able to accept my own personality—my own self—in my job. I became more creative and more laid back in the classroom. I found myself looking forward to spending time with students and colleagues. I began writing in a less guarded way and with fewer incomprehensible academic slogans.
And I did not get run out of the classroom or the faculty offices with pitchforks! Not only was it okay to bring my unique gifts and intuitions and insights to my faculty position; doing so has been encouraged. Because I have learned how to be myself in my professional work, I found ways to support other faculty in doing the same.
So this is my vision for you, assuming you are a professor or lecturer or instructor or whatever your school calls it: that you will find the courage and patience to follow your inner direction in all things faculty-related. If you think, “this thing that I’m doing doesn’t seem right,” then you will be able to let it go and find an alternative that is more satisfying to you. Or if you think, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could…”, then you will be able to actualize that vision for yourself.
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