A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Helping Professors Find Time to Think (Allison Adams, 12/05/16) made me remember some of the professors I had in my undergraduate and graduate years. My degrees are in math, so very few of them looked like John Houseman from “The Paper Chase,” but several of my Social Science professors were the classic bow tie, suede elbow patch on tweed jackets pipe smoking types who for me represented what I believed a professor’s professional life must be like – sitting in their book lined office (and of course the office is in an ivy covered neoclassical building), having coffee while reading academic tomes, contemplating the universe and then having a port in the faculty club at the end of the day. Later, as I began my own academic career, I realized that this was far from the truth. Even after teaching for two decades I found that with course preparation, grading, teaching, committee work, new initiatives, curriculum review, office hours, and other commitments (now add email to this list) there never seems to be enough hours in the day.
Adams argues for taking time to think and reflect. “I am always on the lookout for antidotes to that counterproductive frenzy;” “it sounds luxurious, doesn’t it? Time to think.” To which I say yes, it sounds amazing and impossible…and yet isn’t that exactly what we need to do in order to be effective at our work of helping students be successful?
The larger question in this article is how those of us in the professional development world can help faculty cope and “cultivate times and places for deep deliberation and care…” Enter The Slow Professor by Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber. I am a proponent of the Slow Food movement; you should read their manifesto which includes “We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus: Fast Life, which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes and forces us to eat Fast Foods.” If any profession is “enslaved by speed”, it surely is academia, and as Berg and Seebe write, “when we are rushed, we’re simply not the people we’re capable of being.” How do we become that person when the stress level of academics exceeds that of the general population? How do we cultivate reflection and intellectual inquiry in our lives (and in the lives of our students)? What ideas do you have for finding time to think? #cultivatereflection #slowprofessor #timetothink