May 14th, 2010

Do Take Care


The Teaching Professor Conference is next week, and it’s a sold-out event. More than 800 of us will gather in Cambridge outside Boston for this event. If this year’s conference is like previous ones, it will be a high-energy event with virtually nonstop talk about teaching and learning

Despite some exhaustion by the time it’s over, all of us greatly anticipate the event. It’s a chance to meet “electronic” colleagues, share time with old friends and draw energy from the 800 faculty who care about teaching and are gathered to share, discuss, question, learn, and reconnect with all the reasons why they are so committed to teaching. I hope to see you there ….if not this year, then perhaps next.

I’m doing the lead in to my now annual entry about how essential professional development is for teachers. We need to take care of our instructional health and well being. I’m just back from an event at a two-year college in Canada. “Most of our attendees are converts or almost converts,” my hostess told me. Then she sighed. “I spoke with one faculty member who really ought to come, but he said he didn’t need any of this stuff.”

Perhaps he doesn’t learn well at workshops or conferences. But at this institution and at many others there are various other professional development opportunities offered by a teaching center—to say nothing of what teachers can do for themselves on their own. I don’t think the problem is too few professional development options. It think it’s the lack of norms expecting growth and development coupled with the failure of many faculty to recognize that we need to take care of ourselves as teachers. Teaching well takes energy!

Way more important than your presence at The Teaching Professor Conference is what you are planning to do for your instructional health this summer.Maybe it’s an afternoon under a tree with lemonade, a colleague and some serious discussion of that course you’ve taught too many times with no changes. Maybe it’s finally getting around to the book on teaching you’ve been intending to read for months. Maybe’s it finally doing some pedagogical scholarship. Maybe it’s an email to some recent students asking questions about their learning experiences in your course.Maybe it’s once again being a student faced with learning something new.There are so many possibilities—don’t let this summer slip past without availing yourself of any of them.