Faculty careers are often divided into three phases: beginning, middle, and end. Yet despite the fact that it is the longest segment of one’s career, there is surprisingly little attention given to mid-career faculty. It seems we expect careers to run a bit like they’re on cruise control. Once engaged, it’s a steady pace forward. Just stay between the lines and you’ll get where you need to go with minimal effort.
But careers don’t stay on track without care and attention. To survive and thrive during those long middle years, faculty must be mindful of their instructional health and well-being. There’s plenty about teaching that can make a teacher tired—an unending stream of courses to teach, lots and lots of content to deliver, students who are not always well prepared or motivated to handle the material, courses and assignments to design, student work to grade, course evaluations that can feel like personal attacks, colleagues showing signs of cynicism, budget cuts—it’s a long list that seems to grow each semester. Feeling exhausted and isolated, mid-career faculty slowly retreat into a dull routine—carrying on, but with a bit less energy and a diminished enthusiasm for teaching and learning.
Mid-Career Faculty: How to Stay Engaged, Fulfilled, and Productive is a free, downloadable report featuring 13 articles curated from Faculty Focus, The Teaching Professor, and Academic Leader. It’s designed to help you avoid mid-career malaise and set a course for continued professional growth. Here are just a few of the titles you’ll find in the report:
- Waking up to Tired Teaching
- Mid-Career Faculty: 5 Great Things About Those Long Years in the Middle
- Professional Faculty Development: The Necessary Fourth Leg
- Avoiding Burnout: Self-Care Strategies for Faculty
- Look to Midcareer Faculty for Learning Communities
- Managing the Academic Leadership Pipeline
In addition to identifying many of the challenges mid-career faculty face, the collection offers various approaches for taking care of our teaching selves. It starts with the awareness that teaching careers cannot be powered by intellect alone. Good teaching requires emotional energy as well. We need to feed our emotional energy by taking breaks (even short ones) and making time for those activities that renew us.
We also need to spend more time thinking about the unique opportunities afforded by that long stretch of years in the middle. It offers time to gain confidence as a teacher, to explore new options, and take risks. There’s time to fix things, to get them right, or closer to right. There’s time to think, not just about what we’re doing, but why. And it’s those why questions that lead to assumptions, beliefs, and a deeper understanding of what makes an instructional practice coherent and effective. There’s also time to build mentoring relationships with students and colleagues—the opportunity to share what we’ve learned about success in the academy and in life.
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