Here We Are, Now Entertain Us

Well, it has begun. Whether we were ready or not, we all have a week of classes under our collective belt. Where’s my classroom no I didn’t print out the latest copy of my schedule do we have to buy the books why can’t I upload anything to Blackboard hey prof I’m going to miss class Monday because my cat has the clap when do your kids start school did I remember my class roster why do I have 53 emails did this projector bulb just burn out? CHAOS AND ENTROPY REIGN

Kermit

Despite the chaos, though, the first week is often the easiest. Everything still has that new-school-year-smell. We and our students are in the honeymoon phase of the relationship. Sure, it’s unicorns and rainbows now, but eventually assignments get graded, classes get missed, discussions get deflated, and then we find ourselves pondering our life choices once again. The Cat Circus is hiring!

If only there was a way to bottle up the energy of the first week, and uncork it around midterms. Your friendly CETL staff is working on that, but in the meantime, this week’s links offer some perspective, some food for thought, and some pep talks for the coming semester.

Some of you might remember when Shawn Achor came to Grand View for one of our Summer Institutes and gave a fascinating and energetic talk on positive psychology. Since then, he’s become quite the star, but he remains insightful and original still. One of my favorite lectures by him is a TED Talk where he offers us “The Happy Secret to Better Work.”

Parker Palmer, the prolific author of The Courage to Teach and other books about teaching, vocation, and reflective contemplation, gave a remarkable commencement address at Naropa University, a Buddhist institution, in Colorado this past Spring. It’s a wise speech in many ways, but I was particularly struck by his suggestion that we think about “wholeness” in a different way:

As you integrate ignorance and failure into your knowledge and success, do the same with all the alien parts of yourself. Take everything that’s bright and beautiful in you and introduce it to the shadow side of yourself…Wholeness is the goal, but wholeness does not mean perfection, it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of your life.

You can find the whole address here; it’s well worth the time.

One of the keys to a successful semester is balancing productivity and sanity. I know, it sounds crazy, but I’ve heard it can be done! One way to do so, in fact, is to use some technological tools to help up your productivity game. Stephen Shaw, a psychologist at McGill University, offers some great tips in the wonderfully-titled “How Not to Suck at Efficiency: Some Technology Suggestions.”

I highly recommend Sonya Huber’s “Shadow Syllabus”; it is a beautifully-written and powerful look at what we do and how we do it.

Finally, I find that it’s hard enough to do this job without letting all the gloomy assessments and prognostications about the higher-ed climate to take over my brain, turning me into a gloomy zombie of pedagogical pessimism. Fortunately, there are some great voices out there to remind me that what we’re doing–teaching and learning–is the essence of higher ed. And therefore, as David Gooblar puts it, “we are the University.” A simple point, but a crucial one to remember. It all comes back to us, our students, and our teaching and learning.


 

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