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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Thinking about the big picture

Ah, it is finally summer! It's been a long, stressful school year and I am really looking forward to having some time to just breathe. One of the things I am really, REALLY looking forward to is having the opportunity to step back and think about my overall plan, both for the CTL and for my life in general (i.e., research and having a life outside school!). I feel like I spent most of this year just trying to keep things afloat while simultaneously figuring out what the hell I'm doing; that, in and of itself, has caused a lot of stress for me. My usual M.O. is to be much more methodical - I plan, I make lists, I develop clear goals before figuring out all the steps I need to take to reach those goals. While some people love to just jump in the car and drive aimlessly, seeing where they end up, I have always been a person who cannot enjoy the journey if I don't know what the destination is. It's OK if the destination changes as things happen along the way, but I'm just not comfortable if I don't have a clear direction to go from the beginning.

It's interesting how often I have found myself drawing parallels between the way I approach the CTL work and the way I approach my classes. In many ways, this year has felt like teaching a course you've never even thought about teaching before, that you were asked to teach the day before the semester started. All you have to go on is the syllabus and materials from the person who taught the class last, and they have a completely different teaching style from you and a totally different idea of what you think the class should actually be about (like teaching a class called "Public Economics" which you think should be about market failure and taxes but the previous instructor made all about political economy and voting theory) (AND they did nothing but lecture!). But since you don't have time to do much prep, you mostly just go with that previous course outline, tweaking where you can and as time allows. If you know what I'm talking about, you can imagine that even if the class goes "well", it probably doesn't feel great, doesn't feel authentic to you.

That's how a lot of this year has felt. I've tried to get a handle on what I want to do with this job but for the most part, I've had to spend all my time just doing stuff. So having the opportunity this summer to step back and think is going to be awesome. And next week, I'm going to the POD Network's Institute for New Faculty Developers - I am so excited to learn from people who are already doing this work. I'm sure I'll have lots to report when I get back...

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