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Sunday, April 7, 2019

Fun is in the eye of the beholder

In my last post, I highlighted four criteria one might use to consider what projects and roles to take on. I posted a link to that on my personal Facebook page, with the summary comment, "Realizing that maybe what is missing from my work is fun. Next step is figuring out why and how to get more of it..." A friend pointed out that "If everyone declined things missing the fun element, every RTP committee would be empty, as would most governance" and she is absolutely right. So let me clarify that I don't need everything I do to be fun, and certainly not all the time, as long as at least one of the other criteria are satisfied (i.e., I feel I'm growing, or it's something I feel passionately about, or it gives me a sense of accomplishment).

At the same time, if I don't feel like anything I'm doing is particularly "fun", then that's a problem too. And what I've realized is that while my work with the CTL generally provides a sense of accomplishment, and some aspects of the job certainly contribute to helping students in a way I feel passionate about, I really don't find any of the day-to-day work fun anymore. I also feel like I've hit a plateau in terms of what I am learning, and that doesn't seem likely to change unless my institution makes a very different decision about the resources it is willing to invest in faculty development. In contrast, because I was able to catch up on a bunch of stuff over Spring Break, I just spent a big chunk of my weekend mucking around in school finance data, and the time flew in a way I haven't experienced in a while. On a few other occasions recently, when I have had the opportunity to talk about education policy, or play around with data, or talk to people about economics, I have come away from those times feeling energized, rather than drained. Maybe it's a function of novelty - since my consumption of those activities is lower these days, my marginal benefit is higher :-). But I suspect there is something more meaningful going on.

This all reminds me, once again, of that quote - and I don't know where it comes from - that a professor is someone who thinks the world would be better off if everyone knew a little more about her subject. Deep down, I am an economist, not a faculty developer, and I am happiest when I get to 'do' economics. So I need to start figuring out how to make more space for that...

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