Highlights from InsideHigherEd today

A college President returns to the classroom and finds that teaching is time consuming:

It seemed like a very good idea: re-enter the classroom to remember what education is truly about, to test out some of my hypotheses about our students and to assimilate new ways to provide them with the best educational experience possible. How hard could it be, I surmised.

Very hard is the answer. Much harder than I thought.

When the first installment of this series appeared, some readers commented that teaching takes time — both actual time (in and out of the classroom) and psychic time. Presidents have busy schedules, with lots of travel and multiple commitments off campus. The current economic situation has heightened the presidential burdens. Just getting updated on the stimulus package and recent amendments to the Higher Education Act is almost a full-time job.

Despite my best efforts to stay ahead of the students and complete the reading and class preparation well in advance, I find it a challenge. I prepare later than I would like (sometimes the night before, or even the day of, class). Before I actually prepare, I am concerned about my impending lack of preparation!

As if the pre-class anxiety were not enough, I have post-class anxiety when I self-reflect on what I could have done better. I blame my lack of preparation for some of the defects I observe in the course, although to be fair, when I was a full-time academic, I assumed similar blame when I had plenty of preparation time.

David Domke gives some time management tips — to manage research and teaching — two activities both of which are very time consuming:

Schedule them. If you don’t schedule them, they don’t happen. As a faculty member, I schedule my research time and personal activities, to make sure they happen. Otherwise they won’t.

Do different things on different days of the week. I have found that I am best when focusing on one primary type of work task a day. That is, if I teach on Tuesday then I probably won’t be much good as a researcher that day. For me, Mondays and Fridays tend to be days that I spend doing primarily research and committee work.

Believe that you will actually be a better teacher and student when you do take time to immerse yourself in what is highly important, but not (as) urgent. I’m entirely convinced that when I prioritize occasional pockets of personal time I enrich my teaching and research because my mind and energy are renewed.

If we make sure that we spend quality time focused on important matters that seem less urgent, we all benefit.


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