I bought a writing prompt book and I do not use it as much as I would like to do so. This post is a response to, “Believe with all your heart that how you live your life makes a difference” by Colin Beavan. This quote made me think about work and university life in general. I use the quotes as a writing response and try to put pen to paper (yes, I hand write them out first) my first thoughts to the particular quote. Here are my first thoughts about Beavan’s quote.
Some people like to think of the university as this quaint place where professors reside in Ivory Towers or perhaps silos and are completely shut off from the rest of society. In fact, some opine that professors are clueless about the so-called real world. We professors are at times depicted as this uber-privileged class who are disinterested in students and teaching. Our students are often depicted as this group of youth who are hiding out in university learning about books or issues that will not help them get a job. Yes, that coveted job is the end result or want for our students. These depictions might offer an accurate view of some of my colleagues and some students; however, I would argue that for most these stereotypes or caricatures are false based on 16 years of teaching in universities in the US and Canada. Yes, this is my opinion.
The reality could not be further from the truth. Many professors are engaged in a myriad of work related projects that stem from research, teaching, service, governance in their units or across campus, as well as some community building in their disciplines or the wider community in which they live in locally. Sure, there are research intensive colleagues who are focused on that next book and their army of graduate students that they supervise. The university needs these different types of professors. This post is not about the army of exploited contingent faculty, as that deserves a monograph or at least its own post. It speaks volumes that I have this footnote or sidebar note in my scrawl on the writing prompt sheet.
Many do not understand that prior to smart-phones and other advances with digital technology, professors’ flexible schedules means that there is always work to do. There are always assignments that require marking, emails to get to, research to do, writing to think about and maybe do, and then more emails to respond to from students, colleagues, and others. With the advent of increased use of technology, people expect to hear back faster and in many instances you will get follow up emails about an email that was sent 15 minutes earlier or perhaps a few hours earlier. I have been emailed three times within my lunch hour by an administrative assistant about a meeting. The meeting was not a life threatening situation; however, my lunch hour meant that I was available. I did not respond until I was done with my lunch and my errand across campus. But, let me say that I was not keen to see a flurry of emails about something that was not pressing. My point is that boundaries are thin. Perhaps you think that I have moved away from the quote. But, I’m sitting here thinking about work and how I try to live my work life as if it makes a difference to those around me: my students. Do not get me wrong, I like my colleagues across campus, but my primary role right now is teaching and mentoring. This means that I need to go in each day and remember this quote. The little things that we do can make a difference.