Busy is Hard to Unlearn: Having It All

An article in the Globe and Mail that discussed how students today don’t really take a Summer break gave me pause. If you search the Globe and Mail’s site for students + busy lots of articles are found–including the one that I shared. While the article is dated, the sentiment is important as we get through the first month of a new year.

Once I was in high school I found a love for running and spent my Summers training for Cross Country and Track Seasons, but I also took the occasional Summer School class up at Mt. SAC. I was also enrolled in some Honors and Advanced Placement courses, so by the time I graduated I had more than the first term of college courses completed. While in university I also took Summer School and ultimately graduated with my BA in Women’s Studies and Minor in Political Science in 3.5 years. Yes, you read that right.

I was a first generation college student and the eldest of 5 kids. College wasn’t really about having the time of my life and finding myself (well, I did a little of this), but was about being  busy and serious to get it done. I had my family to think of and how they would help all five of their kids go to college or university. Three of us have degrees and the two others took some coursework, but never completed to earn the four year degree. Two of us have multiple advanced degrees.

The crux of this post, though, is the article about teenagers not having Summers today. I can recall being in middle school and getting bored after one month and I was ready to return to my school schedule. I was a good, focused student. Today, though, I am a workaholic and not saying this out of pride, but just sheer honesty. I work hard and I love my job, but I have to remind myself that I am not my job. I say this, as I want to be a good example to my own teen and her little sister. I want them to have a Summer and decompress from the busy school term that is filled with classes, competitive swimming, piano lessons, and more.

What does it mean to be so busy? What does it mean to have it all? Yes, I’ve linked to the now infamous NYT and Atlantic articles. What some of this means is that it’s getting harder to relax. I’ve blogged previously about the electronic umbilicus between me and my gadgets. I’ve also blogged about Breaking Up with Foursquare. I’m mindful of my work balance issues and trying hard for better balance. But, I also know that my Type A personality is at work, and I work in a field where my job is not the traditional 9-5 gig. I always have a project to work on, a chapter to revise, or journal article to write. And, I need to say “no” more.

It’s no wonder that during my first week of vacation I was at the office three days for meetings. Meetings planned months in advance with four or more people and our busy schedules meant that we could only find time in July–my month off. The second week of my vacation I was also at work three times. Each time I came into work the wonderful, Graduate Secretary smiled and me and said, “Now, I thought you were on vacation?” I love her to death for her humor and support! It’s work for me to relax and I’m trying to get better, as I don’t want to pass on this attribute to my daughters.

This third week, on Monday I met with some mentees and I’m finally ready to get to my own projects and writing! But, as any of us working in higher education knows, there is still work to be done on courses and other work related stuff during the month off. This post is the first in a series thinking about what it means to be busy or attempt to have it all. I think I just about have it all, but it means that I’m busy. Cue the big sigh.

Don’t Blame Technology

The acceptance letters are going out to all the Grade 12 students. I am reading lots of books about teaching and technology, and reflecting on the ways in which we talk about first year students and technology. I felt it was worth continuing this conversation.

The New York Times article “Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction” made the rounds, but since there have been other similar articles. It is to easy to blame technology on the disconnect that educators find with the current cohort of students in our first year courses. I am going to speak to this notion that the Net Gen are artful multi-taskers and think differently. Instead, what we really have is a cohort of young people who are used to using technology all of the time for gaming, fun, communicating, research, school work, and for making connections with others. Of course, some are using technology merely for gaming or social networking, but you get my point.

Part of my job is to acculturate students to the environment of higher education. This is why my course syllabus states that students should be taking notes or checking the course Moodle site, but not gaming during lecture. It’s distracting to those around them and frankly, if you want to game, download music–do that outside of the classroom. This notion of the Net Gen being better at multi-tasking has been disputed on several occasions this year with new research that states that the Net Gen are no better at multi-tasking than previous generations.

I am not a tech Luddite. I have an iPhone and have often been an early adopter of different technology or applications. However, I tire at the sheer number of articles that extol only the virtues of technology in reference to youth. This New York Times article doesn’t do this, but it opens up the door to excuse making for rude behavior in the classroom and in communication. If the Net Gen wasn’t spending hours online gaming or connected to Facebook, they most likely would be on the phone for hours with friends. Technology has replaced other great time vacuums that previous generations used. Here, all of this conversation is directed toward youth who have access to technology. These are really first world concerns and conversations.

We need to remember that ultimately lots of business and human interaction takes place face to face. This is where we need to remind the Net Gen about classroom etiquette and communication etiquette online and offline. In much the same way, though, educators need to be realistic about their teaching and make sure that the material and means of presentation of the information is engaging. And, we need to equip are students with skills to use the technology well. We are all in this together.

internet button

Sassy Button

Continuing the Conversation About Leaning In

Many are still responding to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. People have both applauded and attacked the book and Sandberg. I was recently catching up on my magazines and read a review in the April issue of the Atlantic and came across Garance Franke-Ruta’s “Miss Education.” Franke-Ruta notes that women are doing a great job in seeking higher education. Women are leaning in at university, but once they leave they fall behind. In short, we do well at school, but when we get our first job we do not negotiate well. I do not really agree with all of her article. Franke-Ruta uses dating as a metaphor. She explains that women are waiting to be noticed or wooed and this is different for men, since they seek out the job and feel more comfortable negotiating their salaries. Many articles and books point out that women do not negotiate their salaries and benefits well or as well as their male counterparts.

What the author is getting at in an interesting if not problematic way is that women are socialized to not negotiate well and to not find work in the same way that men do. This might explain why some 4.2% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women (28). What we might actually need is more leadership training for women, better mentoring programs in university, and in the workplace. Franke-Ruta is correct that education is not the panacea, but it is not just the formal education that is needed, but re-education of peoples’ expectations about women and men. We need better career education and mentoring all along the education and work pipeline. And, we need stop dismissing the career advice in Lean In and other books. They are targeting professional women and we need to embrace the message and not just attack the messenger. These books are clearly not for everyone–which career book is? I am including a screen shot from the article that assesses other similar books. Many thanks to the Franke-Ruta for her provocative review. You can see that these books share one major point: it’s important to ask for a raise.