Friday, July 1, 2016

Discussing the Slow Professor: Week 1: Introductions and Preface

Welcome!  I am delighted to host a discussion of Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber's The Slow Professor:  Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy.  Please join us for a thoughtful discussion about its principles and how we can apply them to our own academic and other work lives.  In keeping with the book title and focus (and to keep me from swallowing the book whole), we're deliberately reading slowly in order to savor each morsel and really digest its lessons, so we'll read one chapter per week and discuss it (which should allow even those who are on challenging reading schedules to weigh in). 

Here's the breakdown by week:

Week 1 7/1-7/7:  Introduce ourselves and read/comment on the Preface.

Week 2 7/8-7/14:  Discuss Introduction (pp.1-15)

Week 3 7/15-7/21:  Discuss Ch. 1:  Time Management and Timelessness (pp.16-32)

Week 4 7/22-7/28:  Discuss Ch. 2:  Pedagogy and Pleasure (pp. 33-51)

Week 5 7/29-8/4:  Discuss Ch. 3:  Research and Understanding (pp.52-70)

Week 6 8/5-8/11:  Discuss Ch. 4:  Collegiality and Community (pp. 71-84)

Week 7 8/12-8/18:  Discuss Conclusion:  Collaboration and Thinking Together (pp. 85-89)

At the beginning of each of our weeks, I will put together a (hopefully) thoughtful prompt about what we read and then we'll use the comments to discuss the text (whether your comment follows my prompt or not). 

I would ask that everyone play nicely and engage in collegial, productive discussion.  Most of us probably have strong feelings about academic life as well as the culture of crisis and efficiency that is encroaching on, or come to dominate, our work lives (for good or ill); we just need to remember to keep from turning our strong emotions on each other.  If you hate the book or someone one's comments, please just critique thoughtfully.

For this first week, please introduce yourself, your institutional background (if you wish), and what you're hoping to get from this discussion.  Once you've read the Preface, please feel free to comment on that as well.  (Also, if you're like many people with busy summer plans that have you busier some weeks than others, please feel free to join the discussion even if you can't be here each week.  I realize that in starting today many US citizens are just about to start long weekends, which may or may not be perfect for getting some reading done.  No worries:  join us when you can!)



heu mihi said...

Hello! I'm heu mihi. After 8 years on the tenure-track (and then tenured) at a tiny, 4/4 SLAC in the rural midwest, I just finished my first t-t year at a public 2/2 R1 in the Northeast. I've been consciously working over the past year on developing an active, ideally daily research and writing practice--part of the shift from a teaching- to a research-oriented position. I also just turned 40 last month, and have been thinking a lot about what I want my life to look like and how I can put those desirable patterns into practice. I hope that this discussion will help with both things.

I just ordered the book on Saturday, though, so I won't be able to weigh in until I get it (possibly not until next week). However, I'm looking forward to reading everyone's comments in the meantime!

Earnest English said...

Hi heu mihi! Glad you'll be joining us!

So I am Earnest English and am hosting this conversation because I really need to work on figuring out how to build a healthy and sustainable approach to my work life. Before I got tenure, I was in crisis mode most of the time. I got tenure a year ago, and this academic year was almost impossible, with so many service projects and an increased teaching load that I jettisoned all thoughts of getting any scholarship done, which hurts my heart. I also drove my family and me crazy and was sick. I cannot go on like this. This situation is especially acute because my institution is a specialized one where the academic macho of being overworked, rushed, and in crisis is prized, making me feel compromised as a teacher of those subjects where deep thinking and reflection are incredibly necessary. So this summer I MUST figure out how to work better and, likely, be much more strategic in my actions (including saying no). I need to have a solid core on this stuff because I'm going to have to go into the fray and hold my ground, not something I'm particularly good at. It occurs to me that writing a manifesto might be helpful.

I look forward to the discussion!

humming42 said...

Thank you, EE, for hosting this discussion. I teach in a Humanities department that has encountered many of the difficulties of corporitization without discussing or acknowledging them. Mostly there's a lot of blame going around and it doesn't help anyone, especially our students. I have earned tenure and have found some ways to protect myself from the 24/7 customer driven university mindset, but I don't want the culture of the university to continue to disintegrate while I build more walls and fortresses for myself.

Elizabeth Anne Mitchell said...

Hi, and thank you, EE, for hosting this discussion. Like heu mini, I am waiting for the book to arrive, but will jump in when I can.

I'm Elizabeth Mitchell, newly tenured as a librarian at an R1, with a heavy STEM emphasis, in upstate New York. I was trained as a medievalist, and was told early in graduate school that being a good medievalist took years. Now I fight the perception that my medieval research is too obscure, and takes too long, when I should be churning out 3-4 library science articles a year.

Therefore my interest is partly justification, but more wanting to explore quality versus quantity in academia.

Contingent Cassandra said...

I'm Cassandra, and I teach English (mostly composition -- a junior-level writing in the disciplines course) at a directional state u that recently realized a longstanding ambition to be classified R1 (whether this will actually be good for the school, its employees, and the various constituencies it serves, I'm not so sure). I'm among the most fortunate of the contingent labor corps, with a multiyear contract, something resembling a living wage (give or take the very high local cost of living), and medical and retirement benefits. At the same time, my load is heavy (4/4 and usually two in the summer) and a bit monotonous (mostly that one class, though it does come in disciplinary "flavors," and we have considerable freedom to experiment as long as we meet course goals, writing-intensive requirements, and the like).

Service is not currently officially part of my job (though the provost is making noises), and I'm ambivalent about that: on the one hand, I'm already working at least full-time; on the other hand, I'd like to have more of a voice in things, and, at least in a functional system, that's what service is about. I do do some voluntary service-type things, including, as those in the TLQ group are aware, a grant project which I'm coordinating this summer. I'd be happy to do more service in return for a course reduction (but I do realize that the lack of a service requirement insulates me from some of the pressures discussed in the book).

Research is also not officially part of my job, and I've let my research program dwindle somewhat in the last few years, as my present job came to seem more secure, and as the chances of my writing my way into a tenure-track job more satisfactory in various ways than my present one seemed less and less. I'd like to restart my research program at some point, but not at the expense of overburdening myself. I also find myself thinking more and more about the possibility of writing/publishing about composition pedagogy, as a way to do something with the ideas and expertise I've built up over 25+ years in the classroom, but writing in my original research field (and/or in allied fields aimed more at a popular audience) is more appealing.

I also don't feel I'm keeping up with life -- household tasks, self-care -- as well as I might, despite the fact that I'm single and live in a very small apartment (actually the latter has some demands of its own; while smaller spaces are easier to care for up to a point, I'm beyond that point, and would probably be more organized with a bit more room).

So in some ways I'm not entirely sure I'm the ideal/imagined reader of the book (though I did note in reading the preface a few weeks back -- so my memory is a bit hazy -- that they were good about mentioning the role of contingent faculty in the larger picture; at the same time, we face somewhat different pressures, so one thing I'll be interested in doing is teasing out how and how much their ideas apply to my situation).

So, I'm looking forward to the discussion (even though I'm chiming in a bit late. I'm in the middle of an intense summer term, so I'm afraid my participation may be a bit scattered).

What Now? said...

I'm chiming in late because, as I said in a comment on the Week 4 post, I'm not a professor anymore and so didn't think it applied to me. But Earnest English's description of the pedagogy chapter intrigued me, so I just got the book from the library and have started reading it.

So here's my bio: I was an English professor at a small, conservative, Roman Catholic college, where I earned tenure but in a really hostile environment that took a huge toll on my health and well-being. So I got tenure and then quit (and by "quit," I mean "negotiated a lucrative separation agreement" since the school was eager to get rid of the only openly gay employee). My partner and I moved, I found a job I love at an independent girls' high school (which I call FGS, for "fabulous girls' school"), we bought a house, and I mostly try to forget my half-decade at that college. In many ways, I now have the academic life that I dreamed of in graduate school, although the teaching load is higher and there is no expectation of research at all.

As I said, I love my job, but the last couple of years have worn me out, such that this spring I started seeing burnout on the horizon. Fortunately, I've had a relaxing, restorative summer, and now I'm trying to rethink how I do my job so that I'm in it and loving it in the long run.