Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Attitude of Gratitude #18: Colleagues Keep Me Afloat

My colleague wrote eloquently about the seasonal "Eeyore Days" that happen in November. I, too, experience the malaise she describes, right after Spring Break, too. 

I haven't quite got to the point where I'm so behind that all I want to do is weep, a typical feature of every semester. It's during those time of the year I particularly lean on my peers for support. 

Which brings me to the question for today's attitude of gratitude blog challenge question: What do you appreciate about your colleagues? In a word: Lots!

Knowing I'm not the only one struggling, falling behind on grading, or feeling frustrated with a particular teaching issue reassures me, reduces the social isolation. While I love the autonomy of my own classroom, camaraderie helps to know what I experiencing isn't unique. This collegiality, at least for me, is therapeutic.

My peers' intellectual generosity also energizes me, makes me a better teacher. Not a week goes by when I don't "steal" or hack a lesson plan from a colleague. And the feedback I get on how to solve teaching problems is invaluable. 

Yesterday, three of us ventilated about the ongoing process of balancing our role as gatekeepers (determining if students are ready for the next level of English) and cheerleaders (nurturing and encouraging student voices).  But instead of wallowing or complaining, they came up with the idea to meeting over the break to chat about what we can say in our syllabi and do in our classes to help make that balance more transparent. 

Our goal isn't to devise a rigid, official statement of expectations but to help make clear our role to students. Each group, students and teachers, have different sets assumptions about learning and our respective roles in the learning process. (Sidebar: Yes, I'm cribbing my notes from Rebecca Cox's  The College Fear Factor.)

I'm happy my peers are the kind of folks who'd like to spend time together to solve shared problems. I feel like part of a team. Feels the best times I had in graduate school. 

I'm also grateful for my morning commute with with a colleague/friend, a counselor and professor who teachers personal development. Sharing about learning objectives and what goes on in our classroom with him helps me see with a new set of eyes what I experience. As we spend time sipping coffee and maneuvering traffic, we informally discuss navigating the pitfalls of being educators from our respective departments. I get to take advantage of the lenses his discipline uses to approach teaching and learning. The caffeine and discussion equally invigorate.

How wonderful to know I'm on the same journey with folks in my own departments and those in other divisions. More importantly, how wonderful that we can, if we are willing, depend on each other to become more effective designers of educational experiences.

Intellectual generosity. Therapeutic goodies. Gotta ask the folks at human resources if my insurance covers my peers' billable hours - for services rendered!