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Every December, my wife and I write down personal goals for the upcoming year. We sit down, discuss them, write them down, and then at the end of the year, we look at what we wrote down and honestly assess how we did. This year, I thought I should write down my 2014 goals as an educator.
By sharing them, I 1) hope to hold myself more accountable at the risk of facing some serious cognitive dissonance 2) hope it will inspire some people to write down their goals, and share them.
So here are is my list of goals as an educator for 2014:
1) Don’t Lose Sight of Why I got into Academia
If I think about it,I’ve been teaching at the university level for 7.5 academic years (including 4 years of autonomous teaching as a grad student TA). I love teaching. I feel very blessed to have found my calling. As I’ve gotten further along in my career, I’ve taken on new responsibilities that have taken time away from my ability to really focus on making my classes outstanding. I want to make sure that as I add more years of experience under my belt, I don’t lose sight of why I am in academia: the students. In 2014, I want to make a conscious effort to keep putting my students first as I take on new responsibilities outside of the classroom.
2) Stay Young at Heart
This is also related to my growing years of experience mentioned in #1. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed the differences between myself and my students are growing in terms of life experiences. For example, a few years ago students easily got cultural references I made to things from when I was growing up. Nowadays, I make movie references or mention musical artists and am greeted with blank stares. Anyone who has taken a class from me, knows that I love teaching and love learning, and seek to make the classroom environment fun and engaging. But, creating common ground on common experience is becoming more challenging. Of course, I could learn more about what students are watching, listening to, etc. – it isn’t too hard to chat with students and learn about what they’re into nowadays, that’s not what I’m getting at. I suppose I wonder in what other significant ways my getting older could create distance with my students. As time passes, am I having a harder time relating to the way young adults see the world, and what matters to them? When I started teaching, I was a grad student in his mid twenties – a fellow student living in college housing. My life is much different now. Since I started teaching, I’ve gotten married, bought a house, started planning for retirement, many of my friends have started families, etc., etc. While these things in and of themselves are great, with each year my day to day life and experiences are increasingly different from that of my students. So, in 2014 I want to make a conscious effort to be aware of that and to make a real effort to put myself in the shoes of my students. That includes, being sure to see things from their port of view, trying to reflect on how I thought, what concerns I had, what my priorities were, and how i felt when I was their age. In short, I want to make sure I stay young at heart and continue to be compassionate and mindful of the world of a college student.
3) Teaching Reflection
I am a bit of a perfectionist and a bit obsessive when it comes to my class. I want each class period to be perfect – right down to the order in which I present little bits of information. (I’ve found saying 1 thing before another can have a dramatic effect on how students react to information sometimes. I know. It is probably a bit over the top). When I started teaching, I would go to my office after each class and make notes on how the class went. If I felt a major change was needed, I would readjust a lesson. If something little needed to be done – say, we should have had a discussion about X, or I should have asked Y question, I’d make note of that. Then, I’d then update my binder so that the next time I taught the class, the improvement was made. However, as I’ve gotten busier, I’ve not kept up this routine. Instead, I’ve either 1) made a note to work on the fix over winter or summer break, or worse 2) forgotten about what I wanted to do to improve that particular class and hoped I’d remember the next time around. While #1) was better than nothing and sometimes gave me time to come up with new ideas that were great, sometimes because time had passed, I lost the advantage of having the problem fresh in my mind and thus my ability to create a real improvement to the class was diminished. Of course, #1 was better than #2. When i did #2, I often never remembered to make the change. Then I’d be teaching the class again and be kicking myself. While I’ve learned to be a bit more flexible, I do want to get back to taking the time to reflect on my classes and make more immediate adjustments after a class if I think something should be presented differently. So goal #3 is: Rather the putting it off, spend time after classes when needed to plan changes to things that didn’t go as I had hoped.
This is less of a goal and more of a “somethin’ I gotta do.” But still, it is a new challenge and an area I want to really do well in. As you know, I created the Strategic Communication concentration in the Department of Communication at Shepherd. I’m going to be building an assessment plan for the program. Assessment is something I haven’t done before. So i am excited and nervous about it. I’ve created a plan for my Writing Across Platforms class. So I’ve got a start. But the planning and execution of assessment is a big project for 2014. So, creating a complete assessment plan for my concentration and beginning to assess it is a big goal for 2014!
5) Be Thankful
Lastly. I know we get stressed at our jobs and that this is a challenging time for academia. I love what I do. And I’m so thankful that I get to do it. But sometimes, we get so busy and so focused on what we need to get done, or stressed about a project or a deadline, we lose sight of how lucky we are. In 2014, I want to really make an effort to keep on the top of my mind how thankful I am to get to do what I love every day and to work with amazing students and professors.
Thanks so much for reading my blog in 2013. It has been a wonderful year. I’ve learned so much and had so many amazing experiences in my professional and personal life!
What are your goals for the upcoming years? Have you dealt with the items on my goal list – and if so, what suggestions and advice do you have?
Cheers! I wish you a peaceful and prosperous 2014!
photo creative commons meddygarnet