The Slow Grad Student – Do Less and Be Mindful

On February 7, 2017, in UWindsor, by Elizabeth Ismail

The following post takes a look at the benefit of doing less, not more. It is by Dr. Chris Golde, assistant director of career communities- PhDs & Postdocs, BEAM Stanford Career Education, Stanford University. The original post was published November 17, 2016 and can be viewed here.

 

 

THE SLOW GRAD STUDENT | DO LESS & BE MINDFUL

 

What is a “slow graduate student”? That is what I puzzled over while reading The Slow Professor. Taking inspiration from the Slow Food movement, this book advocates embracing the principles of Slow, to reduce stress and reclaim faculty control over their work.

Two themes of slowing down in academia are particularly applicable to becoming a Slow Grad Student. The first is mindful, deliberate doing, which necessitates doing less. This theme is revealed in the book’s subtitle, “Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy.” Relatedly, Slow Academics also prize collegiality and community.

The authors “advocate for deliberative, imaginative and reflective thought as definitive of a professor’s work and life. Creativity and contemplation … can’t be multi-tasked,” summarized one thoughtful review. You can also read about the book in Inside Higher Ed and University Affairs.

How can graduate students adopt these principles and practices? What is “the slow graduate student?”

Principles of the Slow Professor

The authors, Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber, begin their book with a Manifesto.  They say:

“Slow Professors advocate deliberation over acceleration. We need time to think, and so do our students. Time for reflection and open-ended inquiry is not a luxury but is crucial to what we do. … We envisage Slow Professors acting purposefully, cultivating emotional and intellectual resilience. By taking the time for reflection and dialogue, the Slow Professor takes back the intellectual life of the university.”

slow-professor-cover

Their book springs from their shared recognition that, as faculty members, they are pressured to do more and more. Time is the rarest resource. This pressure on academics is higher education’s manifestation of the “work first” culture in the United States.

Many time management books, including those particularly aimed at people in the university, advocate doing more, using time more efficiently, and multi-tasking. (Among the more extreme suggestions that Berg and Seeber cite are arising at 4 am to write; booking every hour of every week with tasks and meetings.) These “solutions” don’t attack the systemic problem that we expect to do more and more, faster and faster.

What we lose is time to think and reflect. We become less creative. Communal values of generosity and conviviality are the casualties when we don’t (or feel we can’t) take time with one another. The result of sped-up, work-centric academic life is chronic stress, unhappiness, and ill health. Some, like these junior faculty, respond by leaving higher education.

We need to cultivate new practices—or reclaim old ones—that open up space in our lives for thinking, being, and connecting. This is a route to joy and wisdom.

Many of Berg and Seeber’s suggestions are aimed at faculty. And grad students value faculty members who embrace and model the principles of slow. But you need not wait. You can put some practices into play now.

Four Practices of Slow Grad Students

Here are four practices to help you slow down. These are micro-practices that can make a small, but noticeable, difference.

Do Less

Graduate students report that they are expected to do more than can be done. Take classes, teach, do research, write papers and proposals, prepare for major exams, attend colloquia and seminars, participate in side projects, show up at department events, and more. Whew!

There is far more that you could do than you will be able to do. That is a fact. You plan (hope) to accomplish more every day, every week, every month than is possible. We all face the constraints of time and energy. You simply can’t meet the goals you set for yourself—they are unattainable. One result is that you feel badly about yourself (rather than celebrating your accomplishments).

Slow grad students make peace with their limitations. (I coauthored Your Bag of Apples|Set Realistic Goals with Dr. Maureen Stabio.)

Slow grad students recognize that “done is better than perfect.” This doesn’t mean that you should settle for mediocre work. But sometimes many hours are spent getting a piece of writing from “very good” to “flawless.” The time spent fretting and the time spent polishing, is time that could be spent doing … wait for it … not something else, but NOTHING. Managing your expectations and pulling back from perfectionism can open space for slow.

Remember, that there will always be those around you—students and faculty—who accomplish far more than you do. Hold yourself to the standard of what is realistic for you.

Make Space to Be, Rather than Do

Carefully structuring your time can help you be effective. But when every hour of every day is planned, things have gone too far. The To Do list overwhelms your efforts to be your authentic self. I wrote about this in Create a To Be List | Your Life Manifesto.

Slow graduate students ensure that there is unstructured time in every week. If you can’t imagine what to do in unstructured time, here is a list to get you started. (We Doers need help letting go of being task-focused.)

  • Take a walk
  • Doze
  • Ruminate
  • Talk with a friend
  • Walk mindfully
  • Observe the natural world
  • Breathe
  • Pray
  • Think
  • Play with a pet
  • Daydream
  • Doodle

Slow graduate students don’t apologize for spending time on things that are not graduate school or work related. Go to a concert. Cook dinner with friends. Get away to the beach or the mountains or the woods.

Celebrate your non-grad school life. Applaud others when they do the same.

Eschew Performing Busyness

Graduate students are often performing (sometimes subconsciously) for the faculty and for one another. How does a successful graduate student behave? How do you demonstrate that you are committed to your work, your degree, and your field?

Looking busy is a tried-and-true way to show one’s commitment.

Busy talk is the obligatory response to “How are you?” “I am so behind, overworked, stressed out.”

Slow graduate students resist “performing busy-ness.”

Put a moratorium on “busy talk.” Instead, tell a different story. How we talk about our lives goes a long way to shaping our (and others’) perception. I can’t say it as well as this paragraph, excerpted from a  2014 essay by Nancy Chick on her now-defunct Mindful PhD blog:

Some years ago, Jordan Landry (English, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh) introduced me to this notion of the professional stories we live by and, more importantly, the power to write those stories ourselves. She said we can live the “beaver narrative (busybusybusy, working hard all the time because there are always more trees to harvest and lodges to build) or the “otter narrative” (approaching everything with a sense of play, floating on our backs in the sun, hunting and working as necessary). This distinction isn’t really about the work we actually do as much as how we experience our work lives, or the narrative we tell ourselves and our junior and future colleagues about the quality of our lives.

Cultivate Community

Dancing giraffes

Community is an important element of the life of a slow graduate student. Students need time to be with other people; especially without a task. Time to talk. To get to know each other. Opportunities to discuss ideas. Writing groups can be communities of support, as well as places where work gets done.

Collegiality is the practice of coming together. Strong intellectual communities support risk taking and vulnerability. You can talk honestly. Be open about your challenges, failures, and dead-ends. This is the same spirit that motivates creating a graduate student CV of Failures.

Physical space is crucial for community. A lounge with a coffee machine and comfortable chairs is a place to seek out companionship. Showing up creates a virtuous cycle of community. If you can reliably trust that others will be there, it increases your likelihood of going to the communal space, which in turn increases the chances that others will find you there. (This is crucial for creating Playborhoods for kids.)

* * *

American culture greatly values work and busyness. This is also true in academia. Putting up a modicum of resistance is counter-cultural. It is hard.

It is not all or nothing. Not slow vs. fast.

Slow grad students are mindful of slowing down just a bit.

 

Promoting a Culture that Values Teaching: Writing an Effective Proposal for the Windsor-Oakland Conference
February 7, 11:30am-1:00pm
Register: http://cleo.uwindsor.ca/workshops/2/

What does a culture that values teaching look like? And how can we help contribute to a more positive, effective teaching culture?

Erika Kustra and Jessica Raffoul are hosting a lunch-time workshop, February 7, 11:30am-1:00pm, to explore what an institutional teaching culture is and why it might matter.

As you may know, the 11th annual University of Windsor-Oakland University Teaching and Learning Conference, will take place at the University of Windsor, May 2-4, 2017: uwindsor.ca/tlconf. We’re inviting proposals that address how instructors, departments, students, and staff work to foster cultures that value teaching (i.e., through the evaluation of teaching, educational leadership initiatives, and teaching methods), and how culture impacts these initiatives. Proposals are due February 17http://cleo.uwindsor.ca/oakland/callforproposals.php.

During this lunch-time session, you will have a chance to brainstorm new conference proposal ideas, or hone existing proposals you are already considering submitting. And I should note, lunch will be provided!

To register for this workshop, visit: http://cleo.uwindsor.ca/workshops/2/

Also, a number of upcoming workshops, events, and opportunities that you might be interested in are detailed below. Feel free to contact Jessica (jraffoul@uwindsor.ca) if you have any questions!

 

UPCOMING WORKSHOPS

It Doesn’t Always Have to be This Way: Why Engaging Students in Content Laden Large Classes Needn’t be Such Hard Work, Monday, February 27, 1:00-4:00pm

Probably One of the Most Important Things Teachers Do: The Why, How and When of Giving Students Feedback for Learning, Wednesday, March 1, 10:00am-12:00pm


EXTENDED PROGRAMS

Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW), February 21-23, 9:00am-5:00pm

  • Intensive three-day workshop. Each day involves a workshop in the morning, followed by a microteaching session in the afternoon, where each participant will be video-recorded teaching a lesson and will receive constructive written and verbal feedback from the other participants. Participants will receive a certificate of completion.
  • Registration: http://cleo.uwindsor.ca/workshops/74/#wkshp-1656

Leading Effective Discussions, Wednesday, March 1-April 5

  • Six-week half-course that introduces the basic skills involved in promoting, leading, and sustaining educationally-effective discussions. Involves participant-led microteaching sessions, and opportunities to receive feedback on your teaching from the other participants
  • Registration: http://cleo.uwindsor.ca/workshops/7/

National Survey of Student Engagement

  • Every three years, first- and fourth-year students at every university in Ontario have a chance to make their voices heard and directly influence how faculty, staff, and administrators understand what’s happening at their universities.
  •  NSSE is one of the few opportunities we have to really get a solid snapshot of how students are experiencing the University – an opportunity for their voices to be heard loud and clear. If you are interested in learning more about this survey and how you can help promote it, please visit: http://www1.uwindsor.ca/provost/nsse
 

2017 GATA Awards Call for Nominations

On February 2, 2017, in UWindsor, by Elizabeth Ismail

The Centre for Teaching and Learning is calling for nominations for this year’s GATA Awards: http://www1.uwindsor.ca/ctl/gata-awards

Please consider nominating a GA or TA whose educational practice is deserving of recognition or who is an outstanding educational leader.

Nominations are due May 22, 2017 by 5:00 PM.

The official call is included below.

Nominations invited for GA/TA Awards

GA and TA Award for Educational Practice and the GA/TA Award for Educational Leadership
Deadline: May 22, 2017

GATA Awards

Nomination Process (click here)

The Centre for Teaching and Learning is calling for nominations for two awards recognizing contributions by graduate and teaching assistants to the University’s learning environment. Both the GA/TA Award for Educational Practice and the GA and TA Award for Educational Leadership aim to:

  • recognize and honour exemplary GAs and TAs who contribute to a positive, learning-centred environment at the University;
  • inspire GAs and TAs to recognize their potential for excellence in educational practice and leadership, and motivate them to transform that potential into reality; and
  • publicize examples of excellence in GA/TA educational practice and leadership that can inform the practices of all teachers, while contributing to student and faculty pride in teaching and learning at the University of Windsor.

Eligibility

  • The GA/TA must be currently employed at the U of Windsor, or have been employed within 12 months of the call for nominations.
  • The GA/TA may still be nominated if he or she has previously won another teaching award (for example, at the department level).

Nomination Process

  • A GA/TA who meets the eligibility criteria may be nominated by a past or present student of the GA/TA, or by a colleague, faculty member, or staff member. GA/TAs may not nominate themselves.
  • Any nominee who wishes to meet with the CTL for consultation and advice regarding dossier preparation is encouraged to contact Dr. Pierre Boulos at the email address or phone number below.
  • Late nominations will not be accepted.

The deadline for nominations is May 22, 2017 at 5:00 PM. Questions and comments may be directed to Dr. Pierre Boulos, boulos@uwindsor.ca.

 

The Question of the Month is BACK!!!

On January 17, 2017, in UWindsor, by Elizabeth Ismail

Hello UWindsor!

The Provost’s Question of the Month – for this month’s chance at that luxurious, stylish hoodie – is about “high-impact practices”: 

High-Impact Practices are educational activities that inspire deep involvement and create meaningful collaboration and interaction with others.  Things like:

  • Being part of a learning community or some other formal program where groups of students take two or more classes together
  • Taking courses that include a community-based project (service-learning)
  • Working with a faculty member on a research project
  • Internships, co-ops, field experiences, student teaching, or clinical placements
  • Studying abroad
  • Undertaking a culminating senior experience (like capstone courses, senior project or thesis, comprehensive exam, portfolio, etc.)

(See http://nsse.indiana.edu/html/high_impact_practices.cfm).

 

How many of the above high-impact practices have you participated in while at the University of Windsor, and which have been the most engaging and rewarding? Why?   

Email your response to vpacademic@uwindsor.ca
Deadline:  January 31, 2017

 

Why are we asking? 

In the next few months, UWindsor  students will take part in the National  Survey of Student Engagement, or  NSSE (pronounced “Nessie”), which invites  first-year and final-year students to comment on their undergraduate experience, including  involvement in HIPs. We use the information from NSSE to improve all aspects of students’ campus life and learning. Consider this the warm-up event!

The last time UWindsor participated in NSSE, a whopping 78% of responding fourth-year students had taken part in an HIP — we’d love to know more about what you get out of HIPs!

Stay tuned for more information about the NSSE survey, and about incentives for participating. The more we learn from you, the more we can do to foster your engagement and your success, both personal and academic.

 

Get a Head Start on Tax Season!

On January 10, 2017, in UWindsor, by Elizabeth Ismail

Keep in mind that T4As will be available to students electronically through myUWindsor.

This convenient and secure option will allow you to print and re-print your T4A wherever and whenever you like with no waiting, no time lost in the mail, and accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for as long as you have access to myUWindsor.

Students who would like the new electronic option must provide their consent by Feb. 20th. To provide consent, please log into your myUWindsor account and check the box under “Online Tax Document Consent”.

All students will get their T4A mailed to their home address by default unless they indicate otherwise.

 

 

Winter Academy is back!!!

On December 5, 2016, in UWindsor, by Elizabeth Ismail

Already missing GATAcademy? Don’t worry, GATA Winter Academy is right around the corner! On Wednesday, January 4th, 2017 the GATA Network will be presenting a full day of back-to-back workshops on topics related to teaching and learning and GA/TA life.

The Details:

What: GATA Winter Academy 2017

Where: Erie Hall Basement, G141

When: January 4th, 2017

Why: Teaching development

***Free refreshments will be provided***

Workshop offerings differ from those held at GATAcademy, so whether you’re a new or returning GA/TA, we have something for you! It doesn’t matter if you’re a teaching expert or just starting out in the classroom- Winter Academy caters to all experience levels. This event is completely FREE to GAs, TAs, and those interested in teaching and learning.

This year’s line-up is led by a talented group of experienced instructors:

Jess Dixon: Marketing Your GA/TA Skills to Potential Employers

Michelle Bondy: Encouraging and Answering Questions in Science Labs and Tutorials

Nadia Timperio: Effective and Efficient Strategies for Grading Written Assignments

For more information about workshops or presenters, click here: http://cleo.uwindsor.ca/workshops/ctl/101/

 

UWILL Discover Submission Deadline

On November 24, 2016, in UWindsor, by Elizabeth Ismail

Calling all GAs/TAs!!!

 

The deadline for submitting proposals to UWill Discover is on Thursday December 1st. Undergraduate students in any discipline are eligible to participate, and each presentation will be reviewed by expert faculty and guest respondents.

There are prizes available in many categories!!!

 

Detailed guidelines for how to prepare an abstract, a research talk, or a poster are available on the UWill Discover Blackboard page. Please contact Dr. Simondu Toit to be added to that page.

Instructions can also be found on the UWillDiscover submission page: http://scholar.uwindsor.ca/uwilldiscover/2017/

 

GOOD LUCK!!!

 

Provost’s November Question of the Month

On November 17, 2016, in UWindsor, by Elizabeth Ismail

Its that time again!

 

Over the next few months, the University of Windsor will be negotiating its next Strategic Mandate Agreement with the province. This agreement outlines what makes our university unique, what our strengths and priorities are, and where we’re headed over the next three to four years. One part of that process is proposing new academic programs that we will develop in line with our vision and the government’s priorities.

Some key elements: new programs have to be innovative, both in content and in how we deliver them. And they should also include an experiential or work-integrated learning component that will enhance and further develop skills students can take into their employment after graduation.

This month’s question is:

What new, innovative, experiential/work-integrated learning types of programs would you like to see developed here at the University of Windsor? Or to put that another way, what programs do you wish UWindsor had had when you were applying to come here?

This Month’s Prize:
A University of Windsor Hoodie

Submission deadline:
November 30, 2016

Please send your response to vpacademic@uwindsor.ca.

 

The 2016 GATA Award Results!!!

On November 16, 2016, in UWindsor, by Elizabeth Ismail

ADAM GOODWIN

200x300_adamgoodwin

Adam Goodwin is the 2016 recipient of the GATA Award for Educational Leadership. Adam is a Master’s Candidate in the Faculty of Human Kinetics where he worked as a graduate teaching assistant for three semesters as well as a research assistant on a teaching and learning grant dedicated to understanding the teaching practices being used in the undergraduate Kinesiology program. Through this work Adam is leading change in the areas of curriculum development and refinement. Over two years, Adam has spearheaded a number of teaching and learning initiatives that have resulted in seven (7) peer-reviewed oral publications. Through these efforts he is leading initiatives for pedagogical information-sharing. Adam currently works with The City of Red Deer, Alberta as a Community Facilitator, leading the corporation’s non-market housing and homelessness files.

The GATA Network Coordinators conducted the following interview with Adam:

1. What was the most difficult part of the nomination process?

Letting go. When I started the process, I thought it was just another nomination process. The structure of the award process forces nominees to deeply reflect on their teaching and learning philosophies, strategies, successes, and areas for future growth. This helped me think deeper about teaching and learning than I had in the past. Eventually, I had to let go and complete the actual nomination package (it was submitted 30 minutes prior to the deadline!).

2. Had teaching and learning been a big part of your life before you won the award? How did the award change your views on teaching?

Yes and no. I did my undergraduate degree at a university with 60,000 students that is heavily focused on research. Many professors cared deeply about their students and teaching but their main focus, in part due to the institution’s tenure and promotion criteria, was research. The environment that I completed my degree in was one in which I left believing that research was the purpose of universities. It was not until I came to the University of Windsor that I realized how many opportunities there are in teaching and learning in higher education; the number of faculty, staff, and students who are putting tremendous resources into thinking about, researching, and leading a renewed focus on what it means to balance teaching and learning with many, many other time commitments that come with working in higher education. Along the way, I have met many individuals who have opened my eyes to realizing that it is okay to be great at teaching and learning, research, and service, or to just want to focus on one particular area.

3. How has the GATA Award impacted your life, if at all?

Yes, the award has. I am fairly quiet. There is a misconception that educators have to be these spunky, charismatic actors/actresses who jump on desks to get students’ attention and illustrate a point, which, unfortunately, I find, even really intelligent people believe. When colleagues and peers find out I received this award, I think it helps them move past their own assumptions about my skills and abilities (I have spoken in front of crowds of 3000+ twice with no sweat or butterflies), and assumptions they may have about what it means to be an educator. I think the award has helped others better understand me, and see that just because I have high enough self-esteem and confidence not to have to speak all the time (i.e., I reject many Western academic-centric views that the one who speaks the most is the most engaged or has the most knowledge or is the best, and that oral communication is the only way to share ideas), and that just because I am usually the guy sitting in some corner with earphones on doing work, I am just as comfortable being in front of a class/crowd/group as I am living in my own little world.

4.What is the most rewarding or best part about being a GA/TA?

I had the opportunity to be a graduate assistant for Functional Anatomy, one of Kinesiology’s tougher undergraduate courses. I was responsible for leading three weekly laboratories. I had taken a few physiology courses during my undergraduate degree, which made me quickly realize that physiology and anatomy, although closely related, are very different ways of thinking. So the most rewarding part was being humbled and having to re-think my original strategy of teaching the material (which my old brain had a tough time soaking up) to facilitating student learning. That was a big jump for me, but it made me appreciate different teaching philosophies and approaches, never to pretend that I know everything, or that I am the smartest person in the room (I had the students that scored in the 99 percentile in my lab…).

5. What is your favourite GA/TA memory?

It was likely outside the actual GA role; the many connections I built with students and the GA supervisors, through my GA roles, over the term are great memories.

6. Is there any advice that you would give others who are considering being nominated for a GATA award?

The process to compile the dossier will take time: 1) start early, 2) spend time thinking and planning what the dossier means to you and could look like, and 3) use it as a process rather than just the end result. I used the nomination process as a tool to reflect on what teaching and learning means to me, and how I would like to incorporate it into my life in the future. Oh, and start early.

Great work, Adam!

 

For more information regarding descriptions and criteria of the GATA Awards, visit the CTL Website.

 

The Return of the Provost’s Question of the Month!

On October 6, 2016, in UWindsor, by Elizabeth Ismail

Now that the rush of September is behind us, Provost Douglas Kneale is re-activating his successful Question of the Month contest, where he asks you to respond to a question about yourUWindsor experiences.

The author of the winning entry will receive a UWindsor hoodie!!

Over the last couple of weeks, the University has been unveiling a new awareness campaign about the University of Windsor, communicating something that a lot of people on campus identify as a core characteristic of our students, staff, and faculty: Promise.  So, the Provost is asking you to relate that to your own experiences at the U.

This month’s question is:  What does “promise” mean to you?

Please send your response, for another chance at that amazing UWindsor hoodie, to vpacademic@uwindsor.ca  by October 31!