On Being Intentional

By Nancy Chick, Academic Director of the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning

As the daylight starts arriving early and lasting well into the evening, we’re all thinking about our summer plans.  We at the Taylor Institute are hunkering down to reflect on the last year and plan for the next, in order to align with one of our core values of being intentional in our work. We also just finished the second meeting of our book group on The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy by Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber, a perfect reading to start our spring/summer rhythms of reflection and planning.

While its title suggests it’s about professors, it’s actually about the entire university. (The original title was The Slow Campus.)  It’s about burnout and time and resistance and joy and thinking—and being intentional about all of these things. At 90 pages (and now in paperback), it’s a simple read, but one that may transform your summer.

For us at the Taylor Institute, The Slow Professor resonates with our role on campus. In “Helping Professors Find Time to Think,” Allison Adams looks to the book as an example of how those of us who work in institutes and centres for teaching and learning are “starting to see [educational] development as an intellectual endeavor for the ‘whole professor’”—or instructor, teaching assistant, academic staff, student, and other members of the teaching and learning community.  Sponsoring writing groups, organizing brief virtual breaks to write or reflect, and hosting academic learning communities and communities of practice are just some examples.  I host a monthly “SoTL Writing Mini-Retreat” to give those writing SoTL-related pieces to have a time and space to do this work in a distraction-free, supportive environment.

In her recent keynote for our conference, Katarina Mårtensson talked about a phenomenon in Sweden called fika, a coffee break that’s about intentionally taking time to think or gather with others. Unlike our coffee break that’s “more about grabbing a 16-ounce-grande-whatever, in a paper cup to go, coffee is more about fueling up and going fast,” fika is “about slowing down,” according to Anna Brones. As I start thinking about our programming for next year, fika is already on my list—both internally for the faculty, staff, and students of the Taylor Institute but also you, our teaching and learning community across campus.  The dates will be announced in July, so look for them to add to your calendar.  Be intentional about allowing yourself time to slow down, to think, to have some good conversations, and—as Berg and Seeber say—to “advocate deliberation over acceleration.”  Also, Katarina left us some Swedish chocolate for our first fika, so there’ll be chocolate.

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