Tip #2: Find a way to escape the weight of expectations. Even your own

Jennifer Veltsos

September 20, 2018 |

When I loved over to CETL in spring 2017, one of the recurring themes from faculty was a request for flexibility in scheduling professional development events. As a faculty in SBS emphatically explained, “I want professional development, but I want it when I want it, and that’s not necessarily between 8 am and 4:30 pm.” During the 2017-18 academic year, we tried a lot of options to make that possible.

  • We experimented with choosing dates for professional learning communities after participants sign up rather than choosing dates in advance. It turns out it’s never easy to wrangle more than two faculty to be in the same place.

Lesson Learned: Book the rooms and let people decide whether they can attend or not. This year, we shifted to “Professional Development Fridays” to takes advantage of the lighter course schedules that day. A list of options is at the bottom of this message.

  • We developed a menu of workshop topics that can be offered individually or packaged together and offered when and where you want it. The “Built Your Online Course” Workshop series was a big hit for College of Business, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, The Department of Counseling & Student Personnel, and the Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education.
  • Michael Manderfeld and I created the U Betcha Podcast, a mini-series about teaching and technology topics.
  • Like many of you, I have spent the last year writing copy for the new CETL website. When it’s finished, the new site will be a first stop for your questions about teaching and learning, and it will connect to resources to help you learn more when you’re ready.
  • The Scholars at Work Series of Seminars was replaced with a day-long conference in March. This collaboration with SESR, IT Solutions, and Library Services is a way for you to learn about the Exciting Teaching and Research that’s happening right here on our campus. The next conference will be March 29, 2019; a call for proposals will be available next month.

In Addition to these projects, I also wrote weekly emails with teaching, learning, and productivity tips to offer one more way to get a bit of PD on your own time. The response was positive, and many of you have stopped to mention how one topic or another resonated with you. But after a few months, the positive feedback began to feel overwhelming. Were they really helpful or were you just being nice? Could I keep up the pace of regular PD emails? Had I run out of ideas? Could I find another year’s worth of professional development disguised as pithy banter and jokes at my own expense? Eventually, these doubts prevented me from writing to you at all.

Teaching & Learning Tip #1: Find a way to escape the weight of expectations. Even your own.

For the past two months, I have been stuck. Writing these emails is hard. After all, technical writers are acutely aware of the audience, and in this case, you’re no anonymous audience. The names and faces of people reading this email are those getting coffee in the Union, walking across the Mall, Squeezing through the hallways between classes, and attending countless meetings in conference rooms all over campus. You’re wonderful people, you’re great at what you do, and I couldn’t imagine anything useful to share with you that you don’t already know. Writer’s block set in.

But while reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson, I realized that It’s normal to feel frustrated. It’s a good thing, in fact, Manson explains that Happiness doesn’t come from avoiding problems or challenges but from embracing them. “The secret sauce is in the solving of problems, not in not having problems in the first place” (pg. 31). We all feel like we’re overwhelmed sometimes, right? According to Manson, the key is to figure out what struggles are worth your time and energy and which struggles are not. “who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for” (pg. 40). Working with the faculty and staff at Minnesota State Mankato is what makes me happy. So even though it’s a struggle to schedule events, to find collaborators, to encourage people to participate, and writ these emails, it is a struggle that is worth my energy.

What do you do if you feel imposter syndrome creeping in?

Acknowledge it and move on. You don’t know everything, but no one does. Geniuses like Einstein and John Lennon admitted that the more they learned, the more they realized how little they knew. Don’t dwell on thoughts of not measuring up. Focus on your goal and how you’re going to get there. Made a mistake? Things go off track? Learn from it. Don’t forget the Provost’s convocation theme (2018) “thriving in an Era of Disruption.” There’s no better time to try something new. As Samuel Beckett famously wrote, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

What if it seems like it’s just too hard?

Look around and find your allies and accomplices. These terms are often used in activism and social justice work, but at this summer’s HERS Leadership Institute, we were encouraged to expand the definitions of our own work. Allies are people who support your cause and can help you find resources. Accomplices are the people who are right next to you when you need help. Your allies are the ones you set appointments with to discuss matters. Your accomplices are the ones you text or PM or walk down the hall to talk to. Your allies help you think bout plans and outcomes. Your accomplices listen to your frustrations and joys and help you figure out workarounds when you hit a wall.

 Who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for.

 What are you willing to struggle for?

Want more ideas? See 21 Ways to Get Over Imposter Syndrome

Are women more susceptible to imposter syndrome than men? Time Magazine says no, but notes that experts and perfectionist are prime targets. Sound like anyone you know?

 Orignially posted on U Betcha Teaching & Learning Blog.

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