Thursday, September 20, 2007

I'm Swamped

If you have sent an email to me and not heard back it is because I'm swamped. It happens every fall so it is not new, but somehow I always feel surprised by it anyway. I've got a stack of grading to do and this weekend is already committed to paper-grading, and my schedule of appointments with students (posted on my door) is jammed... I feel "trapped" by a trap of my own making...

When I get swamped like this I usually go through several stages:

1. Work faster. I try to work my way back above water first. That always fails eventually.
2. Work slower. Then I get depressed and do nothing for a while--which makes matters worse.

3. Kill stuff. Finally I see the house burning down and I act-- I cancel engagements, do a sloppy job of giving feedback on papers, delete all the email in the in-box and just don't show up to committees.

4. Fresh start. After all that I pretend I am caught up even though I actually just buried the overload.

I'm at stage 2 today.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

What I'm teaching this Fall

I'm coaching several repeat courses and two new courses this fall.

1. Local church Education. My best course and the one I always love the most. I've got about 30 sophomores in this course and they are impressive. We focus on the Spiritual Formation of the congregation as a whole and the students "write a book" in the course. Every time I've taught it it has been my favorite. It is a five-hour course in loading since there are two practicum sections beyond the course that go along with the course.

2. Church Leadership. Graduates always write back to tell me this is actually my best course. I never feel that way. It is packed with the practical stuff of leading, administration and management in the church. I always dislike having to 'tell them the truth" about how "real life" operates and I dread the crestfallen looks and sighs when students who live in dorms supported by loans and family find out what real life in a real local church is going to be like. But I stick to it since I get so many responses after they're in the local church. I have about 25 in this course. It too has a practicum so it is another 5-hour course for me.

3. Teaching the Bible to Adults. This is a brand new course cross-listed as either a Bible course or a CE course... I have 16 in this evening course and they are awesome--it could compete with LCE as my favorite this semester. It replaces the old Adult Education course and includes some of that content but more geared to Bible teaching.

4. UNV180 Breakout. I offered to lead a UNV180 breakout if it was filled with REL students--so I could build relationships with frosh right off the bat. My section is at 3:30 Friday, which is a checkoutville time slot... but as it turned out the group is not all REL students after all, so I'm doing this one out of duty and for the last time probably.

IWU: a Premier Academic Institution?

“If Indiana Wesleyan University Were a Premier Institution,
What Would It Look Like? “

I have been asked to answer the question, “If IWU were a premier institution, what would it look like?” I have chosen to describe what a premier institution would be academically—since this is, after all, the faculty asking this question. There are other areas for excellence, but I shall focus in this short address on being premier academically.

Here is what I predict. By saying “predict” I mean that I fully expect these things to happen. The die is cast. Our sails are already set. IWU will become a premier institution during the next ten years. Some faculty will be dragged along kicking and screaming. Others will feel out of place and will go underground, or go elsewhere. But, I fully believe that within ten years we will be considered a premier academic institution not just by our peers in the CCCU but in the larger academy and beyond. Here are my five predictions:

1. We will increasingly become a reading faculty

• We will not only be constantly reading to keep current in our own field but we will become voracious readers in other fields as we become the renaissance women and men who are examples of integrating ideas from all fields into our own discipline. The liberal arts will be more than a few courses in the general education requirements—it will pervade the curriculum.
• Faculty reading groups will continue to spread over our campus during the next ten years so that virtually every faculty member will be in at least once of the cross-discipline groups every year.
• The real test of this reading faculty will be this: When a future IWU faculty member completes a dissertation virtually every member of that person’s division will read their dissertation—because they are interested in the findings and do not make light of dissertations as if they are meaningless hoops to jump through.
• In the very near future our faculty will schedule reading days on their door just like they now offer student appointments. When students see faculty in their office reading a book and will never say, “I see you’re not busy-can we talk.” They will know that this is our work.

2. We will increasingly become a presenting faculty

• IWU faculty will start showing up in force at conferences and conventions. Rather than one delegate (or, sometimes none) we will send three and eventually a dozen. We will start overrunning some conferences—IWU faculty will be everywhere. Rather than our absence being noticed, they will notice our presence. We cannot expect to present if we are not present.
• This mass of faculty will attend scores of presentations. We will sometimes walk away delightfully challenged. At other times we will leave knowing we could have done better, and we will make several proposals for the next year and the excellent work we are not kidding under the bushel will come out on the open to the benefit of others.
• With an army of bright (and increasingly young) IWU faculty at conferences other institutions will begin to take notice. Presidents will try to recruit our best faculty away and they will get some of course. But the process is reversible too—we will recruit all kinds of sharp faculty from other institutions who want to be a part of the ethos of IWU. Properly planned conference attendance will become our best means of faculty recruitment.
• Within a half decade IWU faculty will begin rising to lead many of these conferences sponsoring many here on our campus.
• In ten years the IWU faculty will be widely known for its interesting, well prepared, provocative presentations. Old-timers like you will then be telling stories about how we once actually only had $400 a year to attend conferences!

3. We will increasingly become a writing faculty

• By 2017 there will be a virtual flood of writing coming from the IWU faculty. Our faculty will be publishing textbooks, readers, teaching strategies, instructional videos and scores of articles in professional journals. It is already started. Just watch as it escalates!
• Our faculty will become the editors of some professional journals and IWU will found several new journals where there are gaps now.
• In ten years when you open a textbook written collaboratively that there will almost always be one member of the IWU faculty represented.
• Yet, with all this academic writing we will not ignore the common person in our fields—we will also continue to produce popular writers who will stand on solid academic research and “translate” it for average readers—pastors, nurses, business leaders, or educators. In the future when our students go into hospitals, schools systems or local churches they will meet people who have already read the popular and helpful books by the faculty they studied with the last four years.

4. We will become a researching faculty

• Of course, to do the writing above we will have to do our research, but in the next ten years we will increasingly become a place where significant research happens that contributes to our fields. All of us may not do this kind of top-drawer research but some of us will and we all will be known for the work of these researchers among us.
• But our students will do research too. When faculty are constantly asking questions and constantly wondering about the relationship things they infect their students with curiosity. Curious students will want to research what their faculty are wondering about. In ten years our students will be doing research more advanced than anything our faculty are doing today—just watch!

5. We will increasingly practice faculty scholarship-as-the-whole

• However, to make IWU a lively haven for the life of the mind we will have to move beyond the individual scholarship mentioned above into collective scholarship-as-a-whole… the scholarship of the gathered faculty. Soon we will not be satisfied with faculty meetings to hear progress reports and gather information about policies but we will have faculty gatherings typified by thoughtful presentations, serious deliberative discussions, heated yet temperate debate, pondering various positions, asking penetrating questions, and making up our minds on substantive issues. If a student slips into a faculty meeting of the future they would not see children being lectured or informed, but a family of adult scholars deliberating on serious issues.
• We will see a parade of celebrated scholars coming to deliver lectures on our campus as we are already seeing sponsored by Dr. Pattengale’s office and the Honors College. A large number of faculty will turn out to listen and respond, not just a few. We will attend because we have entered fully the life of thinking and learning—the very life we wish to replicate in our students.
• Students will daily see faculty members eating lunch together in Baldwin as they argue about politics, academics, learning theories, or theology. Neighboring tables of students will end their chatter as a hush falls over their table as they listen in. they will be inspired to read and think and explore—like their faculty members do at lunch.
• While faculty retreats will probably still offer getting-to-know-you type games and other youth retreat activities increasingly they will become venues for serious academic presentations. Our late-night sessions will be typified by deep and significant discussions about global issues. We will play together but we will increasingly think together. “Building relationships” does not have to be shallow—the deepest relationships are often built around the interchange of great academic ideas.
• All this will attract new bright faculty members who will want to be a part of the kind of learning community we are becoming here. They will be attracted to IWU more for this academic ethos than the 90th percentile CCCU salaries which we will no doubt have in 10 years.

These are my five predictions. They will happen but we can slow them down or hurry them along. How can we hurry them along?

Prioritizing the Life of the Mind at IWU

Primarily, we will have to make time for the life of the mind. This is already happening—we just need to hurry it along. Here is how we’ll make time for the life of the mind.

We will increasingly schedule time for reading and writing and attending lectures. We’ll schedule it because we value it. And we will not feel guilty about our temporary unavailability for student chats about dating life or frustrations with their mother.

We will have to quit teaching so many overloads. We have already passed a sense-of-the-body resolution stating our intention of significantly curtailing overloads when the administration initiated a significant salary increase. Our President said these two are related so in our resolution we sort of said, “You first.” Well, the administration did go first, and has initiated a three-year phase in of a significant salary adjustment. Now it is incumbent upon us to reply in kind—phasing in over the coming three years some sort of self-limiting overload policy during the regular semesters to free up time to read and write and present and to practice the life of the mind.

We will have to use our summers. Our contracts read from the end of August to the end of April—but to become a premier institution we will have to quit taking four months off. Summers will have to increasingly become a time for scholarship—especially writing.

We will have to cease our self-talk about busy-ness. We have gotten hooked on the frantic life. We have too often excused ourselves from hard academic work while pleading the hopeless frantic pace of our institution. But, we are changing—I can see it. We need to simply do what we value. As we value scholarship we will make time for it. We will quit hypnotizing each other into believing we are too busy to read and write and present and practice scholarship. If we are too busy to write we are too busy. We always have time to do what we want to do.

Of course, we’ll need money. While money is mostly in the administration’s court, the faculty must be ready with an aggressive plan to spend more cash with better stewardship. More money for conferences or released time for writing or a sabbatical is not a job perk. We must leverage this money and time for greater contribution to our constituency and the academy—it is simply part of our job.

As for our students we will bring greater academic rigor to our classrooms. We will quit complaining about the fun and game atmosphere in residence halls and simply assign the kind of work that will remind our students quickly that they are in college and not attending a year round youth camp. ( Such an informal initiative is already under way by some faculty with the recent “Academic Rigor Weeks Initiative” where students are imprinted in the first two weeks of a semester with the importance of academic pursuits by a) requiring one entire book be read, b)one major test to be taken and 3) using a significant amount of small group work inside and outside of class so that primary relationships can be developed in an academic setting pursuing learning not just building cardboard boats. These kind of bottom-up initiatives will sprout up every year as the academic ethos changes over the next ten years

These are my predictions. None are really radical or extravagant. If anything they are the moderate extending of the lines begun in the last few years. Imply predictions.

I started teaching as an adjunct at IWU in 1974. I’ve seen lots of changes—most of them could never have been dreamed of ten years before. These are predictions not hopes or goals but they are a straight line extension of trends in the last two years. The momentum is already with this future. If you don’t want to read, write or think you’ll want to hide soon! However, if you hunger for a greater life of the mind IWU is going to be one exciting place over the next ten years!

Keith Drury, IWU Professor of Religion IWU Faculty retreat, August 27, 2007, Invited Essay for Full Faculty