Time to ACT
“There cannot be a stressful crisis next week. My schedule is already full.” Henry Kissinger
For a while, there was a meme circulating that had a heading, such as “Teacher,” and then some picture boxes labeled, “What society thinks I do,” “What my friends think I do,” “What I think I do,” and other questions until the last box highlighted “What I really do.” Of course, that last box has little resemblance to the previous characterizations. Now I am sure we could have a long discussion relating this meme to psychological concepts such as attribution, stereotypes, self-serving bias, and more. However, I am not going to engage in such an analysis. Rather, I want to talk about this meme in the context of the STP Annual Conference on Teaching.
Now if you do a quick search for the meme with “Teacher” as the heading, you will find a great deal of similarity between options to share on your Facebook page. Apparently, what society thinks that we do is largely hang out on the beach relaxing in a hammock or on lounge chairs—umbrella adorned adult beverage is optional. Yes, you may find many psychology teachers doing exactly that bliss while attending the National Institute on the Teaching of Psychology (NITOP) in January. Generally, however, the closest most of us get to the beach is our screensaver. In response to the prompt, “What I think I do,” you will find an array of images from movies with teachers inspiring minds and transforming the world. And yes, that is what I like to think that I do. Regardless, the last box entitled, “What I really do” contains a host of disturbing images: teachers passed out from overwork, desks lost in a sea of paper, and images of weary human beings exhibiting stress and crying.
One specific take on the teacher meme takes a more humorous approach to the “What I really do” characterization. In that box, you will find the “balancing act” from the Cat in the Hat. The famous cat dances precariously atop a ball while balancing a rake, umbrella, books, tea cup, cake, tray with milk jug and cup, fishbowl, fan, model ship, and a tiny toy figurine. Nonetheless, that famous Cat adorned in a red and white Hat is still quite joyous. Indeed, I think this image is a fairly good representation of all that we do as we juggle our responsibilities. So, what are those responsibilities and how can STP and the Annual Conference on Teachinghelp? Let’s start with a look at all that we juggle while dancing atop a moving ball, in no particular order.
Service: We engage in professional service to our schools, the profession, and our communities. This service can take many forms such as assessment, faculty committees, student event coordination, or coaching the volleyball team. The number of opportunities for service is seemingly endless. Without teachers engaged in service, many of our schools would cease to effectively function. Such work is largely unpaid but a key component of our daily work lives.
Professional development: Professional development is an umbrella term that ranges from research, publication, and presentations to improving our own skills related to teaching and the discipline. The value placed on professional development may vary by institution but without involvement in the discipline of psychology and the practice of teaching, we would stagnate as educators.
Advising: Advising often falls under the radar but our ability to mentor our students is essential. Most of us engage in academic advising, career planning, letter of recommendation writing, answering student emails, and a host of other tasks on a daily basis to meet the needs of our students. We may also engage in crisis referral and support for our students as they struggle with the challenges of life.
Teaching: Teaching also takes many forms from being in the classroom to grading to developing curricular materials. As we all know, teaching is most visible in the classroom but we build that brief time in the classroom on a foundation of continuing education and study:
- Across the range of psychological science;
- Related to best practices in all aspects of teaching such as assessment or methods of teaching specific courses;
- Regarding the latest research related to the scholarship of teaching and learning (SOTL);
- Concerning new course development based on programmatic needs and the evolution of the field;
- To facilitate integration of the latest materials and practices related to equity, diversity, inclusion, and liberation into our courses, curriculum, and programs.
Is it any wonder that the meme portrays “What I really do” as an overwhelming juggling of tasks and responsibilities? Of course, as you look at the list above, you probably thought to yourself, “But she forgot to include . . .” Teachers are some of the hardest working people that I know.
So how can STP help lighten the load? Certainly, STP is here to assist with a host of resources and I have mentioned these on several occasions. So, go explore the STP webpage and all that it has to offer. If you teach high school or Intro Psych, check out the TOPSS webpage. Certainly, STP resources, our journal, Teaching of Psychology, and our vibrant social media are all available at a moments notice. Lots of good stuff!
Regardless, the point of my comments today is to give a shout-out to the STP Annual Conference on Teaching or ACT. It truly is a one-stop-shop for the best in learning about all aspects of our work experience. This month, you can attend ACT either in person or virtually. STP has designed the programming to address the broad areas described above such as professional development, SOTL, best practices, and equity, diversity, and liberation. Explore the schedule to see what fits your interests. In addition to the concurrent sessions (which are not available virtually), there are several keynote addresses, award sessions, participant idea exchanges, poster sessions, and more! And should you be tired of juggling while tap dancing on a ball? There is a session on academic burnout as well as a “game night” for a bit of fun.
Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention that there is a special Early Career Psychologists Committee Speed Mentoring! As described in the schedule:
Join the Early Career Psychologist (ECP) Committee as we host an event to bring together seasoned and new teachers of psychology. This session will allow you to meet with several mentors for a few minutes each to pick their brains and receive candid answers to your most pressing career questions. This event is geared towards both ECPs and graduate students, but all are welcome to step into the mentee role for this informal but structured mentoring event. Note that pre-registration required. Sign up today!
One of the advantages of a conference as opposed to resources is that you have the opportunity to socialize, network, commiserate, and we can learn from each other.
So please check out STP’s Annual Conference on Teaching. It is an excellent place not only to advance your work as a teacher but also to reinvigorate your spirit. Let us make that box labeled “What I really do” look a bit more like that “What I think I do.” STP can help you juggle less and teach/inspire more.
Thanks to Dr. Lindsay Masland, Director of the Annual Conference on Teaching, for coordinating all of the events and programming! She has put together an amazing program!! Of course, as with any conference this size, many individuals contributed to what will be an exciting program both in-person and virtually. Thanks to all involved in making ACT a success!