UMBC logo

Faculty Development Center

Everything in Moderation. . . .

This is a posting from Rick Reis' weekly column, Tomorrow's Professor.

Msg. #194 ADVICE FOR NEW FACULTY - EVERYTHING IN MODERATION

Folks:

Robert Boice is emeritus professor of psychology at State University of New
York at Stony Brook and author of the very well-received book, The New Faculty Member, Supporting and Fostering Professional Development (Jossey-Bass, 1992).

The excerpts below are from his new book, ADVICE FOR NEW FACULTY MEMBERS - NIHIL NIMUS, Allyn and Bacon, Copyright 2000 by Allyn & Bacon Needham Heights, MA.

The first excerpt is a listing of Boice's rules for moderation in teaching based in part on his work with "quick starters," faculty who had excelled at teaching, research, publishing, and networking. (See Listerv
Posting #2 at the above website).

The second excerpt deals with a common difficulty of beginning (dare we say
all) faculty, that of saying "no" to unnecessary things that overextend us. Both excerpts reprinted with permission.

Regards,

Rick Reis
reis@stanford.edu

ADVICE FOR NEW FACULTY -EVERYTHING IN MODERATION

From: Advice for New Faculty Members
Nihil Nimus
Robert Boice

SECTION 1. MODERATE WORK AT TEACHING

pp 7-8

Rule 1: Wait actively, instead of rushing into tasks like
lecture preparation, by practicing patient ways of slowing to notice
alternatives and simplifications in what you can say and do. What usually
undermines timely waiting? That great enemy of new faculty: Impatience. The
same problem about holding back also undermines the moderate pacing of
teaching necessary for student involvement and comprehension.

Rule 2: Begin Before Feeling Ready. Once you are waiting
actively, patiently, reflectively, you will be primed to begin early on
necessary tasks, such as class preparations, before the work actually feels
like work, before the work is rushed by looming deadlines. Preteaching can
be done largely in spare moments. It generates surprising succinctness and
creativity, and it saves time, compared to traditional ways of preparing
classes.

Rule 3: Prepare and Present in Brief, Regular Sessions instead
of binges. That is, work in a pattern that not only affords a sense of
being caught up but also allows time each day for other important things
such as exercising, socializing, and writing.

Rule 4: Stop, in timely fashion, both at preparing and then at
teaching in class, before diminishing returns set in.

Rule 5: Moderate Overattachment and Overreaction by assuming a
more playful and tentative stance, by learning to seek out and learn from
criticism while reacting less emotionally to it.

Rule 6: Moderate Negative Thinking and Strong Emotions by
working with an inclination to notice, dispute, and supplant disruptive and
demoralizing self-talk; by preparing and teaching amid mild emotions to
help moderate rushing and superficiality while working.

Rule 7: Let Others Do Some of the Work as collaborators, even as
critics.

Rule 8: Moderate Classroom Incivilities. Quick starters show how
to moderate classroom incivilities-partly defined as students who arrive
late, noisily, and persist in talking aloud when someone else has the floor
- with simple strategies of openness, pacing. and patience. This exemplary
move is important because classroom incivilities often start with teachers'
own incivilities, however unconscious.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
UNASSERTIVENESS
pp 49-50


Amongst new faculty, at least, one of the hardest kinds of holding back
from impulsiveness concerns assertiveness. It is the inability to say no to
things that will unnecessarily overextend their schedule and energy. This
unassertiveness owes in part, of course, to fears of not being liked by
those who make requests of us. That's understandable. What is less
forgivable, perhaps, is the reluctance to make decisions about what really
needs doing during these crucial first years on campus. And, instead,
letting things that exert the loudest or strongest pull take over.

Exemplars, it figures, actively hold back from unnecessary commitments and
stick to what they call "solving the right problems." Struggling novices,
in contrast, too often opt for the easy, for the immediately rewarding and
relieving. Specifically, struggling new teachers tend to:

  • Rush and binge to complete and update lectures.
  • Leave for class at the last minute and still be distracted by the
    tasks or conversations they had to interrupt.
  • Begin class a bit late and impatiently and then hurry through it
    with few pauses for reflection or student involvement.
  • Try to impart the most information per minute toward the end of the
    class, usually with poor student comprehension.
  • Demand student attention beyond the bell by stating especially
    critical things as the class is trying to leave.
  • Pride themselves on keeping their office doors constantly open and
    becoming the close friend and confidant of many students. ("I'd hate to
    have students complain that I didn't have time for them ... I wouldn't
    dream of closing my door to them"-this comment came from a novice whose
    lecturing style allowed little or no time for student participation in his
    classes.)
  • Volunteer to serve on campus-wide or community committees and doing
    substantial parts of the committee's work. ("They really need me, and I'm
    good at making all these calls and putting all the survey results onto the
    net--this from a new faculty member usually too busy to meet effectively
    with her teaching assistants in a large introductory class.)
  • Help colleagues with computer or data-analysis problems. ("Well it's hard
    to say no to someone like him if he asks for my help. How else is he going
    to get his data analyzed? He doesn't know much about statistics.... You
    know, I don't think he'd endanger my tenure."-this from a novice who spent
    so much time as the "department trouble shooter" that he had too little
    time to participate in teaching workshops, despite poor student ratings, or
    to complete his own research analyses.)

What tempts all of us to do such things instead of what matters more?
Unassertiveness is easier in the moment because it offers immediate relief
and satisfaction. The assertiveness behind timely stopping and refusing
requires waiting, patiently, for rewards in the longer run.

Consider one usual way in which this temptation, and its cost, commonly go
unnoticed among novice teachers: Participants in my summer programs for
struggling novices aimed to (1) prepare the next academic year's course
notes in a general format and (2) rehearse those presentations in ways to
increase audience and self-involvement. They were paid the equivalent of a
summer teaching salary beforehand. Even so, over a third of them took on
surnmer jobs such as child care, house painting, or other commitments with
local theatre and political groups that prevented them from completing
significant work at teaching. How did they justify "bending" their
contracts with me? Most often by admitting that they wanted to do something
more immediately satisfying and concrete than dealing with the pain and
vagaries of teaching, and that they had been asked to take on the extra
task in a way that was hard to refuse. Said one: "I needed a break from
that; I knew I'd be back at it in a couple of months, all too soon. You
have to realize how hard it would have been to refuse to help my friends."
Said another: "I'll probably be the better for it, for doing something more
spiritual. I'm assisting with a ministry outreach and the experience was
too interesting, too challenging, to miss." And yet another: "Don't forget
how difficult teaching is for me. Remember? I'm the one who went to her car
in the parking lot and collapsed and stayed there, slumped helplessly over
the steering wheel for an hour after classes. I just couldn't face it
again, not right now. I just couldn't make myself do it."

When those "avoiders" participated more fully in one of the next two
summers, virtually all came to a similar insight about what needed to
happen before they would make significant improvements as teachers: They
needed to stop saying yes to things that were, in fact, less important than
mastering teaching-now: "I'll have more time for animal rescue later-for
years and years of summers; I need to say NO more often in order to rescue
myself-not all of the time but some of the time, so that I'm not there 30
to 40 hours a week; this may be the only chance I'll get to become a good
teacher who will have an impact on students ... that, you know, could be
where I'll do the most good."