Ch-ch-ch-changes

In my last post, I quoted Frederick Buechner’s thoughts on calling—that it’s “the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

And then I asked, “At what point do we acknowledge that the world’s deep hunger has met our deep gladness in a way that is unsustainable, that exhausts us?”

As I said, I’ve been thinking about this exhaustion in the context of teaching, advising, and mentoring. I’m sure I’ve mentioned here before that I have a very low teaching load—a 2/1 (meaning I teach two courses in the fall, one in the spring), and that’s technically an overload because of various pilot programs in which I’ve participated, and because I coordinate the department’s internship program. There have been many times when I haven’t taken course releases, or I could technically have been on a 0/-1. I didn’t think it would look good to have such a low teaching load pre-tenure, so I taught extra courses.

I also had been cautioned by my mentoring committee that I needed to cut back on my service responsibilities. I was, we all acknowledged, headed toward burnout with too much service and overload teaching–and not enough time for research and writing. My calendar was full. Plus, my take-home pay hasn’t been enough to make ends meet. It’s been very stressful. Because I’m an exceptionally high-functioning depressive with a perhaps overdeveloped sense of commitment to others, it’s likely very few of my colleagues or friends noticed I spent much of 2014 in a depressive fog.

Fang knows otherwise.

As longtime readers know, I’ve gone through several rounds of interviews for excellent opportunities in California—program coordinator and director jobs—but none of them worked out. So when a similar position opened up here at Boise State back in September, I applied for it.

Today I signed the offer letter.

On February 2, I’ll be the director of the university’s Instructional Design and Educational Assessment (IDEA) Shop and associate director of its Center for Teaching and Learning. According to the job ad, my primary responsibilities include:

  • Providing strategic direction and management for the IDEA Shop, inclusive of both instructional design support and the campus online testing center.
  • Coordinating and supporting the professional development of instructors to increase digital fluency and further the pedagogically valuable uses of educational technology
  • Advocating for and contributing to a campus vision for excellence in teaching and learning (with a special focus on the integration of technological tools and strategies), moving institutional educational technology projects and initiatives forward.
  • Building and sustaining relationships with faculty, department chairs, and deans to facilitate curricular innovation and advocate for research-based practices.
  • Partnering with other campus units (for example, Office of Information Technology and e-Campus Center) to explore and support new technologies for educational applications and to provide faculty development for a variety of technology-enabled pedagogies.

I’ll manage a terrific team of instructional designers who help faculty teach more thoughtfully, often with technology. I’m looking forward to being part of a regular team again.

The job pays more than an assistant professorship does, and it’s a 12-month position, so I’ll finally be bringing in a salary on which we can live. And if my tenure application goes through—it’s with the provost now, having passed departmental and college-level reviews—I get to keep tenure and can exercise retreat rights into the History department or into a comparable professional position, depending on circumstances at the time.

I’m excited to get started.

Listening

I.

I inhabit a lot of different social and cultural worlds, and sometimes the adjacency of posts on Facebook is stunning. I can’t share tonight’s example because a lot of people might misunderstand my motivation for highlighting it. I will say this: as someone with a diverse circle of Facebook friends, I have the privilege of listening in on conversations that a lot of people don’t get to hear.

As a progressive, I get to eavesdrop on the conversations of my (often profoundly) conservative friends. As an atheist, I get glimpses of the perspectives of my pastor friends. As a white person, I get to listen in on conversations about the struggles and fears of my friends of color. Tonight, reading two Facebook posts and their ensuing comment streams side-by-side, I saw worlds colliding. One friend’s circle occupies a cultural context that lets its members clearly see the collision; the other friend’s circle does not, and might even deny that their worlds are colliding. It’s stunning, really, especially since, when worlds collide, neither world survives.

Hug your kids or the people you love tonight, and know that people you might see as very unlike you are doing the exact same thing.

 

II.

Elsewhere in my Facebook stream, a friend shared his pastor’s comparing having a call—by which she meant knowing what you are alive to do—with being pregnant with Christ. He wrote, “Your call in the world, the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need, is the same role as being Mary or Elizabeth.”

The post was an explicit invitation to ponder, and another friend alluded to Frederick Buechner’s quote, from Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC, that “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

But what do we do when we sense so much deep hunger? And if we’re fortunate enough to feel deep gladness in a number of ways?

 

III.

It might seem odd for a depressive to admit to deep gladness, but there it is.

 

IV.

At what point do we acknowledge that the world’s deep hunger has met our deep gladness in a way that is unsustainable, that exhausts us?

I’ve been thinking about this in the context of teaching, of advising and mentoring. It’s a labor of love–and I mean that in a literal way, not in the way the cliché often gets used. Which is to say: I don’t mean that it’s work I do because I love it; rather, it is work that requires love.

It’s exhausting.

 

V.

I passed a couple of hours earlier this week talking with two friends–one a coworker, one a grad student–for whom being Christian is not only at the core of their identity, it is their primary identity. They were both stunned to learn I am not a believer–or, not a believer in any conventional sense–and we had a wide-ranging conversation that moved from them probing me about my failure to believe to me trying to understand the nuanced differences between their denominational commitments and perspectives.

I love talking with people whom I admire but with whom I disagree profoundly about important things. Such conversations are how we grow.

 

VI.

That’s part of why I haven’t been writing in these parts for several weeks. I’ve been having amazing conversations about religion, education, technology, parenting, marriage, humanities, citizenship, librarianship, and the past. The conversations have taken me back to reading poetry, as well as new nonfiction and fiction. And, of course, to research, old and new.

I’m learning so much, but this semester has been a time of listening and quiet reflection rather than writing. I’ll be using my voice again in 2015.

Until then, I’m wishing you all the best for the holidays and the new year.

Humanities = employability

I found myself in a meeting on Friday with several science faculty, and I had the opportunity to share with them what I’m doing in my Digital History course this semester. When I mentioned in particular that my students were mapping the neighborhood’s irrigation ditches, an engineering professor asked me how they were doing that. […]

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On instructional design

On Wednesday morning, I’m interviewing for a director-level position that bridges academic technology, instructional design, and faculty development. As a result, I’ve been even more reflective than usual about the choices I’ve made regarding teaching and technology. I. This semester, in addition to continuing to build or maintain a slate of existing projects, I’ve tackled […]

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All I have are bullets (many of them literal)

 You may recall I fought very, very hard to keep guns off of Idaho’s college campuses. On day 6 of the semester, a gun went off in the middle of a class at a public university classroom on the other side of the state; a professor was negligent with his concealed firearm. Honestly, my money […]

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Nope

Today, a friend and colleague asked me if I was energized for the fall semester. “Nope!” I texted to her. I meant for it to be funny, but in the context of the conversation we were having, my response came across as angry and sad. Why was I sad? I enjoy teaching. I like students. It’s […]

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On fear at 39

Years ago, when I was working in academic technology and faculty development, I teamed up with a group of extraordinary women—Laura Blankenship, Barbara Sawhill, Barbara Ganley, and Martha Burtis—to present in various ed tech venues about a phenomenon we termed Fear 2.0, the constellation of fear-mongering around the use of social media in higher education, […]

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Everyday liberal arts

For more reasons than I could adequately explain here, I’ve been thinking even more often than usual about the value of a liberal arts education in our understanding of the world and the ways we ought to engage with it. As Jeremy Hunsinger has written, Coming to know, as the primary process of knowledge, is […]

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A full deck

PeteGuitar

Usually when Fang‘s birthday rolls around, we’re ready to duck and cover, as April 19 and 20 are two of those days when crazy people are wont to do and say stupid and dangerous things. Strangely, though, this year Fang is doing the opposite of ducking and covering—he’s been doing amazing work, running around Boise […]

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Things I’m thinking about these days

As, of course, a random bulleted list: My fellowship research on how Idahoans have understood health and wellness, as represented by (sometimes very weird) artifacts in a museum’s collection. Found thus far: various fraudulent “cures” for gynecological ills, countless jars containing Chinese apothecary treatments (including shriveled animal testicles, starfish, sea horses, and paper wasps’ nests), […]

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