Friday, August 20, 2010


I’ve spent the past three days in meetings. This is typical of the way we start a new academic year at the college where I teach. Our administration, in their infinite wisdom, believes fully in the concept that “seat time” = something productive. To that end, they have us in seats – a lot.

I have gone to meetings where we have been told the results of programs from last year, why it is essential that we get our grades in on time, why it is essential that we order our textbooks 3 years in advance, and what to do when a student doesn’t ‘behave.’ Never mind the fact that the ‘results’ from programs could easily be summarized and disseminated in an email, that the majority of us do turn our grades in on time (and have for our entire teaching careers), ditto textbooks, and of necessity we have figured out ways to deal with student discipline issues. Past evidence aside, during these three days we must spend our time sitting collectively in a room listening to others tell us how to address these issues.

To say that these 3 days of meetings are exhausting and frustrating would be a monumental understatement. Here we are – it’s Friday afternoon, students will arrive Monday morning and classes will begin, and instead of being in our offices preparing and working, we are sitting in the science lab watching a rat dissection or wandering in the woods doing an ‘invasive buckthorn data analysis.’ Really? This is a good use of our time at this point in our work schedule? Really?

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not trying to say that rat dissection has no value or that invasive buckthorn is not a problem. I’m sure they do and they are. And I can even get behind the importance of looking at things that aren’t your area of expertise or even, dare I say, interest. We are, after all, an academy. Exposing yourself to a variety of ideas is part of the goal. If I expect my students to step out of their comfort/interest zone, then I should expect nothing less of myself.

I will go out on a limb, though, and assert that a better use of my time, at this particular time of a semester, would be to be in my office, sitting with my textbooks and syllabi and course plans in front of me, concentrating on how I’m going to do the best job I can, teaching and communicating this information to the students who have signed up for my courses – my courses in Communication which have, I assure you, nothing to do with rat dissection.

So, that’s where attitude comes in. And, it’s also where choice comes in.

I know that I am not alone here. I’m sure that all people, everywhere, have required elements of their jobs that are frustrating. I’m sure that we all struggle with doing tasks assigned by our superiors that we feel are a waste of our time. We sit through required meetings and conferences and seminars thinking about all the things we could be doing with our time if we weren’t sitting here in this room at this moment. And yet, this is our job. And, we are being paid to do it. So what remains is to choose our attitude.

The trick seems to be to figure out a way to make it through the meetings with your attitude remaining positive and your sense of humor intact. It may involve bringing work with you (or in some cases, a blog to write) that will keep you quiet, at least, instead of chatting with your neighbor and distracting others. It may involve putting in your seat time, and recognizing that life is full of these little challenges, and we can let them highjack our peace of mind or we can choose an attitude of zen-like acceptance – that this, too, shall pass and that we might just be the better for it. It may involve going to your happy place and staying there a while as the details of water temperatures and low pressure systems swirl about you and make their own tiny little hurricane as you listen to a session on Meteorology.

And, in today’s case it will definitely involve, at the end of the day, a martini.

Today’s photo:

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