I regularly read the “Teaching” newsletter published through the Chronicle of Higher Education which last week included a discussion on building a teaching community. The advice is sage; we, as faculty, should make an effort to find our tribe – so to speak – of faculty within our departs, our universities, and in our disciplines (broadly) to help us think about and work through the challenges of our work. The most important conclusion is really simple – we do not have to do this alone. Even in non-pandemic times, the advice resonates loudly: find your teaching tribe!
I think that there is really no way to tell yet just how our institution or higher education in general will evolve and respond post-pandemic; surely it will evolve to a new normal. But just because the outcome is uncertain does not mean we should not work to shape it now.
I held these two perspectives in my head most of the weekend, thinking about what it means to build one’s self a cadre of teaching buddies while not feeling certain where this moment leads or when it ends. And I came to this conclusion: this is a perfect partnership, or as Joe Cocker sings, we get by with a little help from our friends.
To build a network of fellow educators in higher ed is to arm yourself with allies, sounding boards, idea generators, feedback producers, and coffee companions. At any moment in our teaching lives, we know that this work is intellectually and physically demanding, but we are not isolated, we all go through this but have to be willing to talk about it. I have noticed more conversation between my colleagues this past year, and have I worked to engage with them, as well as my graduate school friends, former colleagues at other institutions, and within mentoring groups through professional organizations. For me, it has given assurance that not only are we going to make it through this moment, however long it may last, but we will have built a sustainable connection to lean on in for the rest of our careers. What ever the other side looks like, it will have its roots in what we do now, together.
Of course, the FDIC is here to help and can be one piece of your own teaching hamlet – but I do encourage you to seek those peers, mentors, and professionals to form your community.
To quote Joe Cocker, “All I need is my buddies (Ah, with a little help from my friends)”.