Thursday, November 20, 2014

Reflections on the 9x9x25 Challenge

Among his many harangues, the Gadfly of Athens once cautioned: “Beware the bareness of a busy life.”  We have our own gadfly on the Verde Campus, and he’s equally skeptical of “busy.”  For example:

“Do you want to do the 9x9x25 again this year, Jason?”

“I’d better not.  Erin’s in grad school, the kids are a handful, and I just took over the Honors College.  I’m going to be too busy.”

“Too busy.  Bah!  You can do it IF you want to.”

One’s immediate reaction to this sort of retort is not positive.  It feels invalidating and dismissive of the daily struggles of a demanding job and an active family.  Indeed, one quickly gains sympathy for the Athenians that sought to exile the nettlesome Socrates.  However, just as history has given us a better perspective on that famous philosopher, so too have Todd and the 9x9x25 Challenge given me a better perspective on “busy.”

Teachers are rarely idle.  Despite ludicrous claims to the contrary, we don’t knock off every day at three, spend our summers on the beach, and our weekends rolling in ill-gotten riches.  The school year is a never-ending cycle of prep, performance, evaluate, repeat.  Compound this with increasing technological innovations, paperwork, and administrative demands and the typical teacher simply has to keep his head down to get his work done.  This mandate leads to the seemingly counter-intuitive state in which teachers are “too busy” teaching to think about teaching.
Of course, we do think about teaching –but not in the large sense, not in a philosophical fashion, not in such a way that promotes regular improvement.  Innovation may occasionally occur, but this is usually in response to a given problem, the pedagogical equivalent of calling the plumber.  To truly improve our craft we need to move past the problems of the present to think on the possibilities of the future. 

And 9x9x25 provides us with this opportunity.  Yes, I have a stack of papers to my right that need grading.  Yes, I have a committee meeting to prepare for.  However, beyond these immediate drivers, I also have a responsibility, to my students and myself, to become a better teacher.  Writing for 9x9x25 forces me to engage this commitment, and, through my writing, and the writing of my colleagues, to invest in future dividends.  As busy as I am, am thankful for this opportunity and even the not-so-gentle reminder that instigated it.

Here’s to the gadflies!

No comments:

Post a Comment