I think that we can go through years and years of our lives without really thinking. Really. I think that we wake up and we rush to work. We teach or support people all day at the College, checking things off our long “to do” lists one by one. We get the super urgent items done, we table the rest of the tasks and we rush to get home. If we have kids, we get them where they need to go, piano, or soccer, or some such thing. If we don’t, we delve into dinner. One way or another, we all have to eat. Once that’s over, we read, or dive into Netflix or, truth be told, we go back to work at the computer. Then, we hit the sack.
No time in there for thinking, you might have noticed.
Of course, we do think, but do we think about anything of substance? Do we meditate and ponder about improving what we do, not just moving through this life, but moving onward and most importantly, upward? I know that I don’t. Not usually. It seems like this life is passing through me, not me through this life.
I want to consider making a “to become” list for ourselves—for what we do here at YC. We all have our “to do” lists, but we don’t often consider a “to become” list. The “to dos” are all of the “urgent” items that have to be completed. FTSE, mid-term grades, essays to be graded, lesson plans to be set up, mail merges to run. But the “to become” list is more than that. It would have things like, “become confident that my assessments are truly measuring my students’ growth in the learning outcomes” or “become the best timely feedback instructor at the College” or simply “become a compassionate instructor that students want to come to when struggling with my course”. It’s easy to measure progress on a “to do” list, but a “to become” list is harder to measure. It’s important to realize that not everything that’s important is measurable and not everything that we measure is important (don’t let my SLOA amigos know that I said that). The “to become” list is something that can only be viewed in retrospect, after a lifetime of correct choices that lead us into being the best instructor we can be.
All of our decisions throughout the course of the day contribute to who or what we are becoming. I think we have to stop and think deeply from time to time, about what our “to become” list is starting to look like. We have to fight the tendency to let the urgent things on our lists push out the important things. When we shoo a student out of our office who could have benefited from doing one more practice problem together, are we bypassing our “to become a more compassionate teacher” goal with our “to do a few more emails” check box?
When we take time to still the busyness of our lives and truly meditate and ponder on our “to become” list, our behavior changes. We get lest irritable about the short term and more motivated and inspired by the long term. As we ponder “becoming” we might change the projects that we take on here at YC. We might begin to say “no” more, and we might even start to seek out and say “yes” to projects we’d never even considered, or previously imagined beyond our skill set. The refining process of considering “becoming” will drastically alter our “doing” and we, our students, and the College will be better for it.