Please allow me to begin with a quote that I recently read by the late General Douglas MacArthur:
Youth is not a period of time. It is a state of mind, a result of the will, a quality of the imagination, a victory of courage over timidity, of the taste for adventure over the love of comfort.
We can lose our youthfulness in our profession, can’t we?
Where are you lacking in imagination? For example, have you presented the same content in the same way for several semesters, yet been disappointed in students’ comprehension or application? A way to jump-start imagination may be to look for a second right answer or to change the wording of your questions. Try approaching things from a different direction; reversing your viewpoint. What if you provided students with an “answer” and require them to figure out a “problem”? What if you gave students the final assessment first and designed your course backwards? Or taught just one day of your course backwards or from a bird’s-eye or ant’s-eye view? What if…?
When have you been brave lately? Did you seek out a colleague to discuss a new research project? Or did you own up to a defeat or inadequacy and seek guidance or training? What if you take a class in something that is quite unsettling for you? Recently I was in a workshop on improvisational theater techniques. Not only did I begin to overcome some inhibitions, but I learned listening and discussion techniques that have influenced my teaching.
Adventure is many things, but rarely is it comfortable. Often it requires planning and preparation—two skills of which I am not particularly great. And it may include the unexpected and spontaneous—causing uneasiness. Have you been out of your comfort zone recently? What if you increased your service to include a new audience, such as another age-group, discipline, or culture? I have had opportunity to take my skills of teaching traditional basketry techniques into unconventional settings and these experiences have sparked new directions for my research.
As we close this academic year, how may we cheer one another on to youthfulness in our professional lives regardless of the period of time?