This article first appeared in Maryellen Weimer’s blog in November 2009. © Magna Publications. All rights reserved.
I appreciate what my colleagues do for me.
I have colleagues who indulge my need to blow off steam. Some student behavior is nothing short of outrageous, some department policies are nothing short of senseless, some department heads are nothing other than shortsighted, and some colleagues never experience a shortage of pessimism. My best colleagues know when I need to rant; they listen and then gently encourage me to move on.
I have colleagues who help me understand when I don’t. I talk and they ask questions. I’ve learned to appreciate those colleagues who have more questions than answers—the ones who ask the questions I haven’t thought of, which often lead me to answers I haven’t considered.
I have colleagues who help me put things in perspective. Like many (dare I say all?) academics, I overreact to negative feedback. I can ponder a criticism dashed off in a minute for days. Colleagues put those comments in context. “Gee, I wonder if that remark doesn’t mean . . .” Or, “Before you go in that direction, I wonder if you shouldn’t get more feedback.” Or, “How many students did you say were in the class and three agreed with what that student said?”
I have colleagues who disagree with me. It’s not always pleasant to posit your best new pedagogical insight and have someone you respect say, “I don’t think that’s right.” But I’ve come to value my colleagues who disagree. Growth as a teacher, a scholar, and a human being is not nourished by those who only agree and endorse. Good colleagues disagree constructively, but they don’t waffle around. If you haven’t got it right, they let you know. I’ve learned to treasure the gifts these colleagues give.
And finally I have colleagues who know when I need encouragement and offer it. Not every day is good. Semesters are long, and some student decisions are heartbreaking. Teaching can knock you down and rub your face in failure. Most of us get back up, but it’s easier if there’s a colleague who extends a hand and then pulls.
And so this season, at the end of this year, thanks to those colleagues who enrich our lives.