Category Archives: 2. Featured Articles

Avoid Burnout—Here’s How

Teaching college can be a burnout profession, especially for adjunct faculty with heavy class loads or tenure-track professors balancing research and publishing. Last month we wrote about student anxiety, so as we close out academic year 2018-19, it seems appropriate to address how college instructors’ demanding jobs can lead to teaching fatigue, and how to avoid it.

Between prep for multiple classes, mandatory administrative duties, the tyranny of endless grading, and the necessity for continuing professional development, it’s hard to stay fresh. Add needy students and the constant pressure of student evaluations, and it’s little wonder the flame that drew us to teaching flickers from time to time.

But who among us wants to be the instructor who looks bored before the semester starts, whose lack of enthusiasm kills even the most energetic student’s drive? To help you recharge before greeting your new students in the fall, we’ve put together some strategies that may help you approach your job differently next academic year.

Manage student expectations. Tell students early in the term that you are not available 24/7, and set policies for responding to student e-mails. You might, for example, tell students that you’ll reply to their questions within 24 hours and encourage them to connect with classmates to ask questions about assignments or missed class. Preserving time away from your students—protecting your downtime—is crucial to avoiding burnout.

Remember why you became a teacher. It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day details: meetings, institutional requirements, administrative duties, and the like. Try to tap into what drove you to academia in the first place. Regularly remind yourself about the positive aspects of your job.

Develop efficiencies. Examine your workload and see where you might make changes that will ease your load. Perhaps you can develop rubrics that make grading a little less time consuming or drop one or two assignments. If you’re a researcher, maybe it’s time to slow down and engage with your job in a different way. Sometimes changing just one element of your routine can make an immense difference and help you feel less drained.

Be ready for under-prepared students. A common source of instructor burnout is dealing with students who are unprepared for academic rigor. While you cannot control your rosters, you canshow students that academic rigor is in their best interest because it helps prepare them for their futures as members of the workforce. By doing so, you can feel good about helping to create a generation of resilient learners.

Pursue positivity. Think about one or two positive events each day and reflect about why they were important. Research shows that this simple activity leads to less depression and improved satisfaction.

Weed out the negative. Track what adds to your energy level and what diminishes it. Add more of the activities that bring personal satisfaction and eliminate those that drag you down.

And last but certainly not least—take it easy over the summer!


Have you experienced burnout? How have you overcome it? Tell us your story.

 

 

 

This is very good! Should we name a source? Or sources?

 

Our Students are Anxious: Should We Help?

by Janet Mizrahi

At the beginning of this term, I was notified that I had a disabled student in one of my courses. Soon thereafter, the student approached me, quaking and with brimming eyes, to discuss her crippling anxiety. She told me there might be weeks at a time when she could not attend class and asked for accommodations, which I agreed to. Nevertheless, by the third week of the quarter, the student wrote me a heartbreaking e-mail, telling me she had to drop the course and perhaps drop out of our university entirely.

Just this quarter I’ve had several other less dramatic incidents, all involving students’ anxiety. In my 20+ years of teaching, I have never experienced such a degree of student distress, and I find myself ping-ponging between empathy over their anguish and irritation when I wonder if I’m just witnessing another example of “generation snowflake.” But I always come back to the same conclusion: As a classroom instructor, I am on the front lines, and therefore I haveto do something. But what?

In a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education discussing the subject, Brian Rosenberg, President of Macalester College, says it helps to consider our students’ life experiences. He examines the preponderance of fear and worry plaguing our students and offers some explanations for what many consider to be a lack of resilience.

Today’s students, Rosenberg notes, grew up in a post 9-11 world where they have been instructed to be forever on the lookout for anything “suspicious.” They live in a world in which schools seem to be prime targets for maniacs with guns. They’ve seen our financial system collapse and have the sad distinction of being the first generation expected to be less well off than their parents.

Likewise, many of our students are the first in their families to attend college, and once faced with the tasks of managing classes, homework, and jobs, find that they struggle just to eat and pay their rent, no less buy their books and study. And let’s not forget the never-ending posturing on social media these kids face. While every generation has to deal with issues unique to its time, there’s no denying this generation has a full plate.

Many colleges have acknowledged students’ mental health needs by adding services, but often, they simply don’t have enough resources to handle all the students who need help, leaving us, their instructors, to deal with a level of stress and anxiety we have never seen, and for the most part, have not been trained to deal with.

Student anxiety doesn’t look as though it is going away anytime soon. Below are some tips for helping them cope.

Incorporate positive psychology into your classroom. In a nutshell, positive psychology focuses on what is right rather than what is wrong. In the classroom this can translate to instructors helping students move away from their fear of failure to the expectation of success through hard work. Instructors can also remember to comment on what students have done well on an assignment instead of marking only what was done wrong.

Know Campus Resources. Often students are simply unaware of the resources available to them. By listing your campus resources for mental health, financial issues, food insecurity assistance, and tutoring, you can steer your students toward the help they need.

Be flexible.  It may be helpful to remember that mental illness is just that—an illness. Making reasonable accommodations can help a student achieve success.

Understand signs of medication side-effects. That student yawning or late to class may be suffering the side-effects from psychotropic medications. Rather than assuming the student does not care about class or is being disrespectful, consider another scenario in which the student is doing his or her best to cope with a mental disability.

In the end, of course, we are not mental health professionals. While we can certainly attempt to accommodate students who are experiencing anxiety, sometimes the best we can offer is a sympathetic ear.

——————-

Have you experienced an uptick in students’ anxiety? Share your story.

Help Students Showcase Skills with an E-Portfolio

Today’s job seekers need to market themselves with a variety of materials: several résumés in different formats, a LinkedIn page with a fleshed-out profile, and a professional social media presence.

Another potentially useful tool for job searchers is the e-portfolio, a collection of digitized materials that give viewers a snapshot of a candidate’s work and showcase an individual’s talents and accomplishments. Often e-portfolios link to copies of original work such as written communication and examples of graphic or film projects.

Teaching students to put together an e-portfolio works well in the business communication classroom. For instructors, it provides a venue in which students can rewrite graded work so it is polished for a professional audience. E-portfolios also appeal to students, especially those about to embark on their job searches, and that buy-in helps students dedicate themselves to producing their best work.

Below are some teaching tips for linking this important element of the job search to an e-portfolio assignment. Note: The skeleton assignment at the end of this post is designed to be adapted to individual instructors’ needs.

Discuss the relevance of e-portfolios. Regularly remind students that the work they do for the course can be used to demonstrate their written communication skills to a potential employer who may want to see a writing sample. Stress that these skills are on employers’ wish lists for new-hires.

Show samples. Project samples of recent graduates’ e-portfolios, which are easily found online. (After initially teaching the assignment, instructors can use their own students’ samples.) Discuss the elements that make e-portfolios valuable to a potential employer and the kinds of samples that best illustrate a candidate’s qualifications.

Create in-class activities. Teaching the e-portfolio lends itself to group work. Students can find samples online and discuss their pros and cons. Groups can work together to isolate the categories of samples they want to include on their individual sites. Instructors can use class time to help students sign up for free templates and guide them through registering and choosing a template.

Add an e-portfolio assignment. Consider including a final project that showcases students’ rewritten work uploaded to an e-portfolio. These rewrites can be graded or not, depending on course design, but requiring students to think through the process of what to include and rewriting previous assignments can only reinforce learning outcomes in the business communication classroom.

No doubt students today face daunting preparation as they ready themselves for a job search. Adding an e-portfolio to their arsenal further arms them with cutting-edge materials to improve their odds of success.

E-Portfolio Skeleton Assignment