With the Time You Are Given


It’s tenure file time around my university.  Having finally made the decision not to go up early, the deadline is not looming over me, but I do have friends and colleagues going up who have been updating me on their progress as they reach the finish line and submit their files.  One of my dearest friends and colleagues started her narrative with the question, “What will you do with the days you have been given?” and I thought this was the perfect topic for reflection this week.

I was thinking while driving yesterday (a dangerous thing for an academic as I’m liable to keep driving past my destination) and conceptualizing what I hope will be my next research study.  My mind automatically went to what the simplest study would be for me to conduct, related to a topic that I find relatively interesting in an area in which I know there’s relatively little scholarship to date.

After attending a meeting of my church’s social justice committee, however, my friend’s words struck me, “What am I DOING with the days (in academia) that I have been given?” Is my research a reflection of what’s important to me? Of my real life’s work? Does it represent who I am as a person? Or is my scholarship safe and somewhat divorced from my core commitments? Do I do the work that is easiest for me to do (for a variety of reasons) or the work that pushes me to be the person I want to be? This led to some furious brainstorming of a different study/ topic that I’m passionate about, combining my life’s work with my core passions and commitments around teacher support, development and issues of equity.

I realize this isn’t the first time that this tension has arisen for me.  Before accepting my first teaching position, I was encouraged to apply for a position at the middle school where I student-taught.  Though diverse, this school had more of a suburban feel and higher performing population than the urban site where I ended up accepting a job.  I would have loved teaching at my student teaching site, and it would have been great, but it wouldn’t have felt authentic to my core commitments.  It would have been doing good work, but not necessarily MY WORK.

And that’s something I’m growing in and towards–knowing what my work is and how I want to put myself out there in the world, as a person, an academic, a professor, a lifelong learner, a person of faith, a mother, etc. It’s a life of inquiry.  But there’s nothing else I’d rather do with the time I’ve been given.

2 thoughts on “With the Time You Are Given

  1. Thanks Betina – just right for my upcoming 3 days of training where I get to think about all of this. Also thinking about the next research project…

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