Monday, January 27, 2014

Workplace Excitement and Nostalgia

My friend has a more exciting workplace than I do; one week she wrote to us of missing witnesses and police searches.  I, on the other hand, have very little to offer in the way of thrilling stories. That week, my only work excitement is that a student came to tell me that one of my instructors wasn't teaching Interpersonal Communication but a Culinary class in Sustainable Purchasing.  I thought it sounded odd.  Turns out that the student was simply in the wrong room.

I did have brief visions of an instructor flipping out and impersonating another instructor.  Wouldn't that be exciting?
Of course, my friend's story would still trump mine, in that mine did not involve 3 police agencies.  Maybe a mental health ambulance ride or something--but not even that, as it turns out.  Students go to the wrong room on a surprisingly regular basis.  

On the other hand, I have different kinds of excitement.  A few weeks ago, I got to go to the Interior Design sample room.  I spent a happy half hour looking at different tiles and fabrics and woods.  I was thrilled with all the colors and textures--so different from the world of e-mails and more e-mails and meetings and yet more e-mails that usually takes up so much of my work day.

That same week, I also got to be a sub for a class, which thrills me more than it once would have.  We talked about how the world of research has changed.  Once we'd have left our houses and gone to the library to look up information.  Now, we turn to our phones, many of which hold more computing power than what the space program used to send humans to the moon.  Amazing.  Once a computer would have taken up a whole room--I know, because my dad was one of the earlier generations of computer programmers.  Once we used punch cards to communicate with our computers.

I kind of miss those punch cards. 

I wonder how we will look back in nostalgia on our current work lives.  We might say, "We once showed up in actual classrooms, with actual people there.  We talked face to face." 

If we do, some of our students will look at us with incomprehension, the way the students looked at me when I told them about punch cards.  Some will look wistful.  Some will be impatient with our fond recollections.  Some will hit delete.

If we're lucky enough to have students, of course.  The Chronicle of Higher Education has been running a series of articles about demographics present and future, and what they mean for us in higher ed.  In the coming years, we will need to be flexible and nimble-footed in redesigning ourselves more than we ever have before.

We will likely look back in nostalgia for the days when we simply opened our doors and students arrived to plunk down their money for classes.


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