A Day in the Life of a Hungry College Professor (on Winter Break)

IMG_8656I don’t mean hungry as in ‘I could really eat something right now’ (although earlier I did the whole, “I’ll just have this one scoop of peanut butter,” and then half a jar later..  you know).

I mean hungry as in ‘I want to master my profession.’

I’m aware that this doesn’t happen overnight, more like 10,000 hours, as the research shows.

However, I’m always trying to figure out how to be the best teacher, have the best classroom environment, help my students retain material, and eventually have everything perfected (which doesn’t actually ever happen, but the desire to almost get there is what drives me). This drive is why I’m constantly talking with colleagues, reading books, watching videos, and generally thinking about education.

Even when it’s winter break.

By most people’s standards, I’m a ‘nerd,’ and quite possibly a ‘workaholic’, but my love for learning makes me very happy, and happy is a great thing to feel on a regular basis.

It’s not all work and no play for me, though. Growing up I was taught that balance is key to a good life, so I remind myself of that daily.

And because I think my day so far was pretty typical of ‘me on vacation’ (while most other people are at work- sorry, guys), I thought I’d give you a look into Thursday, December 18th.

(Keep in mind, I never really left the couch, and most of my ‘learning’ and ‘work’ consisted of watching videos, so my entire day was basically glorified laziness. Much deserved, though, so we’ll rationalize the last 8 or so hours with that justification).

Here’s the rundown:

9-11 am

  • Had a leisurely breakfast with my husband while deciding on our plans for tonight and the weekend.

11 am- 2 pm

  • Checked emails.
  • Mailed my book to a colleague who asked for a copy.
  • Searched online for a new doormat (it wasn’t intellectually stimulating, but our current doormat was left here by the previous renter over 3 years ago- so it’s about time).
  • Enjoyed a very long brunch/lunch of snacking on random things (like that jar of peanut butter I mentioned) while watching an extremely long (2 hours!) but surprisingly captivating video by Ken Bain, author of What the Best College Teachers Do. I highly recommend both the video and his book.
  • Put a picture of my ‘home office’ on Instagram.

2 pm- 5:30 pm

  • Considered buying the book Sundays at Tiffany’s on Amazon. It’s one of my favorite cheesy movies (that I own, of course), and I wondered if I should get the book version to take to North Carolina for the holidays this year. The reviews say the book is creepy, but the movie’s great- so I’ll stick with the movie.
  • Found a whole host of TEDx talks related to teaching, and watched them. I ended up going down the rabbit hole for a crazy 3-hour-long journey that was insightful, but took more time than I would have liked. However, here are some videos I particularly enjoyed (I added descriptions for some, but not others):
  1. The 5 principles of highly effective teachers: Pierre Pirard at TEDxGhent
  2. What 60 Schools Can Tell Us About Teaching 21st Century Skills: Grant Lichtman at TEDxDenverTeachersA look at the evolution of teaching and education.
  3. A different way to think about technology in education: Greg Toppo at TEDxAshburn
    Not as much discussion as I would have liked about how technology is specifically used in education, but this close look at the evolution of various types of technology was thought-provoking.
  4. Creating classrooms that work: Esther Wojcicki at TEDxBeaconStreet
    This talk took me back to my days on the yearbook staff in high school. I wouldn’t advise throwing away the textbook, like Wojcicki originally did. But my two years of taking Journalism/Yearbook for class credit in high school- in a very unconventional setting, much like the speaker’s- might be why I have such a strong desire to read and write for fun today. If you like the movie The Dead Poet’s Society, you’ll definitely enjoy Wojcicki’s talk.
  5. More pedagogic change in 10 years than last 1000 years: Donald Clark at TEDxGlasgow
    Clark focuses on the benefits of TED talks, Khan Academy, and recorded lectures.
  6. Expecting More From Teaching: Deanna LeBlanc at TEDxUniversityofNevada
    LeBlanc seems like such a sweet teacher, with some great tips for troubled kids.
  7. Allow Students to do the Impossible: Aaron Donaghy at TEDxClaremontColleges
  8. The power of student-driven learning: Shelley Wright at TEDxWestVancouverED

5:30 pm- 6:30 pm

  • Read and took notes on the book Make it Stick by Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel (really fascinating book about learning for students, teachers, and anyone, really). 


I’m actually still reading the book, and who knows how long I’ll be at it this evening- just took a quick break to finish writing this. 

And I’m not sure if you, as the reader, are supposed to have gained anything valuable from this blog post (although, hopefully, you’ll at least take a look at those videos I mentioned).

What I’ve gained from the last 8 hours, though, is a hope that some overlapping themes from the book I’ve been reading and from the videos I’ve watched will evolve into something much more significant. Maybe some of the content will provide added inspiration for my next book, or make my time in the classroom more valuable for myself and my students. It’s pretty hard to tell how it’ll all come together, but it feels like I’m headed in the right direction, and I’ve learned to trust that instinct over the years.

All I really know is that I feel great when I’m learning and growing (and if I can relax on the couch while doing so, even better), and I’m slowly achieving mastery of my chosen profession.

And I couldn’t be happier.

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