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Benjamin Walker
Benjamin Walker

The Slow Professor: A Guide to Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy by Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber


The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy Maggie Berg




If there is one sector of society that should be cultivating deep thought in itself and others, it is academia. Yet, the corporatization of the contemporary university has sped up the clock, demanding increased speed and efficiency from faculty regardless of the consequences for education and scholarship. In The Slow Professor, Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber discuss how adopting the principles of the Slow movement in academic life can counter this erosion of humanistic education. Focusing on the individual faculty member and his or her own professional practice, Berg and Seeber present both an analysis of the culture of speed in the academy and ways of alleviating stress while improving teaching, research, and collegiality. The Slow Professor will be a must-read for anyone in academia concerned about the frantic pace of contemporary university life.




The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy Maggie Berg


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What is the Slow Movement and how does it apply to academia?




The Slow Movement originated in Italy in 1986 as a protest against the opening of a McDonald's restaurant near the Spanish Steps in Rome. The movement advocates for a more mindful, sustainable, and ethical way of living that values quality over quantity, diversity over homogeneity, and connection over alienation. The movement has since spread to various domains of life such as food, travel, work, art, design, health, parenting, and education.


The principles of Slow can be applied to academia as a way to resist both globalization and the frantic pace of contemporary life. While slowness has been lauded in architecture, business, urban life and interpersonal relations, among others, it has yet to be applied to academia. Yet, if there is one sector of society that should be fostering deep thought in themselves and others it is academic teachers. The consumerism that has taken hold in higher education propels the belief that time is money, resulting in superficial learning and scholarship. Perhaps the most damaging effect of corporatization in the universities is that individual educators feel paralysed in the face of overwhelming odds. Berg and Seeber argue that focusing on individuals and their own professional practice is conceived as political resistance to corporatization.


The benefits of Slow teaching




Adopting a Slow approach to teaching can have many benefits for both students and teachers. For students, Slow teaching can enhance their learning outcomes, engagement, and satisfaction. By giving them more time and space to explore, reflect, and apply their knowledge, Slow teaching can foster deeper understanding, critical thinking, and creativity. By encouraging them to participate actively, collaboratively, and authentically in the learning process, Slow teaching can also develop their communication, teamwork, and leadership skills. By respecting their individuality, diversity, and autonomy, Slow teaching can also nurture their confidence, motivation, and curiosity.


For teachers, Slow teaching can improve their well-being, performance, and innovation. By reducing their workload, stress, and burnout, Slow teaching can enhance their physical, mental, and emotional health. By allowing them to focus on what matters most to them and their students, Slow teaching can increase their sense of purpose, passion, and joy. By enabling them to experiment with new methods, materials, and technologies, Slow teaching can also stimulate their pedagogical creativity and growth.


The challenges of Slow teaching




However, adopting a Slow approach to teaching is not without challenges. Academic teachers face many barriers and pressures that prevent them from slowing down their pace and practice. Some of these challenges include:


  • The increasing demands and expectations from administrators, students, parents, and society for more productivity, accountability, and standardization.



  • The decreasing resources and support from institutions, governments, and funding agencies for teaching quality, diversity, and innovation.



  • The pervasive culture of speed, competition, and consumerism that values efficiency, convenience, and instant gratification over depth, meaning, and lasting impact.



  • The personal habits and beliefs that make it difficult to say no, set boundaries, delegate tasks, or ask for help.



To overcome these challenges, academic teachers need to adopt a critical and proactive stance towards their work environment and culture. They need to question the assumptions and norms that drive the culture of speed in the academy and challenge the policies and practices that undermine humanistic education. They also need to seek out allies and advocates who share their vision of Slow and collaborate with them to create change from within.


The benefits of Slow research




Adopting a Slow approach to research can also have many benefits for both scholars and society. For scholars, Slow research can enhance their scholarly quality, creativity, and impact. By giving them more time and space to explore, reflect, and communicate their research, Slow research can foster deeper understanding, originality, and rigour. By encouraging them to pursue their own interests, passions, and questions, Slow research can also develop their intellectual autonomy, curiosity, and joy. By respecting their diversity, interdisciplinarity, and collaboration, Slow research can also nurture their academic identity, community, and contribution.


For society, Slow research can improve its relevance, responsiveness, and responsibility. By giving more attention and value to the social, cultural, and ethical implications of their research, Slow researchers can address the needs, challenges, and opportunities of the contemporary world. By engaging more actively, dialogically, and democratically with their audiences, stakeholders, and partners, Slow researchers can also enhance the dissemination, application, and impact of their research. By adhering more strictly, transparently, and accountably to the principles of academic freedom and integrity Slow researchers can also uphold the trust credibility and reputation of academia.


The challenges of Slow research




However adopting a Slow approach to research is not without challenges. Academic researchers face many barriers and pressures that prevent them from slowing down their pace and practice. Some of these challenges include:


  • The increasing demands and expectations from administrators funders publishers and peers for more productivity visibility and citation.



  • The decreasing resources and support from institutions governments and funding agencies for research quality diversity and innovation.



  • The pervasive culture of speed competition and consumerism that values quantity novelty and marketability over quality significance and social good.



  • The personal habits and beliefs that make it difficult to resist the publish or perish mentality embrace failure as a learning opportunity or balance research with other professional or personal commitments.



To overcome these challenges academic researchers need to adopt a critical proactive stance towards their work environment and culture. They need to question the assumptions and norms that drive the culture of speed in the academy and challenge the policies and practices that undermine academic freedom and integrity. They also need to seek out allies and advocates who share their vision of Slow and collaborate with them to create change from within.


The benefits of Slow collegiality




Adopting a Slow approach to collegiality can also have many benefits for both academics and academia. For academics, Slow collegiality can foster a more supportive, collaborative, and democratic academic culture. By giving them more time and space to connect, communicate, and cooperate with their colleagues, Slow collegiality can enhance their sense of belonging, trust, and reciprocity. By encouraging them to share their ideas, experiences, and feedback with their peers, Slow collegiality can also develop their professional learning, development, and recognition. By respecting their diversity, autonomy, and voice, Slow collegiality can also nurture their academic identity, agency, and leadership.


For academia, Slow collegiality can improve its quality, diversity, and impact. By giving more attention and value to the collective wisdom, creativity, and responsibility of academics, Slow collegiality can address the complex, interdisciplinary, and global challenges of the contemporary world. By engaging more actively, dialogically, and democratically with other academic communities and stakeholders, Slow collegiality can also enhance the dissemination, application, and impact of academic knowledge. By adhering more strictly, transparently, and accountably to the principles of academic ethics and governance, Slow collegiality can also uphold the trust, credibility, and reputation of academia.


The challenges of Slow collegiality




However adopting a Slow approach to collegiality is not without challenges. Academic teachers face many barriers and pressures that prevent them from slowing down their pace and practice. Some of these challenges include:


  • The increasing demands and expectations from administrators students and society for more individualism competition and performance.



  • The decreasing resources and support from institutions governments and funding agencies for collegiality collaboration and innovation.



  • The pervasive culture of speed isolation and conflict that values self-interest conformity and survival over common good diversity and solidarity.



  • The personal habits and beliefs that make it difficult to trust respect or appreciate one's colleagues seek or offer help or feedback or resolve or prevent disputes.



To overcome these challenges academic teachers need to adopt a critical and proactive stance towards their work environment and culture. They need to question the assumptions and norms that drive the culture of speed in the academy and challenge the policies and practices that undermine humanistic education. They also need to seek out allies and advocates who share their vision of Slow and collaborate with them to create change from within.


How to become a Slow professor




Becoming a Slow professor is not a one-time decision or a quick fix. It is a gradual process that requires awareness, intention, and action. It is also a personal journey that depends on one's own values, goals, and circumstances. There is no one-size-fits-all formula or recipe for becoming a Slow professor. However, Berg and Seeber offer some practical suggestions and strategies that can help academic teachers to implement the principles of Slow in their own professional practice. Some of these suggestions include:


Time management strategies




Time management is not about doing more in less time, but about doing less in more time. It is about prioritizing, planning, and balancing one's time and tasks according to one's values and goals. Some time management strategies that can help academic teachers to slow down their pace and practice include:


  • Setting realistic and meaningful goals for teaching, research, and collegiality that align with one's passions, strengths, and interests.



  • Creating a flexible and adaptable schedule that allows for sufficient time for preparation, reflection, and evaluation.



  • Allocating blocks of uninterrupted time for focused work on important or complex tasks that require concentration, creativity, or critical thinking.



  • Taking regular breaks throughout the day to rest, relax, or recharge one's energy, attention, and motivation.



  • Saying no to unnecessary or irrelevant requests or commitments that distract or detract from one's priorities or goals.



  • Delegating or outsourcing some of the administrative or technical tasks that can be done by others more efficiently or effectively.



  • Asking for help or support from colleagues, mentors, or experts when faced with challenges or difficulties that are beyond one's capacity or expertise.



Mindfulness techniques




Mindfulness is not about emptying one's mind of thoughts, but about filling one's mind with awareness. It is about cultivating attention, reflection, emotion in one's work and life. Some mindfulness techniques that can help academic teachers to slow down their pace and practice include:


  • Practicing meditation, breathing exercises, or yoga to calm one's mind, body, and spirit.



  • Keeping a journal, a diary, or a portfolio to record one's thoughts, feelings, and experiences.



  • Using prompts, questions, or feedback to stimulate one's thinking, learning, and growth.



  • Reading, listening, or watching inspirational or educational materials that enrich one's knowledge, perspective, and imagination.



  • Expressing gratitude, appreciation, or recognition to oneself and others for their achievements, contributions, or support.



  • Being present, attentive, and responsive to one's own needs, emotions, and sensations as well as those of others.



  • Being open, curious, and respectful to different ideas, opinions, and perspectives as well as one's own.



Self-care practices




Self-care is not about being selfish or indulgent, but about being responsible and compassionate. It is about taking care of one's physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being. Some self-care practices that can help academic teachers to slow down their pace and practice include:


  • Eating a balanced and nutritious diet that provides one with enough energy, vitamins, and minerals.



  • Drinking enough water to stay hydrated, refreshed, and alert.



  • Getting enough sleep to rest, recover, and rejuvenate one's mind, body, and spirit.



  • Exercising regularly to maintain or improve one's fitness, strength, and flexibility.



  • Engaging in hobbies, interests, or passions that bring one joy, fun, and fulfillment.



  • Socializing with friends, family, or colleagues who provide one with support, companionship, and laughter.



  • Seeking professional help or counseling when needed to cope with stress, anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues.



Community building activities




Community building is not about being isolated or exclusive but about being connected and inclusive. It is about finding and joining other like-minded academics who share the vision of Slow and collaborating with them to create change from within. Some community building activities that can help academic teachers to slow down their pace and practice include:


  • Attending or organizing events workshops or seminars that promote the principles practices and benefits of Slow in academia.



  • Participating or initiating discussions debates or dialogues that raise awareness understanding and appreciation of Slow in academia.



  • Creating or joining networks groups or associations that support advocate or celebrate Slow in academia.



  • Sharing or exchanging resources ideas or experiences that inspire inform or instruct Slow in academia.



  • Mentoring or coaching others who are interested curious or committed to Slow in academia.



  • Lobbying or campaigning for changes in policies practices or culture that enable encourage or reward Slow in academia.



Conclusion




In conclusion The Slow Professor is a book that challenges the culture of speed in the academy and proposes a Slow alternative that can restore humanistic education. By applying the principles of the Slow movement to teaching research and collegiality academic teachers can improve their well-being performance and innovation as well as their students' scholars' and society's learning outcomes engagement and satisfaction. However becoming a Slow professor is not easy or simple. It requires awareness intention and action as well as courage resilience and collaboration. It is a gradual process that depends on one's own values goals and circumstances as well as the support and advocacy of others who share the vision of Slow. It is also a personal journey that can be rewarding empowering and transformative. If you are an academic teacher who is concerned about the frantic pace of contemporary university life and wants to challenge it with a more mindful sustainable and ethical way of living and working The Slow Professor is a book for you.


FAQs




  • What is the main argument of The Slow Professor?



  • The main argument of The Slow Professor is that adopting the principles of the Slow movement in academic life can counter the erosion of humanistic education by the corporate culture of speed, efficiency, and consumerism.



  • Who are the authors of The Slow Professor?



  • The authors of The Slow Professor are Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber, two professors of English literature at Canadian universities who have experienced and resisted the culture of speed in the academy.



  • What are the benefits of being a Slow professor?



  • The benefits of being a Slow professor include enhancing one's well-being, performance, and innovation as well as improving one's teaching, research, and collegiality. It also involves fostering deeper, more meaningful, and more impactful learning and scholarship for oneself and others.



  • What are the challenges of being a Slow professor?



  • The challenges of being a Slow professor include facing the barriers and pressures that prevent one from slowing down their pace and practice, such as the demands and expectations from various stakeholders, the lack of resources and support from institutions and governments, the culture of speed, competition, and consumerism that pervades academia, and the personal habits and beliefs that make it difficult to change one's mindset and behavior.



  • How can one become a Slow professor?



  • One can become a Slow professor by adopting a critical and proactive stance towards their work environment and culture, questioning the assumptions and norms that drive the culture of speed in the academy, and challenging the policies and practices that undermine humanistic education. One can also implement some practical strategies and techniques that can help them to manage their time, cultivate their mindfulness, practice self-care, and build community with other like-minded academics who share the vision of Slow.



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