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Pronoun Nametag by Ted Eytan
Image by Ted Eytan/Creative Commons

Recently a student congratulated me on my email signature. In light of that exchange, I thought it appropriate to share the following "unsatisfactory meditation" on personal pronouns.

He, him, his. These are my pronouns. Or at least, they are the ones I've answered to all my life.

It's become a custom, recently, to let other people know your pronouns by way of introduction. You might see them in an email signature. Sometimes people label them as "gender pronouns" or "preferred pronouns" or simply "pronouns." Or they might just be sitting there next to the person's name. You can now specify your pronouns in your Zoom profile, and on certain social media sites.

This might seem odd or unnecessary the first time you see it, but in practice it's actually very helpful. If you've ever experienced confusion over what pronoun to use with a new acquaintance, well, it can be embarrassing for all parties involved.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. ...continue reading "Yes, you should totally tell your students your pronouns"

Devon Price, a social psychologist (they are the best!) and author of the book, Laziness Does Not Exist, reminds us that we don’t have to “earn our right to exist. We're fine and beautiful and completely lovable when we're just sitting on the couch just breathing.”

This quote made me think of my colleagues (and students) who are doing some heavy lifting post-Hurricane Ida and in Surge 4 COVID to keep up with their courses, advise their students, and be insightful in committee meetings. It’s a lot, and it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of “if I am not working this very moment, I am not _________ (successful/effective/professional/committed/worthy). You fill in the blank. But that kind of thinking leads to burnout (or as I describe in a previous post of mine, job-related depression).

In fact, Price argues that feeling “lazy” shouldn’t always be viewed as a deficit; instead, it might be your body telling you that you need a break!

So find time to do just that. Take a break, slow down, enjoy some nature, savor some you-time. Do this to model it for colleagues who look up to you. Do this to model it for your students (who feel like they aren’t really studious unless they are stressed out). Do this for your friends and families who care about you. But mainly, do it for yourself.

Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay

NPR’s Life Kit has some good information about avoiding burnout and other topics related to well-being. I highly recommend you check it out. You can subscribe and get their newsletter delivered right to your inbox.

Ok, I’m going to go take a break now.

Well. Here we are. Again. The school year has gotten off to kind of a rough start, wouldn't you say? I heard one mother with children in the local system remark that this would absolutely, positively have to be the last "first day of school" this year. At least, she hopes so.

On our campus, the physical damage may not be profound, but we have faculty and staff and students who have lost a lot. In some cases, they've lost their homes, possibly even loved ones. We are walking around and doing our best to return to the normal rhythms of the academic year, but it's challenging, to be sure.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could just reboot this entire semester?

That may not be possible, but perhaps we can reboot our own experience of the semester. We can make some time for stillness, which can refresh and renew the spirit. Please join us Wednesday morning for "A Quarter of Quiet." See details below. Whether you make it or not, please do remember to engage in some form of self-care. It's absolutely essential in the best of times — to say nothing of right now.

Wednesday is also the autumnal equinox, a very special time when day and night are equal, considered by many Americans as the first day of fall. On behalf of CAT+FD, let me be the very first to wish you a happy equinox!

Meditation Room

A Quarter of Quiet

The Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development invites you to join us for a regular group meditation. We'll meet in the Meditation Room of the St. Katharine Drexel Chapel each Wednesday morning throughout the 2021 fall semester. Drop in when you can.

What to expect?

As the meditation room is located directly beneath the bell tower, we are using the bells in our meditation. They chime quarterly. Our period of silence begins at 8:30 and ends at 8:45.

But I've never done this before!

You needn't have any experience with meditating; just stop by and give it a try. There's no commitment and no pressure. There's also really no right or wrong way to do it. Just sit quietly. Of course, if you'd like some basic instruction we can help; contact Bart Everson.

Why meditate?

Meditation has numerous well-documented benefits, including stress management, improved emotional balance, increased focus and awareness and increased responsiveness to student needs.

  • Date: September 22, 2021 - December 15, 2021 (when classes are in session)
  • Time: 8:30 - 8:45 AM
  • Location: Meditation Room, St. Katharine Drexel Chapel
  • Sponsor: CAT+FD

Photo credit: Bart Everson

As we prepare to return to campus this fall, we're also planning to bring back our popular mid-week meditation meeting, with a shift to an earlier time: morning instead of afternoon.

This is an experiment. Many traditions emphasize morning meditation as a way to start the day. That's great — but does it work with your schedule? We'll just have to see. Read on for all the details.

Meditation Room

The Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development invites you to join us for a regular group meditation. We'll meet in the Meditation Room of the St. Katharine Drexel Chapel each Wednesday morning throughout the 2021 fall semester. Drop in when you can.

What to expect?

As the meditation room is located directly beneath the bell tower, we are using the bells in our meditation. They chime quarterly. Our period of silence begins at 8:30 and ends at 8:45.

But I've never done this before!

You needn't have any experience with meditating; just stop by and give it a try. There's no commitment and no pressure. There's also really no right or wrong way to do it. Just sit quietly. Of course, if you'd like some basic instruction we can help; contact Bart Everson.

Why meditate?

Meditation has numerous well-documented benefits, including stress management, improved emotional balance, increased focus and awareness and increased responsiveness to student needs.

  • Date: August 25, 2021 - December 15, 2021 (when classes are in session)
  • Time: 8:30 - 8:45 AM
  • Location: Meditation Room, St. Katharine Drexel Chapel
  • Sponsor: CAT+FD

Photo credit: Bart Everson

"Burning My Candle at Both Ends" by gfpeck is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Even in a typical academic year (which this one was not) we tend to burn our candle at both ends as we work our way from August toward graduation. I don’t know if you have felt it, but I have certainly felt the increased pressure of keeping up the past few weeks—letters of recommendation, student advising, and wrapping up goals for the academic year have all made demands on my time.

Adding this pressure to an already-stressful year can increase our risk for burnout. Burnout has become a popular term during COVID, especially for educators who have had to reimagine their teaching. In fact, NPR’s Life Kit podcast just did a timely episode on burnout, complete with tips to avoiding it.

Burnout, a concept studied psychologist Christina Maslach since the 1970s, doesn’t just mean we are overwhelmed and exhausted (though exhaustion is at the core). It also includes becoming cynical about our work, which in higher ed can lead to "phoning it in" to our classes, complaining about our students or colleagues, and disengaging from our institutional missions. (Salvagioni and colleagues provide a thorough, empirical review of the physical and psychological consequences of burnout.)

However, there is recent evidence that what we have called burnout might actually be a form of job-related depression. In a meta-analysis, Renzo Bianchi (University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland) and colleagues looked at evidence from from 12,417 participants in six countries and found that characteristics of burnout were more strongly associated with depression than they were with each other. The implications of this data? Burnout is something that both institutions and faculty should take seriously.

If you are feeling physical or emotional exhaustion or cynicism, I encourage you, in these last fews weeks of the semester, to engage in some of the following that work for you.

  • Adopt healthy eating, exercising, and sleeping habits.
    Give yourself permission to invest in you own good health. Yeah, you have a lot to do, but none of that work is going to get done if you are too ill to do it.
  • Balance work and play.
    Be sure you have downtime and take breaks to do things you find truly joyful. In the academy our work is never truly "done." It's up to us to set some boundaries.
  • Take a daily break from technology.
    Need I say more about this? Take some time each day to completely disconnect and perhaps even look at a tree.

Last April's Bike Easy Challenge was, well, challenging. This April, at least we can ride to campus occasionally — as staggered work schedules dictate, obviously.

In any event: I'm joining the Bike Easy Challenge to get more Xavier faculty and staff riding bikes in New Orleans. Riding a bike can make you happier, healthier and wealthier. That's what I call professional development!

Did you know that New Orleans ranks #7 (among cities with over a quarter-million residents) for the percentage of people who bike to work?

And yet we could certainly do better by our bike riders, our transit riders, and our pedestrians. As I've argued elsewhere, safe transport is an issue of social justice and aligned with Xavier's mission.

Plus there are awesome prizes for riding and encouraging others throughout the month of April. Find out more and register at lovetoride.net/bikeeasy

It only takes a minute to register. It doesn't matter if you ride every day, or if you haven't been on a bike in years. Everyone is invited — and be sure to join the Xavier team!

Note: Due to COVID-19 protocols, only solo rides or household rides are encouraged.

Holler at me if you need any technical assistance or have any questions.

We are continuing our popular mid-week meditation series, but as with so many things it will be a little different because of the pandemic. We won't be meeting in the chapel. Rather, we will be "meditating in place" -- separately but together, through the miracle of information technology.

Yes, there's an app for that. In fact, there are many, but we've selected Insight Timer. It's free! Install on your phone or use the website. Be sure to use your Xavier (xula.edu) email when creating your account, so you can join the CAT+FD Circle.

We'll use the app for a group meditation on Wednesday mornings at 7:30am whenever classes are in session this semester. Meditations will be short (about ten minutes) using music or spoken word. No interaction required on your part; just tune in and chill out.

It starts this Wednesday, January 27th, at 7:30am.

[Insight Time logo]

You needn't have any experience with meditating; just give it a try. There's no commitment and no pressure. This is an easy way to dip your toe in the waters and get started.

Why bother? Meditation has numerous well-documented benefits, including stress management, improved emotional balance, increased focus and awareness and increased responsiveness to student needs.

Don't hesitate to let us know if you have any questions or run into any technical glitches.

Full disclosure: CAT+FD staffer Bart Everson has a remunerative relationship with Insight Timer. It ain't much but it does exist. He has attempted to resolve this potential conflict of interest. Full details on his personal blog.

The following event is sponsored by our friends at the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. We are sharing here because we think this timely topic may be of great interest to Xavier faculty and staff. For more information, and to register, please visit the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society

A virtual retreat with Ruth King and Kamilah Majied
Broadcast live via Zoom on Sunday, June 7th
3:00 – 5:00 pm EDT

We are painfully living through what the emerging data confirm: that Black people are dying at disproportionate rates and experiencing more negative economic, legal, health and safety consequences due to COVID-19 and the ensuing Shelter in Place mandates. This is having a profound impact on our communities and on each of us personally and professionally. We also know that the causes and effects of these difficult times are deeply rooted in generations of injustice and neglect. Yet, our well-being depends on our response as leaders. It is time that we gather as Black practitioners, educators, artists, activists, and leaders and share the wisdom of our beautiful collective community.

We invite you, our beloved Black community, who do so much holding, caring, and leading, into a space of learning about how meditative practices can help us awaken to and sustain our physical, emotional, social, and communal wellness.

All the practices offered in this 2-hour session will seed your capacity to further nurture wellness in the Black communities you practice and lead in, thus enabling you to feel more fortified in guiding your respective communities towards surviving and thriving through the pandemic and beyond.

Join us for this pre-Juneteenth celebration of Our Black Lives as we learn together how to liberate and nourish our well-being and that of one another.

For more information, and to register, please visit the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society

Let's say that you used to begin class with a moment of silence. Or perhaps you incorporated some other elements of mindfulness or contemplative pedagogy into your teaching.

Did those practices survive the transition to remote teaching this semester? Perhaps they fell by the wayside in the rush to get "up to speed" with unfamiliar technology.

It takes a special effort to bring mindfulness to the classroom when the classroom is a virtual construct. However, in this unsettled and uncertain time, the lessons of mindfulness would seem to be more important than ever. Furthermore, the online environment can often add an extra layer that separates the student from learning even more than in a traditional classroom. Practices that connect to our basic humanity are arguably even more important when teaching in a context mediated entirely by electronic technology.

Aurora D. Bonner offers some guidance in her new article for Faculty Focus, "Mindfulness in the (Online) Classroom."

  • Be present
  • Take time to check in
  • Believe your students
  • Don’t be afraid to share

Read the full article for details. It's brief and worth your time.

This might be a good time to check out the webinar by Karen Nichols and yours truly (Bart Everson) sponsored by D2L, "Present, Calm, and Ready to Learn – The Value of Contemplative Practices in an Online Course."

Bonus: You may also be interested in next week's online practice, "Exploring Uncertainty, Finding Possibility Through Contemplative Art," facilitated by Beth Berila throught the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society.

Last year we saw a tenfold increase in Xavier's participation for the Bike Easy April Challenge.

This year, things are different. Way different. We're not biking to campus now. Most of us haven't even set foot on campus for a couple weeks.

Bummer!

Here's the good news: In spite of everything, the challenge is still on. Instead of riding to campus, we'll just do solo bike rides around town.

As we all know, we are under a stay-at-home order. However, walks and bike rides are still allowed. In fact, they are encouraged, as long as we maintain appropriate distance (6' or more) from others.

We can all stay connected through the Love to Ride website (see link below) where we can share photos, send messages, and track all our rides.

It's a fun, free competition between organizations. Last year, Xavier's own Terry Watt was the top commuter not just for our team but in the entire city. It doesn't matter if you ride every day or if you haven't been on a bike in years. You only have to ride for ten minutes to be eligible for some truly awesome prizes. You can also win by encouraging others to ride.

New Orleans has a high percentage of residents who bike to work, compared with other American cities. Yet we could certainly do better by our bike riders, our transit riders, and our pedestrians. As I've argued elsewhere, safe transport is an issue of social justice and aligned with Xavier's mission.

Sign up for the challenge now at lovetoride.net/bikeeasy

I'm joining the challenge to get more Xavier faculty and staff riding bikes in New Orleans. Riding a bike can make you happier, healthier and wealthier. That's what I call professional development!