The trap is when new tenure-track faculty spend the vast majority of their time on teaching at the expense of their research and writing and then find that their limited research productivity endangers their ability to be promoted at their current institution, or move to another one. And if you are at an institution where your advancement will be based largely (or entirely) on teaching, the “teaching trap” occurs when you fail to manage your boundaries around teaching so that you have no time or energy for the other things that matter in your work and in your life. If you find yourself coming to campus early and staying late, if you’re spending every weekend grading and preparing for the next week’s classes, if you’re sacrificing sleep and/or pulling all-nighters in order to get ready for the next day’s class meeting, and – as a result -- you haven’t spent any time moving your research agenda forward or investing in your long-term success, then you may have fallen into the teaching trap.
Kerry then offers a set of indicators for when you've fallen into this trap. I won't reproduce them all here, but these two merit special attention, I think.
- You believe it’s somehow possible to please everyone so if you just spend more time, you will teach better and receive unanimously positive evaluations.
- You have never thought about how you're spending your time and have unconsciously fallen into the teaching trap because of the built-in accountability that standing in front of a classroom full of students several times a week provides.
I've recently shared an idea for working better by working less. And I'd be interested to know if others see themselves at the precipice of Kerry's teaching trap and how you are working to avoid it. More deeply, how can we, as teachers, work better but not work more?