September 1st, 2011

Crushed – Work, Continuing Education, Time

Our son at an old cider press on Guernsey Island, Summer 2008

I’ve had this imagine in my mind since June as I’m seeing a sharp uptick in the number of students who enroll in my online classes then aren’t able to finish for Medical Library Association continuing education (MLA CE) credit by the end of them. Some students contact me to let me know the reasons why, some students don’t, others aren’t seeking MLA CE credit in the first place and are happy to audit and learn a few new things.

I’ve been teaching online since 2008 and am constantly seeking ways to reduce the barriers involved in distance learning for my students as I know full well from earning my Master’s online that they are numerous.

However, I can’t do a thing about what I think is a corresponding sharp uptick in demand for employee productivity (maybe make that constant speedup?) in the wake of budget cuts that have often decimated staff levels. Perhaps there’s been an unspoken culture shift resulting in no value given to on-the-job time for continuing education. Even worse, people may be encouraged to take free CEs but must do them on their own time since there’s not a second to spare at work. Heaven forbid we give ourselves time to think after completing a project at work, I have nothing to do with e-resources but need the book for that chapter alone. I only mention time since my online MLA CE classes are free – this doesn’t include those who are prevented from taking continuing education classes due to cost after training budgets have been axed.

Are students angry about this?

Absolutely, but in the wrong direction: turned inside and deprecating themselves.

I feel awful about the number of messages I’ve received along these lines this summer. I know my students are smart and extremely hardworking and some of them may even read my currently infrequent rambling over here since I’m also crushed this summer.

I shall speak clearly and may have to include this in my future class expectations documentation:

No bullying allowed. This includes towards yourself.

We have greater awareness today of the harmful effects of teasing and bullying, but there is one area of our lives where it remains unchecked: within ourselves. Even the most sensitive and compassionate among us, who would never intentionally hurt another, do not think twice about mercilessly berating themselves. I would like us to examine this accepted practice.

Dr. Linda Silverman continues

At the end of an exhausting day, when my own “Peanut Gallery” reminds me of all the things I didn’t get done, and starts to make me feel guilty, I now hear another voice in my head with competing messages. This appreciative voice says to me, “Look what you accomplished today! Good job! You’ve done enough. Now it’s time to rest and rejuvenate. Everything else will wait until tomorrow.”

If the line between my students’ self-perception as a success or failure as a result of taking a class from me is obtaining MLA CE credit, something is seriously wrong. I certainly want to encourage everyone to seek MLA CE credit but if it doesn’t work out I am not sitting in judgement of my students. That would take a level of audacity even my snarky self can’t pull off in good conscience.

Just because I teach free CEs does not mean I have the right to waste anyone’s time. It is not a waste of my time to create the classes and not have people finish them for credit. I’m not a professor and have no tenure riding on MLA CE credit outcomes. All I want to know is if whatever time my students were able to spend on the class is in any way helpful for them. If so, they have succeeded. Good job! Celebrate taking the time to learn! If not, it is I who have failed my students by not making the class abstract and objectives clear enough for them to be able to determine before enrolling if this is a true learning opportunity for them.

For those of you in the field who teach, are you seeing similar patterns? What can we do to help to reduce this self-imposed stress?

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