Today, I received a text message from a faculty colleague who has served as a part-time instructor at multiple institutions for more than seven years and, more recently, moved into a contract instructional designer role. In those seven years, the landscape of teaching and learning has changed significantly. There have been concerted efforts about quality online teaching and we’ve begun to see some community colleges (not nearly enough, but some) hire instructional designers. We are also seeing more faculty who teach online recognize that their career interests are shifting away from teaching their own courses and towards supporting their peers to teach effectively. I am one of the individuals who falls into that last category, by the way.
In her message, my colleague let me know that she had just accepted a position as an assistant director for instructional design. She went on to say,
I’d like to take this opportunity to make sure that you understand that I have arrived at this place in my career because of you and the support that you and [your colleagues] gave me along the way. You supported my professional growth with both the classes that I took as well as the job you gave me [as a course facilitator]. And then even more so, with the opportunities to grow in my role as an instructional designer. I wouldn’t be where I am today without you.
In the new year, when professional development is sure to remain a hot topic in higher education, it is my hope that those who have a seat at the decision-making table will see professional development as a key part of an ecosystem that influences not only the quality of student learning, but also the personal fulfillment, financial security, and happiness of employees and the development of a pool of qualified and dedicated candidates for emerging professional fields.
Stories like this one remind me once again that teaching is a job that can never be a bore. A difficult and demanding job, no matter if one is early or late career; but never a dull job. Never dull because there is always something new to learn from reflecting on your own practice and from tapping into the expertise and experience of generous colleagues. In this connected world, the sharing is no longer encumbered by distance or borders. Such sharing is now an aspect of meaningful professional development, if only because as teachers we deliberately seek it out on our own based on our carefully considered needs. Our professional learning networks are safe spaces for us to retool and recharge. So grateful for such possibilities. All the best to your colleague Michelle in this career move.