Fewer Problems, More Time

My application of Lean principles and practices to teaching has led to an outcome that I did not anticipate. Much like the Maytag repairman, the absence of chronic problems in teaching, academic advising, grading, etc., makes for a bit of a lonely existence. You still have problems, but they are acute (once in a while) versus chronic (all the time). Good quality work means little or no daily drama.

The absence of chronic problems also means the amount of student interaction outside the classroom is greatly reduced, and the sense of no longer being in demand can seem strange. But, on the bright side, the absence of chronic problems gives faculty have a lot more time to do other productive work, such as create new courses, improve existing courses, do research and writing, or service to the department, the university, or profession. So, you remain very busy nonetheless.

Most faculty accept it when things go wrong. They reason, “That’s just the way things are. You’ll never get rid of problems.” They do not develop a strong awareness of problems and dislike for when things go wrong, even if the problem repeats itself a few times each week. That, it seems, requires a willingness to see reality as it actually is and confront it. I found that I had to train myself to recognize problems and develop a strong dislike for them. This self-training began many years ago and continues today.

I hope that you will adopt Lean teaching as your pedagogy because it is better for students and it gives you more time to focus more on developing and improving your professional capabilities and interests. You’ll get used to being a little lonely.

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