Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tips on Responding to Negative Criticism in an Academic Environment

Sometimes I think we can worry too much about our students' happiness at the expense of our own.  Indeed, we're not much good to them as teachers unless we take care of our own mental health needs first.   One can't be a very good teacher unless one's own house is in order, so-to-speak. 

And there are plenty of reasons why teachers, especially low-status ones, can get stressed and depressed as this column from Inside Higher Ed (part of a continuing series called "Winning Tenure Without Losing Your Soul") points out: 

One of the greatest difficulties of academic life is that there is a seemingly endless stream of negative information and devaluation, while positive experiences are few and far between. By this time of the academic year, you have probably received a wide range of negativity from colleagues, students, external reviewers, publishers, granting agencies, and random haters. This is perfectly normal and, quite frankly, some of it is part of the research, teaching, and professional growth process. But that doesn't mean it feels good! While most of us can handle a certain amount of frustration, rejection and disappointment, it's the cumulative effect of this negativity that can lead to exhaustion, paralysis, and/or depression. The problem occurs when we internalize the negativity and allow rejection to impact our sense of our own intellectual capacity, self-worth, and enjoyment of our work.

So what to do about it?

  • Ask Yourself: Does This Matter?
  • If It Matters, Identify the Heart of the Problem.
  • Consider the Negative Input as Data.
  • When Overwhelmed by Negativity, Reach Out for Support.
  • Pity the Haters.
  • When You Receive Positive Feedback -- Celebrate!
  • Develop an Internal System of Affirmation and Value.

The column's author then provides a great strategy for helping professors deal with the negativity and micro-aggressions that we all experience from time to time.  Read the rest here.

I am the scholarship dude.



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