I am writing this entry in tribute to my friends and colleagues who educate the next generations of OT practitioners. Having served as a full-time faculty member from 1991 to 2011, I feel confident in saying that I know what the work entails and that most people who have not been in your shoes have no idea of all that you do. This is a note of recognition for the contributions and extreme-sports multi-tasking that being full-time faculty entails. It is also my hope that non-academic OTs will read it and better understand the work-lives of OTs who teach.
The month of May is, for most college educators, a time to celebrate the commencement of another batch of graduating students. There is a mixed sense of achievement, poignancy, exhaustion, and amazement that you have (once again) done more in less time than seemed possible. Facilitating students’ progression into our beloved profession means helping them to gain admission to fulfilling professional lives, and to know that, as OTs, their efforts will, radically improve the lives of many. Your power to help others in need is exponentially increased with each competent OT you graduate.
Most people who have never managed a college course do not realize all that you do in your role as a classroom educator. I recall friends expressing surprise when they realized that I was not lecturing all day, every day. What they did not consider is that the time spent lecturing is the smallest unit of effort expended. If a course were a Broadway production, the professor would be the writer, producer, director, stage hands, set designer and, finally, actor. This does not even begin to include the time and effort spent planning assignments and exams and then grading said assignments and exams. Grading – the hours, and hours devoted to providing fair and meaningful feedback! When students heading out the door giddily wish you a “great spring break,” or a “wonderful Thanksgiving,” they have no thought that you are facing days of grading, not time relaxing.
In addition to teaching, faculty members are scholars who ask and attempt to answer the critical questions that form the scientific foundations of our practice. The study, reflection, attention to detail and persistence required to design, execute, interpret and publish original research are immense. When OT students lament the pain of producing their master’s or doctoral projects, they rarely understand that their professors are concurrently living many of the very same challenges with their own ongoing work. While it is true that professors have already earned their OT credential, they remain continuously evaluated on their next achievements. Tenure is largely based on scholarly achievements and winning grants. For faculty in tenure track positions, publication and external funding are often required in order to continue in their jobs and to be promoted. Happily, most researchers are true scholars; they are motivated to research because they are dedicated to their subject and to discovery. It is this dedication and curiosity that energizes their work as researchers and writers.
In addition to teaching and research, faculty members are expected to engage in service activities. Service includes serving on departmental, school and university committees and special work groups, as well as providing service to professional associations and the larger community. These activities allow OT educators to lead for the betterment of all and to represent their programs or universities to wider audiences. Service can be time- and energy-intensive and is also part of how faculty are evaluated for promotion and tenure.
Having read this, you might come to the conclusion that OT faculty are amazing, turbo-charged superheroes. If so, then I have succeeded in my goal! I hoped to both inform my practitioner colleagues and OT students in the pipeline and to express my admiration for those in the trenches.
So, thank an OT educator today. Without our faculty and scholars, none of us could practice this wonderful profession!
Thank you, all, and may you finally take that well-earned break, once this semester is over!
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