In my first couple of years spent at CSC, I remember that I had to meet with my dean concerning a “quality initiative” during my annual review. I have since learned that this was part of our Higher Learning Commission (HLC) accreditation program. This quality initiative was meant to create an attitude of reflection in the faculty. At the time, I contemptuously complied as the small report seemed to be a redundancy to the other faculty annual performance evaluation (PAR).
Honestly, in retrospect, I confess that there was a virtue to this exercise; I now use my own version of reflection after my courses run to completion as an embedded practice. Sticky notes adorn my texts and lecture notes. What went wrong? What went right? Did the law change? Are my links still active in the learning management system? Perhaps I would have adopted this practice on my own, but I can see the forced exercise offered results.
Reflection is hardly a new tool. Business uses many versions, the Lawrence Fine SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, threat) analysis is my personal favorite method; law uses the IRAC (issue and facts; black letter rule; legal analysis; holding and conclusion) method for summarizing cases; the military uses AARs (after action reviews) to examine combat; and the Jesuits are famous for their daily examen, which is part of the larger Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola. The objectivity of analysis helps one see their flaws, overlooked possibilities, and plan better for the future. It makes us better professionals, more humble practitioners, and open to feedback, which is something that I struggle with.
Thus, in this practice, I’d like to indulge on a meta-reflection analysis of the five previous blog posts of this year.
In September, I posted a blog on my first semester teaching and my first encounter with cheating. Looking back to the topic of cheating in general, I am saddened to see the ubiquity of it all in higher education. I see plagiarism quite regularly, and I am convinced that this is less of cheating than it is of ignorance of convention or just laziness. I feel that cheating is an affirmative action; it requires scienter, mens rea, and actus reus, which turns my stomach as one is doing it with eyes wide open. I like to think the best of my students and hope that college is seen as a way to grow not to devolve and slip into vice. My reflection going forward is to reiterate the purpose of their course work and infuse the needed ethics speech to assuage the anxiety to perform and chance cheating.
In October, I thought upon my own strengths that vouchsafed my own journey through higher education. The missing piece is that these “strengths” are also my weaknesses. I have dealt with pressure in my own head to do my best, reach my goals, not settle. This is a pernicious flaw to my own character that I labor to lessen. What benefits a man to gain the world and still lose himself? In reflection, I am trying to add in joyful goals to my ever present to-do-list (it’s folly to think I could eliminate the checklist) like travel and seeing family: balance.
In November, I wrote on the wired world we live in. I have sought to eliminate distractions in my own life, like TV and Netflix and sports, to concentrate on reading more and slowing down. However, I read the book iGen by Twenge (2017) and it scared me to learn about the distractions my students grow up with. The amount of information that flies at them daily is incredible. There is also disturbing evidence of the superficiality of their relationships and even the insincerity to their love. My reflection is, again, to be sure to make my courses substantive. I mean to build my courses on solid materials all for the goal of giving my students the skills to wrestle with difficult material and not cater to the multimedia circus that is their constant reality.
In February, I wrote on Open Education Resources (OER). I am now finishing my spring semester where I used OER materials heavily in my international business course. I must reiterate that I (re)learned the material a lot better than I would have using a canned publisher package. I feel virtuous that the students weren’t forced to bear the high prices (I’m waiting on that T-shirt). My largest takeaway is the reality of the time devoted. I will not use the OER method in my high-volume courses, but I am happy to declare that I have experience in this method and can add it to my toolbox.
In March, I wrote on where I feel that I fit on the teaching spectrum in higher education. There are generalists and specialists in the academy, and I personally wonder at the danger of specializing. For my part, I have found value in probing cross-disciplinary approaches and teaching courses beyond my field of business law. I enjoy economics, ethics, leadership, and literature just as much, and I love to flavor my own courses with the panoply of all else. I take pleasure in being a generalist. I know that I will eventually make the transition to administration, as this is an eventual goal, but I enjoy teaching and teaching with the broad brush.
Reflecting on the reflections of the 17-18 academic year, I am pleased to have found my rhythm in my 10 preps in business law and economics, I am blessed to have been promoted in rank to associate professor, and I can say with sincerity that I believe in the mission of Chadron State College. Sometimes all I can see is the arbitrary minutia, marathons of meetings, the grind of grading, the work, and without stepping back with reflection, I miss the gift. Marxist ideology offers warning of divorcing the laborer from the work. Mindset matters; am I laying bricks all day or am I building a cathedral? Spring graduation is quickly approaching and the ceremonies always offer the opportunity to view the final product. Indeed, we professors are truly fortunate to be able to build better people. It’s a virtuous cycle where our students succeed, our community succeeds, and our world is just a bit better than it would be otherwise.
 Fine, L. (2009) The SWOT Analysis:Using Your Strength to Overcome Weaknesses, Using Opportunities to Overcome Threats, North Charleston, SC: Createspace.
 Boss, J. (2018, December 1) Don’t Skimp On The After Action Review: 6 Ways An AAR Will Catapult Your Situational Awareness. Retrieved April 28, 2018, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffboss/2016/12/01/dont-skimp-on-the-after-action-review-6-reasons-why/#23596338ba3d
 Daily examen, IgnatianSpirituality.com Retrieved April 28, 2018, from https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen
 Wolverton, B. (2016, August 28) The New Cheating Economy, The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved April 28, 2018, from https://www.chronicle.com/article/The-New-Cheating-Economy/237587
 Twenge, Jean. (2017). iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us. New York: Atria Books.
 Wade, L. (2017), American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus, New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.
 Marx, Karl, 1818-1883. (1974) Estranged Labor. In Economic & Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844. Moscow: Progress Publishers.
 Sinek, S. (2009). Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. New York, N.Y.: Portfolio.