It’s been almost two weeks since I got back from POD 2010, and I still haven’t managed to write about it.
But I find I can’t write about POD 2010 until I’ve addressed POD 2009.
POD stands for the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education, and it’s pretty much the big conference for faculty developers.
POD 2009 was my first such conference, and it has proven to be a truly transformative moment for me. In retrospect, I’m tempted to call it a spiritual awakening. That seems funny, but I guess such things happen in funny ways. It was a subtle thing, but at that conference in Houston (of all places) I found myself drawn to sessions on religious literacy, contemplative pedagogy, integrative learning, transformative education and the like. Did I attend a single session on technology? If so, I don’t remember it.
No one could have been more surprised by these developments than me. After all, on the airplane flight there I was celebrating my apostoversary. What business did I have being interested in such matters? Some of my self-definitions were beginning to shift. I have even found myself saying that I went to POD 2009 as a technology specialist, but I returned as a faculty developer. Similarly, I was broadening my understanding of just what religion and spirituality could in fact be.
Of course this turn of events didn’t come out of nowhere. I was ready for it. In fact it was well underway, and I think it would have happened eventually, inevitably, even if the circumstances were different. (But how? Why? Tracing back the roots of this awakening, if I can call it that, is an indulgence which I have not yet fully plumbed. Surely the birth of my daughter played a role, but what else? I could go back decades, I’m sure.) It was a subtle thing, as I said, not the stuff of dramatic revelation, nor did it bear fruit rapidly. Looking back on what I wrote at the time, I can see the profundity of the experience was not immediately evident. It took some months to emerge.
Virginia Lee unintentionally kicked it up a notch back in February. She invited me to co-present (along with 30-odd others) at this year’s “Uncovering the Heart” session at POD 2010. I nurtured a suspicion that she had me confused with someone else, because I had absolutely no qualifications, but I jumped at the opportunity. I knew it would require me to stretch in new and interesting directions — and so it has. Much of my work over the last eight months has been oriented toward learning more about contemplative pedagogy and the other subjects I’ve mentioned.
But these developments have not just been professional. Indeed, the very essence of what I’m on about is the notion of integration and holism. We are all of us whole people; the systems and schemes that fragment our lives can have a dehumanizing effect. In the academy we have a moral responsibility to educate the whole student, body, mind and soul; to teach with our whole selves; to resist fragmentation when it is harmful. (I’m not so ideological as to deny the value of “fragmentation” entirely.) In the broadest context, we all have a responsibility to look after our whole selves, to attend all facets of existence in ourselves, in our families, in our communities.
I have multiple roles that I engage every day: artist, writer, father, husband, son, employee, faculty developer, friend, citizen, president of a small nonprofit, techno wizard, member of various civic organizations, self-made celebrity — the list goes on. Where and when do we have the opportunity to address all these roles, bar none? When are we most whole? I think that is the domain of religion and spirituality and philosophy. Of course there’s plenty of other stuff that falls under these headings, plenty of oppressive dehumanizing constructs which I don’t find helpful at all. Nevertheless, I am increasingly becoming comfortable with the idea that this is the domain where the biggest and deepest and most important questions are asked. It is this inquiry which I find endlessly fascinating, and inspiring, and rewarding, and relevant.
Perhaps attentive readers will have already noticed this burgeoning interest in my writings over the last year — or even longer.
I am rambling. But at I think I needed to clear this out before I could write about POD 2010 in St. Louis… which I will do… soon.