By Anastasia P. Samaras
Dr. Samaras is author of the article “Letter to a New Academic: In and Out of the Ravine,” published in The Educational Forum, Volume 87, Issue 1.
When was the last time you stepped back to take stock of your professional journey? Do you ever ask yourself, “What am I actually doing in my professional work?” “Do I love what I do?” “Does my work matter and for whom?”
Whether we work in a school or university, sometimes we might find ourselves just getting carried along a slow winding path or even on a roaring stream. That is why I wrote this article to share what I have learned about taking time to retrospectively consider if and how I was my moving along purposely and productively while doing what was central for me in my teaching and research. I wondered, “What might happen if we paused periodically to self-assess our professional passage as we moved through it?” I’m a self-study of teaching and research scholar so that’s what I do. Nonetheless, anyone can do it—whether a novice or a veteran; a teacher or an academic because they can. By reading this article, you might glean some insights about your professional journey. Although our professional journeys are unique, there is a common core that connects our lives as professionals. Ultimately, I believe we each wonder why our work matters to us and to others.
Things I Learned Along the Way
Passion and Authenticity
- Trust and follow your instincts.
- Be authentic to yourself as you follow your passion.
- Balance work and play and play more than you think.
- Be gentle and nurture yourself and others.
Seeking and Giving Support
- Choose trustworthy colleagues who widen your perspectives and recognize your gifts.
- Share, care, and put your ego aside to learn. Peer review is a gift.
- Lead from within. And decide when/if leading is for you.
- Invest in people and especially your students. They are the future.
Collaborative Creativity for Continuous Growth
- Find opportunities to work across disciplines and geographic boundaries.
- See beyond the immediate. Embrace the influence and confluence all around you.
- Experiment with novel approaches and reach beyond your comfort zone.
- Continue to be curious and grow professionally because you can.
We often cannot see that we have more agency than we might imagine. Foremost, we have the agency to be authentic to ourselves. We can take various paths and enjoy all that surrounds us. There are ways to follow our passions while seeking, giving, and leading support. Through collaboration and co-creating, we can continue to grow and reimagine possibilities as we experience splendid ways to engage with colleagues. We make decisions and mistakes and learn things along the way. It is after all our way that we make as we seek the choices and make the decisions which lie within ourselves.
If you want to learn more about how these insights evolved for me, you might enjoy reading about my professional path which includes my co-creativity and playing with poetry to capture the essence of my journey. My hope is that sharing my personal insights, it will spark your interest in examining retrospective and futuristic viewpoints of your work. See you on the path!
Dr. Samaras is Professor Emerita of Education within the College of Education and Human Development at George Mason University, Virginia, USA. She is a teacher educator, pedagogical scholar, and self-study research methodologist. A frequent keynote speaker in the U.S. and globally and a collaborator on multiple teacher professional development projects, Anastasia seeks to make self-study research accessible to classroom teachers. Her work in faculty development includes collaborating with teacher educators and faculty outside the teaching profession in her co-facilitation of five transdisciplinary faculty professional groups including a virtual collective for adjunct faculty. Anastasia is deeply committed and passionate about transdisciplinary, exploratory, and creative research and the mentoring of faculty and students to advance education and research of consequence.