What is a good academic day? What happens to make you go home/leave the office and say to your partner or cat/dog/budgie – I had such a good day today.
I’ve come to the rather obvious conclusion that my good academic day is one where I actually get to do “proper scholarship”.
My good day is one where
- my co-researchers in Tate school and teachers team and I have an extended, and challenging conversation
- doctoral researchers tell me about their discovery of a really exciting new angle on their work
- a class discussion goes somewhere, participants really push at ideas in depth
- some sustained reading leads to a fresh perspective, a new set of intellectual resources
- some of my own writing genuinely excites me because it is creative, it plays with ideas in different ways
- I experience the doing-observing-feeling-thinking that is immersive ethnography.
All of these good days have something in common – a sustained flowing, thinking and writing/talking over time … which also pushes me somewhere I haven’t been before. As an educator, I would of course call this learning, learning at the edge of what I already know.
Scholarly thinking/writing/talking always involves some of what I already ‘know’, either from prior experience, or from reading, or both. But the something already known can be put together in a new way and/or with something new/different/unexpected. As in …I didn’t start out to end up here, but here I am and… and it is good.
Stitching the old and new together can be a lively, energetic process, exciting and active, engaging body, emotions and mind. Playful. Experimental.
The spoken/unspoken “oh and what about… yes but this instead…” is often also interspersed with periods of deep reflection, and moments of intense not-knowing. These are the instances/instants when what you think you think tangibly shifts.
At such times, notions of impact, evidence, audit and citation scores are completely irrelevant. Nowhere. Not a consideration, not a momentary thought.
For me, these are the scholarly moments to be treasured. These are the good academic days to be fought for in between the everyday of meetings, feedback, marking, reviewing, filing, noting and emailing. Perhaps their very scarcity makes them more precious.
They are certainly what keeps me going.
But, how does this compare to my colleagues I wonder. What’s a ‘good academic day’ for others, a good academic day for you?