Coral reefs are among the most beautiful and complex ecosystems in the world. However, most people will never experience moving through one because unless you are in the right location and have specialized training and equipment, it is physically impossible to visit a coral reef.
So how can most people relate to something they cannot directly ecperience themselves? How do we work to develop an awareness of the beauty and need to protect coral reefs around the world? Or to put it another way, how do we make something like that accessible to a larger number of people?
In a recent Vancouver Sun Op-Ed, SFU President, Andrew Petter makes the compelling argument that universities are vital contributors to their communities, writing, “Canada’s public universities, colleges and institutes have an obligation, as well as an opportunity, to harness the instruments at our disposal to the greatest extent possible to benefit the communities we serve”. I, and many of my colleagues at institutions of higher education across Canada, could not agree more with this sentiment. The university of the future will absolutely have a strong role to play in creating the kind of communities that we all want to live in, and also in fostering the kinds of citizens who want to actively contribute to those communities for the good of all. I agree with Petter, and as an Ashoka U change leader and the program head of the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies at Royal Roads, I have seen this work firsthand. As a result of my work at a university that, like SFU, is pushing the boundaries of education, I can see that providing social support within community means changing the ways we deliver education, so that our raison d’etre in higher education is centered around the good of the communities we serve.
If you find your calling, everything will fall into place. You will receive a “sense of energy” or “flow”. Your inner voice will speak its “truth” and you will always feel like you have made the right choice. If you “align your personality with your purpose then no one can touch you“. Sound familiar? These might, because I’ve pulled them from popular life advice articles. These claims sound right to us, they sound (much like, it’s claimed our calling does) true. But I believe that I see evidence every day in the classroom that these claims and ones like them do us a grave disservice when it comes to our own personal development, growth and learning.
Why are these beliefs troublesome? They feel right, and everyone wants to find their calling in life. By simplifying purpose though, I think they overlook important facts about how difficult true growth is, and how meaningful the experience of difficulty can be for growth. Though not explicit, the unspoken subtext of this and similar advice is this: If you find your true calling, if your purpose is aligned with your true self, then the steps you take in the process of achieving that calling will be smooth and without struggle. And this is just plain wrong. On the contrary – most meaningful growth requires tremendous struggle. Learning is uncomfortable.
Just in time for the term to end, and grading to begin at many institutions, I wanted to write about how I, and almost all other instructors or professors I know, view the grading process. I think it’s important as a student to approach assignments with this view in mind, as it will help you to let go of some of the feelings or road blocks that may be currently holding you back.