The Problem With Privilege in Higher Education: Walking Away from Promotion and Tenure

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 12.25.32 PMAs I reflect on my growth as a learner and an educator this year, I am compelled to share my story since I spent the last decade of my professional career in higher education. Even though I was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure, I walked away from it all at the end of the fall semester. Why? Perhaps it’s because my learning curve is always in the curved position and it was time for me to learn new things in a new environment or because I know I can create more substantial change outside of a tenure track position?

The truth is there’s a privilege about being an academic and I no longer wanted to be a part of it. With privilege comes exclusion and I want to be a part of an inclusive community. Don’t get me wrong, I have great respect for academics, my problem lies with the institution.

During my ten years, it was generally the adjuncts who brought real-world experiences to our college campus not the tenured faculty. There was a glaring disconnect between the traditional (tenure track) faculty and today’s networked students. Unfortunately, the lecture is still alive and well, as is the statement in syllabi to ensure devices are off and not visible during class. This was not the case in my courses. I never passed out a syllabus on the first class, in fact no papers were ever passed out (I was a paperlesss professor) and I encouraged devices. We live tweeted in class, connected with experts on Skype and Google Hangout and participated in as many connected learning opportunities as possible.

My call to arms for more connected teacher educators, Wired for Collaboration highlighted why higher education is no longer “higher” when it comes to innovation.

This week, this tweet is the impetus of this blog post.

I love that this is happening since I implemented iMentors, virtual mentors from my PLN into my teacher prep courses in the fall of 2011. But again, I question why this is not coming from higher education? This latest innovation is coming from the startup, Edconnective. Last week I blogged about education being more like a startup and this confirms I made the right move to walk away in December.

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 2.07.06 PMAs I said during my Connected Teacher Educator presentation at ISTE 2015, I am a connected learner who thrives in an active learning community. I will always see myself as a connected teacher educator whether I am in higher education or not because empowering teachers empowers students.

Just recently, I presented at a university and a full professor shared with me, “You just brought the UNIVERSE to our university.” I thanked him and shared how I had just recently left higher ed and he said with a smile, “Well, you can’t keep a saddle on a maverick.”

As I reflect on my decision to leave a tenured track position, I continue to question the status quo and privilege in higher education and look forward to the conversation that will result from this post.

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