“Supposedly easy tasks . . . such as teaching are far more likely to be associated with punishment than with reward; failing an easy task brings a loss of face. . . . [H]ard tasks (at which workers are commonly expected to fail) are more likely to occasion rewards than punishment. . . . [A]voidance of punishment in an activity that must be faced almost daily (teaching) will supplant a hard activity that can be procrastinated (scholarly writing). . . . The hard-easy rule also hints at what will have to precede changes in the usual, paradoxical arrangement of rewards for writing and teaching.  Stated simply, we cannot expect new faculty to display a fondness for writing, no matter how obviously important it is, until they model what their most productive colleagues do (that is, work in regular moderation at writing, teaching, and collegiality).”

Robert Boice, The New Faculty Member (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1992), 101.

Even if you’re not a big Boice fan, it may be helpful to think again about success and failure, reward and punishment, in terms of the tasks we regularly face.

3 thoughts on “Hard/easy

  1. I also find teaching innately rewarding – even if one reason is that when the hour is over, it’s DONE and can be CROSSED OFF THE LIST! At the end of a day, you can point to achieved things – classes survived – whereas with writing I can spend hours and only have a reworded paragraph or two to show for it, and it’s such a long, slow process…

  2. I’d like to “work in regular moderation” but that seems impossible. It’s typically much more manic than that, no matter what the duty is at the moment.

    Clearly, I’m doing it wrong.

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