Approach 3

Making a Break by Unlearning Bad Habits and Toxic Values

The aim of discomfort is for each person, myself included, to explore beliefs and values; to examine when visual “habits” and emotional selectivity have become rigid and immune to flexibility; and to identify when and how our habits harm ourselves and others (Megan Boler, The Pedagogy of Discomfort).

At some point during my unofficial sabbatical, I realized that I no longer needed to take a break from the University. I needed to make a break from it and the bad academic habits and toxic values that had caused me to lose my passion for engaging and that were turning me into someone who couldn’t have a conversation without citing my sources, watch television without critically analyzing it, read a book and just inhabit it or experience anything without wondering how to trouble it or turn it into a “teaching moment.” I needed to unlearn bad academic habits and toxic values.

Lists! Bad Academic Habits: some I practiced, some I ignored or avoided until I couldn’t anymore, some I actively resisted and some I endured

  • Read too much, too quickly, with hostility and in order to pick apart and find faults.
  • Don’t read to engage but to acquire ideas, theories and authors.
    Write to impress and demonstrate how smart, sophisticated and correct you are.
  • Hide any insecurities about what you know behind big words, complicated sentences and the highly specialized jargon of your discipline.
  • Speak to pontificate, not to connect.
  • Ask questions that aren’t really questions and never expect or wait to listen for others’ responses.
  • Speak in overly polished paragraphs that function more as lectures than tentative contributions to a conversation and that are peppered with the question-not-question, “right?” which usually means “I am right and you are wrong if you disagree with my statement which is so obviously right that only an idiot would think it wasn’t.”
  • Fail to see both students and Teacher as people with lives outside of the classroom.
  • Be so abstract and objective that you fail to consider how ideas affect students or what it might cost, physically and emotionally to engage with those ideas
  • Spend too much time with the ideas and perspectives of people who Matter within the Academy, not enough with the ideas of people who don’t but should
  • Spend too much time on the work that matters to the neoliberal university, not enough time on the work that matters to you


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