Thursday, Febrarury 12, 2009
10 am Pacific, 11 am Mountain, noon Central, 1 pm EST, 8 am Hawaii
Fr David Robinson, S.J.
Bringing Personal Integrity into the Workplace
So often in professional life and practice, we are preoccupied with the complexity of systems and the disfunction of organizations, and we lose sight of the foundational spiritual values and practices that shape our deeper identity. Learn how to reflect on the deeper aspects of yourself that you can integrate into your workplace and practice.
When the college where David was working moved to a new and smaller location, everyone was lobbying for more space. Instead, David chose the smallest office, with no windows.
"My first task was to make my office comfortable," he said. Using the five senses as his guides, he endeavored to make a space pleasing to the eye, the nose (scent can be added to the fountain for a dose of aromatherapy), the ear (soft classical music issued from a nearby CD player,) touch (the teddy bears), and the palate (green tea is available.) All the objects, bought at flea markets or 99-cent stores, “cost dirt,” he said. A point of integrity with his brand of interior décor... “From cognitive brain studies we know how people operate,” he said. “You process information from multiple vantage points. If you generate an environment where you don’t have retinal burns from stark lighting, you can go into a state where multiple brain states are operating—so you’re calm and you like it and you work better. I call it a cognitive microcosm of spiritual learning,” Fr. Robinson said, as a small silver chime near the door let off a musical pealing, causing him to stop in his tracks. “Did you feel the change in energy when that happened?” he asked..."Do what brings you joy so you can do your work with integrity and creativity. It makes people more productive." (USF News Online, http://www.usfca.edu/usfnews/02/02.05.02/ac2.html)
David Robinson has been a member of the California Province of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) for over twenty-five years. During the past decade, his work and interest have moved progressively into the arena where pedagogy, spirituality, and technology intersect. He has collaborated in educational projects linked to poor and indigenous peoples and refugees in Mexico, India, and Thailand, and is connected to various national and international initiatives that are attempting to address how matters of justice and education can be furthered through technological learning networks. David has pursued graduate studies in literature, philosophy, theology, and music, and spent nearly fifteen years at the College of Professional Studies at the University of San Francisco, where he served as a professor of interdisciplinary studies, an academic administrator, and the College's director of mission and the spirituality of learning. Most recently, he has undertaken the work of the Executive Director of Nestucca Sanctuary, a Jesuit spirituality and retreat center on the Oregon coast.
1. I have known you for almost 15 years, mostly at the University of San Francisco, where I had the good fortune to work with you. Your environment at USF was quite different from your present environment at Nestucca Sanctuary in rural Oregon. What do you mean by "personal integrity" and how does it fit into your choice to become director of this Jesuit retreat?
2. How do foundational spiritual values and practices shape our deeper identity?
3. Unlike Nestucca Sanctuary, hospitals are very busy and demanding work environments. "As nurse workloads increase, nurse burnout and job dissatisfaction become greater factors in the voluntary turnover that leads to understaffing of hospitals. Healthcare consumers rank this understaffing as a major threat to patient safety" (Vahey et al, 2004, www.rwjf.org.... How can nurses in training and their teachers help to develop a sense of self, both personal and professional, while meeting the demands of the workplace?
4. Since many of our participants are counselors or students, could you clarify your sense of their role in the wider teaching/learning environment? Can you expand upon that to workers in other environments?
5. At USF and at Nestucca Sanctuary, you have created living, as well as working environments that reflect your personal integrity. These two environments are very different. Could you explain what they have in common and explain how they have reflected your personal integrity?
6. In conclusion, what tips would you give nurses in training, or career professionals who are advising students, and workers who are overwhelmed by their workplace situation, to maintain their personal integrity in the workplace?
Reflective Vocational Exercise
Since the emergence of the Socratic method, the interaction between teacher and learner has been a complex dialogue—part method, part mystery. As each of us can attest, mere intellectual acuity or encyclopedic knowledge does not create a great teacher or great teaching. There is a unique interaction that takes place in all profound learning that is more about relationship than about data or analytic insight. Learning in a Jesuit context, where I have worked in various roles, concerns itself with the nature and qualities of such a relationship.
Whether in the classroom or online, Jesuit education promotes the interactive, interpersonal qualities of the learning process, because these are the qualities that transform lives, values, and vocational choices. If the ultimate end of education is to help imagine and shape a better society, a better world, the learner needs to acquire the interior resources and interests that will assist in realizing that end
Why begin with issues of the learning environment? The qualities of identity--personal, social, and vocational--are not simply a by-product of the information gleaned in a classroom or training exercise. We live and work to the models we have been taught. Expertise can be useful, but it is clearly not enough to nurture a well-rounded work life.
As learners (and educators), participants in this process can explore their own foundational values for learning in the arena of professional development. Therefore, this reflective exercise is offered in an attempt to assist those who teach and those who learn in articulating their personal history and evolving ‘methodology’ for manifesting the best of their understanding of what constitutes a truly great teaching/learning experience.
Please review the following questions, think about how you would answer them, and then reflect on how you can use this information in helping to shape your own vocational identity and future.
Exemplars You Wish to Model
Education as a relational process, requires attention to both sides of the teaching/learning equation.
- Who was the first or most important exemplar/mentor who helped you get in touch with your love and enthusiasm for your discipline?
- What attributes did this exemplar/mentor exhibit that made you feel the palpable attachment he/she had for the subject(s) being investigated?
- How did this person influence the ways in which you pursue your life as a professional and structure your own ways of working and furthering the growth of the field?
Fine-Tuning Your Workplace Strategies: Work as Profession --Work as Vocation
It is quite possible for someone to acquire the knowledge and technical skills necessary to succeed in a profession as a line of work or source of income. However, a vocation results from a much deeper level of passion and commitment to a given domain of knowledge and work. Teaching, healthcare, and business can certainly be valuable professions, but their power for change as vocations is extraordinary.
- How do you view your workplace role within the broader vocational domain of your social, intellectual, and spiritual life?
- If someone asked you to express three 'core values'--spiritual and/or ethical--that you bring to the professional enterprise, how would you respond?
- What are the most important aspects of yourself that you bring to your workplace practice?
Teaching and Learning Dynamics for Vocational Growth
The broader implications of education clearly embrace both the cognitive and intellectual dimensions of life. However, holistic teaching and learning also bring us into contact with the deeper levels of personal formation and transformation—the social, the spiritual, and the ethical.
- Is cognitive formation implicitly spiritual and ethical? Is spiritual formation also a cognitive endeavor?
- What sorts of work-life activities do you find to be most effective in promoting the type of energetic and involved environment which can inspire transformative learning and enhance your personal development?
Personal Vocation and Organizational Mission
Within our institutional commitments, we can attempt to discover the deeper connections between what has enriched our own growth as life-long learners and educated professionals, and what such enrichment has elicited in our evolution in the workplace. Such deeper connections are the foundation of our relationship to organizational mission. In a Jesuit context, mission includes the pursuit of excellence, but also promotes attention to those aspects of the work which enhance human capacity for service, the promotion of justice, a sense of oneself as an agent for change in society, etc.
- Do you feel that your own sense, and practice, of work within a 'mission' context has been encouraged and supported institutionally?
- What resources, personal or organizational, might help to enhance your efforts in this area?
- Have you articulated your own vocational 'mission’ as it relates to that of your organization?