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Professional ethics require continuous self-improvement of professors, through writing, reading, and learning: no less than for students. Promoting excellence in scholarship, mentoring students in their research, and effectively teaching, are vital elements in our professional and personal growth. However, any one of these could be a full-time job in itself. To excel in each role, it is essential for faculty members to reflect daily on our work.

What is the role of comparisons, in this reflection? Though our colleagues’ successes may suggest to us possibilities in our own work that we didn’t know existed, there is a danger that our neighbor’s “flowers” will always seem more beautiful than our own. We should let comparisons with others suggest new approaches to our goals, but never focus on comparing our outcomes (successes and failures) with those of other people. Instead, we should focus on steadily improving our own levels of mastery of skills in scholarship and in work with students.

In American academia, where both faculty members and students are ethnically and culturally diverse, such that we will often find our assumptions challenged, reflective thinking is even more essential than in a culturally homogeneous environment. Hence reflective, systematic approaches to daily practice in reading, teaching, and writing are powerful survival tactics, and are likely to sustain one’s vitality and productivity as a member of the academy.

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