Spinning plate 1

When many of us were a wee bit younger, we saw an act on The Ed Sullivan Show where a man came on stage and started spinning plates on the top of thin rods.  As each additional plate went up, he had to work harder and harder to keep them from falling.  Fast forward to today where some of my students say they have seen this type of performance at a circus. 

This is the time of year in academia where it feels like we may have started spinning too many plates.  You may have even tried to spin a platter, but it does not lend itself well to spinning; the best you can do with a platter is find balance.  Over time, you may have gotten more proficient with the number of plates you can spin, but there are limits. 

Here are some tips related to spinning plates:

1.  It is easier to spin a lot of plates of you have the help of others.  Even the man on The Ed Sullivan Show often had an assistant.  It is crucial not to lose site of the fact that “me” always works better when you turn the /m/ upside down.

2. If a plate is starting to fall, make sure you need to be spinning it in the first place.  There are times when you carefully have to take some of the plates down so you can concentrate on spinning the most important ones.

3.  Communicate well with others in your community.  Rather than just handing someone another plate, ask if s/he has the ability to add another plate to the lineup.  If you are on the receiving side of this, then know when to say no. 

4.  Try not to spin so many of your own plates that you can’t help others when their plates start to wobble.   

5.  You may need to mentor others so they can learn to spin some of the plates on their own.  This goes back to the first point by appreciating that we can’t do it alone.

6.  If you feel like you are unable to prioritize the spinning of your plates, it may be time to speak to the ringleader.   Maybe she can get you an assistant or can have a good discussion about which plates can rest for awhile.

7. When you are able to catch a falling plate before it breaks, be careful not to let the panicked feeling distract your concentration away from the other plates.  Anxiety has a way of spreading in a bad way.

8.  When a plate falls and breaks, and this will happen, then it is a good time to reflect on your technique or the number of plates you are trying to spin.   

9.  It is not kind to concentrate on others’ broken plates because we all have our lessons to learn.

10.  The person spinning the plates is more important than the plates; plates can be replaced.  

At the end of the act, I remember the performer taking all the plates down and raising his hands with a big smile on his face.  The end of the semester is nearing quickly.  You soon will be able to take your plates down, celebrate a job well done, and relax.  The dizzying pace at which we are going will subside.

I hope some of these tips encourage you along the way.  The one-person act from the past has evolved to a group of people spinning plates together.  Rather than an individual perspective, this better typifies our work together.  In the coming weeks, please prioritize your plates and help others with theirs.

Spinning plate 2

Image (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2013 from: http://inheritanceheisters.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/platespinner.jpg

Image (2012). Retrieved April 21, 2013 from: http://blog.writeyourvision.org/2012/03/where-do-iwe-go-from-here.html