Isolation, Solitude, and Community: The Challenges and Opportunities for FCS Professionals

Article excerpt

Professional isolation is not new-it may describe a teacher in the oneperson high-school family and consumer sciences (FCS) department, the sole nutrition instructor on a college faculty, the design entrepreneur who works from home, or the student library volunteer who shelves books/ DVDs. Many of you may identify with.. .or be in one of these scenarios now! At first glance, each of these professionals may have considerable interaction with others-face-to-face, over the telephone, or via electronic media-and the interactions may be frequent or intermittent. Thus, it is not necessarily level of interaction that imparts professional isolation; rather it is the lack of an immediate community of those who share FCS experiences and understanding.

Isolation is a concern in many professions and in society in general. Consider the educational loan reduction or incentive programs in the health professions for those who will set up their practice in remote or rural areas, or for teachers who will commit to teaching in intercity or Native American schools. Though it is easy to think of isolation in terms of location, in many instances, the barriers have been reduced due to communication options available to develop community.

We may wish to think not in terms of location, but in terms of barriers that contribute to being professionally isolated or lacking community. It would be interesting to know how prevalent professional isolation is in FCS as it may provide implications for association membership and programming, varied interventions for the lone teacher, and options for filling positions in multidisciplinary organizations. As professionals, we can be isolated because of situation. Martha Beck, an author and life coach, said "If you want to end your isolation, you must be honest about what you want at the core level and decide to go after it." This is a call for action by the individual. Some of these actions may include participating in a professional organization, seeking a mentor, contributing to a blog to explore current or best practices, or attending a conference to network. …