Essay / Education

20 Things I Have Learned as a College Professor

As the start of the fall semester is almost upon me I have been diligently trying to complete my summer projects and prepare for my classes. As I was working it dawned on me that I am looking forward to the beginning of the year.

Yes, I make the same jokes all of my colleagues do about how being a faculty member at a university would be great if it wasn’t for the students.  But that really isn’t so. I truly enjoy my work. One thing I realized is that I have learned a great deal as a university professor, but not just in terms of my academic discipline, but in terms of my daily experiences with colleagues and students. It is from these experiences that I made a list of 20 things I have learned from being a college professor.

In no particular order:

1. No two students are alike. Every student comes from a different situation and has different challenges.

2. No one is as smart as they think they are.

3. Teaching gives me hope for the future. I am fortunate to work with some amazing students. Their dedication to academic excellence and the pursuit of truth often humbles me.

4. Teachers are not entertainers.

5. I love the “aha” moment. When a student or class has been struggling with an idea and finally grasps it, the satisfaction and excitement is almost palpable. It is addicting.

6. Teaching isn’t just about the classroom or the lecturing; it is about being a model for your student. Modeling is another type of teaching that we do with our students.

7. Modeling is often times more effective than the lecture.

8. I know you are playing games on your computer during class. No one clicks their mouse that much taking lecture notes.

9. Freshmen do grow up and mature. Often times they remind me of a young bird leaving the nest for the first time, but, eventually, they get the hang of academic flight.

10. Freshmen seem like they are getting younger and younger, and, no, it is not because I am getting older.

11. Education is a joint proposition between the teacher and the student; no one does it alone.

12. Your grade does not equal your value.

13. Determination will take you places raw intellect never will. Trust me; I know the SAT scores of my students. I see evidence of it every day.

14. Just because you use the right vocabulary doesn’t mean you understand.

15. Teaching helps you stay young at heart.

16. Apathy destroys educational opportunity.

17. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know.” Really.

18. Cheating is like drugs: you can only get away with it for so long.

19. Please don’t start a question with, “This is probably stupid.” or any similar self-deprecating statement. The only thing stupid is that phrase.

20. I can’t believe that my university pays me for this (Please don’t tell them I said that. My kids need new school clothes and are rather fond of eating.).

This was originally published August 11, 2008.  It has been republished as part of Scriptorium Daily’s ten year anniversary celebration.

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