Professors are Just Like Students

Professors are Just Like Students August 23, 2016

A McSweeney’s piece offered an alleged WikiLeaks reveal of faculty e-mails. What it depicts sounds like it could have been an exchange among some professors at my own institution. What about yours? It may or may not be an actual e-mail exchange from the author’s former institution of employment, but either way it deserves discussion.

On the one hand, the article highlights ways in which faculty are just like students, except that in our case it is far less excusable. Faculty complain about students in the same way that students complain about faculty. But faculty also complain that our students are just jumping through hoops, while complaining if their university asks them to jump through what they consider similar hoops. As someone who is involved in assessment of our university core curriculum, I was dismayed when a colleague of mine posted on Facebook that their eyes glazed over when a guest speaker mentioned the word “assessment” – even though the speaker’s point was that faculty should be passionate about and take ownership of assessment instead of letting it be imposed from above, since it is the means by which we can assess whether we

On the other hand, there were some ideas that came up in the e-mail exchange that might not be a bad idea. What might happen, for instance, if a faculty member, instead of assuming that students know that they cannot multitask, or merely complaining about their attempts to do so, actually addressed the issue through a personal demonstration?

I propose we implement a Text While You Teach Day to demonstrate the impossibility of communicating effectively while texting at the same time. Numerous studies have blown apart the myth of “multi-tasking” that our students appear to be enamored with. If any one needs journal articles that cement the findings, email me off list and I will happily provide links to these articles for distribution in your classes.

Click through to read the rest of the piece.

When faculty are frustrated that students show up on the first day of class without textbooks, we cannot just blame articles like this one which advise students to wait and find out if they really need them. Such articles are a response to faculty who do not actually use the assigned textbook. And students opting to add some easy A classes to their schedule are responding to the fact that some classes are easy As.

I hope that in complaining about some faculty in this way, I am not simply becoming yet another example of the grumpy faculty member. I’m just tired of faculty and students who seem caught in a mutually-reinforcing spiral of apathy that reinforces one another’s worst stereotypes and reciprocally undermines the joy that professors should have about having the best job in the world, and that students should have about what can potentially be the most powerful, life-transforming experience of their lives.

I wish you a joyful start to your semester.


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