Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Now I Are A Educator ...

Well, it looks like I'll be joining the ranks of adjunct faculty across the land. That's right, I am taking on a teaching gig at Appalachian State in the Fall. Barring some unforseen catastrophe, I Are a Educator.

As both a perpetual student and an employee on the staff side of not one but two Universities in the past, I've had a lot of exposure to faculty. Attending the College Art Association conferences has given me some, er, insights into art faculty in particular. There are many different styles, approaches and attitudes, and I have to say I've learned as much by negative example as I have by positive. I don't know what kind of teacher I will be, although I know I'll work really hard to be a good one, whatever that means. But I am fairly certain already what kind of instructor I will NOT be. To wit:

I will NOT suffer from Omnipotent Faculty Syndrome. This means I refuse to pontificate about something I know nothing about and have no experience with. If someone (anyone) asks me my opinion of something I know nothing about and have no experience with, I will not assume the mere fact of having been asked gives me license to invent an opinon on the spot.

I will NOT pretend the classroom is a chance for me to live out my fantasy as a rock star, or to impress students with how fabulously clever I am. I am not The Entertainer, they are not An Audience. They are, in effect, my clients, and they are paying me to give them something. I will give them what they are paying for. If they find it engaging along the way, that's a bonus.

I will NOT take the atittude that student questions are an interruption of my valuable pontificating time. Any student asking a relevant question will have that question answered or at least discussed. If my  students are not understanding something, I will try explaining it a different way. And I will keep at it until I find the right approach.

I will NOT be overwhelmingly cerebral, hopelessly flaky, or irritatingly distant, in the classroom or outside of it.

I will NOT behave as though there is something ever so much more important I need to be doing than my JOB for which I am being PAID.

I will NOT pretend that I am 21 and we are all just great pals. Because I'm not 21.

I will NOT pretend that tenured faculty are either gods who walk the earth or The Enemy. In reality, they are neither.

I will NOT labor under the illusion that staff are staff because they're not clever enough to be faculty.

The best and most successful faculty I've had the priviledge of studying with or knowing were passionate about their subject matter and anxious to share their knowledge of it with others. They took their (frequently massive) understanding of the subject at hand, rolled it out before everyone like a red carpet, and then asked with an air of excitement, "What can you do with this?" or "What do you think?" They provided foundations on which students were then invited to build, and guided and encouraged students as required. They offered constructive criticism, but kept a positive attitude. They were genuinely excited by the contributions of others. They were interested in how their students thought, and made adjustments in their teaching to accomodate different means of processing information. And most of all, they just seemed interested to be there. I hope that's the kind of teacher I will be; that's what I'm shooting for, anyway. I guess in a few months, we'll know.