In response to some recent humorous posts about perceptions of me (like tanning), I decided to post the pros and cons of some typical profs:
-Horrible taste in clothing
- Bad role model
- Very, very liberal
- Snobbiness personified
- "Oh, I am so important!"
- Deeply caring teachers and mentors
- Dedicated researches, which they apply to their teaching
- Normal people in a few cases
- Independent minded
- Excellent taste in clothing (that would be me, the tanner) - as a French/Italian/Greek historian I have a standard to live up to!)
- Spends more of their time with students than doing anything else
- Really teaches to interpret and analyze with as little bias as possible
Those are the first things that come to mind. Needless to say, since I created the post, NONE of the CONS fit me. Most of the PROS do, though they should be qualified. I am not quite sure I am normal, but I do dress really well. And I am not very, very liberal, but an absolute independent (one of the reasons my conversation with Julia and her children last night was so wonderful).
I think most people would be surprised how much time professors spend doing their job. Often on talk radio it is said "oh, they teach 3-4 times a week'. First of all, give me THAT job. Not true at all. We may spend about 9-10 hours a week teaching, but that doesn't count advising, meetings with thesis students, grading (the bane of our existence), extra sessions teaching students to write because they got no grammar in high school, meetings with troubled students, preparing for classes, and so on. I do get very defensive when people say we only do about 9 weeks of teaching. There is never a weekend where I don't spend most of it grading, preparing, reading for classes, etc. And my tanning is over for the season, since I'm back to Maine tomorrow and teach Tuesday.I admit, not coming from this background I am probably (NO, I AM REALLY ) abnormal. I hate fitting the idea of professors even though I will defend to the death the greatness of my colleagues. So I dress well, tan, often challenge colleagues who take a party line, etc. STILL, what a great life! As my aunt said more eloquently than I ever could, "Did you ever imagine this would be your life?"
Some will say I gave up a lot to do it, but that's where I say an unequivocal no. My childhood and adult experiences made me not want to live what most people 'call a normal life.' I respect greatly everyone who does so, but it's not me. That's why I value the horribleness of my childhood (always excepting my cats and my books and becoming a news/sports freak).We all have our gifts and charisms. If you ever told me mine would have been teaching, I would have laughed out loud since I'm still shy. I could always see myself as a writer, because of my high school, but I cared most about sports. Life intervened.Anyway, most of the stereotypes of college professors are accurate, which is why I am not always comfortable as such. But I probably shouldn't say more...
As a fellow professor, I appreciate almost all of your "pro" comments about professors -- except for the excellent taste in clothing... On my campus, it's been a long time since I saw a really well dressed male professor -- although I confess there does seem to be a difference on this point depending on gender; as most of my female colleagues dress very well.
You are so right about people not appreciating how much time a serious professor spends working -- whether it is preparing lectures, working with students, undertaking research and preparing publications, participating in academic committees or serving in administrative positions, writing recommendations and, yes, "the bane of our existence", grading exams and papers. My mother-in-law not only thinks that we only work 6 hours a week, she also thinks that we only work 26 weeks a year -- the rest being vacation. That's not to say that we don't enjoy what we do -- including the conferences, lectures and research that takes us to interesting locations, and stimulates us in many others ways as well. In addition there is the wonderful interaction with students that keeps our minds and spirit young and agile -- even if our bodies slowly progress in another direction.
profchiara It sounds like you enjoy the vibrancy of your academic life (except, perhaps, for the grading...). From what you write, you have chosen something that you love -- and it's hard to think of a better choice.
jerryl I'm sorry to hear that your experience has been more ideological than "mind opening".
Professors have to walk a fine line between being experts in what they know and being interested in developing the thought of their students -- and creating an intellectual exchange with them. There are basic methods and information/facts/knowledge that have to be taught. There are also ideas and questions that have to be considered. Frequently in my field there are ideas and questions that have no simple answer -- or sometimes various possible answers. When I walk into class, I always hope that a student somewhere in the room will give me pause to rethink my own understanding of the issues that we are discussing. There are rare occasions where this happens -- and this is an exciting moment for me. I also hope that what I am teaching the students will give them reason to rethink what they understand -- as well as teaching them to think on their own. Granted, not every professor looks at his teaching in this way, but from the comments made by profchiara, I think that this is also her approach to teaching.
Hi walksoftly and jerryl,
Jerry, I too am sorry you're getting that kind of professor. I teach at a private 4-year liberal arts college where the emphasis is on interaction between students and professors. While I may be the prof, I make a great point of telling all my students that I don't want to get back on papers or exams what I said, but rather their interpretations of original sources or views of secondary works. The only real learning occurs when they analyze on their own. I may have beliefs, but hate the idea of an ideological bias in the classroom (some people are refused tenure for that). When I was working on my Joan of Arc book I also taught a senior seminar on Joan, and the insights and experiences my students brought to class changed my own interpretations a great deal. They could see things as someone closer to her age than I could. And I was lucky enough to have one of the greatest research assistants/students of my career. He worked with me on Joan through the school year and summer. While he was sight translating my highlighted notes from old French books, I was writing -- and whenever something struck me as odd we'd talk about it. He's now finishing his PhD in medieval French history at Brown. My new book on the history of fear, while more wide ranging and much more challenging as I start to write, is also based on a seminar I teach.
As for clothing, I'm with you walksoftly (I love what you left out of your nickname -- do you carry a big stick?) -- the male professors tend to dress like they would at home. And there is a gender thing with women professors -- most dress well (and are expected to, I think mostly by the students). I take it a step further since I like to dress well but when at home I'm otherwise a hermit.
Jerry, see if you can get some non-emeritus profs. I don't know whether ASU hires PhD students who don't yet have their PhD, but some are very good.