Being a teacher has been my dream job since I was 5, and I’ve been lucky enough to land my dream job; I’ve worked my way up the social ladder and struggled a lot before I got my current title, a college professor. While I was doing my master’s and PhD, I was working as a high school teacher, and let me tell you, those two are similar but also can’t compare to each other. Working with older and more mature people is great and all, but I wish I knew what I was getting into prior to starting this job. So, these are the things you should know prior to becoming a college professor, and they are also things you should know if this is a future career perspective.
Do you know why your college professor takes eons to return assignments and tests? Because grading takes time and something when you’ve read two bad papers one after the other, you have to stop yourself from reading and correcting more papers for your own sanity. I teach English lit and queer theory classes, and when I tell you at some times, I regret doing this, reading a piece about how Judith Butler is racist and misogynistic because she speaks out against white men can be my 13th reason why on my worst days. On average, you have about 40 students in a class, and you have several courses to teach. At one point or the other, the assignments start to pile in, especially near the end of the semester. But, I love grading because it gives me insight into theories that I might not have, and it allows me to give feedback that will actually help the students progress.
Your students, aren’t you.
I was always the teacher’s pet, and the one who always had a question to ask in class but get ready to know and work with students that have different backgrounds and not all of them will be interested in what you are teaching and if you are lucky they won’t even show up to your classes. My best advice is to treat them as you want to be treated, they are adults at the end of the day, and you should treat them as such. Teaching is a two-way street, and you should expect respect if you don’t respect your students. Get ready to get emails 1 minute before a deadline or people skipping class and assignments altogether. This isn’t easy at first, but you’ll get used to it; but on the flip side of the coin, you’ll also see very interested and dedicated students who will make teaching a joy. So don’t look at it as a bad/good thing; it’s just the ups and downs of teaching young adults.
This is where you get to know your students actually feeling about your class and subject. One personal piece of advice I give to all the newcomers is: don’t take it at heart but rather take it as constructive criticism that will help you teach better. While some of us do read the course evaluation that students fill in each semester, I know some of my colleagues who literally throw them away. So, you do what you want with that piece of information. While some evaluations are helpful, others are simply degrading and not fun to read. Make a drinking game out of it and take a shot every time you get or feel insulted; you will definitely be drunk after this and forget this painful memory. The first few course evaluation are always the hardest to digest because you are not used to them, but you’ll get used to them over time. Okay, I was once told to tone back and stop talking about queer history and queer theory; I teach a queer studies class; what should I be teaching?
You will learn your students’ personal life.
Like it or not but you will get to know your student, and sometimes you’ll get information that you don’t want. Whether they tell it to you directly or indirectly, you will learn more about them. Students are louder talkers, and you will learn who is dating, who has a crush on who, and recently broke up just by being in the same room as them. While walking in hallways, you’ll even hear them trash talk some of your colleagues and other academic staff, and because I’m nosy and cool with my student, I also get the hot tea on what is happening around campus. Teaching is fun, and I treat my students as my friends or acquaintances because they are adults and I don’t like this hierarchy that I am better than you because I have a PhD. I force them to call me by my name because I am not a Sir (as far as I know, I wasn’t knighted by the queen) and Mister is too formal and heteronormative. As a queer theorist, I want them to be critical of the world they live in, and it is my pleasure when they think outside the box, and it is always nice to hear gossip.
Bad things happen to good people.
As a teacher, you will learn that life is not always a calm river and that there will always be issues along the way. Your students will come to you after heartbreaks, the death of a loved one, or even diseases. I have an open-door policy, that is you can come to talk to me whenever you want, and this doesn’t have to be on your studies. I know what it’s like being new to college, having no friends, and experimenting with your sexuality. Life happens and won’t stop for anyone, so if you can make a nice gesture for someone in need, why wouldn’t you. This is why I’m quite lenient with deadlines and tests. I want my students to give their best and I know you can’t keep it 100 all the time and that there will be some days that you will feel depressed and under the weather. You’ve all been there, especially in college.
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