Monday, May 11, 2015

The Point of a Professor: NY Times Article

As I was reading the New York Times this morning, I came across this article: The article is entitled “What’s the point of a professor?” It makes the biting point that there is one part of higher education that falls low on the ladder of “meaningful contacts: the professors.” I tend to agree with this article, and I note that this has been an evolutionary change since the days when I entered the chiropractic profession as an instructor at what was then National College of Chiropractic.

The article points out that while students are generally content with their teachers, they are also not very much interested in them as thinkers and mentors. In general, students are enrolled in our courses, but then they rarely have much contact with us outside of class. They show up, they may even engage in the classroom (though that is certainly not always the case), but they do not seek our counsel once class ends. There are many reasons for this, in my opinion. One is that we do not give them reason to seek us outside of class. This is a bit of “hidden curriculum,” in fact, where we may not send welcoming messages. And students view us as means to an end, the end being getting their degree. Thus, we are something to put up with, rather than to truly engage with. There is a bit of a service attitude; students are consumers and we need to make consumers happy. And there is a need to have good reviews in order to receive promotion. Sometimes good reviews can be had by making life easy for students, rather than challenging them.
Beyond that is the wild world of the internet. I have never gone to- and never will- the website What good would come of it? The only reason I can think of to visit that site as a student would be to berate an instructor. In chiroprac6tic education, that could be fore reasons having nothing to do with teaching skills. It could be because of differences in philosophy, for example. But places such as yikyak are growing in size and influence. They place professors into difficult situations- you cannot respond since the system is designed to be anonymous.

In this new world, we need to find ways to reach students. I do not see students myself as a teacher until 9th trimester. By the time I see them, they are nearly gone, so there is little time to develop long-term relationships. I cannot act as a moral exemplar for them save for the 15 weeks I have them in class before they leave the college. We need to find ways to provide such interactions very early in their time at the college. Work for us all.

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