As we waltz into a new semester, here are some tips for us Profs.

1. Start with a Smile. I know, this coming from one of the most pessimistic people in the world. Well, one of the best teachers I know, Heather Lippard, always suggests to me that if I start off the semester filled with anxiety, angst, and frustration, that I will pretty much project that on my students. She’s right. I usually do and my student evaluations show it. I hope that we can try to find ways in which being a professor makes us happy and helps us to realize that we have one of the best jobs in the world even when the world doesn’t necessarily agree that we are needed. I will start this semester with a smile because I want my students to still see the joy of learning.

2. Inspire. I believe that one of my pedagogical goals is to inspire students. I know I’m not a great figure like MLK Jr. or Gandhi but I do want them to challenge the world we live in, especially when so many suffer and fall victim to ideological battles. We, as professors, are poised to inspire our students to carry forward a flag of reason and scientific discovery that can lead to great social change. Put simply, if we fail at this, then what’s the point of higher education?
3. Never give up, Never surrender! Okay, so back to my more pessimistic side. I have found that many students have become, shall we say, more demanding in education. Now, these demands are not necessarily for more readings, harder assignments, or more group work. These demands are actually for higher grades with less effort. They also seem to believe I work for them as if I was a personal tutor or even a servant of some sort, making sure that they are successful students despite their efforts. I would even be so bold to say that some how these students’ parents have suggested to their children that they are entitled to a college education that is fairly easy and full of fun. More important, that their experiences and opinions trump any educational experience they might have at college.

So, to that, I say never give up, never surrender! I am here to give students the next level of education and I don’t necessarily have to be your best friend (however, I can become a peer or colleague) and it is frankly disrespectful for you to address me as your “Bro,” “Dude,” or using sort cute names like “Dr. L,” “Cam,” or “Hey, you.” You don’t talk to your parents or your preachers that way and if you do, then that may be the problem. I also want students to understand that I want them to express their opinions and come to class ready to debate. But, let’s all get this straight, I’m not hear to “brainwash” students or for them to make sure their agenda is fulfilled. However, I am here to show the various perspectives, research, and public opinion about social issues and I don’t expect students to take it as the only gospel. I do expect students to respect others in my classroom, including me, and listen to the world around them instead of just those talking in their small spheres. I promise to give a space that is free from ridicule as long as you promise not to try to trash those around you. Moreover, I will never give up in providing students a window in to the possible truths of the world as long as you are willing to listen.

4. Call BS when you see it. I think this one is self-explanatory but I want to make sure that you understand that I want us all to do this for all our various spheres of influence. I’m not just talking about the anti-intellectuals in your classroom but all of them – colleagues, friends, family, and random strangers. As an academic, we need to challenge the common sense that swallows reason and spits out dogmatic ideologies. There is no better time in the world to call BS when there is a political election coming and yes, I don’t care if you agree with me but I would appreciate if you would listen.

5. Keep smiling. I will end on a positive note. Even when things are tough in so many ways, we have to carry on. Sure, you haven’t gotten a raise in  a while and the numbers of students in your classes continue to rise. Sure, they want you to publish the greatest research article ever and find the biggest external grant to fund your existence. Sure, your colleagues fight over the most trivial things or they are a constant thorn in your side. The point is that you are doing what you love, right? You’re drinking coffee and talking to a crowd of hungry individuals who just want to absorb knowledge and find ways to apply it. They need you, you need them. As C. Wright Mills suggests, let us not get completely caught up in our personal troubles and let us see the bigger picture.

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About lippardcd

Assistant Professor of Sociology at Appalachian State University.
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