Putting students first

There was an interesting article today on Inside Higher Ed by Elizabeth Redden.  It is a report on an interview with Mark Bauerlein of Emory University.  He talks about the huge demands made on languages and literature professors to publish — too often at the expense of their students. He says:

“The incentives are obvious. If you’re a professor whose future depends on the amount of pages you produce, then all those hours you spend talking to freshmen about their majors, about their ideas, about their summer reading … really paying attention to these wayward 18-year-olds who are fresh out of high school, you’re hurting yourself”

I am lucky to work in an institution that truly values teaching.  Yes, professors have to publish and perform service.  But teaching is equally, if not more, important.  And yet, too many of us don’t take time for those students.  Or we say they don’t really want help anyway.

It isn’t always easy to create an environment in the classroom that encourages students to come see us outside of class.  But for the struggling student, help outside of class is critical.  So we have to try to eliminate the barriers between ourselves and our students.  We don’t have to try to be their friends, but we must be their teachers.

And, more importantly, we have to be there and truly be available to students when we say we will be.  Office hours don’t mean you are on campus… somewhere.  We have to welcome them, listen to them, take them seriously.  We have to be willing to find yet one more way to explain the grammar point we have already explained fifteen different ways.  It is hard work sometimes, but most things worthwhile are.

Bauerline has written a paper called Professors on the Production Line, Students on Their Own.  You might want to check it out.


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