Will the Creative and Imaginative Faculty Please Raise a Hand!

Faculty who drone on until the end of day!

Faculty who drone on until the end of day!

Faculty Drones are Easy to Spot!

Faculty bear the brunt of incompetent and power-hungry bureaucrats, and many of their strategies for survival are a direct reaction to the abuse and overloads they are assigned.  In my several decades of teaching at a variety of institutions, I rarely saw a faculty member who was animated in the classroom.  And most of the time students were talking or slumped over their desks, oblivious to the fact that they were in a classroom.

Faculty teach the same classes year after year after year after –and in the process something inside them dies.  They can’t break away from being a statue in the classroom.  There is no dynamism, intellectual engagement, creativity, or active learning of any kind.  It is like they are staring into headlights.  Not much is going on in those classrooms.

Part of the problem has to do with curriculum design.  Politics in a department influence who gets to teach upper level and smaller classes.  Only a few faculty ever engage in the development of new courses or strategies in teaching mandated courses.

Graduate Schools (are often) Designed to Produce Passive People

Graduate schools are hierarchical and graduate professors like it that way.  They have the power to destroy or elevate a student’s career.  So, instead of fostering creative and imaginative license in a student, they force students into their own areas of research and point of view.  If a student wants to win that golden Ph.D., she must obey the graduate professors and become whatever the graduate professors want her to be.  To do otherwise, means all-out war.  (I did otherwise!)

This type of environment produces a passive teacher, a person who fears rocking the boat.  And, in my experience, most professors are not pro-active on any front at a university or college.  I always wondered if critical and creative thinking ever crossed the minds of some professors.  In a sense, their graduate education had alienated them from their own creative spirit.

Faculty Drone Along Teaching the Same Classes Year after Year

Lecture as the only teaching methodology used by a professor!

Lecture as the only teaching methodology used by a professor!

When hired, bureaucrats assign courses to new faculty.  They give them a syllabus or maybe they give them a shell of an online course created by a publishing company.  I have seen some syllabi that were only one page long.  A syllabus is a contract between the professor and the student, and in order to be equitable to all students, that contract should be detailed.  It is a way to protect student and faculty.  That syllabus should have assignment dates, tests, special projects, and an explanation of how everything will be graded.  I also included rules on classroom behavior, cheating, resources, and more.

I remember being given a stack of syllabi at one college to preview.  I could not believe the lack of sophistication, detail, or  teaching methodologies.  After reading twenty or so of the syllabi, I had learned nothing about how the classes were taught or expectations of the professor.

Where is the intellectual inspiration and innovation in the classroom?

The greatest injustice that can be done to students is to take an online shell created by someone else and just monitor it.  I never used a shell.  I always created every online and face-to-face course from the bottom up.  I never wanted anyone to dominate how I taught in the classroom.  Many professors today, never create anything for their classes.  Shells include assignments, tests, quizzes, review sheets, extra materials, recommended videos and more. This is not teaching.  This is babysitting.  There is no dynamic intellectual change among any one in the class or in the classroom.  This type of non-education is an atrocity!  How can professors pick up their paychecks?

Face-to-Face Classes should not be used as a personal soapbox!

In every face-to-face and online class I taught I used multiple teaching strategies to engage students.  In a single seventy-five minute class I might use music, a short video, short Power Point Visual lecture, discussion on a hot topic, quiz or some type of involvement from all students, handout on everything covered in the classroom, and a session on news of the day.

I knew a professor who had an alarm clock on his desk.  He set it for precisely fifty minutes and when it rang he walked out of the classroom.  He never acknowledged the students, never answered questions, and never looked at the students.  During the entire hour he sat perched on his desk talking.  Come on, is that teaching?

Faculty engage in politics on campus instead of creating innovative courses.

Where are all the inspiring faculty?
Where are all the inspiring faculty?

Politically astute faculty often do not have to or want to engage in intellectual conversation in a published and juried academic book or article.  They buddy up with those in power and when their name comes up on promotion committees, everyone gives a nod.  “Yeah, we like the guy, he contributes a lot on the committees where he has volunteered!”  Past Deans have told me that faculty come up for promotion to full professor and have published nothing.  The faculty member promises to publish before the end of the year.  The committee, which is full of his friends, promotes him never to see anything published.

Many faculty do not engage their peers on a national or international level.  They do not know about the trends in their disciplines nor innovations by other faculty at other institutions.  Lot’s wife turned to stone when she looked back at the devastation of her town.  I often wonder if that calcification takes place in faculty.  Perhaps they were engaged once, but they have lost that bright spirit.

Poor Lot's wife!  Did she even have a name?

Poor Lot’s wife! Did she even have a name?

I became a professor because I thought it was the most important thing I could do in the universe.  Helping someone to learn how to crawl out of poverty into the life of the mind is almost an impossible task.  To help students to learn and grow and prosper was my goal. I wanted them to appreciate all the faiths on the planet.  Maybe it would bring peace into their lives?  I was up for it.  I had the skills.  

I worked very hard.  I donated my life and extra time and salary to make the system work.  

The fool!

The fool!

Now, retired, I think that maybe, just maybe,

I was a fool!



(Disclaimer.  Don’t get me wrong, there are dedicated and creative faculty out there, but I have met very few.)

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This entry was posted in Disillusionment in Higher Education, Education not War, Higher Education, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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