As a professor teaching a class my best classes have been those that allowed me to focus on my interests, or to find my interests and dig deep into them. This may be different between undergrad and graduate students: undergraduate students need breath, while graduate students need depth. By reflecting on my experiences, I will describe my preferred courses/ professors. I will write this as the professor that I would work on being.
1. Assignments – Modules – Projects
I want to craft modules, projects, and assignments for my students so that each module – a series of assignments which culminate into a project – results in the development of skills, ideas, critical readings, and writings on a topic or area within that study module. For each module, my students will learn a new skill, tool, or technique. The benefit of doing this, is that my students can use these “projects” as prior work, or the beginning of ideas and inquiries for papers, conference presentations, symposia, proposals, and their portfolio. It should be meaty enough – theoretical background, readings, reflections, assignments showing technical skills – that they develop comprehensive understanding and application of skills.
2. Technical Work versus Reading Assignments
In one particular course, I would get approximately 3 papers to read each week. Our assignments involved writing critical reflections and preparing for in-class discussions and assignments. In each class, we went deep into the literature, discussed what it meant to each of us, and its contributions to our work. In another course, the professor would throw a lot of readings at us. They were dense and writing assignments were time consuming. During class, because of the many dense readings, my knowledge of the readings remained at the surface level. There was never enough time to go deep because there was so much to cover. I do not think this latter example is a good approach to teaching/ learning text. When it comes to developing technical skills (drawing, programming, interviewing, calculations, equations), I say open the firehose, you learn by doing a lot of them! But, it’s not the same for reading since the brain needs time to absorb what is read, chew on it, reflect on it, figure out what it means, what it might mean, and how it might be used. Projects and technical skills – give many assignments. Readings and writing – include time for reflections and mental mastication. Assign just enough readings so that minds can be challenged, but no too much so that readers are unable to go deep into the literature.
3. Read with your Graduate Student
When working with my graduate students, I want to improve their command of the literature, and their critical reading skills. I want to give them literature to critically read and to respond to. After they have read and written critically and reflectively on them, I will discuss it with them. What were the main points of the work, what new did you learn, how was the paper structured, what were the contributions of the papers, and how might it inform your work? I will ask them these questions. I will ask what readings they found while reading the paper. Papers always have a bibliography, so it would be practice for them to develop a library of works around their topic or interest. I will ask, from the papers you have read, what 3 other papers referenced interest you?
4. List of Conference and Journals
As a professor, you should be familiar with the conferences and journals in your field. I will have a list of conferences and journals in my field, and specific area of study ready for my students. I will encourage my students to write papers from their classes to submit to these conferences. Feedback is always a good thing. It’s a good thing to deploy your ideas and get feedback on them, as well as practice writing a paper. Believe me, every time I write a paper, I feel like I am learning how to write again for the first time. Not in a frustrating and discouraging way, but in a way that I have accepted. In order to be a good writer, you always need to keep looking at good writing. You start over every time, but not as far as you were before. And because you start over, you get in the flow, and become focused on what you say and how you say it. If you can afford to become sloppy in your writing, maybe you should not be doing it. It takes a lot of work, but is extremely rewarding.
5. Know who and what’s happening at your Institution
I want to be the professor who knows the resources available at my institution. I want to be the professor who is in the know! This includes:
a) Professors in my department;
b) Professors in other departments for potential collaborations or assistance;
c) Professors in other schools for collaborations;
d) Professors in other countries for collaborations;
e) Study abroad and exchange programs;
f) Grant calls so that students can apply for funding;
h) Other departments in your College, School, and University;
i) A list of courses in other departments that compliment your program or area;
j) Associations and organizations that may support your work;
k) Research opportunities;
l) Institutional resources and how they work – writing help, counseling, etc.;
m) How the fucking department and admin works: Dates to register for classes, graduate school requirements, IRB requirements, patent and copyright offices and/ or rules, who to go to for financial help or opportunities such as on campus jobs or paid research opportunities.