“You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.” ~ Stephen King

So, the Grand Poobah and I were yacking in our office today and started discussing our own personal goals of being a professor. This came about as we were comparing notes on how many students have seriously struggled this semester due to the continuing issues with the pandemic, stress, job loss, loneliness, anxiety, depression and the list goes on. When he asked me: “Why do you teach? What are your goals for what you do?” I really started thinking about this and within a couple of minutes, I had the answer. Not because I was being flip, but because these ‘unwritten’ goals have guided me throughout my 27 year career as a college instructor.

If you look up the word ‘goal’ in a dictionary (remember when these weren’t online but tomes that weighed more than a medium sized dog? 😳) here’s what you get: ‘The object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.’ (Oxford Languages) What do I want to accomplish with my students? What is my desire for them? Why do I put in the effort I do for them?

First, as simple as it sounds, I want my students to learn. You would think this is a no-brainer but not necessarily. Learning isn’t memorization or meeting stringent deadlines or making sure a text is highlighted or being able to bullshit your way through an essay for a passing grade. Unfortunately, not every professor agrees with this. Throughout the years, I’ve heard things like “We need to teach these kids what it’s like to punch a time clock.” Or, “We need to force these kids to take responsibility…there are no handouts in life” (hmmmm). Or “These kids just need to listen to me for what they need to know.” Or my favorite “You don’t get second chances in life!” OK. And you are on your 8th spouse. Got it. And this list can go on ad nauseum.

Here’s the thing though: I don’t care if it takes a student 1 try or 4 tries to get an essay up to par; it’s that they learned from writing it. What good does it do to put an F on their paper, give it back to them, and then want them to move on in the class? What did they learn? Look, when I learned to crochet (which was a hellish month for both me and sissy to say the least 😐), it took me a thousand tries to know how to work the hook and create the chain and complete stitches. And even then, my projects sucked balls. If I would have stopped after the first try, what would that have gotten me? Nothing.

So why don’t we allow students to absorb the material, have multiple chances on their assignments if they aren’t getting it, and work with them until they do? My job is not to teach a student to ‘punch a time-clock’ in order for them to understand that deadlines are set in stone (many are working jobs or have families…they know deadlines). In fact, in this day and age, many jobs are more flexible than that anyway. My job is to make sure they leave my class with info that will help them in any path they choose.

This ties in to my 2nd goal – to do all I can to help a student be successful in my classes. I have a student who is around my age (shutty 🙄) and she came to me around 4 weeks into the semester and said she was going to drop and that she couldn’t ‘do’ the class. I started talking to her every morning before class and one day, this woman started crying. She’s had a very hard life in terms of all she’s experienced, but this is what she said to me that completely broke my heart: “All my life, since I can remember, my mom said I was a piece of shit and would never do good at anything.”

When she disclosed this to me, her eyes were full of tears and it made me sick to think of a mother being so wickedly cruel to their child. This student hadn’t turned in our first essay of the semester and I told her to write it. She said she couldn’t. I said: “Write it. I don’t care how long it is…how many errors might be in it…how you approach the topic. Just write.” She turned it in a couple of days later and I was gobsmacked! It was freaking excellent…and I don’t use that word lightly. Her ideas and understanding of the material was deeper than most students and her writing was impeccable. I posted her A and she came to me the next day and said this: “You didn’t have to give me an A.” And I replied: “Look, I don’t give anything and I certainly have never given a pity or mercy grade in my life. In my classes, you earn your grades and you earned this A.”

Then I did this: “I looked in her eyes and said: you are a smart, kind, outgoing woman who has the tools to be successful in anything you choose to pursue. You are not a piece of shit. Your mom was a sick woman who used her innocent daughter as an outlet for her own issues. That is not who you are. Now say it to me.” She cried and said she couldn’t. I said: “Look, Professor K is telling you to do this and you know how tough I am!” She smiled, looked down and said…in a soft voice: “I’m not a piece of shit. I am capable.” I told her to say it again while looking in my eyes and she did. In the last 11 weeks, her confidence, participation, and eagerness has done a 180° turn and she went from an F in my class to an A.

When she told me she was going to drop, I could have had that done in seconds. For piss sakes, if she wants to drop…drop her. No. Because that’s not my goal. My goal is for every student to feel like they accomplished something in my class…had a success they can build on…had a worthwhile experience. By the way, she calls me ‘Mama K’ in my office (even though she’s just a tad older!) and hugs me every. single. day. She, my sweetie peeps, is a success.

Another goal I have is to be relatable. I’ve been in higher education longer than some of you have been alive and I’m here to tell you this: some professors get off on this power trip of having students’ grades in their sweaty palms. They get off on ‘taking control’ and being the ‘only one right’ and ordering ‘quit talking…you need to listen to me.’ They get off on the power. So ooooooooo…you have power over 20 year olds. Big accomplishment.

If I had wanted power, I sure as hell wouldn’t have gone into teaching and if the only thing that validates my profession is the control I have over my students, I have deeper issues that need to be addressed.

I don’t necessarily expect my students to love me…or to even like me. But I do want to set up an atmosphere where they know they can talk to me, share their opinions, question what I’m saying, all while knowing I won’t judge them no matter what. Have you ever had someone ask for your opinion and then chastise you for it by saying ‘that’s wrong.’ What? How can MY opinion be wrong? It can’t. And neither can yours.

This is also why I share my experiences (obviously when appropriate) about having bipolar, having been sexually abused, having been divorced 3 times (cough cough), having a ma who experienced domestic violence, etc. I want students to know I’m real. I understand. I’ll accept whatever they want to tell me. I want them to see me as an ‘ally’ in their college experience…someone working alongside of them…not against them.

This also brings me to compassion. I want my students to see I’ll cry with them…open up to them so they know they aren’t alone in their own struggles…empathize with issues they are dealing with…understand when they say “I just couldn’t do my assignment this week”, etc. I had a student come to me once regarding their late work and I told them they could make up what they had missed. Why? He had talked about a death in his family all while he was dealing with the loss of a job and family issues surrounding the funeral. He thanked me profusely for this opportunity and said he felt guilty for turning in late assignments. I said there should be no guilt whatsoever! That’s a lot on his plate and I wouldn’t have been able to focus on the topic of social structure either. C’mon. Why is it weak for professors to have compassion for what our students are going through?

Some professors have this policy: “NO LATE WORK NO MATTER WHAT.” Really? I kid you not but I knew a professor years ago that wouldn’t let a student make up an exam they missed because they had suffered a miscarriage that week. The prof said: “A deadline is a deadline. I break it for you, I break it for everyone.”

Are you fucking (sorry, ma 😲) kidding me? A fucking (ditto, ma 🤨) exam is more important than this woman losing her baby? I was gobsmacked and so disgusted by this (and yes, told the student to talk to our dean) I wanted to say this: “Look, Prof. You know what you just taught this student? That their pain doesn’t matter. Their loss doesn’t matter. Their life doesn’t matter. All that matters is a fucking (last one, ma 😬) date you arbitrarily put on a syllabus.” Yep. That taught them a lot.

Why can’t we all have compassion for our students? Understand that life gets in the way of due dates…assignments…studying. I remember O being sick and his school calling me at school to come pick him up. I shot off a quick e-mail to my students saying classes were cancelled and when I was running out the door, one of my colleagues said this: “Must be nice to just up and leave work because you have a kid.” And I responded with: “Look. My kid is forever and this is a job. My family will always come first.” If I had been a student, not much would have been turned in that week…O ended up getting pneumonia. So, if I would have missed a quiz, I would have been told ‘too bad’? Yes…by some profs.

Look, compassion is one of these things that you give back what you get. If I show compassion and empathy and true care for my students, I’m teaching them a lesson more important than understanding the 3 theoretical perspectives of sociology: that we have to take care of one another.

Other goals I have? I want to show my students how applicable the material is…how they can actually use it in their everyday lives. I want to be adaptable in terms of what students and classes need in any given semester. I want them to know it’s not my classroom…it’s theirs. It’s a student centered environment where they are the ones in the spotlight. It’s not the Professor K show.

It sounds like a cliche but actually, cliches are often based in truth: one bad professor can ruin a student’s college life. You think that woman who miscarried wanted to walk into another classroom after that? You think if I would have dropped that student she would have continued her studies still believing the words her mom heaped on her? You think if I played the power card and said “No…you cannot re-do that paper to pass” that student is going to be motivated? I love what I do. I take it seriously. And, I do it the way I do it because I care. Because I want students to walk out of my classes with not only the academics, but lessons in life, compassion, open mindedness, respect and a love for learning that can take them as far as they want to go.

Kristi xoxo

“So darlin’, darlin’, stand by me” ~ Ben E. King

So, one of my students and I always walk out to our cars together after my last class and today she said something no one has asked me before: “How do you take everything people put on you?” I looked at her quizzically and she went on to say this: “We are always sharing things with you and burdening you with our problems…doesn’t that get hard to deal with?” I told her that it didn’t and I was just the kind of person people open up too. But, as usual, I started thinking about this more and realized that it probably does affect me more than I let on…or that I even admit to myself.

As the Grand Poobah would attest too, teaching Psychology (and Sociology) puts you in a position of teaching topics/issues/concepts that are so personal. For example, in my Marriage and Family class (my area of expertise…I have enough experience 🙄) we talk about issues including domestic violence, child abuse with special emphasis on sexual abuse, rape, infidelity, divorce, alcoholism, mental disorders and their affect on relationships and the list goes on. Pretty heavy stuff, huh?

In my Theories of Personality class that my student is in we talk about attachment, parenting, various conceptions of personality development that can go awry, personality disorders, theories that explore our neurosis, Horney’s Tyrrany of the Shoulds, the Inferiority Complex (Adler), our Shadow archetype (Jung), anxiety and defense mechanisms (S. and A. Freud), identity formation (Erikson), issues relating to freedom (Fromm), love (Fromm), conformity, social belonging, narcissism, psychopathy, real self vs. ideal self (Horney and Rogers), self-esteem, self-worth, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, self-image and you get the point. ALL of these topics can bring things up in students and even though it sounds absolutely horrible to admit, tears are sometimes shed.

Today we talked about Humanistic theories and discussed Roger’s belief in phenomenology and how it’s OUR perceptions, based on OUR experiences, that need to be the focus of attention. We live in our own bubbles based on things we have gone though which skews perceptions…but those perceptions, though maybe not rational, are real and need to be validated. After all, they’re ours.

So one of my students is a recovering heroin addict who spent 6 years in prison and has been clean since. She lost custody and contact with her first 2 children because of this but has another little girl she’s raising with her partner. The little girl has special needs and acts out uncontrollably at times. She’s in the process of being evaluated, etc. but it’s really hard for my student to handle. When we started talking about how our experiences shape our perceptions, she started crying and said this: “I’m a horrible mom. I get so impatient and so frustrated and I’m giving her these experiences that are going to screw her up. Maybe I’m just not meant to be a mom.”

This broke my heart. This woman is one of the kindest, smartest, and most motivated person I know and she works and tries with her daughter so hard. But, she makes mistakes. She yells and gets upset and cries and is now beating herself up over these times her daughter is taking in. After she calmed down I asked her this: “Name a perfect parent.” She couldn’t. I said: “Name a parent who is 9.9/10.” and she said YOU and I started laughing. WHAT? I told her that you could write every single mistake I made with O on the huge walls of our lecture hall and would still need room for more. I even called O on speaker and asked him to rate my parenting…he said he would probably give me around a 7.5-8. So, in other words, I have degrees in Psych and Family Studies, have worked with ages from 2- 70, have certifications out the wazoo…and I’m a C parent 😳.

She started laughing and we talked about how we are all going to ‘give’ our kids negative experiences because we’re human…they’re human…and when you have 2 imperfect humans interacting, there’s gonna be issues. But that’s OK. It’s normal!

Throughout the same class, students have also talked about lack of self-worth stemming from an assault, growing up in an abusive home where there was never any acceptance or positive interaction, feeling inferior to everyone else, confronting their ‘shadows’ and things they have done that they regret, etc. And I listen, validate, comfort, and sometimes advise if I think it’s appropriate.

And you know, in all of my 28 years of teaching at the college level, I have NEVER once talked about domestic violence, sexual abuse, rape, alcoholism in families, or anything else without a handful of students in each class talking about their own experiences or coming to my office to share with me. It breaks my heart. So much. And it’s hard to not bring that home and have it haunt me. I just want to take these young people and wrap them all up in a blanket and schlep them off to a bubbled island where they won’t ever hurt again.

But I have my own issues too. Ever heard of ‘Imposter Syndrome’? This is when you feel like a fraud in what you do…that you really aren’t good enough for the position. I feel like this a lot! Here I am…someone who did shitty in high school…standing in front of future lawyers and counselors and executives and teaching them for a grade that will be on their transcript forever. Sometimes I think I should be in one of the seats…not out in front.

And today? We’re talking about DV in class and I always get choked up. How can I not when ma suffered 28 years at the hands of a batterer? And then we listen to a 911 call placed by a little girl, 7, who’s reaching out for help while her step-father beats her mom in the background. This resounds with me. I used to hear R beat mom when I was in bed. The fear and paralysis and sounds and powerlessness are still there in my head. The first time I heard it I couldn’t believe what was happening. It was the most awful night in my life and growing up in a home with that throughout my teen years has affected me. So when I hear the call, I can understand the girl’s anguish. (And yes, I called 911, my grandparents, my sissy, etc. and we all tried to help ma as much as we possibly could but ultimately, it’s the victim that has to take the help 😔).

When I lecture about sexual abuse, how can I not think of the 2 years I was abused by my psychologist? How can that wound not be re-opened every single semester in multiple classes? Then, when my sweetie students start to share their stories with me, it crushes me.

I never get through my lecture on divorce without choking up to where I sometimes need to take a breather. I hated my parents divorce…it was so hard on sissy and I, and I swore my kid would NEVER ever experience the break-up of their family. Yet he did and I remember his pain. His tears. His shouts. His haunted eyes. And I beat myself up again and again for that.

When we talk about mental illness and it’s stigmatization and how hard it is to live with, I get angry. Why is there still so much shame associated with illnesses no one wants or deserves or asks for? And then when my students message me and tell me they experience depression or anxiety but can’t ask for help because they’re scared people will look at them differently, I cry…because they’re right. You are looked at differently.

So I guess I take on other’s burdens because they need me too. They need someone to share with and talk too and learn from…something I didn’t have in school. They come to me because I’m open about things I’ve gone through…they know about ma (she has actually spoken to some of my classes), me having bipolar, me having been abused, etc. I share with them because they need to know there are people behind these statistics…text chapters…articles. When I say to them: “I understand” they know it’s true. Look, they’re there for me everyday…the huge family I never had and they let me live out my passion to teach and make me feel like I might be making a bit of a difference in their lives. I get back so much more than I give to them so if another student ever asks me why I take so much on, here’s what I’m going to say: “Because I love you all.” It’s as easy as that.

Kristi xoxo

“You take a deep breath and you walk through the doors…” ~ Taylor Swift (Fifteen)

So, OH MY GOSH…it feels so so so so so so so good to be back in my classroom! Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh! 🥰

We’re in the 4th week of the semester now and I have 6 online and 3 on-campus classes. For the first couple of weeks in the classroom, the mood was a bit subdued. Not a lot of excitement about being back since it had been so long and a lot of students got used to the convenience and routine of online learning. But this week? It’s a 180! We have the spark back…the mojo…the groove (I’m a 70’s girl…what can I say 🙄)!

I don’t know how many times I’ve said that teaching is my passion (probably more than a million) but these past 18 months really made me see it anew. I like teaching online and have been doing it since 1999. I took a series of online classes myself in the early 2000’s and earned my Master Online Teaching Certificate from the U of I. Impressive…right (that should get me a date 😐)? So, not only am I educated in the pedagogy of this type of teaching, I’ve experienced it as a student too. This makes me look at my classes and ask myself: would I like this? If the answer is a NO (!), I re-vamp until I would.

Hubby 3 liked being my Guinea Pig; after I would get my classes created, I get him in a student view and tell him to click all around and tell me what he didn’t understand. Invariably he’d find something that wasn’t clear and I’d change it. It really helped me out and I think I have it down pat now.

I feel like I can still build relationships with students online…that’s part of what you need to learn to teach this way effectively. It’s little things like always using their name in every comment, etc. you make…offering a couple extra credit points where they have to e-mail you an answer to a question like “Where would you live if you could live anywhere and why?” They have to expand on their answer and then I always respond. It gives us a chance to talk more one on one about things we’re interested in. I make videos every week so they know a ‘real’ person is out there and I try to create discussions/activities that are meaningful.

BUT in my opinion, no matter how well online classes are structured to be interactive and worthwhile, they are just not the same as my face to face. Period. To me, nothing can take place of seeing faces…expressions…calling on students who I can tell are getting it…asking students what they don’t understand…and having students walk me to my office everyday after class. I love this ‘real’ interaction and it’s happening this semester in all 3 of my campus courses. It makes me feel like I am making connections and without those, you don’t give the student much motivation to listen and learn from you.

I also think the academics are different for both types of classes, and online learning can either be an easy way to ‘slide’ through a class, or a challenging way to get as much as you can out of the class; the amount of individual effort is crucial in terms of what students actually get out of the class. In fact, I truly believe that many of my online students learn more than the ones I have on-campus because they are so driven to get all they can from them.

Dedicated and eager students absorb everything and learn how to actively work with the material given and learn more than just the topics: they learn independent research, time management, computer literacy, how to express themselves only in writing (which I think is a GREAT skill to master), etc.

On the other hand, I’ve had students who simply slide by in them…that’s always going to happen for whatever reason (but to be fair, that happens on campus too). Not reading the info I provide…not watching the videos I make or upload…looking up answers for quizzes instead of studying all of the material first…putting the bare minimum into discussions where it’s obvious that a couple of things from the topic were googled and stitched together. I hate this! I don’t want students to walk out of (or in this case, log off of 💻) my classes without them knowing everything they possibly can about the material. And with psychology and sociology, it’s not just info to learn…it’s info to use! That’s important to me and why I teach what I teach.

Lord knows I am a pro at psychology even without a textbook. For fuck sakes (sorry, ma 🤨) I’ve had a fucking (I couldn’t resist) mental illness for as long as I can remember…literally. I’ve experienced a whole plethora of things that have gone into my psyche and I don’t think even Freud would want to dig around in there…it’s probably a gooey mess.

But learning all about psychology means learning all about why our minds work the way they work. Why we think like we do…dream like we do…remember like we do…perceive like we do. EVERYTHING we’ve ever experienced is stuck in that glob of cells somewhere and it affects us in one way or another.

And then sociology means learning about how our society affects us and what issues are important for all of us to understand. Hopefully, my students come out being much more aware and educated about racism, gender issues, ageism, the structure of society and how we all fit into it, class issues, cultural differences, etc. Right now we’re studying socialization in my Intro classes and my students are learning how their environment has affected them since the day they were born. We talk about how we develop our self image…our sense of self as it pertains to others…how our personalities were developed in the context of our environments…how the media affects us…the power our family had on our development, etc. This is stuff that’s important to know!

(By the way, just in case you can’t tell, I love to teach what I teach!)

Anyhoot, after being away from actual student ‘bodies’ for so long, just being back and being able to talk to them in person is awesome. The last few months of school being closed was really tough for me and the other teachers and profs I know. It was a long time to have to work from home, and a very long time not being in the actual environment that you were meant to be in. Like a fish out of water, so to speak! 🐟🐠🐡🦈🐬

So, my sweetie pie students…I’m so happy to be back to see half of your beautiful, and I assume smiling, faces again. I’ve missed you all so much and truly got lonely for you. If you’ve had me before, welcome back! Seeing you again was wonderful! If you’re new…YEA! I can’t wait to know you better and see you grow!

Have a great school year everyone!

Kristi xoxo

“But I do know one and one is two…” ~ Sam Cooke (Wonderful World)

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So, a couple of things made me happy yesterday and I couldn’t wait to talk about them with you. Here goes.

First, I attended a virtual workshop on how to ‘Humanize the Online Experience’ in your college classes. The speaker was wonderful and talked about how students need connection, rapport, feelings that the instructor is genuine and real, etc. I totally agreed with this but after a while, I realized that the necessity for this workshop made me sad. You see, this to me is a no-brainer. Really.

I guess I was a ‘humanized’ professor before the ‘humanization of professors’ was ‘cool’…suddenly, what set me apart is now ‘vogue’ in academia. I have always believed that unless you see your prof as someone you can connect with, you won’t learn a freaking thing from them. I’ve had bosses who I had no connection for…no respect for…no investment in because they stifled any hope of that happening. “We must remain objective and somewhat cold in order to maintain order” seems to be a common mantra amongst some college personnel. But why?

I’ve been hugging students longer than most of you have been alive (shutty the mouthy, please 🙄) and I’ve gotten looks from it over the years. I also share with my students. I share my experience of being sexually abused. My experiences regarding my divorces (another shutty, peeps🤨 ). What it’s like to have a mental illness. What it’s like to self-harm and attempt suicide. What it was like having a batterer married to ma for so many years. And what it’s like to get yourself out of a very very dark place in order to see the light again. I answer any questions honestly, and there are times when I cry with my students. When we’re tackling the hard stuff in my psychology and sociology classes, I might stop the lecture, walk over to someone who is tearing up, hug them around the shoulders (I ask…I don’t want to invade space), and tell them we are all supporting them. I had a dean once tell me I was ‘being too nice’ to my students and my job wasn’t ‘comforting them or being their friend.’ Well, my retired dean, it was. And still is.

When you take a gander at the definition of ‘teacher’ you get this (courtesy of Merriam-Webster): ‘to impart knowledge’ and ‘to instruct by precept, example, or experience.’ How in the world are you going to be an effective professor if you show nothing of yourself? Don’t help students learn from your own experiences? Don’t show students how their own bad experiences don’t have to shape them forever? How do you expect students to learn when they are needing ‘more’ from you? A smile. A hug. An empathic ear that listens and validates and doesn’t just spout platitudes. Why in the hell would a student want to open themselves up in anything less than this type of environment?

You see, something I was reminded of yesterday was how thinking and emotion go hand in hand. They both originate from the mind and both need each other to survive. If a students feels lonely or like an outcast…has depression or is anxious…is fighting a battle that’s not readily apparent, how can they learn? Seriously. How effective are YOU when you are emotional? How well do you do your job? Remember what you read? Retain what you heard? I don’t know about you, but when I’m in an ’emotional state’ it pretty much supersedes anything else. Period. And, if you don’t address these issues by not inquiring how students are doing or noticing a student who is suddenly quiet and down without asking if they’d like to talk…they aren’t going to learn from you. And, if they see that you can’t be real in the class…how the hell do you expect them too?

I think teaching is more than imparting knowledge. I think it’s building connections with people where they learn the academics but also more about themselves. Where they come out of a class feelings stronger. Better. More supported and supporting. More understood and understanding. And this is a NEW concept? Well spank me hard. I was ahead of my freaking time.

Then yesterday, a student shared a video with me of a woman doing a talk about how a professor helped her deal with her rape by speaking up about her own sexual assault. My student wrote “You are this professor to me”.

I’ve had students say a lot of things to me over the years (some not so hot 😐) but these words hit me the hardest. It showed me that opening myself up…providing students with the atmosphere to do the same…means something. Can do something. Something more than memorizing who the Father of Sociology is (Auguste Comte…my sweetie students better have known this 😉).

Look, I’m going to let you in on a secret. Teaching isn’t fucking Rocket Science (sorry, ma 🙄) . And for those who think it is, you’re doing it wrong. Just like when Michael Keaton is “Mr. Mom” and he’s dropping off his kid incorrectly at their school and a room mom tells him: “You’re doing it wrong.” It should never be ‘hard’ for a prof to connect. Build. Encourage. Motivate. Validate. And if it is…you just might want to go into something else.

Professoring is a people ‘job’. It’s bringing a room full of strangers together for 16 weeks and creating a bit of a family out of them. A family where they feel comfortable sharing and voicing opinions and asking questions and opening themselves up to what you say. It’s creating a place where students can be expressive…vulnerable…willing to learn from everyone around them. It’s not the brain that’s hard to use when professoring…it’s the heart.

But, I’m here to tell you this: when you can use the heart as much as the head in a classroom then you have come to the point when real learning takes place.

Kristi xoxo

“No student is bad. They only need a good teacher.” ~ Rahul Nair

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So, I was chatting with someone the other day and they said this:  “Those who can’t do, teach.”  OK.  I’m going to wait until you educators pull your jaws up off the floor and are able to blink again.  Waiting.  Waiting.  Waiting.  Ready?  I’m going to sum up what my first reaction was to this:  What the fuck (sorry, ma…but you helped put me through college…aren’t you a bit pissed too?)?!  Are you kidding me?  Really?

First of all, how totally ridiculous is that phrase?  I can’t even.  I’m mean seriously…I refuse to type it again since it pisses me off so much.  Let me get this straight:  if I CAN’T do something, I CAN teach it.  Hmmmmm…so…if I CAN’T speak German (which I’d like to be able to since it was the native language of my great-grandparents 😳), I CAN still jolly well teach it?  Okey dokey!  Well…let’s see…I can’t look at the periodic table and not think it should be re-arranged differently because it’s just not aesthetically pleasing, understand an electrical circuit (just ask my brother in law 😵), comprehend anything at all about astronomy, see algebraic equations and not want to poke myself in the eye with a hot stick since they simply look like gobbedly-gook to me and it stresses me out even more than I ususally am just peering at them, peruse biological concepts and wonder how I have kept myself alive this long since I understand nothing about bodily functions, read about a physics law and marvel at the fact I can ride a freaking bike when I have absolutely no clue in God’s world how I’m doing it, and the list goes on.  BUT, I can certainly TEACH about biology and electricity and algebra.  Right?  Good to know.  Blech.

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OK.  Maybe you’re rolling your eyes (don’t do that, grasshoppers…according to ma they’ll stick that way and you’ll be looking at ceilings for the rest of your lives 🙄) and saying to yourself:  “The quote doesn’t mean that!  It means that if you CAN’T be successful in the field, THEN you teach.”

OH!  Much better!  🙄  Heh??  Why can’t people understand that the great majority of educators WANTED to teach?  That it was our primary objective?  That teaching is a discipline?  That we studied the particular field we teach AND learned how to teach it?

Actually, this begs even more questions:  When did people lose so much respect for educators (I mean, hello?!!  Who the hell taught them how to read?)?  When did we start to demand so much more from teachers while losing appreciation for them at the same time?  When did teachers become the scapegoats for so many of society’s ills?  And, when we talk about educational issues in general, why is it that faculty are judged first, when in fact they are following the dictates of an administration who may never have taught themselves?  Does that really make sense, peeps?  Me don’t think so.  🤨

Anyhoot, besides providing fodder for a rambling intro, when that quote was said to me, it started me thinking of other ‘myths’ regarding teachers.  And believe you me, there’s a lot of ’em.  (Side note:  I’ve never really gotten the phrase ‘believe you me’.  It doesn’t make sense but I like using it anyway…it just sounds catchy to me).

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Photo Credit

So y’all know that us educators have it made; I mean look…we get our summers off!  Right?  If you believe that, I have some great ocean side property in Iowa to sell you for a buck an acre (put your checkbook away ma…I was just making a point 🙄).  Unlike for all the other people in the world that actually ‘work’ and not teach, this has been a very relaxing summer for me.  I taught 3 summer classes because I need the income and because I want students to have every opportunity possible to get their needed credit hours.  I shoved 16 weeks of work into 8 for each class and that made for hours and hours of grading every week; and since I taught them online (which is not my first choice but necessary this summer and also because summer students traditionally like online 😎), I was making tons of videos and helping students with not only their academic work but with some technology issues as well.

Then, I always use the summer to get ready for fall (us educators never live in the ‘semester’ we’re teaching…instead, we are always teaching one semester while preparing for the next).  That means I’m prepping 8 classes (so many because we have an open faculty position we can’t fill because of Covid and interviewing issues, etc.) to be online and for every single one of these develop 16 weeks of fresh, engaging, interactive material.  That’s 128 weeks of work to get ready with me researching every topic/issue/concept I teach in 2 different disciplines and then going through loads and loads of info so my students learn as much as they possibly can.  Being in front of the computer with scads of books, articles, sites, videos, etc. to wade through for 6-7 hours a day made for a relaxing summer ‘off’.  Huh?

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“But Kristi, you get paid the big bucks as a professor!”  No, my sweetie peeps, I don’t.  Yes, I make good money and am truly blessed by what I do.  And I mean that…I get paid for doing what I love and for being with my sweetie students who I absolutely adore.  But, I’m not going to get ‘rich’ (which doesn’t matter to me one iota since so many wealthy men are lining up to marry me anyway 🤓 ) and struggle with money at times.  I know so so so many people live paycheck to paycheck and that I’m very lucky I always have enough to pay what I need too with some left over.  However, I think people hear the word professor (or even teacher) and think RICH.  Nuh uh.  (So, if you’re a nice rich, single guy and you like teachers…just sayin’).  🤨  In fact, according to Visual Capitalist, out of 50 college degrees, education is ranked #49 in terms of salary.  49!

Another gem?  A good teacher can teach anyone.  Bullshit.  Any questions?

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C’mon now.  Students have to want to learn…be motivated to learn…put their own work into the process…and the list goes on.  Teachers aren’t the only part of the equation in the educational process.  Trust me.  And it’s getting harder.  Students have a repository of knowledge in the palm of their hand.  They don’t need to know how to look through indexes, read dozens of articles and books, take notes, type out papers multiple times on a typewriter until it’s just right, etc.  Now, they can just say:  “Hey Google…what are the 3 theoretical perspectives of Sociology?”  (VERY important to know, peeps…you might be on Jeopardy someday 🙄).  So, we are now trying to teach students how to learn…how to think for themselves outside of what ‘wikipedia’ says…how to analyze information…how to be media literate…how to show that the info we present is applicable in real life…and how to find a love of reading and learning simply for the sake of it.  That’s tough to do.  Trust me.

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Glasbergen Cartoon Service

“Well, you might say…at least teaching is ‘easy’.  I mean, you’re pretty much just talking to students and all.”  Hubby 3 (sigh…shutty the mouthy…), a maintenance technician, thought this for a time…bless his motorcycle lovin’ heart.  But then he was asked to teach a 6 hour class about crane inspection (I can’t think of anything I’d least like to sit through…except maybe ma telling one more story about a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend who might have something but doesn’t know for sure 🙄).  I tried to give him some teaching tips (of course, what did I know…I’d only been doing it for a couple of decades 😳), but he said it would be a cinch…he knew his stuff.  Oooookkkkkaaaaayyyyy!

After his class, he plodded up the driveway and looked exhausted.  The first thing he did upon walking in the door was to grab me, hug me, and say “How the hell do you do this everyday?  It was a nightmare!”  (Actually his language was much more graphic then this…but it might shock the knickers off of ma).  I asked what happened and he said:  “People weren’t listening and were talking and were asking stupid questions I had already answered and whining for a break and mumbling about why was I the one teaching this crap and I’d say something 3 times and they still wouldn’t get it and my PowerPoints were illegible because I made them too wordy and then they’d want a bathroom break and then their phone would go off and I’d have to start my sentence over and then one fell asleep and started snoring and then a couple of the guys started laughing while a couple others were arguing about unions and I just wanted to get in a factory and be out of that God forsaken room.”  I didn’t use punctuation in that sentence because Hubby didn’t when he said it.  It was just one long complaint.  And after this little adventure in academia?  He never ever ever said I didn’t work hard.  Ever.

Out of all of these gems, this is my favorite quote about teachers:  “Most damaging to student achievement: teachers are interchangeable widgets.” ~ Joni Johnson

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My Lord…it’s like looking into a mirror.

OK.  I don’t know who the hell this person is, and to be honest, I don’t want to know.  But to make a blanket statement about a group of people that you apply to every individual means you weren’t listening in sociology class when stereotyping and prejudice were being discussed.  Just sayin’.

Yes.  There are good professors and bad professors.  Good teachers and bad teachers.  But by the same token, there are good chefs and bad chefs…good docs and bad docs…good accountants and bad accountants…and the list goes on.  Why is it that educators are singled out as a group and if one is bad, the whole lot of them are?  I don’t get that at all.

Finally, us educators are told that we need to be flexible, accommodating, understanding, work to develop a one on one relationship with each student, not provide so much homework, lessen demands and expectations, challenge our students, apply every concept to real life, know everything there is to know about our subject matter, allow for more individuation in learning, have passion, be inspirational, keep things lighthearted so learning is fun, bring our own personal stories into the class, etc.  Whew.

Now, take a look-see at those expectations again.  And then tell me…honestly…how many people in ANY profession can do any of those things every single day?  Not only is it impossible, but so many are counter to one another!  It’s sorta tricky to challenge our students while lessening our demands on them.  In other words, profs…all educators…are held to a higher standard in terms of their ‘job’ and everything is supposed to be ‘wonderful’ in the classroom regardless of day, topic, etc.  I’m here to tell you, peeps…lecturing about domestic violence does not make for a lighthearted class.  Trust me.

When O was a medium sized guy, I was asked to be a guest speaker at the schools career day, and the PTA President (cough cough…shrew…cough cough) said I would only get a few minutes since kids know what teachers do anyway.  So…I made the following list to talk about that I called:  “What Does Professor K do all Day?” (I love rhymes…):

  • Prepare lectures, PowerPoints/videos/handouts
  • Prepare both master and working syllabi each semester
  • Prepare records/data for program reviews and course reviews
  • Develop online classes
  • Grade Grade Grade
  • Prepare exams ensuring they are reliable and valid
  • Calculate midterm and final semester grades
  • Meet with students often for extra help and guidance
  • Grade Grade Grade
  • Integrate new learning and technology into classes every semester
  • Be evaluated by dean and then prepare a self-evaluation every year
  • Advise students on majors and courses
  • Counsel students on careers and job opportunities in the field
  • Grade Grade Grade
  • Write letters of recommendation for students seeking jobs
  • Write letters of recommendation for students seeking scholarships
  • Write letters of recommendation for students seeking entrance into a university
  • Present community workshops as part of the colleges Speaker’s Bureau
  • Participate in college and departmental meetings
  • Grade Grade Grade
  • Serve on college committees
  • Serve on search committees for new faculty members
  • Serve on tenure committees
  • Earn continuing education hours to maintain my professional designation
  • Grade Grade Grade

I think that pretty much covers it.  And, since my time on campus is spent being with my sweetiepie students, I spend hours and hours working at home as well.

Look, I’m not saying that teaching is the hardest job in the world.  It’s not.  Really.  However, teaching is a field that is losing respect and teachers are being scrutinized more and more as students’ work and test scores decline.  Educators have ‘bosses’ too and there is only so much ‘freedom’ we have to do what we think is right.  Professors have to do what our admin tells us to do.  Elementary – High School teachers have to follow the dictates of the district…teach so kids can pass the standardized tests…operate under whatever funding is available.  And we all have to keep our mouths shutty when we, as EDUCATORS, realize that what NON-EDUCATORS (who are often on school boards, etc.) direct is often wrong.  How frustrating that is.

Anyhoot, I love what I do.  And I’m good at what I do.  As are millions of educators out there.  Give us a break, guys.  Cut us some slack.  We are not at fault for the world’s ills and the ‘buck’ does not stop at the teacher in terms of education.  Parents, communities, and the students themselves have to be added to the equation (which is hard for me to do…remember, I suck balls at math 😳) for what makes successful education in any society.  And, if you see one of your old teachers out and about, say ‘howdy’ and give them a little hug (masked, of course 😷) and tell them how much you learned from them.  It will make their day.  Truly.

Kristi xoxo

 

 

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