It’s back to school time y’all and Dr. Raptor is here to tell you why you’re bad at teaching (and what you can do about it).
OK so maybe you aren’t a bad teacher, but I’m sure you know some folks in academia who are. Even if you’ve got some great teaching chops, I’m here to talk about why most of us could still be doing better. And don’t lie, my click-bait title reeled you in, right?! Right?! (call me, Buzzfeed)
Top 4 Reasons You’re Bad at Teaching
- Your education did not involve any training or coursework in teaching, you TA’d a few classes in grad school but other than that you’re just winging it.
- Your tenure/promotion/next job depends on student reviews of your teaching, so you teach in a way that makes students feel good about themselves, instead of in a way that best enables their learning
- You ignore research on education and learning in your discipline or don’t even know it exists; or you do know it exists and don’t use it because it takes too much time and effort to change your classes.
- You don’t really care or don’t have the energy/time to care because your institution doesn’t care or actively dissuades you from caring.
OK so now that we’ve got the main reasons you suck at teaching, let’s unpack them! Weeee!!!
Hello. I’m a freshly pressed Bachelor’s in A Hard Science and I’m new here to Tenure, She Wrote. I’m here to provide some fresh perspective from the smol side of academia–namely, how my experiences in undergrad have shown me what we need to change in Everyday Academia.
I’m here to share some stories about everyone’s favorite Thing That Looks CV Impressive–the REU.
REU’s (Research Experience for Undergrads) are typically touted as these absolutely amazing internships–the Rolls Royces of summer research. Us students supposedly get good (for students) salary, amazing mentorship, and the chance to come into our own as researchers by doing our own projects away from a home institution.
As someone who has been through two REU’s and an international exchange, let me tell you how much that isn’t true. Continue reading
Hi everyone! I’m excited to be back at Tenure, She Wrote. I’ve spent my time away from the site using a lot of the advice written here and am very excited to be able to come back to the blog as a new Assistant Professor!
Over the course of my first year in my new job, there have been a lot of opportunities for me to learn more about pedagogy and evidence-based techniques for teaching students in STEM. I went to quite a few of these, since the thought of teaching had me feeling like I’ve been thrown to the wolves. I understand that’s a common experience, especially since many of us spend most of the previous ~decade doing research first as a grad student then as a post doc without learning terribly much on how to effectively teach students.
From the very first one I attended, what really stood out to me was how not-alone I was. In my field, men outnumber women by about 10:1, and I’ve been on experiments where I’m the only woman on the team. The statistics are even worse for minority and marginalized groups, and being a queer and trans woman meant I was it for most of my entire career. But a quick head count at all of these events for new professors revealed the same thing over and over: There’s a far higher percentage of women, people of color, and LGBT people who attend STEM education workshops and conferences than any place within the rest of my field.
Being a scientist, I started with counting the obvious. Using names of attendees to attempt to estimate gender percentages is a very imperfect method, but I started seeing ratios that were 3x, 4x, and higher at these STEM education events than the general population in my field, and even just within my own department. At the most recent event, I was even one of three (!!!) trans professors who attended.
I never thought I’d ask this about something science related, but the question that has been on my mind as I go to each of these is: Where are all the straight white men?
If there’s one thing I hope you take away from this post, it is that the most important component of mentorship is self-awareness.
But before we get to that, I want to start out by saying that I have had to provide myself with all of the training that it takes to become, to be honest, an actively good mentor. I think that needing to self-train on mentorship is common, as it is not one of those things that are usually taught as part of grad school. Especially in STEM (which is where I do most of my work) you’re lucky if your program is forward-thinking enough to give you the basic training of how to instruct undergraduates as a TA. Personally? My starting place for my self-training in mentorship has been “Mentees should not experience harm as a result of interacting with or being trained by me”.
The purpose of this post is not to provide a template for mentorship, but to first point out some underlying assumptions that allow us mentors—usually inadvertently!—harm our mentees. And then to provide a few examples of what toxic behaviors can be, and what non-toxic alternatives are.
It’s entirely possible that I’m just not cool enough to enjoy this “humorous,” “fictional” take on the the phenomena of students manufacturing dead grandmothers during finals week. Maybe it’s because my own grandmother died while I was in college, my grandfather died while I was in grad school, or another grandmother died in while I was in grad school (are you keeping track? That’s two grandmothers). I missed her funeral to go to a postdoc interview, which is what she would have wanted (I got the job). As the child of divorced, remarried parents, I had four grandmothers, so if I was so unlucky as to have more than one die during the course of your class, then, gee, I guess I’d be in a pickle!
But seriously, I do not get the mentality of seeing your students as adversaries. I don’t get the need to dehumanize them with your disdain, to the point where you need to mock them in aggregate in public. There is a time and a place for venting your frustrations with students being dishonest to get a little extra time on the final (even though it never seems to actually bring their grades up, so seriously, let it go). I get that finals week is stressful for faculty, too (even though your future is pretty certain and you have a job, so it’s not like everything is riding on this one grade). But this idea that we need to single out even fictional students for daring to have a life experience that interferes with your routine?
Acclimatrix is not having any of that, thank-you-very-much. Continue reading
We’ve been busy. Organizing, mourning, resting, strategizing, spending time with loved ones – not to mention all our paid (+unpaid) labor as academics.
As TSW writers and readers know all too well, our work (every dimension of it) didn’t just begin nor will it end with the change of any administration. For many of us though, the work (every dimension of it) feels more urgent now than ever.
There’s a lot more to say, and lots of voices we want to feature in this space to speak, to listen, to make change.
And we also need to – and do – act “in real life.” *
There is SO MUCH to do though, that it can feel overwhelming. And in our role as academics, especially in a climate that wants to censure topics and conversations in the classroom (Exhibit A, Exhibit B) and eliminate academic freedom by eliminating tenure (Exhibit A, Exhibit B), what can we do?
I think lots of things, and lots of “small” things that add up. Which brings me to:
A woman’s place is in the syllabus.
I am writing from the 11th week of our semester and kicking myself. What was I thinking agreeing to write a post at the end of April? So here you have my most honest and unfiltered thoughts now that I am nearing the end of my first year teaching community college full time.
Wow. It is hard. It is brutally hard on my body in a way that is completely unfamiliar from my previous experiences in higher ed. Teaching so many students at two different campuses requires much more communicating than I have done as an academic introvert. And it’s not just the teaching/ meeting with students/ grading responsibilities. While my students try to complete freshman writing, they are dealing with childcare worries, hunger, homelessness, domestic violence, drug and alcohol addiction in their families, and significant health concerns. Continue reading