Friday, July 27, 2007

On Striking a Balance

"Few professors teach because they have a burning desire to do so. Most of us do what we do because we love our fields and in order to do research we have to teach. It is a necessity that most of us try our best at, but few of us have any real talent for."
- from July 20

The writer above paints a pretty dismal picture of the profession. The sentiment seems to be that "if it weren't for the damned students, this would be a great job." I take issue with several of the points.

First, how does the writer know what "most of us" are motivated by? I know that many of my colleagues at Generic State University enjoy both teaching and research and some even seem to enjoy the community engagement aspects of the job.

Second, to say that "few of us have any real talent" for teaching is ridiculous. I have known a number of faculty who are both excellent teachers and good scholars. Is there a teaching versus research trade-off? Yes there is but it doesn't mean that a person can't strive to find balance between the two. Perhaps the writer has forgotten that there are many professors working outside of Research I schools.

I chose such a school because I wanted a reasonable balance between teaching and research expectations. Sure there are times (especially at the end of the semester) where I am cussing the students and the amount of time I have to spend grading papers and exams. Sure there are times when I wish I had more time for research. All in all, the job is good, the pay is decent, and the teaching is all right. Some of the students even think I'm doing a good job and think what I'm teaching will be useful to them in their work lives.

Imagine that!