Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Small Liberal Arts College Professors

Today I went to a seminar by guest professors and students from two SLACs (Small Liberal Arts Colleges) about their unique course structure. UBC is trying something different this year so they're looking for help from other institutions. I wasn't entirely sure I wanted to go to the seminar because of this paper that's due tomorrow, but I'm glad I decided to go. It reminded me why I came to grad school.

You see, SLAC professors like these simply exude a love of teaching and interacting with students. They emphasized time and time again over the hour that they love their course structure because it allows them to get to know their students personally and engage with the material in greater depth. I came to grad school to become a SLAC professor. As an undergrad at SFC, I loved the sense of community and the closeness among my peers and professors. I would love to be in that kind of community again.

But, I haven't even been here a year yet and I find myself discouraged by the lack of encouragement and support for grad students to improve their teaching skills. This is part of the larger effect of being at a large research university that really only gives lip service to teaching instead of truly rewarding and encouraging it. I find myself falling into the same pattern as everyone else of caring more about my research than my teaching. I just don't have any role models here of the kind of professor I want to be. Chip is an amazing teacher and I definitely have a lot to learn from him, and I don't mean to say that there aren't great teachers here- there are. I suppose it's just not possible to have the same closeness of teachers and students here compared to at SFC. But really I'm frustrated that no one seems to care if I become a better teacher or not.

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