MICHAEL SINGER, professor in the Section of Integrative Biology in the School of Biological Sciences
[35 years at UT]
1. Professors should understand that students are real people and students should understand the same about professors. Among real people, kindness is always a virtue and its absence always a sadness and a pain. Students often don’t realize that not only can professors be unkind to students, but students can be unkind to professors. Twenty years later, I still remember an anonymous student evaluation that read: “I expected to enjoy this class, and I might have done so were it not for Dr. Singer. His physical appearance was MORE than disgusting! Had he been clean, maybe I would have been able to stand to look at him and listen. In short, I hated everything about Singer and his class.” I work very hard to make my classes both informative and interesting to students, and to have them dismissed so casually and completely is really quite painful!
2. Professorial duties are teaching, research and service. The only way to be a happy professor is to resign yourself very quickly to the fact that you can do none of these as well as you know you could do it if it were your only task. It’s true that research and teaching can complement each other, but this is mainly true for the most advanced classes and at the freshman level it is rare that my research directly feeds into and improves my teaching. In the main, research and teaching compete for my time and effort.
3. It IS possible to teach evolution to non-science students in Texas, if you do it gently.
4. Professoring is a good gig for folks like me who get sick from time to time. I am judged on what I have achieved in the past five years. If I were judged on what I’ve achieved in the past month, I’d be carrying a “will work for food” sign.
5. Professoring is NOT sexy. Around 1978 or so, I remember driving on 26th Street and passing three young women who hollered out, “Hey, cool car, give us a ride!” So I did, and someone said: “This is a neat car, what do you do?” Though I could have said, “I’m a truck driver,” because it used to be true … [I decided I was] going to tell the truth even though I thought I knew the consequence. So I said, “I teach biology at UT.” And the reply? “LET US OUT!”
HOPE FITZGERALD, lecturer in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies
[2 years at UT]
1. Challenge is a good thing. Our students know what they’re getting into when they decide to study a complicated language intensively. When we keep the environment challenging (but hopefully not too stressful!) they keep making great
2. Be flexible, keeping your priorities in mind. No matter how well I plan for a class, something is bound to change at the last second, and it’s important to keep my priorities for the course in place while being flexible with how we work toward them as a class. For example, the first one-third of this semester, Egypt was in turmoil, and instead of discussing class readings, we sometimes spent class time watching events unfold there on the news. Helping students connect their language learning to the real world and to that bit of history in the making was so important that some other priorities had to be modified.
3. Students are responsible for their own learning. Every instructor I work with really wants his or her students to succeed and tries hard to make it happen, but in the end, it’s the student who decides whether or not to take advantage of the opportunities in front of them.
4. Seek, and you’ll (probably) find. UT has great resources available but in such a huge school, it’s not always easy to hear about them. If you need a service (counseling, tutoring, funding for a research project) it’s probably available here at UT—just start asking about it.
5. If you don’t occasionally take some time off, your head will explode.
5.5. Sleep has to be a priority. Organize your time and prioritize getting enough rest, or your semester will not go well.
Compiled by Sarah Pfeffer / Our Campus staff.