Two Professor Perspectives, One Topic: Why I Educate
Two student success advocates. Two points of view. One professor. One administrator. One purpose: To provide real-world perspectives on hot topics in education and student success.
Amy Baldwin Says After class a few weeks ago, two of my students and I were talking about college and career plans. One of my students Terry, a nontraditional, single parent, said, “I really love history and think I could be a history professor, but I look at the students in my class who are not interested and disengaged, and I think I would not like to teach them at all.” He then pointed to his classmate and friend who has not been the most serious student, although good natured and with a generous sense of humor. “No offense, Jared [a traditional student], but if I had a classroom full of students like you, I don’t think I would like teaching.” Jared laughed—he knew he was a slacker in some respects—and concurred with his classmate. I paused for a moment, but didn’t respond in support of what the nontraditional student said. Instead, I thought about it all evening and realized I had missed a perfect opportunity to explain why I do what I do and why I like the “Jareds” as much, if not more than, those who are motivated and completely interested in learning. Here is what is what I wish I had said to Terry and Jared about why I teach:
- Even though there are days I long for a class full of Terrys, teaching to the willing and interested is certainly pleasant, but not very challenging.
- The Terrys make me feel good about myself and remind me that I am on the right track, but they don’t challenge me to be better at teaching.
- The Terrys are great to talk with and I love hearing about their successes, but I know the Terrys would have been fine without me.
- l really love hearing about are the Jareds who write me semesters later to say that what I said in class or out of class made a world of difference to them and they are better for it.
If I am truly honest about why I teach and what inspires me, then it would be that even when I am frustrated by the Jareds and feel as though I am incompetent as a teacher, I know deep down that it is the Jareds who inspire me to be better, to do better, and to reach students who may not even know they need help.
Brian Tietje Says As I near the age of 50, I now find myself wearing monovision contacts in order to see objects both near and far. It has taken a few weeks for my brain to adapt, switching from one eye to another, depending on the object of focus. In a similar manner, I have two lenses I use to reflect on my passion for teaching. The first lens is my perspective about teaching that inspired me to pursue my Ph.D. in the first place, and the second lens is my perspective as an administrator after many years in the classroom. When I was 25, I made the decision to transition from a corporate sales career to become a professor. Why? I wanted to pursue a career that allowed me to invest in other people’s lives. Teaching is an act of service, and even at the relatively young age of 25, I felt a strong calling to use my talents and interests to help others become productive and successful. The vision of being a professor in a classroom with enthusiastic, engaged students was the light at the end of the long tunnel that kept me motivated through a two-and-a-half-year MBA program and a grueling, five-year doctoral program. To this day, I have never regretted my decision, nor have I ever questioned if all those years of education were worth the effort. I’ve been an administrator for almost eight years, so now my view of teaching is retrospective. I’m not naïve to the fact that certain aspects of teaching can be exhausting, frustrating, and mundane, particularly when there is a stack of midterms to grade, but I still believe that I am at my highest and best use when I invest in others and encourage them to pursue learning for their reasons, not mine. In fact, I miss teaching so much that I am making plans to get back into the classroom at least once a year to teach a class. I need to stay grounded in the core mission of the university by keeping at least one foot in the classroom. Now that I’ve been in higher education for more than 15 years, my passion for teaching has become deeper and broader. I still see teaching as a personal opportunity to invest in others, but I also see how teaching is an essential component of community. So many of our social, economic, and environmental challenges are best tackled through education and learning. There are many high callings in life, and for me teaching captures it best. This blog post was originally published on Pearson’s My Student Success Community Blog, and was reposted here with permission.
About the Authors
Amy Baldwin, M.A., is a student success thought leader. As an advocate for community college and first-generation students, Amy has worked for the past 17 years to increase college completion all students. She currently serves as the Chair for College Studies at Pulaski Technical College in Arkansas. She has also served as Director of the Arkansas Complete College America grant and has worked with the Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE) and the Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges (AATYC) on various statewide student success and professional development projects. She has lead initiatives on her campus such as Foundations of Excellence, Achieving the Dream, Higher Learning Commission re-accreditation, and National Association of Developmental Education (NADE) certification. She served as a technical assistance provider (TAP) to the new Developmental Education Initiative (DEI), funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and has worked as a consultant on First-Year Experience programming and has served as a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) lead evaluator for the SACSCOC accrediting body. In 2006, she won the Two-Year College Association-Southwest Region (TYCA-SW) Teaching Excellence Award. Amy is the co-author of The College Experience student success franchise, which includes titles with co-author Dr. Brian Tietje, and wrote the first community college and first-generation student success texts on the market. She has also written blogs and articles for Firstgenerationstudent.com and Student Health 101, where she also serves on the editorial board. She has facilitated over 120 workshops and breakout sessions all over the country—at community colleges, K-12 professional days, and national conferences–on teaching and learning issues such as transitioning to college, student engagement practices, and active learning. Amy earned a B.A. in English Literature at Rhodes College (Memphis, TN) and an M.A. in English and British Literature at Washington University (St. Louis, MO). Since 1996, she has been teaching student success, composition, and literature Pulaski Technical College (North Little Rock, AR). You can contact Amy via Twitter: @AmyBaldwinplus
Brian Tietje is a higher education thought leader and advocate for college completion and career success. He is Vice Provost of International, Graduate and Extended Education at Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo. Dr. Tietje held previous leadership roles as the Dean of Extended Education, and the Associate Dean and Director of Graduate Programs in the Orfalea College of Business. He is also a Professor of Marketing, has been a member of the Cal Poly faculty since 1999, and has won numerous teaching awards. His undergraduate business degree is from Bowling Green State University, his MBA is from the University of Hawaii, and his Ph.D. in marketing is from the University of Washington. He serves on the board of directors of several profit and non-profit organizations, and has corporate sales experience with firms including Culligan, Northwestern Mutual, Unilever, and Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products, Inc. You can contact Brian via Twitter: @DrTietje