Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Teaching in the Ivory Tower

Perhaps I should really call it the "Stone Tower", but in any event I need to rant: I know things are really hectic right now with term about to start and I myself am running around like a headless chicken these days, and I know this can get extremely frustrating at times, but some of my Oxford colleagues seem to actively dislike having students around and also to actively dislike teaching. Well, I have this answer for them (and they do seem to dislike it whenever I respond this way to their seeming disdain for students and for teaching): Go somewhere else --- perhaps outside of the ivory tower --- and get a job that doesn't involve teaching! It's funny how they didn't bring up their dislike of students up during their interview! Sheesh.

Teaching is always time-consuming and often very frustrating --- and there are times when I will complain (rather loudly) about certain aspects of it --- but that doesn't mean that I don't value it. One of the blessings of being at Oxford is the awesome quality of most of the students here. I bring up what our undergrads and my research students can do, and frankly my colleagues at other universities are jealous of what we have. And they should be. This doesn't mean, nor should it have to mean, that there can't be lots of frustrations. (There is little more frustrating to a teacher than the brilliant student who is wasting loads of talent through laziness, real-life stupidity, or some combination of the two.) Another really great aspect about students here --- and this one, I think, is much less apparent until one actually gets here --- is the student-teacher relationship. Namely, at Oxford, the relationship between students and faculty is not an antagonistic one, and that contrasts very starkly with what one sees at many (and perhaps most) US universities. What we have here with the students is so much better than what academics have at just about any other place.

So, while it is true that there are times that teaching will take up loads of time from my research---and it's ok to be frustrated by that (I know that I am sometimes, and I'm more than willing to express it)---I have only one piece of advice for those colleagues who seem to have open disdain for students and for teaching: Leave.

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