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I Like Teaching. There, I Said It.

  • I recently read I Don't Like Teaching. There, I Said It, written under a pseudonym by a humanities professor who admitted that she (If it matters, I’m assuming the author is a woman as the picture accompanying the article showed a woman lecturing to a room full of students.) didn’t like teaching. She wrote that she could still be a good teacher...that liking it wasn’t important. “There are many things that we must do, and that we are good at that we don’t necessarily like doing, like “exercising, changing diapers, cooking risotto, doing the laundry, picking up the trash.” She says “you don’t have to enjoy something to do it, and you don’t have to enjoy something to be good at it.” She is undoubtedly correct. You can be a good teacher without liking it.

    In the classroom

    I, on the other hand, do like teaching. There I said it! It is the one part of my job as an adjunct at a community college that I actually enjoy. Once class starts I wake up! I really enjoy talking with students about government, or the courts or whatever the particular topic of the day is. It doesn’t matter that I’ve taught the same courses for years, over and over again.

    I’m currently in the midst of teaching a summer class. If you’ve read my earlier post The Fifty Minute Man, you know that a 3 hour and 25 minute class is not my favorite format. So before class, I think to myself...or whine out loud to my wife, that I don’t want to go. I have to take this huge chunk out of my summer night when I could be doing something else...seeing a band play, hanging out with friends, whatever. But then I get into the classroom and the clock strikes 6...and magically, I perk up! I start talking and interacting with students and my headache and bad mood just melt away.

    Whether I’m lecturing or we’re having a discussion, I usually enjoy myself in class. Perhaps it’s because teaching is a bit of a power trip. After all, I have a captive audience that I control and who feel compelled to laugh at my lame jokes. Of course, I love seeing students eyes light up when they grasp some new concept and see the world a little differently. And not much is better than when a student comes up to me after class and tells me how I made a subject she thought was dense and boring into something she could get her head around and even enjoy. This happens more than occasionally, by the way. Maybe I like teaching so much because I think it is one of the few things I can actually do well.

    It’s the rest of my job that I dislike more and more as the years drag on. I don’t enjoy grading (Although, strangely I do enjoy scoring thousands of AP essays with hundreds of colleagues every year.) Neither do I have a tremendous interest in research. I used to really like working with departmental colleagues and others on campus, but now I rarely have the opportunity to interact with these people. In fact, for a variety of reasons, I’m starting to dislike being on campus very much at all...outside of the classroom, that is.

    Ultimately, teaching is what keeps me in higher education. It’s certainly not the pay, or the other responsibilities. So, while I respect that our anonymous writer guts it out and teaches because she must, I wonder why she doesn’t find something else to do. As for me, I’ll stay in the classroom...if I have the choice.

    What about you? Do you like teaching?


  • Bob Ertischek
    Bob Ertischek Jane, for me, it's all about the conversation with students. I just want to engage them and raise questions. It's not being the "sage on the stage" or using "cool" technology. I don't think I addressed this point in the blog well enoug...  more
    August 9, 2013 - 1 likes this
  • Jane Snyder
    Jane Snyder Bob, I agree with you. It is all about the moment that they realize that learning is more than just memorization. It is when the student realizes that the whole world is just a classroom.
    August 9, 2013
  • Ray Orkwis
    Ray Orkwis I keep returning to that Taylor Mali routine about what teachers make -- we make a difference. Definitely not to all students, maybe not even to most, but to the ones in whose heads the light goes on and they see their lives as something they can change, ...  more
    September 10, 2013 - 1 likes this
  • James Swarts
    James Swarts Thank you for your positive, and honest, defense of teaching Bob. I came into the academy following a very long career in government, and a short career in ministry, after being invited to teach a general survey class (U.S. II) as a last minute fill-in. ...  more
    October 12, 2013 - 1 likes this