Field of Science

Do you teach here at the university?

It's that time of year when lots of strangers, all very conspicuous, are appearing around the campus here in Lincolnland. They mostly readily identify me as a campus native probably because I'm usually reading a book, manuscript, or paper, which isn't seen that often off campus, and they often want to ask some questions. Also I always offer to assist anyone who looks like they are a bit lost. In either instance, they often ask "Do you teach here at the university?"

I usually answer, "Yes, teaching is among the many duties of my job as a professor." I do not find teaching demeaning, but I do get annoyed by how many people fail to understand that university faculty are far more than teachers. We're experts and scholars, learned intellectuals, authors and researchers; we're more student (in a professional sense) than teacher.

I try to tell myself that many of our students are still first generation college students, but many of the people who ask are clearly college graduates if not alumni. The problem is that many of these people, as well as current students, attend and graduate from college without ever doing anything scholarly themselves. Their only interaction with faculty was the usual classroom student-teacher dichotomy. If they weren't worried about an exam or pissed at a grade, they never sought out a faculty member.

Since we (the university, which is us) allow this to happen, in a way, I am responsible for creating the very situation that annoys me. As best I can judge, we in the sciences do a fairly good job of engaging and involving our students in our scholarly enterprises, but then we work in our offices and laboratories so we are accessible. Many of my colleagues in the humanities are only in their offices for office hours; they work at home. I understand the problem of interruptions, but at home they are inaccessible to students. So I wonder about the level of interaction on a day to day basis. Maybe science just has more low level things for students to do that provide them with regular contact with faculty.

So I'm not a teacher like your high school teachers. I'm the guy who teaches the high school teachers, and writes their textbooks, and does the research they should occasionally teach about.

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