Things I've Learned About College Teaching

   Students get younger every year.

     Reading to students tells them you don't know much. Don't read anything to a class unless it is really short, really funny, or really interesting – and never from the textbook.

    If you forget to zip up your pants, no one will tell you about it until after class is over.

     If there is at least 20 years difference between your age and your students, your jokes will probably not be funny.

     Don't mention the names of people (or events) of more than 20 years ago. They won't know who (or what) you are talking about. Mentioning "The Nixon Administration" is like mentioning "The Hoover" administration or "The Googenheim Administration."

     "The Good Ol' Days" for your students means 6 years ago.

      Classes, like people, have personalities – and some of them really suck.

    College students are not morning people. If you are a morning person, don't become a teacher.

      Never include class participation as part of student grades. Speaking up in class is a matter of personality. Someone who has an outgoing personality or just likes to hear themselves talk should not get a higher grade for it.

      Don't think you are a good teacher unless a majority of your students tells you so. What you think and what they think rarely coincide.

      Most students come to college so that they can get good jobs and make a better life for themselves. That requires that they get good grades. Students like teachers who give high grades. Students don't like teachers who give low grades. It makes no difference how good a teacher you are. It's how you grade that matters the most to students.

      Some students are in college only because their parents told them to go to college.

     Grades are like performance evaluations on a job. Even the incompetent believe they deserve good ones.

      Almost every student is smart enough to get a 4.0 GPA, but most are not motivated enough to get a 4.0 GPA.

      The higher education system doesn't allow everyone to get a 4.0 GPA, no matter how smart and how motivated everyone might be.

      Colleges and universities exist for faculty. They don't exist for students, and are not customer oriented. No matter what schools say to the contrary, the customer is only right if the faculty agree with that opinion.

     Colleges have administrators because faculty rarely agree on anything that matters.

      If you are not prepared for your lecture, your students will know. You can fool some of them some of the time, but soon they will realize who the fool is.

      Academic freedom issues usually surface in opposition to progress.

     Administrators like change because it makes them feel like they are doing something.

     Tenure is the academic equivalent of a continuing pardon from the governor.  It is also a good way to keep incompetent people from spreading to other areas of society.

      Having a Ph.D. often means that the individual stayed in school because he or she didn't fit in with any other type of organization.

      Some Ph.D.s are brilliant, clever, socially adept, and fun to be around. I met a couple of them many years ago.

     The best teachers entertain while they instruct.

     No matter how well you teach, don't expect to please everyone. Even Jesus couldn't please everyone.

     Most teachers, like most drivers, think they are above average. Students know otherwise.

   Competence in teaching and one's personality are two things which have little or no relevance to promotion potential.

     Academic research, if not sponsored by some competent outside organization, is the Army's equivalent to digging ditches. It keeps people busy, looks important, and means nothing.

      Research shows that the attention span of the average student in a lecture is about 20 minutes, but the average class period is at least four times that long, which tells you something about the impact of academic research.

     Just because the administration says class periods are 2 hours long doesn't mean that you must stretch your 30 minutes worth of content. If the people who decided on class length had to sit there and listed to you, class periods would be much shorter.

     Non-traditional degrees are not acceptable to most schools that are populated with degree holders from traditional programs. It is like ethnic discrimination but applied to one's educational background. 

      If you don' speak English well enough to be understood by students, you can still get hired to teach students if your research is sufficiently impressive. This also applies to being hired if you are a socially undesirable sociopath.

      Faculty decide which faculty get hired and promoted. In animal husbandry, this is known as inbreeding.

     Self-importance is a malady that is particularly wide spread in bureaucrats, politicians, and faculty.

      If you treat students like your friends, they will make your job more enjoyable, they will learn more, and your colleagues will think you are immature.

     If you are a really good teacher, you miss your former students a lot more than they miss you.

      If you don't miss your students after they graduate, then you should consider retiring or changing jobs.

      If you are a really lousy teacher you will be remembered but not missed.

      Bad teachers think a college campus is a nice place to be when there are no students around.

      Good teachers think a college campus is a nice place to be when there are no administrators around.

     Administrators think a college campus is a nice place to be when no one is around.

      If you are concerned about what your students wear to attend class, then you have your priorities wrong.

      Never use the PowerPoint slides or exams that a publisher provides with the textbook unless you are lazy or incompetent. If you do, students will know that you are lazy and incompetent.

      The cost of the average textbook is three to four times the cost of an average hard back novel with the same number of pages. This is because the price includes all the ancillary materials that are provided to faculty in order to make their job as easy as possible. Students are paying for videos, PowerPoints, instructors manual, lecture notes, test bank, problem sets, CD ROMs, web site support, and computer software. These days instructors don't have to read a book to teach it.

      Curriculum decisions made by faculty or administrators usually reflect their wishes rather than student needs.

      Politics in academics is worse than politics in business and government. While all politics consumes a lot of non-productive time, academic politics is more likely to be driven by self interests because it is not accountable to the customer, and tenure frees it from the behavioral constraints of worring about job security.

      Students should not go to faculty for career advice. If faculty were knowledgable about career opportunities, they wouldn't be faculty.

     Teacher salaries do not reflect teaching effectiveness. Salaries mostly reflect things that have nothing to do with teaching students.

      The primary difference between college today and when I was a student is 40 years and PowerPoint.