Typical professors

I asked my students what they expect typical professors to be like.  (In the first week of the course I had asked them about their expectations of me.)  These particular students are mostly seniors.

I keep asking them this question for the sole reason that their answers make me LOL in the coffeeshop.

A lot of people think college professors are extroverted. Which is funny because I think the exact opposite. My act must be fooling them.  Also a lot of people don’t include research in their description of what professors do all day, whereas it’s one of the first things I think about in my description.

A lot of them think that professor is synonymous with teacher, though there are a few who imagine a professor “tirelessly researching”.  Does it count if I’m tired?

Wow, this person is deep: ” I know that I have been shocked by the lack of passion/critical thinking in the [redacted humanities] department, and of the awkward social interactions that I have had in the [redacted STEM] department, so my prototype is only relevant to my limited and most common experiences. While some of my professors are producing research that exposes certain systems in the university, some [redacted] professors are working hard to mask and solidify these systems.”

When you were an undergrad, what did you think your professors were up to all day?

#2 says:  my mom was a professor, so I always thought professors were always super busy doing IMPORTANT things and I should be very careful of their time.

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7 Responses to “Typical professors”

  1. eemusings Says:

    Like a good Asian, I was brought up to be terrified of my superiors. Any educators definitely fell into that category.

  2. rented life Says:

    I honestly don’t think I thought much of my professors one way or another in undergrad. I knew the one had a personal life because…well she acted like a human and said so. She had kids, listened to music, had a professional career and was ontop of field trends. Another professor we all knew had a hobby of undergrad women. Another, who sadly left, but I don’t blame him, I knew did a lot of research because he constantly talked about it. I found it interesting, he brought so much more to the class. Others were totally elusive. They were these beings that were there for classes, for office hours and then…I don’t know, disappeared. We knew nothing about them. That was most of my professors in undergrad really.

    In grad school they were these people who could call you stupid, drink beer in class, get high with their favorites, and hold everything over your head.

  3. First Gen American Says:

    Well, since 99% of the professors in my school had 0 real life work experience, my view of professors was that they were total brianiacs. They were often so smart that they were severely socially impaired and couldn’t function in the real world and hence ended up in academia. I definitely didn’t get the extroverted vibe from most of them but I went to an engineering school.

    There were also rumors that went around that the chemistry professor used to make LSD in his lab in the 60s. He was kind of a hippie, so I don’t know how much of that was just pure fabrication vs fact.

    Sounds like it’s in line with your observations of your STEM colleagues.

  4. Debbie M Says:

    I didn’t think much of them. Just hoped I’d get an interesting one. And that the work would be possible.

    I was sad for one of my professors my freshman year who would try so hard to make jokes, but no one would laugh because they were in college now and college is serious.

    I thought they were all expert in their fields and that they had varying teaching abilities. One guy snorted a laugh whenever we’d say that we couldn’t figure out something in the homework (instead of explaining). Another guy quickly signed my form when I decided to drop his course–I’d thought he’d at least ask me why and try to talk me into staying. I was pretty surprised to conclude that education instructors generally had the worst teaching abilities of any of my professors. I missed the fact that, unlike high school teachers, most of them didn’t feel it was their job to motivate us or make their lectures interesting. Learning was all on us.

    However, there were a few jewels: The humanities instructor who had interesting essay questions (“Compare and contrast God and Marduk [a god of another culture].”) The astronomy professor who would lecture on the one inscrutable part of the readings and make it fascinating. (I could barely pass his multiple choice tests, but his lectures were so great that I audited every class he offered.) The history professor who really brought home how the Black Death changed everything–normally you could convince people that things were cyclical and that taxes had always been this high, but 1/4 of everyone dying was definitely a new thing.

    When I went to work at a university, I learned that faculty had three roles: teaching, research and service. And was surprised to learn that that research was by far the most important (at prestigious universities, anyway), at least officially. Though you can tell that the faculty themselves don’t necessarily agree when they go emeritus and then continue doing just the one role they most liked.

  5. Z Says:

    I keep being told I am not typical, but then those who say this cannot explain what they mean. I think they mean less mousy than average.


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