The Life of a Wannabe Academic

Detail of the life a new academic. The progress from graduate training to professor. Includes reflections on the job hunting process, research in technology and education, and what it is like to be a new college professor.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Windshield Time

This is a phrase that I have heard around the department, usually referring to the Clinical students who need to travel long distances for their placements. This is time that is spent in the car reflecting on what you have just read or learned about. Time to think because, there is little else to do as your are driving (except of course to pay attention to the road, but around here they are pretty flat and straight). This past weekend I had some "windshield time" as we were driving down to the Cities to meet some high school friends of my husband's. He was tired and trying to sleep, so I get to drive and let my mind wander. I cannot recall all that I thought about (it is a 5 hour drive) but I remember thinking that I should write some of them down in my blog.

One thing that I do recall is thinking about my personal philosophy of teaching. I've needed to think about this quite a bit lately because I am currently on the job hunt and I have been asked to clarify what my personal teaching philosophy is as I am focusing my job search on schools that focus on an undergraduate education. One thing that I often find interesting is how different people can be in their philosophy of teaching. For example, my husband and myself are quite different. I tend to be more accommodating, give students the benefit of the doubt when they ask for extensions on tests or assignments, and to believe that the more help that I can give (online notes, voluntary quizzes, study sessions, one-on-one tutoring, etc.) is how I view my job, as a facilitator, not just a disseminator of information. My husband (he is not a teacher but is an instructor pilot in the Air Force currently) takes what I would call a more traditional view of college teaching. Little flexibility, and tends to think that most students will try to get out of course work through excuses. In my own experience, I have had very few excuses turn out to be untrue. A few but in general students, at least around here, tend to have quite a bit of integrity as it applies to course work.

Now don't get me wrong, I think that he would be a good teacher (he has taught me quite a bit about flying) but all I am saying is that we have different philosophies. I tend to be more student centered, he more instructor centered, but perhaps this is our differences in training (college vs. Air Force). What I usually find interesting is how most students will adjust their learning and relationship with an instructor based on how the instructor views teaching and instruction. Students are very savvy and know by now (in college) how to act in each case.

One other thing that I spent time thinking about is how people change after high school. Because we were going to see some of Caleb's high school friends I thought about this. I had just recently had my 10 year reunion this fall. It was a strange experience...I went in with a bit of dread. I did not really remember liking high school that much and I was not sure if I would have a good time at my reunion. For me it would depend on the people that were there. Luckily for me, many of my old friends had made it as well. The strange part for me was when I first saw these old classmates, I was thinking "Wow! So and So has changed quite a bit." But after some conversation, it was like being back in high school. I wasn't focusing on the exterior as much and found that most people were pretty much the same, just a bit more grown up and adult.

For me I had imagined that it would be like speaking to strangers because I had not spoken to most of these people in 10 years. But after a little of uncomfortable small talk we would begin to reminisce on high school experiences, and that stranger went away and my old friends were there again.

For me my high school reunion helped me to remember that High School was not all bad and that I had quite a few friends and good experiences. This year I have been in touch with my high school friends more than ever (even when I just left for college). I think the most interesting was seeing what everyone was doing for a living. We have the whole spectrum in our little class of 75: An engineer who travels the world for work, a combat veteran, preschool teacher, factor workers, a MN Viking employee who does the communication between coach and QB, a person with a mountain in Antarctica named after her family (Majerus Mt), and me a PhD candidate about to (hopefully) become a college Prof. Most still live in the state, but several have moved to other states as well.

So the lesson for me during this reunion is that people change over time, this is evident, but they do not change as much as you might think. Some change more than others, but in general the good people that I hung around with in high school were the same core person.


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