Courtney Kidd is a Stony Brook University alumna, adjunct to Stony Brook University’s School of Social Welfare and current Ph.D. student at New York University.
A good teacher does so much more than hand you a grade at the end of a semester. A good teacher prepares you for more than class; igniting your yearning for more knowledge, even if it is outside a topic of interest to you. A great teacher will make you wish to become one. I’m back in school at New York University for my Ph.D. in social work, not just to advance my own career, but because of the impact my former teachers had on me. In fact, I gave up a job most would do anything to have to take a risk and go into academia. And do you know who was right there behind me when I made that decision? My Stony Brook University professors. My great teachers.
Last week, an article by Ms. Justine Josue came out discussing how the teachers at SBU ranked fifth in the category of worst professors in the Princeton Review, out of the 381 universities on the list. It included a few “key” quotes from students complaining about professors’ lack of willingness to be there, do more. A few days later, another article by Mr. Jager Robinson rebutted accurately why the Princeton Review is not where you go to gain the answers put forward so carelessly about the people who devote their lives to the education of the amazing students at Stony Brook.
I’m here as a personal testament to their ability and commitment. I’m here because I also now have the distinct honor of naming myself among them as an adjunct to the School of Social Welfare, where I received my master’s degree in 2012. I’m here as a hopeful future full-time professor who knows that it doesn’t always matter how well you impart knowledge, how fun you make class, or how much time you spend; there will always be individuals who will say you’re a poor teacher. And that’s okay. I’ll still try to reach them.
Teaching has been the single most rewarding career move I’ve made, and I’ve made a lot: start a major internationally known news and advocacy website, Social Justice Solutions (born out of the tutelage of those teachers in the School of Social Welfare), served our nation’s veterans for half a decade, presented at conferences, written an untold amount of articles, returned to school for my Ph.D. and still above all, teach. A large majority of what I have been able to accomplish I owe to those individuals called out within their own school paper, their own students as the fifth worst. It was with their support, guidance and experience that I learned how to be the professional I am today. And I can’t let that slide.
Sometimes those who put in a lot tend to get a lot out of it; namely participating, study time and grades. Those who want to receive a lot may or may not, depending on the class. The most jaw-dropping moment in Ms. Josue’s article was that students spoke so little of science professors, expecting them to be below average. Stony Brook is world-renowned for their science programs. It’s why not only students, but professors come from all over the world to vie for a spot to be there.
I can understand feeling lost in such a large classroom; that’s also not the professor’s fault. But it does put some impetus onto the student to not be a passive student. As for not wanting to be there? I’d ask you to try to get there, and then ask yourself, why would you jump through so many hoops, go so far above what everyone else in the field does if you don’t want to be doing this? I’ll burst your bubble. It’s not the money and prestige. The answer is, they do want to be there. They might have a learning curve too, or maybe they realize that most students outwardly groan at the sound of the dreaded teaching assistant, but they want to be there.
There will always be courses or teachers you won’t like. Or perhaps their style of teaching isn’t for you. It’s an oxymoron to believe that you have one of the strongest programs out there and give none of the credit to those who are the pillars of the reputation you are permitted to stand on. So, next time, before you make a blanket statement with what I’m sure was a phenomenal sample size to confirm your bias of our professors who spend 40+ hours teaching, grading, researching, lesson planning and trying to engage a group who may or may not care, stop losing the forest for the false trees.
Step into the shoes of the other side. Join me in my classroom. It’s an open invitation. A small sample size, but an open invite from one professor who wants nothing more than to be there to a student who hopefully still wants to learn.