Students are not There for Your Career Advancement Alone

NOTE: I drafted this a few months ago. The insights are still relevant!

One advantage of finally getting my TEFL experience is that it impresses upon me the importance of teaching as not just being ‘something a lecturer has to do.’

In all seriousness, if someone was aiming for an academic career at a university, in the hope of ‘just getting to do research,’ and treating teaching as ‘whatever I have to do to get a chance to conduct research,’ that is the wrong attitude.

If someone really felt that way, they would be better to consider journalism, think tank research, or becoming an ‘independent scholar’ (for example).

Even if teaching doesn’t appeal to you right now, you need to be, at the very least, open and receptive (not just rationally, but emotionally and intuitively, as far as it is possible) to the journey of teaching you are about to undertake.

It is not good to see students as objects who are just there to help you sustain an employment post, so you can do your ‘real work.’

I would like to think, charitably, that such an attitude is rare. But PhD candidates and post-docs do need to think seriously about this matter. If you love research but dread the prospect of teaching, then there are other options.

Alternatively, you may fear it or worry about it, or whatever; however this may be, you must at least entertain seriously the prospect that you may fall in love with teaching your students.

But either way, don’t be perfunctory about it.

Remember, it’s not so long since you were an undergraduate too. Maybe you are afraid, or overawed, or missing your family. So please don’t treat this responsibility lightly.

Because it’s not just a responsibility. It is a very great privilege, and you need to work towards becoming increasingly worthy of it.

And what I take the trouble to write for others, I am more than free to take the trouble of applying to myself.

(St John Cassian, rough paraphrase from memory).


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