Tag Archives: school

Let’s talk professors

[I’m just going to refer to all of these professors in the male pronoun to avoid the tedium of using he/she, him/her, etc.]

I was just reading for a class i hate, and it occurred to me why i hate this class and the professor that teaches it so much.  Then i started thinking back to all the different types of professors i’ve had over the past four years:

1.  The unintelligent professor

This professor just holds you back and there is absolutely no point in taking a class with him, unless you’re the kind of student who’s into taking advantage of this type’s lack of intelligence and getting an easy A out of the course.  Sometimes you sympathize with him when all the students talk shit about him behind his back or corner him or even belittle him in class discussions.  But in the end, you wonder why you’re paying to learn nothing, and if you’re smart, you drop the course while you can.

2.  The smart professor who can’t teach

A smart guy, just not an effective professor.  Most of us have had him.  In many cases, he’s the kind of person who’d make a great conversationalist or a friend, but just can’t teach.  You sympathize with him and wish your classmates would give him more credit.  Or maybe you’re mean and just criticize him to no end, dismissing the class as a waste of your time.

3.  The smart professor who can teach

The perfect professor, you might say.  But there’s more to being a great professor than being smart and knowing how to teach, as we shall see later on.

4.  The smart professor who seemingly can teach but doesn’t know what teaching is really about

He’s clearly smart and he succeeds at getting ideas across, while maybe even engaging his students, but he’s not what a good professor should be:  someone who uses his smarts for good.  So yes, i think this type uses his smarts for evil.  He uses his class to show how smart he is instead of discovering how smart his students also are and learning from them, too, which is an essential part of teaching.  If this type also happens to be arrogant (which they often tend to be), he thinks his students are all dumb, but if he isn’t arrogant, he just doesn’t know what it means to be a teacher.  You might forgive him if he’s a Ph.D. student or a professor early in his career, but if you’re an idealistic student, it can be very hard.

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Mapping out your life is overrated

A wise friend of mine recently said to me, “Knowing what you want to do is not quite the same as knowing exactly where you can go.”  School and society put so much emphasis on the where that i lost sight of the what as i came closer to where i am now:  my last semester of college.

This academic year has changed me in strange ways.  I struggled a lot last semester with insecurities i never knew i had, most of which got in the way of my learning.  For the first time in my life, i found my classes to be an inconvenience and a drone (this partly had to do with the kinds of classes i was taking that semester, but it was also my attitude towards the learning that got in the way).  Needless to say, it was a highly disappointing semester, resulting not only in dropped grades but also a further drop in self-esteem.  (Just to be fair, one class and the professor that taught it encouraged me to express myself, which positively changed my approach to writing, but this didn’t change the fact that i felt oppressed by my other classes and professors.)

This semester has been interesting in that the four classes i’m taking are so different from each other and yet still overlap in various ways, in ways that motivate me to synthesize the thought products of each class with each other, which in turn makes me strive hard in all of them.  One class, Tactical Media, is a graduate course cross-listed as an offering to undergraduate upperclassmen, but the class is mostly graduate students.  I was intimidated at first by their professional accomplishments and general outspokenness, but i’m starting to find it easier to talk to these people than my fellow undergraduates.  There is a higher degree of respect for each other and not just a willingness but a desire to get to know one another.  I think it might have to do with the lack of competition.  They’ve already accomplished a great deal in their respective fields, and they’re all here for different reasons (the course belongs in the Arts and Public Policy department, but students come from all different departments, backgrounds, and careers).  They’re here to further their own individual projects, whether it be producing a social activist movement or sparking a debate about urban etiquette, but while doing so, they work together and share their individual interests and skills.  At the undergraduate level, most students are in the same boat of graduating and moving on to their respective fields.  Whether they admit it or not, undergrads are out to outdo one another in order to get a job or make it into grad school.  But going back to why i started talking about this class in the first place, it’s a key element in my learning this semester in that it is helping me become more outspoken in all of my classes; to put it simply, it’s encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone, but in a welcoming environment.  There is no competing—only sharing.  We don’t even compete for grades, because we grade ourselves at the end of the semester.  Discussion in this class is therefore as democratic and open as it can get; besides the individual projects (which are always collaborative), we are all in the unified project of progressing as a class.

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My last NYU September

The past week has been the best i’ve ever spent at NYU.  This is my third semester dorming (the first, fall of freshman year, and the second, spring of junior year), and i have never been this happy with my living situation.  Alumni Hall was definitely nice–you can’t beat its location, neighborhood, and convenience—but it was too loud and hectic, and i spent many a night cursing off the sophomores gathered under my second-floor window smoking, chatting, and generally being stupid all night.  And of course, there were the mice.

Now i’m at 26th and 1st, and while it’s the least popular NYU dorm, i’m very happy with the remodeled kitchen and i even like that it’s out of the way.  The walk to the subway is not bad at all, and the lack of good, cheap eating options in the neighborhood compared to the East Village will mean that i’ll be cooking most meals, which should be a nice change.  And it’s quiet.  There are mostly juniors and graduate students here (i’m the only senior on my floor, the rest being juniors), and despite living next to two big hospitals, i’ve only heard one ambulance so far.  While i sometimes miss the liveliness and convenience of the East Village, i’m relieved to be living in a peaceful, residential district this year.

Then there are my suitemates.  I don’t think i’ve ever gotten along this well with assigned suitemates.  We talk all the time, hang out all the time, and have tea and sweets together regularly (cute, right?).  I actually look forward to them coming back to the room, and i already miss one of them who’s been in Toronto for the past two days.  And if this weren’t enough, i have an awesome RA!  He’s so friendly and helpful and i love running into him all the time.  My freshman year RA was hard to get ahold of and ultimately failed to help me resolve issues with my disruptive neighbors (hence, the departure after one semester), and i never even formally met my junior year RA.

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Education, learning, training

These are my initial thoughts on the differences between education, learning, and training.  I’m looking to see how these thoughts evolve as i continue with my participation in all three.

My Media Criticism professor said that the purpose of his course was to teach us the vocabulary necessary to discuss visual culture.  I think he was on to something.

How many times have you read something for class and gone, “I knew that!  That’s what i always knew or vaguely knew but never had the words to express.”  That certainly sums up how i usually feel when reading academic texts.  And so, we could argue that education is the acquisition of vocabulary, a means of expressing what you know.

Learning, on the other hand, is about perceiving things and thinking about the information gathered.  Learning is the development and exercise of thought.

Training, which is geared towards a craft or profession, is the acquisition of skills.

Now the question is, how well do learning establishments, and even individuals, integrate the three?

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How different each September is

You’ve seen and heard students get excited/anxious/nervous/irritable at the start of the school year.

“Oh my god, i’m so excited, i can’t wait to go back, i’ve been bored since July”;

“I can’t wait to party with my all friends!”;

“Ughhhh”;

“I’m not ready for summer to end”;

“I’m nervous for all these hard classes i signed up for”;

“I won’t procrastinate this year.”  (Yeah, right.)

I know, it annoys me too.  All that fuss over a new school year.  But, it’s really not that simple.  Septembers aren’t special just because they mark the beginning of a new school year.  It’s not just a matter of getting books, supplies, and new clothes.  It’s not just a matter of hoping to meet a cute guy or girl in recitation.  It’s not just a matter of finding easy professors, fulfilling degree requirements, and getting good grades and internships to eventually get a good job and make good money.  Those are the things that don’t matter.  The things that do matter are the memories that resurface as you walk the familiar paths on campus and how you carry them with you, as part of you—a changed and changing you—into the new school year.

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