Saturday, October 10, 2015

What We Teachers Worry About

Those of you who read Faculty Focus probably saw the following list in a recent posting. It categorizes the concerns expressed by new teachers, listed from most to least important. 
  • Exhibiting command of the material (being able to answer student questions, give relevant examples)
  • Balancing "teacherly" authority and student rapport
  • Dealing with communication anxiety (public speaking)
  • Engaging rather than boring students
  • Managing students’ perceptions of teacher
  • Juggling roles (teaching, research, service, life)
  • Resolving grade complexities
  • Being memorable
  • Negotiating flexibility in policies, assignments
  • Overcoming cultural differences between teacher and students
I was struck, when I read through this “top 10” list how little I worried about some of the issues but how much some of the others, after all my many years of teaching, still cause the occasional sleepless night.  I don’t spend much time anymore thinking about authority vs. rapport, for instance; my comfort level there developed over the years, as did my comfort level with student perceptions of me, whatever they may be.  Similarly, being appropriately--but not too--flexible in my demands and being able to resolve student grade protests do not cause me much concern any more; one learns from experience, I guess.  
On the other hand, despite my experience I still find myself struggling with how to get my tired, busy, adult students focused and engaged, and with each new  semester I still experience nagging doubts that I have prepared enough to show that I’m up to date and in command of new scholarship.
One item I would add to the list, that I never used to worry about, is just what my role in any given class period should be.  Am I  still, too often, being that sage on the stage even if I am standing off to the side and talking about material on students' computer screens?  Did I prepare enough material to keep the learning going?  Too much?  The wrong sort?
I’d be interested in hearing--wherever you might be in your teaching career trajectory--what worries you the most as you strive to be successful in your chosen profession. Or what you don't worry about at all.


  1. I worry about whether students are learning, cheating, and/or bored. Yesterday, for example, someone took or, rather, stole my textbook at the end of class when I was chatting with students and answering some of their questions. I worry about that.

    I don't worry about Balancing "teacherly" authority and student rapport, Dealing with communication anxiety (public speaking), Managing students’ perceptions of teacher, Juggling roles (teaching, research, service, life), Resolving grade complexities, Being memorable, Negotiating flexibility in policies, assignments, or Overcoming cultural differences between teacher and students.

    Safro Kwame

    1. I do also worry about publishing or, rather, not publishing enough, particularly with respect to books.

      Safro Kwame