What it means to be faculty – a personal interpretation

Below is my personal attempt to describe what it means to be a faculty member/teacher. Since it’s a personal reflection, I wouldn’t expect it to align perfectly with anyone else’s views.  It’s likely that my own views may change over time as I gain new insights and experiences in teaching.  At any rate, I thought I’d share it in this forum.

I believe that higher education is a public good.  The decision to become a faculty member is tantamount to entering into a trust.  In this case, faculty are entrusted with the care and holding of the students’ academic development. As such, they are vested with specific duties and responsibilities to both exercise and protect this development for the benefit of both the student and the public.  In my mind, teaching and mentoring are inextricably linked to being a faculty member.  The term ‘care and holding of the students’ academic development’ encompasses and imparts not only knowledge, skill, critical thinking, and problem solving, but also the ability to translate these elements into practice within a societal context.  The faculty member not only provides academic information, but also demonstrates how to apply and use this information for the benefit of the public good.

Whether teaching occurs at a public or privately funded institution, the decision to become a faculty member is coupled with a commitment to the following:

  • Continuous demonstration of professional conduct and demeanor;
  • Unwavering integrity and pursuit of ethical standards;
  • Loyalty in all aspects of conduct toward the student, colleagues, and the institution;
  • Consistent excellence in communication and the ability to both lead and facilitate in the classroom;
  • Mentoring and guiding students with honesty and candor;
  • Maintaining expertise in the academic and professional field;
  • Remaining current and relevant in teaching methods, techniques, tools, and applications;
  • Displaying passion, enthusiasm, curiosity, and determination to effectively apply the art of teaching to all students.

In every way, the faculty member serves as a model for the student.  While some institutions may place more or less weight on the individual components of teaching, service, and research, I believe that teaching and service are far more profound than research.  I do not discount the importance of research, but I believe that all faculty members should possess the ability and desire to interact with students.  The ability and desire to teach, when coupled with a true willingness and commitment to serve, create a rare combination that is, at least in my mind, essential to being a faculty member.  Those who do not have the ability and desire to teach, and who cannot truly internalize the commitment to serve, have no place in a classroom or as members of a faculty.  I believe that institutions of higher education serve as the guardians and garantors for society’s future.  It’s a huge responsibility and a great honor.  Being a faculty member means living up to that responsibility and being worthy of the honor.

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