Paying to be taught by __________?

I preface this post with the statement that I have the utmost respect for all teachers. And that I mean no disrespect by this post, which potentially could be polarizing. I have had lot of fantastic professors who have forever changed the way I think and what I want to do. They have instilled in me a desire to learn, to grow, to push myself. However, I have also had some professors or instructors who did not leave lasting impressions (well, not a positive one anyways), typically because they showed little enthusiasm for being there. If a teacher doesn’t want to be in the classroom, why should the students?

From pre-school teachers to college professors, teaching is such an important profession. Important, yet often underappreciated and thankless. Parents and students alike are quick to judge teachers, complain to them about grades, say the test/quiz/project/whatever was unfair, with little acknowledgement of the work teachers put in each day and night (because anyone who knows a teacher or teaches knows, the school day is not over when the kids leave).

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That being said, I cannot help but wonder: why do millions of students pay thousands upon thousands of dollars each year to be taught by people with little to no desire to teach? Not that all professors don’t have the desire to teach, as many of them love teaching.  However, I have had enough teachers in my going on 9 years in higher education to know that there are some people who are brilliant in their fields and very impressive people but who should probably not teach. And many (likely the majority) of those within that category don’t even want to teach – which exacerbates the problem. We send our kids off to pre-school where they learn to share and play nicely (among many things) from people who, for the most part, want to teach. They made that their career. But, why are we willing to pay huge sums of money, go into debt for decades, and sit in classrooms where we can play “where’s Waldo/Emily/Eric/the girl who sat next to my last class” every day and still never see a familiar face to be taught by people who really just want to do their research?

From my perspective, there are two types of people who go into academia as a field: (1) people who want to teach and do research and (2) people who want to do research. There is nothing wrong with either type of person. Not everyone likes the same things, which is what makes the world interesting. I don’t have any real words of wisdom about this perceived “issue,” and I understand that it would likely not be feasible to hire people to teach and separate people to do research (on the large scale – this is done but not broadly). I am curious to read what thoughts others have and how (if any) can we help change the system.


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