The kids just want to learn


Researchers who moonlight as teachers to maintain their position aren’t helping

By Bryan Scott
Photos by Mark Burnham

For the most part, students come to school to learn and get a degree, or to become more knowledgeable and experienced in a certain discipline. The point is to get further education and to expand your horizons. I find it particularly frustrating when I get into a classroom and realize that the professor is only there because, as a researcher, they have to teach a minimum number of classes. These classes can be anything, and most of the time the professor does not give two fucks about the topic. When professors are hired based on their research, and then forced to teach a class, are we getting educated? Last time I checked, I didn’t pay thousands of dollars to learn from a textbook and have a wall of a professor who cares more about what his cat did this morning than the basics of the class.

It makes sense that you would give a professor with next to no social skills and zero experience teaching an easier, basic class to teach. Unfortunately, their highly superior brains and unmatched thought processes are unable to compute with the “normal” student brain. Try explaining addition to a four year old: even though you understand it perfectly, it becomes frustrating to explain what you think is a simple concept to a confused audience. When someone decides they want to be a teacher in a kindergarten class — you know, where you learn about colours and take naps — they have to complete a University degree, and then go through a professional development program or teacher’s college, because teaching is a skill, and even after learning it, it’s hard.

Who in their right mind would assume that someone who polishes their particle accelerator every day can teach basic physics to first-year students, or to anyone for that matter? To teach, it is essential that you express the concept in its simplest form so that it can be understood. That would be impossible for someone who has worked their whole life trying to push the boundaries of their specialty. It would annoy them if a student didn’t understand a “simple” concept — they know the answer, so why don’t you?

Do not get me wrong: there are some professors who can do both. They are solid lecturers and provide excellent research results. But in science, these professors are especially few and far between. I have been at this school for almost six years, and I am fed up.

If we are really meant to learn, and to excel, then someone needs to take a long hard look at this way of teaching. It simply does not make sense, and the students are suffering for it. If we can’t figure out what is going on in our classes, then how are we supposed to become researchers, teachers, professors, or anything for that matter?

If things were my way, they would completely separate the researchers and the lecturers. The researchers could get all the grants they want and would not have to deal with the irritating students. The lecturers, who enjoy teaching and genuinely want to see students succeed, can handle us, and they don’t have to be annoyed by pesky research and grumpy students.