Written by: Michael Botta
I’ve wanted to be a professor for a long time. Even before I knew what I wanted to teach (History has always appealed to me), I knew that I loved connecting and supporting others with knowledge. My taste and hunger for ideas has always been insatiable, and my several years working part-time in childcare had cemented a love of exploration and explanation.
The Writing Center altered how I view teaching. Radically. My old idea of the teacher/authority as some sort of “deliverer of knowledge” (an overly mythic and dramatic interpretation to say the least) has been transformed into a much more dialogic and equitable relationship; a communion between equals. While being in a position of power and authority does render one, perhaps, as the “first among equals”, I’ve learned that the “among equals” is a vital element of establishing relationships that are more full of respect, understanding, and growth. Perhaps the word we can use is “pastoral” in the more spiritual sense, wherein leadership is seen in a sense of intimacy and fellowship. A focus on understanding and growing together that is usually relegated to religion or political comradery.
This idea is often lacking in academic environments. While understandable to a degree, this strikes me as lamentable, particularly when the professor strives to ensure personal growth. I think it’s fairly uncontroversial to say that people grow more when they make ideas, practices, and beliefs their own. Of course, people can and do grow after being told to do or think things, but why not skip the step where students take from the classroom and grow elsewhere? Grow here. Structure classes where students come together and dwell upon the ideas presented. Learn and mature with students.
That’s what I wish to do, at least. My optimism might fade or my resolve may falter, but as a student who has been blessed with opportunities to sit on both sides on the hierarchy, this is the professor I aspire to be.