Tag: teaching

After an agonizing winter spent grading papers and freelance writing, Elizabeth Shapiro, an adjunct in the Barnard History department, was relieved to wake up today to find an email from her department head confirming that she will indeed teach this semester.

“I’m very grateful,” Professor Shapiro told us. “I think I have just enough time to prepare the syllabi.”

Shapiro will teach two classes, Survey of Jewish Literature in Greece and Modern Jewish Agrarianism, both of which she has not taught before. “They didn’t give me a sample syllabi, so I have to write them all up tonight,” she said. “Nevertheless, I’m glad to be back, maybe I’ll even have my own cubicle in Fayerweather this semester.”

Unfortunately, this type of labor practice is as common at our peer institutions as it is here at Barnard. Another adjunct, an anonymous professor in the department of English lamented that he was only paid $4,000 per course. “My credit score is shot. I can barely afford food and rent, much less pay for my Metrocard,” Shapiro tells us.

At press time, Professor Shapiro was searching Borrow Direct to see if she could acquire the textbooks she was going to assign before her students could get to them.

The author is a sophomore in Barnard College studying Urban Studies. She can be found on Twitter @Toni_Airaksinen. To comment or respond to this piece, email submissions@columbialion.com.

(1/21/16): To clarify, this post is meant to be a satirical submission about the plight of adjunct faculty who face low wages for the amount of work they are expected to do. The Professor (“Elizabeth Shapiro”) and courses listed are in no way meant to reflect actual faculty or staff at either Barnard College or Columbia University. The Lion team regrets any confusion this may have caused.

Congratulations! You’re at Columbia! Now brace yourself for a deluge of substandard teaching practices.

But seriously, what does it take to get some quality education around here? As a senior, I have taken way too many classes where either I or the TA end up teaching me how to pass the test. What’s the point in having a professor if he or she is not going to teach us anything?

Change We Can Believe In

I don’t need technology in my lectures. I know everyone’s excited about bringing Powerpoints and videos into the classroom (my high school was obsessed with SmartBoards), but have you ever taken a Gulati class? The man is brilliant with a chalkboard.

Anyways, if there is technology in a lecture, I demand a copy. Because a) it’s easier to annotate a lecture that’s already written out than copy the whole thing over again, and b) it’s like showing a kid candy and saying you can’t have any.

Post the lectures. Online. Ahead of time. Please and thank you.

Regardless of whether a class has a chalkboard, whiteboard, or Powerpoint, I need my lectures to be organized. I want you to lay out a framework, and talk about each point, in order. I do not need you to skip around, or zoom ahead so fast that no one has a chance to write anything down.

This is not conducive to learning, and it makes the whole room hate you.

Finally, let’s talk about style – public speaking skills and such. Here’s a few don’ts: do not interrupt yourself mid-sentence right when you’re coming to your point. Do not mumble in a way that makes you impossible to understand. And for the love of God, do not speak in a monotone for 2 hours.

Conspiracy Theories

It’s rumored that professors have literally no incentive to teach (other than with grade inflation). That is, tenure at Columbia depends almost exclusively on things other than teaching – we’re assuming this is published research and/or papers. If you win the Nobel Prize, you get tenure. If you have a gold nugget on CULPA, no one cares.

In this kind of system, do the student evaluations even mean anything? Furthermore, do students even mean anything? Or are classes just seen as a necessary evil on the way to a pinnacle of academia? Food for thought.

Moving on, let’s talk hypotheticals. Maybe this is all some dastardly plan to force us to teach ourselves. I mean, if you have to learn it on your own (or risk failing), then maybe students learn it better. Maybe this is supposed to teach us independence, working in ambiguity, and all of those middle school goals we were supposed to achieve.

Maybe professors think that, by handing us things, like clear formulas and logical explanations, they’re making it too easy on us. After all, we are Columbia. We’re one of the best schools in the country – maybe dealing with nonsensical lectures is how we got there.

Maybe not.

The Lion is the only campus publication that pledges to post all submissions that meet our open submissions policy. To respond to this piece or submit a piece of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com