Monday, April 16, 2007

They Like Me

This weekend I got word that I won a teaching award at my university. This is a 'little' teaching award, but nevertheless a nice one. The 'big' teaching awards involve being nominated by one's department and then being selected by a committee. Three of my male colleagues have won this award, but no women have even been nominated. My 'little' award is an annual award for Best Professor, voted by the students. I've won it 3 times in the past 9 years, and it is always thrilling.

A few years ago when my department chair was trying to decide whether he should put me forward for promotion to full professor, he showed my CV and ancillary materials (teaching evaluations) to two senior faculty. One of them, a Research Superstar, told me later that he was 'stunned' to discover that I am an excellent teacher, and he recommended that the chair nominate me for one of the big teaching awards. He never did, but perhaps eventually my colleagues will have to recognize that I am a good teacher.

Regarding my little teaching award that was just announced, one colleague has already asked me why I thought I won this award. Well, I don't know exactly, but if anyone is wondering whether I give all A's and never assign homework and bring home-baked cookies to class every day: nope. I just teach as best I can and I care a lot about it.

13 comments:

Mr. B. said...

This is great!

Congratulations.

The big teaching awards at research universities tend to be pretty political, as you point out. Some of the worst teachers I know have gotten them and some of the best have not...

But it means something to get such an award from the students if you are not a pushover.

Atb, Bonzo

etbnc said...

"I care a lot about it"

It's been my experience and observation that "caring a lot about it" comprises 80-90% of good, effective teaching.

Congratulations

EcoGeoFemme said...

Congratulations!

BTW, professors who "give all A's and never assign homework and bring home-baked cookies to class every day" are are ususally considered blow-off professors, not Best Professors. So if the snotty men think that's why you have received this award, your readers know better. ;)

Anonymous said...

Congratulations!

Faithful lurker

TW Andrews said...

if anyone is wondering whether I give all A's and never assign homework and bring home-baked cookies to class every day: nope. I just teach as best I can and I care a lot about it

I don't think any teacher who did that would ever win such an award. Students might like it in the immediate term, but I don't think they'd respect the teacher enough to vote for them as a "Best Teacher."

TW Andrews said...

Oh, and congratulations!

Jane said...

Congratulations!!

Dr. Lisa said...

The teaching awards voted on by the students are the ones that mean the most. Congratulations!

Terminal Degree said...

Congratulations!

Ms.PhD said...

What the hell? Why are they "stunned"? Why are they asking why you think you won it?

Seems obvious to me from your blog that you're not a "give everyone A's" kind of person.

I think the awards from the students mean WAY more than the awards from the department. They are, after all, the ones who care most about whether you can teach.

yamp said...

When one of my female colleagues recently won a similar honour I too asked her why she thought she won it. It wasn't a sexist question it was because I want to know how to be a better teacher. We spent a lot of time talking about the difference students and professors ideas about teaching.

I don't ask many students about how to be a better teacher or what they think of teaching quality. I agree they care about teaching but they are not really in much of a position to judge great teaching at the course level. They have not thought deeply about teaching.

I trust their opinion on single lectures but not much beyond that.

gs said...

Congratulations.

Your students are not your only approving audience: your hit counter has barreled through the 100K mark.

TW Andrews said...

I don't ask many students about how to be a better teacher or what they think of teaching quality. I agree they care about teaching but they are not really in much of a position to judge great teaching at the course level. They have not thought deeply about teaching.

You're right that students probably haven't thought deeply about teaching, and as such, I don't think student's will be able to tell you why a particular teacher is "a good teacher" or how to be come one (other than "be like x").

But I disagree that they can't reliably identify good teachers at the course level. They may not always want good teachers--since they tend to make them actually work--but they do know who they are.