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I don’t want to be a professor anymore

For the first time this year, I thought about what that would actually mean. “Wouldn’t it be nice to be a professor?” I thought. “Think about all the time I would have!” I’m taking four courses, and pairing that with a job and a work-study position is leaving me a little frazzled. But would life as a professor actually be any better? The truth is that it probably wouldn’t.

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By Dessa Bayrock (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: November 7, 2012

This week I realized that I’ve lied on every single scholarship application I’ve ever filled out.

There are a couple basic fields that need to be filled out on every application, and I remember doing a million of them in my last year of high school. It became an automated process: Name. Age. School. Career goals.

Career goals.

The age-old question: what do you want to be when you grow up?

When I was 16, I had no idea what I wanted to be. In fact, I still don’t know what I want to be. But when I was filling out a mountain of scholarship applications, I had to put down something.

So I said I wanted to be a professor.

And you know what, that sounds pretty reasonable. Professing sounds like a decent enough gig – you stand in front of a class of eager kids and tell them what you know. Simple enough.

But I lied. I don’t want that.

For the first time this year, I thought about what that would actually mean. “Wouldn’t it be nice to be a professor?” I thought. “Think about all the time I would have!”

I’m taking four courses, and pairing that with a job and a work-study position is leaving me a little frazzled. But would life as a professor actually be any better?

The truth is that it probably wouldn’t.

Lectures don’t just spring out of thin air. For every four hour class, there has to be at least two hours of work behind it, and probably closer to four, six, or eight. Every time I sweat out a 10-page paper, the professor is going to have to spend time not only on mine, but 29 other students’ papers as well. Every time I groan at an upcoming midterm, I’m sure the professor is gouging their eyes out with boredom as they try to decipher the chicken-scratch of teenagers and the theses of righteous twenty-somethings.

Imagine the sheer volume of incorrect apostrophe usage every professor must deal with on a daily basis. I can’t deal with that. I just can’t.

Speaking of midterms – as a student, I can at least resort to the good old A, C, D, C to get me through that multiple choice question. (Not that I do, but at least I have the option.) Professors don’t get that option. Every multiple choice section I have to stumble through, they have to stumble through 29 additional times.

For students, the nice thing about UFV is that class sizes are relatively small. For professors, the awful thing about UFV is that the class sizes are too small to warrant getting a TA to do their marking for them.

I might be taking four courses this semester, but a lot of professors are teaching at least that many and sometimes more, and trying to balance their own research on the side. Doesn’t sound like that would leave anyone with much more time than I have now. In reality, most of my professors probably have less time than I do.

And finally, think of the pressure every professor is under; the onus is on them to make the content interesting and usable to their students. Can you imagine that sinking feeling they must get when they read an absolutely shitty paper a student has handed in?

“This paper is shit,” my professor self might think, reading through some double-spaced garbage with no thesis. But then again, what does that really mean? The guilt sets in.

“I have failed this student,” I would think to myself, poor guilty professor me. “I have failed this student because they have no idea what the fuck I talked about in lecture and they couldn’t even be bothered to Google it.”

Sometimes, during lectures, when some student makes some particularly stupid comment, I enjoy fantasizing about how, as a professor, I could hand out bad grades to bad students. Incorrect apostrophe use? F. Lacklustre conclusion? C minus. No structure? Dumb thesis? No research? F.

But in reality, it’s not that simple. I don’t think I’m patient enough to be a professor. I don’t think I could lead students by the hand the way my professors do, and I definitely don’t want to read piles of papers and deal with whining when I hand out a set of B minuses. Anyone who can deal with that is more than welcome to, and has my respect.

I’m going to find something else to put under career goals.

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