When the Prof Misses Being the Student

photoBy Melissa Miller, Ed.D., M.Ed.

Do you ever miss being a student? I don’t mean a student of the world, or a life-long learner, as those of us in education tend to be. I don’t mean the Chris Farley in Tommy Boy or Rodney Dangerfield in Back to School type either. I mean a student, either on-line or a traditional campus, who is taking a course for credit or a grade. Occasionally, I miss being in the role of the student. Thinking back, it was definitely more passive as an undergrad than my current role as professor. Even if you are engaged in your learning, as I was, you still have that sense of passivity, rather than productivity. I miss sitting back and having someone I respected and admired impart and share their knowledge with me. What a gift! How great to sit in class and have someone share their insights, thoughts, and questions. Someone to make you think! Someone else did most of the work! It seems like a vacation when you look at it from the other side of the relationship. It is definitely my nerdy side coming through – I still get excited about back to school time! I like to be a student whenever I can, reading, attending local lectures, asking questions of people I respect, and I am always on the lookout for opportunities to learn from others.

I wonder if I am possibly a more effective teacher because I enjoy being a student? Are they related? Sometimes I find myself not being able to relate to my students who don’t seem to want to be in class. Luckily, I don’t have too many students like that. I try to share my passion for learning while understanding that, for many of my students in particular, going back to school can be an anxious and overwhelming time.

The idea of the Forever Student is not new. We all know of the cliched graduate student teaching assistant on campus who is always working on project or paper, or changing majors frequently. Nobody wants to be that guy (except that guy) because you feel like he (or she) needs to move on to their “real” life. But what is real life? I have been out into the “real” world and was drawn back to academia as my career. There are things I do miss about being a student. Besides what I discussed above, I miss the freedom, the youth, the feeling that the world is your oyster. With that said, I don’t miss the student loans, ramen noodles, the Laundromat, or the unsure feeling that although the world was my oyster, I had no real idea of what was in store. Did you know there is even a Facebook page for these students? It’s titled, “I want to be a student forever…”.

I suppose one reason I was drawn to the field of education was my love of both roles, student and teacher. One of the best things about my job is I can indulge my “nerdy” side while earning a living! I get paid to research and learn, and to share my knowledge with others. It’s quite a gig! But, if I could figure out a way to get paid to attend classes forever, that would be a real bonus!

About the New Adjunct: Dr. Melissa Miller completed her Ed.D. with an emphasis in Teacher Leadership from Walden University. She holds a M.Ed. from Mary Washington University and a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from Virginia Tech. Dr. Miller’s professional and research interests include adult and online learning, professional development, and literacy. Presently, Dr. Miller works as an adjunct instructor and an evaluator, while also enjoying her roles as a wife and mother.

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