To Be, or Not to Be Professor Molin

4 min read

The semester I spent as an adjunct professor was an eye-opening experience. I was really excited to teach a long-format course (compared to my workshops, which range from 1 to 6 hours). While I enjoyed the lecturing and class participation, grading took all of my free time (no TA), and many of the students ignored my detailed feedback, continually making the same mistakes. When you put so much effort into providing ways for someone to improve and succeed, and it is met with disinterest, it quickly becomes a disheartening experience. Then, compound this with the fact that said students will complain to you until your ears bleed about their poor grades.

Grades really ruin the teaching experience, in my opinion. Taking a course with the goal of learning is very different than taking a course for your GPA or as a requirement. With my workshops, I have people who want to be there, and all are receptive to learning and new ideas. When grades are involved, many students focus on doing whatever it takes to pass (often exerting the minimum effort to do so), and this leads to retaining little knowledge.

I struggled to make it through the semester. I had to continuously remind myself that there were some students keen to learn and use my feedback to improve, and I owed it to them to forge ahead. My integrity also wouldn't allow me to phone it in.

Upon completion of the semester, I had to fail a few students, mainly a "too little, too late" situation. However, I did have several students who truly blew me away with their progress throughout the semester. These were the students that put in a lot of effort: they requested office hours with me; they participated in class; they took every opportunity I provided to improve their marks; they looked things up on their own; they sought to understand new concepts; they saw the value of what I was pushing them to do; they pushed themselves outside of their comfort zone; they took this course (and me) seriously; they wanted to build a portfolio and stand out to potential employers. These students told me at several points throughout the semester that they were getting a lot out of the course, both personally and professionally. Some students who did not do well even told me this. I wouldn't be surprised if this ends up being the most rewarding course in their degrees.

I'm a firm believer that if people don't have a strong opinion of you (good or bad), you really didn't make an impact. I don't need everyone to like me. I don't need to be the professor beloved by all, but, I do need to feel like I made an impact. I pushed everyone because I knew that, with effort, they would succeed – I believed in each and every one of them. It's only natural that my teaching style and grading policies would have had a polarizing effect on the students, and I welcomed it.

I wish all of my former students the best of luck in the rest of the Master’s program and in life, regardless of their grades or our interactions. I hope that, if not now, someday, they will realize that things that come easy aren't nearly as rewarding as things you have to earn. One day, they will look back at this class and either realize it gave them the push they needed to dig deeper and rise to the occasion, or recognize it as a missed opportunity to prove to themselves that they could have thrived with enough hard work.

Despite all of this, I don't regret this experience at all. It was something I needed to do for myself: now, I never need to wonder "what if?" And, I positively impacted several individuals who were truly grateful for the challenges I presented them with. I don't just develop software; I develop people.

So, will I ever be Professor Molin again?

Highly unlikely.

Curious about what happens in today's university classroom? I'll be sharing some of the wildest tales from my experiences this semester (anonymized of course) in the "Confessions of a Professor" section of my blog. My motto throughout the experience was, "I laugh, so I don't cry." I hope your laughter at my anecdotes is joyous, and if it isn't, you must also have been a professor at some point 😉 Obviously, I will only be sharing the part of my opinion that can be related without being distasteful. Stay tuned.

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