Another day in class is another day most students hope will be easy. None of those quizzes, homework, and lectures to stress us out. When professors give enough work to fill up more than a couple of hours in our day, some think about how hard it is to be a student and how professors make us deal with way too much work.
With all the problems that come with completing a course, rarely do we think about what challenges lie on the other side of the classroom. Professors actually have to check everything that they give out, do research, and give lectures that, as boring as they are sometimes, could feel just as long on their end. Have we ever thought that they might be dealing with as much or even more than we are? What do professors go through on a day-to-day basis?
The struggles of teaching
One of the main job descriptions of being a professor is teaching. Some of the greatest minds in the world aren’t just from the top corporations or government institutions, they are also found in the classrooms. Just as many of us have been inspired by our professors to do better, the ability to get through to some students is a struggle that some professors deal with on a day-to-day basis.
Mr. Cesar Unson, a faculty member of the Philosophy department, shares his thoughts on the challenges of teaching. “It isn’t an 8-5 job wherein you go here, teach and then go home and forget about it. No, even before the term starts, you have to fix kung ano gagawin mo during the term including the materials you’re gonna use, lesson plans, strategies.”
According Mr. Unson, not all students are the same. As a testament to this, he uses different teaching strategies like film viewing or class discussions depending on the kind of class that he is in.
Undeniably one of the most taxing tasks of professors, checking test papers requires both patience and keen understanding (of messy handwriting, no doubt). While some opt to give scannable answer sheets as a means of making the checking process easier, professors like Mr. Unson painstakingly check test papers manually – essays at that. “Mahirap mag check ng essays and ang policy ko if I give a test today, I give it back next meeting. I have never failed to do that since I started teaching,” shares Mr. Unson.
His commitment to promptly returning test papers may work out favorably for students, but there are times when he receives the shorter end of the stick, especially when it comes to balancing work with leisure. As Mr. Unson puts it, “Dadala ako minsan ng papel pag walang ginagawa, check ako sa kotse o sa coffee shop basta matapos ko yung work and mabalik ko sa studyante. Umaabot minsan sa ganun.” While the pile of test papers to check may seem daunting, Mr. Unson shrugs it off and focuses on giving students closure.
Adjusting to the university
For new professors, there is also work that goes into adjusting to the new environment. Working in a new university means having to adapt to new policies and students in a possibly different culture, which could pose no difficulty or be a persisting obstacle depending on the professor.
Mr. John Way* of the Theology Department mentions that while he’s had no trouble with handling students, he’s had to adjust to English as the medium of instruction. Used to teaching in his native dialect, he had to adapt and teach in English for the students who have trouble understanding Filipino. “Sometimes I have to pause to think of the word and the grammar construction when I discuss the lessons,” says Mr. Way, who does his best to make sure every student is able to follow the discussion.
Despite his difficulty, Mr. Way adjusts to his students needs to get his ideas across and it would seem that he is able to get through classes without students ever noticing the problem. This ability to adjust to the classes being taught stands as a mark of a professor’s flexibility when teaching.
Performing other duties
Lecturing in front of students is not the only thing that professors do, there are some who go the extra mile and take on other roles. As the former undergraduate thesis coordinator of the Philosophy department, Mr. Unson recalls the difficulties that he encountered along the way, “That was really a headache. Kasi students cannot observe deadlines [and] even some faculty members cannot observe deadlines and then yung mga rules diyan, people want to bend them.”
From looking after thesis groups to the nitty gritty paperwork, being a thesis coordinator is no easy task. With students and advisers on their necks for just about any concern you can possibly think of, having the title of thesis coordinator entails big shoes to fill, but according to Mr. Unson, “I did my part, organizing comprehensive exams, fixing thesis proposals, final defense, scheduling yung ganun mga venues and everything. I did my work. Kung baga sa sundalo, I survived.”
Even our own failures as students could have an impact on our professors. While there may be those so-called “terror profs” out there, a professor gains nothing from failing students. Whether a professor grades outputs leniently or strictly, there is a more positive feeling that comes with most of the class passing.
Mr. Way expressed how sad it is to fail a student. Whenever possible, professors want their students to pass, so for Mr. Way, it is depressing for a term to end and students that failed “approach you and beg for another chance.” The University has a strict policy, he says and as happy as a professor could be if everyone passed, there’s really no other way for those that don’t exert the required effort or don’t even show up for class.
Rewards of teaching
With all the things professors have to go through, what makes them choose to teach for the University? Could it be the salary, the reputation, or other opportunities?
For Mr. Way, it was his love for teaching. Once planning to enter priesthood, he realized he could already find fulfillment in his work as a professor. He feels fulfillment when he sees that a student is able to learn or integrate into their lives what he teaches. For him, what makes the work of a professor worth it is when he reads reaction papers or talks with students and is able to say that “This student has learned something valuable in life.”
Taking on the role as a professor isn’t as easy as it looks. While students may complain about how “terror profs” are giving them a hard time, the tough love is all part of the bigger picture: pushing us to become better. We may not see the effort they put into making lesson plans and checking test papers, but one thing is for sure, they do it not because they have to, but because they want to. The passion to teach and the willingness to inspire students to become the future leaders of our world is one of the reasons why we have professors standing in front of us in class. It may come with a lot of work but for Mr. Way and Mr. Unson, it is definitely worth it.