I am one of those higher ed administrators who started my career in teaching. Relatively quickly I moved from a full-time faculty gig to the start-up life, and then into educational technology.
Throughout most of my career, however, I have been able to maintain some presence in the classroom. Initially this involved teaching an undergraduate sociology, demography, and marketing research courses, and later moving into teaching online graduate courses to adult working professionals in subjects such as high education leadership and consulting.
In the last few years, however, circumstances have not allowed me to keep my teaching up. A combination of an incredibly rewarding and absorbing professional opportunity at my home institution and a very full family life seems to have crowded out any teaching opportunities.
But now, I'm starting to realize how much I miss the classroom.
In truth, my most rewarding teaching has been online and with adult learners, as the combination of the ability to time shift my teaching and the opportunity to work with experienced professional learners is a gift.
Beyond the personal satisfaction that comes with working with students I've come to believe that there are some knowledge and productivity downsides for administrators such as myself in not teaching. These include:
1. Teaching Is The Best Way To Learn: I think that I would be more effective and knowledgeable in my field of educational technology and higher education leadership if I actually taught a course that touched on these subjects. Designing a course is the best way that I know of to organize and synthesize one's knowledge around the subject matter. Teaching any subject, even in courses that are built around collaboration and active learning, requires an immersion in the material that is difficult to replicate in other settings.
2. Teaching Is the Best Way to Improve Our Ability to Partner With Faculty: A big part of my job is working with colleagues and faculty partners on methods to leverage technology for effective instruction. Most of what I know about online and blended course design and delivery comes from my own experience in designing and teaching online and blended courses. Any professional training and experience that I have with learning design is built around and filtered through my own teaching experiences. Having teaching experience I understand the pain points and joys of developing and teaching a course, and this allows me to see the world through faculty eyes. The further in time I move away from the classroom (either face-to-face or online) the more difficult this becomes.
3. Teaching Revitalizes Passion for the Discipline: Anyone who has ever taught understands that replenishing and renewing experience that comes from working with students. Our students give us energy, and in a good course their excitement for the material and the learning experience is infectious. I have found very few activities in life as rewarding as being a part of improving the lives of individuals through the mentoring, coaching, and sharing of one's knowledge and expertise that comes with teaching.
Are you an administrator who also teaches?
How have you been able to balance all of your responsibilities?
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