So, You Want to Teach College?

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Doc Seidman Says:

…Back in the day when I was an undergraduate student, I looked at my professors for the most part as bloviating egocentric mouthpieces. Although that was a harsh opinion, I also speculated that they had good lives. They would spend a few hours a week teaching, a few hours in their offices, make a monthly appearance or two in a committee, but spend many hours traveling the world consulting on whatever their specialty was. Who wouldn’t want that life?

I wasn’t aspiring to be a part of the college teaching profession in those days, but the thought of it was tucked away in the back corners of my brain. Instead, I choose to begin my career in Hospitality and Food Service.

Twenty years later, with cuts and permanent scars over my arms and hands, chronically aching feet, and more gray hair than brown hair, I started to think about a career change. The college teaching gig slowly moved from the back of my mind to the front. I recalled the thoughts I had about my old college professors and began seriously thinking about pursing this new line of work. The one big problem, however, was, how does one even begin? How do you take a career that was predominantly spent in the rough and tumble world of quick service management and parlay it into a more glamorous professorship? Was that even possible? Moreover, I had zero teaching experience. I had never taught a class in my life.

Back then, the Internet was just taking shape and there was no Google or Amazon that would guide me. I had to go by my own intuition. I knew the first step would be a master’s degree of some kind, so I enrolled at a local private university and began pursuing my master’s degree. I did so for the experience of going back to school and learning new things as much as for a possible pathway into college teaching. It was clearly the right thing to do as my observant dean saw some teaching potential in me and mentored me along. Yada, yada, yada, several years and two degrees later I found myself amongst the college teaching fraternity. Now, I too became that bloviating, egocentric mouthpiece with global consulting opportunities at my fingertips.

You would have to ask my students as to whether or not I was a bloviating egocentric (I’d like to think not), but I did enjoy a rewarding career in academia. I did get to see a good part of the world as the business of academia took me to Australia, South Africa, Thailand and Singapore. My experience was just about everything I thought it would be back in my undergraduate daydreaming days. Whereas I truly enjoyed my food service career, it was no comparison to my twenty plus years in academia.

So, you want to teach college too? Are you wondering not just if you can do it, but how you can achieve it?

For nine plus years in my college tenure, I served as an academic chairman. As head of the college I hired many teachers. They came in all levels of age, experience and ability. Some were older. Many were younger. Some had previous teaching experience and others did not. Some turned out to be excellent teachers while others, not so much. As a teacher myself, I was willing to train newbies. I enjoyed teaching teachers and didn’t mind giving someone their first job in the college classroom.

It can be easier than you think to get a job, at least part time, teaching college students. All too often a chair scrambles at the last minute to find someone…..anyone…. to teach a class. If he or she stumbles across your resume at the right time, you may get the call, whether you have previously taught a class or not.

Being a successful teacher on the other hand, is not as easy. As all college professors have learned, being effective in the job is more than just committee work, office hours, international travel, and lectures.  It involves carefully prepared lesson plans that utilize a variety of teaching techniques.  It also requires a commitment to accurate record keeping and other administrative responsibilities. Advising students of varying backgrounds and intellect, is also a must. There’s much more to the job than meets the eye.

During my tenure as chairman, I kept a journal. I took notes of my experiences and waited for the day when I could share them in a way that would be helpful to others. I look at all the aspiring college professors to be out there and want to help. So, you want to teach college? I wrote and published a step by step guide for how to do so.

My book, So, You Want to Teach College? Is available on Amazon. I didn’t write it to get rich. I wrote it to help others, just like I am writing this now. There may be one person out there reading this who aspires at some point to be a college teacher but doesn’t quite know how to go about it. I hear you. I was there. I went through it and I want to help.

So, you want to teach college? From building an effective resume, to how and when to apply, to how to get your class set up for success, let me show you how. Whether or not you bloviate is up to you.

The Not So Big Sleep

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Doc Seidman Says….

….A recent world-class study by The National Sleep Foundation concluded that college aged students (18-25 years old) need seven to nine hours of sleep a night.  Studies also show that while some college students get plenty of good sleep, most fall about one to two hours short every night. That might not seem like a big deal but over the course of a week, a month, or a semester, it adds up.

It’s easy to see why. The college years are loaded with non-sleep activities such as academics, long hours at work so you can pay for college, and a healthy amount of socializing. Often, a good night’s sleep is just plain unattainable.

Walk around any college campus and you can see students catching up- or napping up- on the missing one to two hours of sleep in a variety of places. The college library is always a good place to observe many a student catching a few winks. Quiet spots can be found all over the library and even if you are not sleep deprived it is often hard to stay awake in such a peaceful setting. You might also see students snoozing away in a quiet corner of the recreation center, the dining hall, or any other hidden spot on campus.

Of course, many students wind up catching their zzzs in the college classroom. More often than not, you cannot blame them as the teacher is just plain boring. He or she drones on about European History, Organic Chemistry, or whatever else the average student doesn’t care much about, and dozing off can’t be avoided. Like the library, it’s tough for anyone to stay awake during those circumstances. Other times a long in-class movie- or even a short movie-  in a dark classroom will do the trick. Even if a student has every intention to watch the video, the combination of dialogue and a dark room changes the setting from attentive to siesta.

Ask any student, however, and they will tell you that they would prefer to do their sleeping in a nice comfortable bed and not an uncomfortable college desk. So, what’s preventing everyone from more bed sleeping and less campus catnaps? A major culprit would be the assortment of items college students typically consume. Foods many students consume regularly can interfere with the pleasant rhythms of a good night’s sleep.  Aside from sugar and grease, this would include the consumption of caffeinated beverages, energy drinks, and alcohol. These three beverages are practically “food groups” during the college years. They are hard to avoid. Other stimulants such as “speed,” be it prescription, over the counter, and/or from your local black-market dealer, contribute mightily to nighttime sleep deprivation as well. That’s almost a no-brainer. Even someone totally sleep deprived can tell you that.

Technology also plays a big part in collegiate insomnia. Any type of technology use within the hour before bedtime greatly reduces the chances of a restful night sleep. Sorry to say everyone, but this includes texting, sexting, and video games. Snapchat and Instagram are also no-nos. So is cramming to finish a paper. That is not good either so don’t cram. Get that paper done in a timely manner. Your professors can tell. Trust me.

The problems associated with sleep deprivation include an increase in mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Sadly, these issues are already all too common on campus. Physical health issues can also arise from sleep deprivation making you more prone to get sick. You can become irritated more easily and attentive listening becomes troublesome. Another popular college activity is impacted too. Less sleep impacts sexual activity, leading to not only less drive, but less enjoyment.

So, what’s a college student to do? Achieving the recommended daily dose of sleep is certainly something easier said than done. Aside from cutting back on Red Bull and Budweiser, sleep researchers will tell you to put your technology away before bedtime. Creating a sleep conducive environment can also help. Keep your room dark, comfortable and cool. Try- as best you can, to create a regular sleep routine. Avoid going to sleep too late and stay away from rich foods before bedtime. For those still smoking cigarettes, know that they, and all tobacco products, are stimulants and will force your body to stay awake rather than go to sleep. Scientists also recommend using your bed for sleep and sex only and avoid using as a substitute for furniture. If you live in a dorm and your bed is really your only furniture, I don’t know what to tell you. Good luck with that.

I can tell you that there is little doubt that a good night sleep has a positive relationship with good health. There is not much more important than that. Except, perhaps that students that get six hours or less of sleep a night have a lower G.P.A. than those who get eight or more hours. So, if you are having a hard time keeping up with your coursework, get more sleep out of the classroom than in it.