By Cory Teubner
The idea that those who can’t do, teach is crapspackle tommyrot.
— William Shakespeare
We are thinkers, all of us – practiced, advanced content experts ranging all disciplines. We are also in a tank (if you’ll permit the conceit), a robust, thick-armored, active-munitions, desert or bush-ready stomper grinding our heavy treads across the puny brains of our… Well, maybe I should just go with fishbowl.
If we are in a fish tank, it’s got a coral reef in it, gushing with vitality. I have written before that BCC is an especially diverse school of fish: philosophers, advanced readers, poets, religious initiates, careful scientists, mad scientists, social scientists, techies, engineers, economists, entrepreneurs, stage directors, artists, musicians, playwrights, jugglers, mimes, buglers, and Mark and Lora Jarvis. We can write and draw and nurse and speak and program and build and weld. We are by turns deeply religious or fervently atheist, manically productive or quietly thoughtful, ruggedly individual or creatively collaborating, boldly leading or boldly following. We are always smart and capable. We are always kind. A school of fish like this ought to dominate the seas. A school of fish like this ought to be able to pied-piper the whole damn ocean, minnows and sperm whales and tug boats and all, straight into a prosperous future. We ought to be able to focus the energy of all of the seven seas in whatever (data-driven) direction we see fit.
At our best, we do this. ALP, Inclusion Council, FDT, AVID, Summer Jam, Pathways, the math redesign: these are initiatives that depend on faculty embracing the critical thinking and general academic acumen they practiced in graduate school. For all faculty involved, it’s obvious that it is enormously satisfying to work on such projects, applying the writing and analyzing and speaking and negotiating – heck, the adding, subtracting, reading, cutting, gluing, and pasting – everything we were all pretty good at starting in kindergarten.
One plank of BCC’s faculty contract requires service to the institution, most commonly interpreted to mean showing up for a couple of committee meetings. This is not enough. It’s not enough to justify what to part-time instructors may seem an exorbitant salary and benefits package for providing no more expertise or capability than legions of adjuncts do for a non-career wage.
If retention, recruitment, marketing, and student success are to have their genesis in students’ classroom experiences – as I believe they should – full-time faculty have to be more than mere instructors who show up to teach and then go home. Sure, teaching is the most important part of what we do. But our sub-20% success rate should be evidence enough that our work is not cutting it. Like the venerable Dr. Dr. Gene George has been known to point out, BCC’s mainstream student experience is to go from “full-time to part-time to gone” over the course of three semesters. We can’t settle for this. Our mainstream student experience should be to go from under-prepared and insecure to capable and confident, from subaltern to empowered, from narrow-prospects to professional prosperity.
It’s been said that those who can’t do, teach. This is not a fact. We are more than capable of doing, so let’s do. We are researchers, so let’s research. We are inventors, so let’s invent. We are fluent in every scholarly language – qualitative, quantitative, discursive; lets talk and talk and talk. We are teachers, so let’s teach each other.
To make this real, we’ve gotta do a better job of everything. It starts with rolling up our sleeves and thinking really hard. Together. In a tank. About real stuff.
What would it look like inside such a think tank? Stay tuned.