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The Statesman

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    A View from the Other Side of the Podium

    A myriad of feelings and emotions often flow through the minds of college students in the weeks prior to a new semester. Sentiments of apprehension, uneasiness, and excitement may be considered normal for students to experience while sitting in on their first several lectures. As students get settled into their various classes, they get a feel for the personality of each individual professor, the style of teaching, the expectations, and the material being taught.

    Time passes through a semester and students get caught up in their work. They often create an internal enmity between themselves and their professors with the passing of every lecture, assignment, or exam for an individual course. Students often fail to realize that with each passing lecture, with each passing exam or assignment, a lot of the burden of the class falls upon the shoulders of the professor as well. Taking a view from ‘the other side of the podium,’ students can understand that the processes of taking exams, attending lectures, and turning in papers on time are really only a small part of the picture.

    The myriad of emotions experienced by the student is paralleled by an equally individual and distinct response from the professor.

    When asked about his personal reaction to the beginning of every new semester, Professor William Collins, from the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior commented, ‘I always look forward to the start of every new semester. A certain new energy reappears on campus.’

    Collins, himself, has taught BIO203 in the spring 2006 semester and will be teaching BIO317 this fall. Because of the nature of the classes he teaches, Collins usually finds himself teaching the younger students at SBU.

    Collins remarked, ‘I do enjoy working with freshmen and sophomores. They’re so young and just out of high school.’

    Through his own excitement, Collins did mention a certain lack of appreciation among students about the amount of work that must be put into a given course, especially when the professor is teaching the course for the first time.

    Collins commented, when referring to BIO317, a course he is teaching now for the first time, ‘I, myself, put in about 5-6 hours for each lecture I give.’

    Collins did acknowledge, ‘Certain professors may need to prepare less than others. But usually for a course being taught for the first time, the effort required is much greater. Much of the work prior to the beginning of any course is also involved with keeping the syllabus updated, ordering textbooks and making sure the course runs smoothly from an administrative standpoint. ‘

    For Professor Michael Hadjiargyrou, Ph.D. from the Departments of Biomedical Engineering, Orthopedics, and Genetics, teaching doesn’t pose much of a problem.

    Having been a professor at SBU for the past 10 years, Hadjiargyrou acknowledged, ‘There is some element of anxiety when you first start teaching. You just have to go and do it.’ Like Collins, Hadjiargyrou did mention that teaching any class for the first time requires more effort to gauge how the students receive the material.

    Hadjiargyrou did reflect on his own experiences teaching both undergraduate and graduate students. He said, ‘I personally enjoy teaching undergraduate students more because they are still young and excitable. The base of the class can encompass more than just the science.’

    Still, there are those professors who feel somewhat unsettled the night before the first class. Professor Bente Videbaek of the Department of English spared no time to state bluntly, ‘I panic. Usually the night before the first lecture, I pace. I go to bed, and I can’t sleep.’

    When given some background about the relative calm demeanor of Collins and Hadjiargyrou regarding the beginning of a semester, Videbaek countered almost immediately, ‘It’s different for professors in the sciences.’

    Videbaek commented on the smaller discussion based classes seen in the English Department. She said, ‘It’s just not the same. Science classes have TAs take take on most of the student interaction.’

    Videbaek clarified in her comments that the panic and nervousness that she often faces is not a sign of a weakness, but rather something that has to be part of her preparatory process. She commented, ‘You have to put all of yourself into it. Whatever worrying I do does help me out.’

    Professor Richard Gerrig of the Department of Psychology said, ‘Every class has its own dynamic. Some expertise is required to coax the class into the type of discussion you intend on having, but that comes with time.’ Gerrig, like Videbaek, did acknowledge the difference between having students in smaller or larger courses.

    Gerrig continued, ‘When ever I teach a course, I have one more year of research. I can then optimize my class further.’

    In short, the process of preparing for classes each upcoming semester largely varies based on the type of class as well as based on the individual professor.

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