This year, something amazing has happened in three of my courses. My teachers have multiplied, meaning, I’ve had a number of classes with co-professors/instructors. Yes, two for the price of one. This seems highly unusual and has never happened to me before. In some cases, the co-instructors do not have a Ph.D. but their background and long history of working and living in the specific field the course is focused on makes their knowledge invaluable. Personally, I love when some of my teachers come from non-academic backgrounds. It reminds me of the rich and fulfilling world outside of academia that I sometimes lose touch with as I plough through endless readings and march back and forth between classes. Instructors from outside of the confines of university bring with them the prospect that there is life beyond these books and walls.
For starters, you’ll probably end up bonding with one over the other. It’s like a toddler who has shown favouritism towards one parent. You’ll just naturally gravitate towards one, want to go to their office hours and if you need to approach them, you’ll end up giving way more eye contact to the person you most identify with. This is natural. Everyone has favourites.
Also, I’m not sure if you’ve ever been in a class and wondered if the professor would act or lecture differently if a colleague was in the room watching him or her speak. I won’t lie. Once I sat in a classroom two days a week and watched a professor unenthusiastically read his lectures. I was actually shocked the stale lectures weren’t memorized because they sounded at least 30 years old and recycled every year. I remember how the professor would finally look up from his lecture notes when he was finished speaking and cooly ask what our opinion of the novel was, followed mockingly by a comment that our answer “couldn’t be wrong because we were simply stating our opinions”. He asked this question without fail every week. But what he really failed in doing was inspiring interesting dialogue among classmates.
Sitting in my desk, I often wondered, would this professor talk to his peers this way? If he was at a conference with his colleagues, would he crack a smile when he spoke? Would he speak with more passion and actually change the intonation in his voice? Wouldn’t he feel ashamed if his colleagues heard him speak to students in such a degrading manner? When another person in a position of power is present in the room, dynamics change which is the benefit of having two teachers, instead of one, present in the classroom. Whether or not they realize it, the two instructors are observing one another and taking note of their teaching methods which I think is a plus. I’ve heard stories about students who have felt insulted or offended by something a professor has said to the class. These students felt intimidated and did not want to jeopardize their marks by confronting the professor. I feel like if another professor was present they might be able to challenge the offender without consequences.
I also just like to watch how instructors and professors interact with one another. I’ve noticed in every class how they always sit together, side by side. They become magnets, inseparable BFFs. Sometimes, they talk in hushed tones to one another as though they are speaking a secret language only professors can understand while students do group work. They’ll joke and laugh. They seem to telepathically communicate through eye contact when they separate. They listen attentively to one another. They act polite and wait their turn to speak. And although they may not agree with everything the other person has said, I’ve never seen an emotionally-charged dispute or meltdown happen between two instructors (whereas I’ve seen this happen on several occasions between students who are clearly not listening very carefully to one another). Co-instructors show respect, not only for one another but students as well.
If only everyone in the classroom could joke and laugh and truly listen to one another and politely wait to speak. I feel like co-instructors are teaching us a hidden lesson that might not be the one we were expecting to hear or see that day. But the lesson is there. If you are lucky enough to have two instructors teach a course, pay attention. They are teaching us a coded language full of signs of respect. How to act towards one another. Treat one another. Listen to one another.
This sounds like a lecture but is not meant to be one. And although I love reciprocation and feedback from readers, I definitely won’t ask, “What did you think of my post? You can’t be wrong because you’re simply stating your opinion.” I just want you to know that hearing your opinion is always a treat and I appreciate any feedback.
And before I forget: I actually have a class taught by two professors that was cancelled this week! So it is a myth in thinking that a class taught by two people will never be cancelled because one will always be around. Oh, the odds.