Real Live Prof

Perspective. Before I taught at ETBU, I was an adjunct professor at Dallas Baptist. (btw, “Adjunct professor” = part  time professor.) DBU prided itself on being a degree completion destination, and so, many students were well into their 30’s or even 40’s and were coming back to finish their degrees. As a teacher, I was almost never the oldest person in the classroom.

One of my favorite ways to introduce a class to the value of a sociological perspective was to pose as a student on the first day of class. I would walk into class the first time we met, usually a few minutes early, sit at a desk in the middle of room, and start asking “other” students what they had heard about the professor. As I was part time, I was somewhat anonymous and seldom the oldest person. Since few had heard of “Miller” and fewer still even knew my gender, there were not a lot of comments. So, I would start smack talking about myself. “I heard his tests are impossible!” or, “He makes you write a really long paper!”

Usually, I would let the class continue for 15 minutes past the start time. Inevitably, a student would finally get up and announce they were going to talk to somebody in charge and find out why the prof never showed up. At this point, I would stand up and say, “Well, I guess I could teach.” I would then walk to the front of the room, pass out the syllabi, and start a short lecture on why I loved sociology and the different perspectives it forces us to use.  The students usually were fairly good natured about my “prank”, but they were also furiously rewinding their mental tapes about anything incriminating they might have said before I outed myself as a prof.  

In my Minority Groups class,(which I often taught at DBU and annually teach at ETBU) I send my students to their same denominational churches that serve a race, ethnicity or people group that is different than them. Usually this means that white Baptist students visit Black Baptist churches, or Hispanic Baptist churches if they speak Spanish. They learn about another groups’ way of worshipping and their customs. Often times, at least for white students, it is the very first time they have ever felt like a minority in their lives. I think this is a great perspective to have, and to have challenged. Students almost always talk about the fact that this is a very positive experience, but that before they actually visited the church, how it was scary, intimidating, and uncomfortable for them. They usually admit that they were very glad they did it, and how they will not take their race for granted anymore.

Almost always, the pre-prof outing conversation in my classes was about other classes and profs the students had before this semester. I learned a little too much about my colleagues on several occasions. Once, I learned too much about myself…

I had sat next to a student who was eager to tell me about her friend who had taken the same Minority Groups class the semester before. She told me all about this crazy visit-a-church assignment. I listened politely as she told me all of the details. She finally concluded her recounting of her friend’s experience by stating that her friend thought it was the easiest class she had ever taken.

I was really surprised by this. “That doesn’t sound like an easy class to me”, I said.

She replied, “Oh, but it was! My friend totally faked the whole thing!”

A few minutes later, I stood up and said, “Well, I guess I could teach.” I walked to the front of the room, passed out the syllabi, and started a short lecture on why I loved sociology and the different perspectives it forces us to use.

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Mark Miller

Associate Professor of Sociology at East Texas Baptist University

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One thought on “Real Live Prof

  1. Funny… I wish I could do that, but my students know who I am because I teach upper level :) But that would be great with freshmen.

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