The sub-species of the professor, the “dedicated” professor (Professora dedicata), is prevalent in all areas of the land of Academia, but thrives in Small Liberal Arts Colleges. This species is found in both genders, male and female, it is however more prevalent among the female population. Therefore, the female pronoun shall be used henceforth.
The dedicated professor is characterized by her steadfast belief that she is making a difference in those young students’ lives. Whether no one but her can see this difference, and what exactly the nature of this difference might be, still remains a topic for discussion. Yet, this discussion will never happen, because PD has managed to attain a sacrosanct status among both the student body and the faculty. Dare to criticize a PD, and more than one eyebrow will be raised, several heads will shake, and if you are truly in trouble, fingers might be wagged at you.
Believing that everybody has a good core, and that it is her job to bring this core to the surface -even if it is hidden under a layer of privilege, nastiness and narcissism, the dedicated professor sets out to do her job with joy every day. She loves to teach, often classes with ten more students than the fire department code allows in the room, but who cares about rules, when you can educate, no, cultivate young minds? (for those minds sure as shit are a wasteland).
As she is so absorbed in her mission (since that is what it really is, and not just a job), attention to worldly vanities, such as outward appearances, cannot be paid. The PD therefore makes the Amish look like models at the Paris Fashion Week. Her posture rivals that of the hunchback of Notre Dame, the price for reading and grading all that student work. But who cares when you live the life of the mind? The dedicated Professor is single, because her love for students and teaching could not be second to anybody. This gives her time to happily write individualized two page commentaries on essays and lab reports. That her handwriting is indecipherable, scraggly and makes Egyptian hieroglyphs look like Times New Roman in comparison, does not matter. She also seems completely oblivious to the fact that one, maybe two students will actually take the time to improve their work, whereas the rest will be content with the A- that she reluctantly gave them. Moreover, the students will measure every other professor’s grading against the pamphlet the dedicated professor wrote. And seriously, lazy French Professor, why did you not include a two page description why verbs ending in –ir follow a different conjugation pattern? PD will happily spend Saturday and Sunday in the lab to prepare demonstrations for students, and meet with students at 11 p.m. the night before midterms, since there was no other time for the student to meet with her and who would she be to turn down a learning opportunity? The dedicated professor on occasion sleeps in her office, since she really wanted to grade those essays right away.
Administrations love dedicated professors. Since they are so busy “making a difference” and “caring” they forgot having an opinion a long time ago. Hence, if student tuition is raised once again, or a few of her fellow professors don’t get tenure under shady circumstances, or she suddenly is teaching a Freshman Seminar with 45 students, there will be little protest from the dedicated professor. On occasion, upon hearing something outrageous, she dedicated professor will let out a barely audible “oh no!” followed by a deep sigh, before she goes back to grading those papers. And essentially, she does not understand those of her colleagues, who complain about cuts in higher education, labor practices that put 19th century English coal mines to shame, and entitled students. What is there to complain when you have the best job ever????! Administrators will fuel this stance, and happily give her 0.5 % raises, since she will leave all her money to the college anyways, potentially in a fund for dedicated professors. The dedicated professor is put up on a pedestal, a role model all other faculty members should aspire to be.
Students love the dedicated professor, too! Who else puts up with your narcissism, understands that you have to go to Zumba practice before you can meet with her, and will gladly slap an A on a paper, in which you finally spelled “alliteration” properly? (or the professor’s name for that matter). “She really cares,” they will write in their evaluations, fondly remembering the time she gave them an extension when they had to appear in court for drunk driving (all slander anyway, and got resolved since daddy knew a judge).
While the dedicated professor might look dainty and in need of protection, she has a weapon that is sharper than a Samurai’s katana: Lovey-dovey language. She loves teaching the students, she cares, she is dedicated, she makes a difference, she is enthusiastic, she doesn’t have a job, she has a vocation, she wants to inspire students to be the best they can be, she is mindful of the students’ life experiences, she wants to leave a positive impact, oh and above all nurture a love of learning. This gets regularly used against her colleagues. You decided to spend Saturday and Sunday with your kids, instead of grading those papers? Clearly, you do not care about education. You dared to use the same lecture on mitosis twice? Your enthusiasm to make a difference in the lives of students used to be higher, my friend. You shudder at the thought that students come to your house for extra study sessions? You obviously have not heard of a holistic approach to teaching. You do not answer emails after 8p.m. – you do not care. You dare to ask to be paid more for the work you do? That is just greedy; you should do it for the love of teaching.
The dedicated professor therefore, is one of the most dangerous species found in the land of Academia. Everybody at some time had a DP, and everybody remembers this highly compassionate teacher, thinking that everybody should be like that. The DP becomes fictionalized in movies (e.g. Dead Poets’ Society, Precious, Dangerous Minds, Freedom writers, Mona Lisa’s Smile), suggesting to the rest of the population that educators need a pat on the back, a tearful thank you at graduation and the occasional Hallmark card that says “those who care teach,” or a similar platitude.
The best thing to do if you encounter a Professora dedicata, is feeding her vanity, er, humility, and slowly retreat. Tell her how amazing and inspirational she is, and then let her go back to grading.
You, on the other hand, run!