In a Chronicle of Higher Education opinion piece, an associate professor at a midwest university writes about disliking teaching—while also being good at it. Under the pseudonym Sydney Perth, the professor writes:
Effective teaching is, after all, a set of behaviors. What students need from us are clear presentations, careful selections of course material, engaging discussions—in short, the right behaviors. One of those is hiding your dislike. Students don't learn by peering into your mind to see if you are enjoying teaching.
Perth makes the comparison to cutting the grass or cooking risotto—other things people can dislike and still do well, as long as they care about the outcome. The professor goes on to argue that passion and skill should not be conflated. “Too often we look at whether a colleague or a prospective colleague seems to like teaching, and then use that as a proxy for whether they are good teachers,” Perth writes. “We should look at whether they engage in the right behaviors.”
A commenter “from a K-12 background” under the username Kronosaurus takes Perth’s point a step further, writing that “reducing teaching to a passion de-professionalizes the field.”
In all, Perth’s advice to like-minded teachers is to “not feel guilty.” The professor contends, “There is nothing wrong with not liking what we do. There does not have to be anything debilitating about it, either.”
K-12 teachers: What do you think? Do you need to love—or even like—teaching to be good at it?
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.