Teaching is one of the most honorable professions. Despite the miserable salary and the constant slurs from ignorant and impertinent minds, the joy of seeing one’s hard work embedded in the idealistic minds of the young is always a refreshing and affirming experience. There is no school out there that trains Architecture professors. The skills needed to teach Architecture are acquired through personal experience, learning from the examples of others, and sometimes, sheer bravado.
Movies like Goodbye Mr. Chips, Dead Poets Society, and even School of Rock illustrate what a great teacher is—someone who inspires students to be better, who guides and leads the way, and who embraces the learner to become learned.
There are numerous types of Architecture professors, some more capable than others, a good number who grumbles about the profession, some who love to instill fear in their wards, and a few who go out of their way to make things work for their students. Let us identify some of these types strutting, sauntering, stomping, shambling, and slithering along the hallowed hallways of academia.
There are professors whose very light appears to have reached its end, and for whom the act of inspiring has been replaced by the act of perspiring. Staying alert is a chore, and class time is a good excuse for a much-needed doze. Unfortunately for students, whose hard work deserves astute assessment, the Dozers will nod at anything and everything presented to them. It is one of the few ways they show signs of life. You see a good number of these sleepwalkers roaming the campus corridors. One benefit of being in a Somnambulist’s class is the realization that success depends heavily on oneself.
There are always professors who come to class with the weight of the world on their shoulders. These are professors who harbor much anger and frustration that their lectures are tirades against the inequities of the world. They have all the answers, they are never wrong, but no one seems to recognize their brilliance except themselves. Students who take these professors’ words to heart learn that life is not a bed of roses; that life is unfair; that there are more disappointments than triumphs; and that architecture is a most difficult profession to practice.
This is the self-professed expert who, through seniority and tenure, proclaims himself the doyen of the curriculum. He employs archaic methods of teaching. Dissent is not allowed in the classroom. His words are dogma, his wisdom, infallible. Seniority and failed ambitions leave this type vulnerable to upstarts who, clothed with zest and an open mind, are adored by the students. It is only a matter of time before someone topples the crumbling monument from his perch.
The most dreaded professor in any college. Some terrorize for sheer sadistic pleasure, some use terror as a front for incompetence, and others terrorize to push students to live up to their potential. Many things can be learned from Terrors. First, students learn to be prepared at all times to avoid the brunt of the Terror’s rage. They learn to deal with intimidating and difficult personalities. And, they develop thick skin which all designers need.
The Book Reader
No, these are not people who love to devour everything about a topic, whose lives revolve around libraries and bookstores, whose discoveries they eagerly share with others. These are professors so bereft of ideas they rely on prescribed textbooks for instruction, reading, and regurgitating the text of the day. One learns nothing from the Book Reader that isn’t already in the book. The upside to the Book Reader is that learners are forced to rely on their critical capacities to understand each topic.
You always see them with an entourage. They allow their personal space to be penetrated by anyone and everyone. Barkada professors are a blessing but may also be a curse, as they allow the boundaries of professionalism to be breached by friendship and familiarity. They help make college life fun, but the absence of boundaries impairs a teacher’s impartiality. If a professor truly values his friendship with students, then as a friend, he or she should know how to deliver hurtful truths.
They abound! They preach one thing and do another. The most confounding and confusing of all professors are those who contradict the very things they profess. Though nothing can be more exasperating than the Hypocrite, their hypocrisy just might teach students to be more skeptical and discerning and to resolve to be forthright. The world outside academia is full of their kind. The earlier the students learn how to deal with them, the better chance they have at making it in life.
Great motivators, cheerleaders push students to greater heights. But be wary for there are two kinds—those who embolden their students to push past barriers to reach for excellence, and those like the quintessential pompom cheerleader whose contribution does not go beyond delivering pep and sprite.
There are undeniably many more types of professors out there; some are good, others not so. But school is just a microcosm of the real world, which is not sugarcoated for the weak and mild-mannered. School is just the beginning of the wild and wacky world of Architecture.
This article first appeared in BluPrint Special Issue 2 2015. Edits were made for BluPrint online.
READ MORE: Making an Architect, Testing an Architect