By Ann M. Pearson
The reason faculty make such good leaders is because they have excellent skills in coordination, organization, and motivation from working with large groups of diverse students in the classroom. I remember an interview for a corporate position early in my career when the interviewer said, “Oh, good, you’re a teacher—there’s not much we could do that would rattle you.” It was true. Juggling multiple tasks all the time, keeping track of all of them, and moving the involved parties forward toward a goal are all in a day’s work for faculty.
Faculty lead discussions, debates, assessment, and cumulative evaluation decisions. From their overarching vantage point, they are the most effective liaisons between the students and administrative guidelines. So it’s natural for faculty to assume leadership positions in the college and for state and federal educational oversight agencies. This may mean faculty moving into college administrative roles, but it also may mean faculty taking advantage of ways to lead beyond the classroom while still teaching. At San Jacinto College, our faculty serve on various committees, develop and support instructional initiatives, and provide enrichment activities for our students by sponsoring extracurricular organizations and trips. We need all of these leadership roles to ensure student success.
It seems obvious that faculty should be heavily involved in curriculum design review, textbook selection, and hiring new faculty to support the college’s mission. These committee responsibilities make up a significant percentage of our faculty members’ jobs. Making any of these difficult decisions demands research and reflection to project into the future to determine how decisions made today will influence student success now and for years to come.
Our faculty also create supplemental activities that coordinate with and enhance classroom learning. We have interdepartmental events including Pi day, serving mathematical portions of pie as near to March 14 (3.14) as possible; Get Lit!, an all-encompassing literary festival; serious philosophical debates,; and activities to celebrate the International Day of Writing. For all of these events, students have an opportunity to engage with their professors and fellow students outside of class. The celebratory nature of the event does not preclude learning, which in and of itself is an excellent lesson for students. Learning can and should be ongoing forever. And our faculty leaders enable this to occur in and out of class.
Faculty also support enhancement activities that include student organizations and trips because these events create fantastic teachable moments. Navigating the subway system in a new city teaches students many lessons, not the least of which being the ability to overcome fear and think through confusion. It’s a little like getting kids to eat vegetables by way of zucchini bread and carrot cake, but all’s fair really. Providing like-minded students a forum to discuss chess, automotive repair, creative writing, or anime authenticates their interests. They can gather, usually with the faculty sponsor, and learn more about the subject or practice the associated skills in an environment conducive to encouragement and success.
Our faculty are passionate individuals who have dedicated themselves to others. And our students are the beneficiaries of the leadership traits faculty exhibit daily.