“How many classes,” asked a faculty at the end of a committee meeting three years ago, “is a tenured professor at Stanford required to teach each year?” None of us gave the correct answer, which is one. The same is probably true at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, and other top Research I universities in America. I have no idea how teaching is evaluated among these folks—or if it is a category for evaluation. I’d guess, however, that teaching evaluations matter little or not at all at these institutions.
Having entered academia in my thirties, I sometimes wondered what it were like had I begun graduate school not long after college. It was, after all, the pattern for the majority of my academic friends, peers, and colleagues. I couldn’t help wondering where I’d be on the academic ladder as people of my age now. Yet each time that I’ve thought about it, I always concluded that, most likely, it’d have been a disaster.
I just had a really good semester in the classroom, the best at Pepperdine. In the first two years, I had some good classes and even three or four great ones: “great” means you cannot ask for more. But for each semester there was at least one class out of three or four (depending on the semester) that was average at best or, at least once in my first year, quite sub-par. Well, not this fall. If the third time is the charm in trying most things in life, then the third year might be my charm in full-time teaching.