Why I teach

I’ve just spent an interesting morning in tutorials, with MA students and final year undergraduates, one to one. And it gives me such a BUZZ! Students rarely probe the motivations of their teachers, so for once, I will lift a veil on what makes teachers tick, or at least this one. I don’t have to teach. I do it part-time; my husband calls it my hobby. The pay is crap and the hours long, the paper work and petty bureaucracy are the worst of any industry I’ve ever worked in. Yet, it is also the most interesting work I’ve done in a thirty year career of PR and communications.

In the space of a morning, I’ve had to stretch my brain and learned about topics as diverse as crisis management in the retail fashion industry, why social media is killing the phone-in radio format, the do’s and don’ts of annual report writing, thought leadership and celebrity CEOs, and reputation management in the media industry.

In the space of the past six months, simply because I was teaching, I set myself the task of “catching up” to my students on social media, and (not being a digital native) have had to come to grips with Facebook, Linked in, setting up three new blogs, getting my head around Twitter, re-thinking four of my assignments for course work so that they can incorporate social media outputs that satisfy academic standards and external examiners. None of this would I have done had I not been teaching.

Your interests and your needs take me in directions I could not have predicted. That makes it fun, exciting, sometimes frustrating, but always intellectually challenging.

The other thing about this teaching- it’s the front line of communication. Sometimes it feels like a battle zone, trying to get complicated ideas and theories across to an audience, but it really does challenge my ability to communicate on an interpersonal level. There are ways and means to inspire, enthuse, and yes to educate and to inform, but in ways that will stick with you all for the rest of your professional lives. I’ve learned more about that over the past four years of teaching than I did in thirty years of hiding behind the printed word, the telephone or the team meeting.

As I lecture on the importance of evaluation and measurement in all communication campaigns, I also know that my own skills as a communicator will be judged on the outputs (numbers of students passing), the outtakes (student satisfaction surveys) and outcomes (how many alumni go onto professionally rewarding and personally satisfying careers). On a day-to-day basis – even minute to minute- I can see if my communciation is getting the ideas through in a way that help students deal with their assignments. A look around a classroom at the faces tells me whether I am boring the pants off them, or getting the messages through. Watching their work improve as they apply concepts over their time at university- well, that is instant feedback that one rarely gets in the business world.

So, thank you students- you are the reason why I teach.


About catherinesweet
Academic, professional, communicator, stakeholder in a dozen different disguises

3 Responses to Why I teach

  1. Emma Podmore says:

    …and you, you are the reason I got that 2:1!!

    was watching this last night: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/jamies-dream-school

    and the head teacher discussed how in his past schooling it took one inspirational teacher to make him realise he could do well and had potential…

    You are inspirational and there’s not a day that goes by when I don’t send thank you’s your way!

  2. Mila says:

    Hello Catherine,
    I accidently ran into your blog, read a dozen of your posts and can humbly provide my diagnosis – you are a natural born teacher :o) I wish I had the opportunity to get into some of the courses in your university.
    That is why I decided to write and ask – is there any distance learning course that your university offers? I live in Western Balkans, where PR and/or Communication Studies are not adequately covered so I am exploring the possibilities to get myself alternatives… I have been employed as a PR practitioner for a couple of years (in a company that unfortunately does not give enough space to the public relation component), but feel I lack theoretical knowledge… I am sorry to bother you with these questions, but your posts and attention you pay to students inspired me to write and ask anyway. Also, would you recommend some books that cover the issues of strategy planning in PR, internal communication, or similar?
    Thanks a lot!

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