What’s wrong with a teaching-focused career path?


“While you will certainly be an excellent teacher, are you sure about your career choice?”

What kind of question is that?  I am hardly switching from scientific research to bricklaying (although by recent accounts I would make a fortune!), but simply have expressed an interest in becoming teaching-focused.  I do not wish to abandon research, far from it, I believe that teachers should be active researchers to better empower students as partners in a research-based education.  Nor have I lost confidence in my research capabilities, in fact I take this weeks quote as a compliment in them.  The simple truth is that I have unearthed a great passion, and hidden talent for teaching in higher education.  I have immersed myself in teaching and learning events and taken on as much teaching as my research and time allows.  I crave more.  I want to implement and develop all the great ideas I have to better engage students and improve their overall learning experience; but should I have to wait until (if ever) I am a professor to be given the opportunity?  Perhaps this is unique to the life sciences where as a postdoc in a postgraduate research institute, teaching experience (besides supervising masters students) is extremely hard to come by.

Nevertheless, this week I have captured evidence of the deep-routed belief (particularly in Russell Group universities) that teaching positions are less respected and less valued; and perhaps even less worthwhile.  I wonder if my colleagues and students would view me as a failed researcher if I make the switch.  After all, ‘those who can do, do; those that cant, teach’ right?  Wrong.  The beauty of academia and research-based education is that the teachers are doing, I just wish to be able to dedicate as much time, if not more, to teaching and pedagogical research as I do for my own research.  We are understandably judged on our research output but don’t we owe it to our students to dedicate the time to sufficiently develop ourselves as teachers too?

So yes, I am sure about my career choice but this is academia and the availability and permanency of such positions will in reality dictate my career path.