First off, universities and colleges are like shoes....there are different styles and sizes for different folk. We're really at a basic question in teaching--what is the interaction between teaching and learning? How much cognition does a teacher have "to pour into a students mind" and "how much does a student have to ingest to learn?" For me an interesting question is how is a Harvard professor different from a UCLA professor or a Texas Tech professor. And who has the responsibility for the learning--the professor or the student. The word "professor" comes from the latin to "profess" or to declare publicly. Doesn't say anything about learning...
There are many good even exceptional universities and colleges all around the country.....some are private, some state supported and some are religious institutions. All have teachers (read: professors, instructors) wanting to make a difference in the world. All a potential student has to do is find a place where they will be content in their learning.
I sorta just fell into a program--I didn't survey the country looking for the best education school nor did I read in journals who had courses of study that might interest me. I just fell off the turnip truck. Remember this thought...
I had gone to the "U" several days early to find out where my classes would be, how long it would take to walk from the parking lot and to buy my textbooks that I would need. Lynn and I had talked it over and we had decided that I would take only three classes this first quarter, two probable tough or hard courses and a fun course. There lies an incorrect assumption that courses that are hard are not fun. I was quick to learn this fact. One of the hard courses that I elected to start out with was philosophy of education. I had had a philosophy course but this would be graduate level.....the course description said it was about ideas in education. Already I was thinking of that line in the musical, My Fair Lady, do you remember it? "Words, words, words. I'm so sick of words." The other projected difficult course was statistics. I'm not enamored about numbers and although I already had a basic statistics course I wasn't looking forward to this one. The course I was looking for was one titled, "Media Communications," taught by a new professor. It sounded exciting.
But in the process of registering, getting books, finding the coffee shop, I met a professor of Curriculum that I had had for my master's degree--a Dr. Foster.....a truly nice guy. He asked what I was doing and when I said I was starting on my doctoral program, he asked who was I working for. "No, no, I'm starting my degree-I'm not working for anyone this year." "Come with me" and I followed Dr. Foster into an office. Within a half hour I had an office, a phone, a job (twenty hours a week), a receptionist and better parking (!). I suddenly was a Teaching Assistant and had four or five student teachers to supervise. I would have done this for free but the university would pay me a salary too. What a deal.
I can report that ALL the courses were hard and ALL the courses were exciting, challenging, awe inspiring, fascinating, and mesmerizing. Years later I can still remember going home each evening wanting to read more on each subject. Each course had ideas I had never thought about before. I learned to appreciate statistics although I never was very good at it--but I could now understand what it could do. The philosophy course devoured me in ideas. I read and read and read. Plato became my friend. Who would have thought.
My third class was on Media Communications. It was an evening class and afterwards there were nights when I just couldn't go to sleep. To look at technology and break it down into theory and then put it back together was at times beyond my emotions. The professor would present an idea and then ask the class how could we modify the idea as to make it presentable in education. My oh my. It was the golden days on my learning--exciting and wonderful. To this day, Dr. T as I called him is the most influential person in my life.
You ask what teachers do? They awaken the soul and the imagination. Then they let you fly into the unknown.
Dr. T has passed away along with several other of my professors. Isn't it interesting how I used the adjective, "my" in that sentence. Those men and women who taught me much were mine. I am forever grateful with what they shared with me....especially Dr. T. If you had a professor in your course of study who influenced you, be sure to thank them. Most professors never know if they made a difference.