Playing Many Roles and Wearing Many Hats

John Milton

As one of Columbia’s graduate schools, the research of students at Teachers College is shaped by a practical and theoretical interest in pedagogy. Now, if we conceive of this inquiry as the learning of an art, say, the art of teaching, then we find ourselves in need of a variety of academic resources and experiences; for it is a different task to learn how to read poetry for oneself and quite another to teach it—and yet another to write it oneself. And of course it is an interesting and fruitful question (and surely some gentle student here is inquiring into this as I write this) as to how these tasks relate to one another, and to what extent we should distinguish between them. The inquiries and research and learning that take place here becomes more vivid when we consider the remarkable idea that a good portion of the students here are learning how to teach future teachers. Fine. But in case the tidal wave of italics didn’t deliver said remarkableness (my apologies, esteemed colleagues, for not avoiding this egregiously giant noun), here I let Nicole Callahan, a doctoral student in the English Education program, make the point that this so-called blog post is on the verge of losing.

Here is a marvelous paragraph by Ms. Callahan, which she had the good sense of entitling “Playing many roles and wearing many hats…”:

“I’ve found taking classes at Columbia an incredibly fascinating and enriching experience.  Certainly, it helps that I have existing relationships with faculty across 120th Street from my time as an undergraduate at Columbia, but I think that professors at Columbia are excited about students from TC participating in their classes.  I’m currently in a large class in the English department, and the professor has been generous with her time and her students in allowing me to be simultaneously a student in the class, and a researcher as well.  There are other graduate students in the course, mostly MA and PhD students in the English Department, so I am protected from feeling like the sole-non-undergraduate in the room.  The course has been useful to me in many ways- it overlaps with material I am studying in a class at TC, and I’ve been able to use it (of course, with the professor’s blessing) as a research laboratory for yet another class I’m taking at TC.  I think that failing to take advantage of the resources and expertise across the street would be a huge mistake for any student at TC”.

Now, recall the variety or resources that I mentioned we needed for the kind of art that we’re attempting to learn over here? Well, in conjunction with Ms. Callahan’s invocation, we would fare well to pursue that subject—be it Virginia Woolf, the French Revolution, or physics of time—for its own sake, to reacquaint ourselves with that thinker who turned our gaze to the worthwhileness of the art of teaching in the first place.

For the love of learning, go take a course across the street; you are at Columbia University in the city of New York (as they say) after all.