Dr. Jennifer BirdGreensboro, North Carolina, United States
Beyond the subject matter, what I enjoy most is teaching critical thinking. I truly believe what I do matters and makes a difference in the lives of my students. The thing I love most about teaching is when I see my students have life-changing, “aha!” moments.
I’ve been a professor since 2007 and currently teach at a small liberal arts college with about 1,200 students and 60 full time faculty. There are three of us in my department.
Here’s just of a bit of what we can cover in our PivotPlanet session(s):
• Assessing whether college teaching is a good fit. I know enough about what it is like teaching at a research university to be able to talk through various options (small teaching college, non main-campus state university, state university, research university, etc);
• The differences between lecturing and teaching, tips and suggestions on how to do the latter well;
• Especially for strong and/or opinionated females, how to navigate being a junior faculty member;
• What to expect from doing PhD work that is intended to lead to college professorship; and
• Balancing teaching expectations, administrative work, and personal writing goals.
I teach religion at a small liberal arts college. Due to the small size of the student body, I am able to get to know many of the students well.
I didn’t always want to be a religion professor, but the dream unfolded in front of me one step at a time. I trained to teach high school mathematics, but never did. Instead, I went to work for a non-profit Christian organization. It was at that point that I decided to pursue a dream and go to seminary in order to learn biblical languages. I enjoyed the study, but ultimately wanted to feel like I was making a difference in people’s lives in a way that I cared about.
I went on to get my PhD from Vanderbilt University in order to pursue a college teaching career. I teach biblical studies, feminist and gender studies, post-colonial biblical studies and work with student development on my campus.
I feel appreciated by my students and know that I’m making the difference I set out to make. I am proud to say that the senior classes at Greensboro College have twice chosen me to be the faculty speaker during graduation ceremonies.
I am respected in my field - both in biblical studies in general and as a feminist biblical scholar. I have been invited to participate in conferences and to contribute to six edited volumes.
There can be a lot of politics while working as a faculty member in a college -- “queen bees,” jealous colleagues and competition. I feel like I’ve honed the skill of playing well with others without losing my own personality and style. I feel I have a great deal to offer along these lines. The politics of higher education are real. You need to be aware of that going into it.
As a teacher, I have a great deal of autonomy in terms of when and where I do the work of grading and preparing for classes. Many people have a misconception that teachers get summers off, but that’s not entirely true. Yes, I usually have a month or two in the summers when I’m not teaching, but that is time that I need to work on my own research and writing. I do also make sure to take time to recharge. Being able to take a month to travel in the summer is a HUGE benefit that I do not take lightly.