TEACHERS NEED URGE OF PUBLIC SERVICE
But Satisfaction and Chance of Keeping Young Is Ample Consolation--Three Years of Graduate Work Important
The following article is the sixth in the Crimson's special series of vocational articles. Roswell P. Angler '97, the author, was for a year an instructor in psychology at the University of Berlin and has since been connected with Yale University, first as an instructor and then a professor of psychology, and since 1920 as Dean of the Freshmen.
Nowhere is the influence of Harvard more pervasive than in her far-flung line of teachers. She has long recognized that one of the first jobs of a University is to train the teachers of the country. If universities did not do this the education of our youth and the soundness of our citizenry would indeed be jeopardized. Students who feel the urge of public service, who desire to help in transmitting to the younger, and indirectly to the future, their university riches would do well, therefore, to listen to this call for college teaching, and to reflect.
Graduate Work is Almost Essential
Graduate work by way of preparation is almost essential, partly because only the unusually gifted can go very far without it, and partly--as a corollary because the colleges primarily seek those who have had it. There are, of course, successful teachers in colleges who have not secured the Ph.D. degree usually the result of three years of graduate study and the degree itself does not necessarily mean superiority; but the opportunity, in graduate study, for advanced work in some given field and for broadening work in related fields does mean much. The Ph.D. degree is merely the certification of a university that a student has done an adequate amount of this work successfully. It is feasible to begin college teaching immediately after graduation and carry on at the same time graduate work, if one's position is in a university that gives advanced degrees, which will eventually land the Ph.D. degree, but it is a difficult doubling of jobs and should hardly be tried except under financial necessity. Three years of detached graduate study is by far the best preparation for college teaching.
Instructors' Salaries Are Low
After this long and not inexpensive training what may one expect in practical rewards? Initial instructors' salaries range from $1500 to $2000. After three or four years of successful work, during which period there would probably be some advance in salary, a good man normally secures an assistant professorship in the institution where he began teaching, or elsewhere, carrying a salary somewhere between $2000 and $3000. From this point on rapidity of advance varies greatly, depending chiefly on the individual's ability and consecration to his work, on the type of institution in which he lands his job, and on the state of supply and demand in his particular subject of study. Of these points the first and third are obvious. Of the second much might be said. Briefly, appointments to assistant-professorships, associate-professorships, and professorships are slower to come in the larger universities of highest standing than in the smaller universities and colleges. Among the larger I have in mind such institutions as Harvard, Yale, Chicago, Columbia, and some of the greater State Universities. On the other hand the salaries are larger in these, ranging from $5000 to $7000 or $7500 for professorships, with varying degrees of approach to these figures for the intermediate grades of assistant and associate professorships. Rarely does a man secure a professorship in such larger institutions before the age of forty. In smaller institutions advance is likely to be earlier, but salaries are lower--counterbalanced, however, by lower cost of living.
College Teaching Is No Sinecure
The foregoing statements and figures are only roughly indicative of the practical rewards. It is obvious, however, that wealth is not the lot of college teachers--unless they happily have independent income. It should be made clear, too, that college work is no sinecure. If one goes at it with that idea, or feels himself gravitating towards it as a "sheltered career," he will suffer rude awakening. Nowhere is the strenuous life more demanded, or competition keener, or intellectual sinew and moral fibre more indispensable, or the spirit of consecrated devotion more searchingly tested. If the assay does not in these things show pretty much pure gold the vein will soon be worked out. There is no eight hour day in teaching; there are no flesh pots. The high importance of the calling demands high endeavor and sacrifice.
This looks like a deterrent and a gloomy picture; but it is not. It is merely a challenge to the spirit of service. And, if one is seeking real and robust, but not superficial, values in life the other side of the picture exhibits bright and enduring colors. Quite aside from the consciousness that one is doing great good, the personal satisfactions of a teacher's life are of a high order, hardly matched, to my way of thinking, in other callings. One is constantly in the company of men of culture and of intellect. A teacher who is really alive experiences the joy of creative work, both in his teaching and in whatever research or writing he may be able to do. Books and libraries are his daily food and drink. Although he must give much time to his work, the ordering of his time is more flexibly in his own hands than in that of the business man in his sweating years of approach to the final eminence that may be vouchsafed him. A teacher, unless he stubbornly insists on being discontented, "unappreciated," and morose, has a fine chance of keeping young; there is little more inspiriting than the constant touch that the teacher has with the successive college generations of young men that he influences--and by whom he is equally influenced. And is it wholly amiss to mention his long vacations? If he is any good he uses them partly for work, to be sure, but he can work or loaf where and when he pleases and--a boon often denied the business man in summer--he can be with his family and actually get well acquainted with his wife and children.
Human Qualities Are Necessary
Granted the wish, how should a youth decide whether he is fitted for teaching? By impersonal self-analysis, buttressed by frank talks with discerning friends and,-specially, with those teachers with whom he feels in real rapport. He must, of course, like the subjects that he wishes to teach; he must wish to impart his knowledge; he must have real sympathy with boys (a fairly safe augury of an eventual understanding of them); he must not be over-impatient of the apparently indifferent, for many of these are but asleep, and in such lies the real challenge to his ingenuity and his power. If he is interested only in absorbing knowledge, or in the higher subtleties of his subject, without the more human qualities to which I have referred, he might well question his fitness for teaching, however well qualified for research. The teacher is essentially a giver. Any who profoundly but not sentimentally have that attitude will often succeed where even the more intellectually gifted may fall. Naturally diffidence, undue self-consciousness, hesitance or monotony of speech, and other comparable characteristic are, if persistent checks on full mastery in teaching; not so much, so, however, as such things as over self-confidence conceit, and prolix fluidity of utterance. My own observation leads me to believe that if one has enthusiasm, selfless consecration, to his task, robustness of mental outlook, and keeps his mind on the fellow that he is trying to teach, diffidence, self-consciousness, and hesitance will in time yield place to power. It is the enduring attitude with which one goes at his job that counts most.
Call for Teachers Is Great
In conclusion, it is clear that the call for teachers is great, and that our universities must supply them. Furthermore, teaching is a positive "calling" and not a negative recourse, or a trade. The kind of men that go into it will determine what it is to become and what its practical or its less tangible rewards are to be. Harvard has done much, in the character of the teachers that she has sent out, to raise the calling to a high level. Undergraduates, with full realization of the nature of the job, would do well to consider the need and their desire and fitness to help meet it. Let them talk with professors in the subjects that they may desire to teach and then consult with the University Appointment Office about possibilities