Higher Ed: For Some Teachers, 'It's Not A Matter Of Being Nice But Setting Great Expectations'

Sep 15, 2019

Just about everybody can recall an influential teacher who nurtured and inspired them. But not all great teachers are "warm and fuzzy." In this episode of KUT's podcast "Higher Ed," Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT's Jennifer Stayton explore dealing with fantastic teachers who have challenging personalities.

Ed recalls a wonderful Philosophy teacher he had in college whose lectures Ed describes as "utterly fascinating" but whose personality he says was kind of "off-putting."

But that naturally raises the question: Can a good teacher have, well, a bad personality?

Ed encourages students to steer clear of that simple dichotomy and instead examine potential reasons for behavior that may appear less than nurturing.

"He had incredibly high standards so that might have been kind of like the not-friendly part," recalls Ed. "It's not a matter of being nice, but it's a matter of setting great expectations."

Ed says society now desperately needs people to treat each with kindness, politeness and respect, especially when they disagree. But he believes sometimes teachers need to use different tools to motivate a group of students.

"There is something to be said for that kind of tough love, so it's not meanness but it's tough love," Ed believes. "You want the person to be more independent. You want that person to reach further than they thought they could."

Listen to the entire episode to hear why Ed also believes that, at least sometimes, that teacher "tough love" might be more of an act than the teacher's true personality. Also listen on for the solution to last week's Roman numerals puzzler (don't worry - no tough love if you didn't get it!).

This episode was recorded on Aug. 7, 2019.

After this episode was recorded, Dr. Ed Burger announced that he is leaving Southwestern University in Jan. 2020 to become President and Chief Executive Officer of St. David’s Foundation.

For all the Higher Ed episodes, you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here.