The Ten Commandments for Highly Successful PR Educators

exam bookI rarely use this blog these days, but from time to time a topic arises that needs reflection. As I inch ever closer to the end of this year as chairman of my department (and closer to early retirement, I might add), and as I once again review applications for part-time teaching positions in the department for the fall, I’m reminded of a presentation I gave to CPRS Toronto two years ago.  So, for anyone who is contemplating teaching  in public relations and/or communication, I offer you my heartfelt commandments born of almost a quarter of a century in the trenches as a prof.

  1. Thou shalt be always aware that the students seeking post-secondary education today are different than they were when you were in their shoes – even if it’s not that many years ago.  And make no mistake; this change in the audience has a significant impact on many aspects of education today.
  2. Thou shalt ask thyself why you want to be an educator – and if the only reason you can think of is to have fun, then please step away from the application form right now.  You do need to be able to articulate what you’ll get from the experience – but even more important than that is what you can give –to the students, to your teaching colleagues, and to our field in general.  Ask yourself: How can you make us better?
  3. Thou shalt bring thy real-world experience to the classroom, but at all times avoid using this opportunity as your personal soap box, recognizing that it is your responsibility to offer different cases and points of view than only your own.  No pontificating.
  4. Thou shalt be aware of a wide array of literature in public relations – both the scholarly literature and the industry-specific literature and be sure that you have a depth of knowledge in the subject matter that goes beyond all of what you’ll impart to the students.  Or be willing to become familiar.
  5. Thou shalt recognize the differences among varying approaches to pedagogy – and if you are not aware, thou shalt commit yourself to becoming educated in pedagogical approaches and techniques.
  6. Thou shalt at all times be cognizant of the fact that it’s more important to teach students to think than to do. (Even if you’re teaching a course that is largely technical in nature).  If you doubt this, just consider what it‘s like to have junior colleagues around you who are unable to have a single independent thought.
  7. Thou shalt understand how your assigned course fits into the overall curriculum.  At all times you need to be aware that it does not exist in a vacuum.
  8. Thou shalt be more concerned about student learning than about being liked.
  9.  Thou shalt learn to revise thy work resume so that it fits into the academic curriculum vitae format if you’re interested in teaching at the university level in a degree program – it just bugs the hiring committees to see industry resumes – they sometimes conclude that you don’t’ know the difference or you don’t respect the difference.
  10. Thou shalt give up the notion of getting rich from teaching.  One of my colleagues once figured out the hourly wage for a first-time, part-time instructor and it was somewhere south of $1.50 an hour.

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