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KCC Faculty on Teaching

KCC Faculty on Teaching

Q&A with Petra Symister

How did you get into teaching?
Teaching was a part of my psychology graduate school program because it was assumed that we would become professors at a college or university where we would be conducting research and teaching. In grad school, while we were learning how to carry out research in our discipline, we were teaching assistants for the professors. We had the opportunity to assist a different professor each semester, which allowed us to see different teaching styles in action.  Eventually we would use what we learned in our own classrooms.

What career did you imagine for yourself when you were in college?
I was not required to declare a major until the end of my sophomore year, so I was given an ample amount of time to explore my interests and determine which major would lead me towards the career I wanted. That was fortunate for me because I entered college having no idea what career I should pursue. Initially I was a bit worried about not having a firm idea about my career goals, but I worked hard in all my classes, figured out which subjects I liked and used that to inform my choice of major. By the time I was in my junior year I was certain that I wanted to continue studying psychology and sociology. Although I was not quite sure of the career I wanted to pursue, I knew that studying psychology and sociology would prepare me for it.  As my experience demonstrates, it’s OK not to know what your career goals are the minute you step on campus.

What do you love about teaching?
What I love about teaching is that it allows learners to see themselves and the world in new and interesting ways and helps them make useful, positive changes in their lives.  I often see former students, months or even years after they have taken one of my courses, and they always share with me how something they learned changed the way they perceived themselves and/or others, changed the way they viewed a problem or challenge, or positively affected their actions in some way.

What’s your favorite teaching experience?Surprisingly, my favorite teaching experience occurs outside of the classroom. It is so rewarding to see former students and have them tell me that something that they learned from me has been helpful in their lives or that they decided to study psychology because of my class.

In what ways do you bring your professional experience into the classroom?
Many of my students are unaware of the ways in which your degree can open up a variety of career paths. Students are often surprised when I tell them that my first job after receiving my doctorate in psychology was as a senior research associate at a market research company. Since jobs in market research can involve survey creation and data analysis, two skill sets that are developed in psychology graduate school, I had the perfect training for the job. By sharing this with my students, I can show them how degrees can lead to a variety of careers.

What advice do you have for current students?
Three practical pieces of advice for current students:

  1. Read the syllabus. Your professor will be grateful, and it will make your experience in the class much more pleasant, or at the very least, much more predictable.

  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Kingsborough has a variety of support programs to assist you. Regardless of the challenge, there is someone here to help.

  3. Don’t give up if there is a bump in your road to success.  The challenges will come. Prepare for them and continue to move toward your goal.