Many students know their professors by the material they teach in class and the way they interact with their students. However, many probably do not actually know a lot about professor’s lives outside the classroom. Their offices tell a great deal about their character and themselves as individuals. Whether it be the pictures they have around their rooms or the actual objects; each object is there for a specific reason. Many students probably come to a professor’s office for reasons relating to class, but they do not stop to look around the room in order to learn more about the professor.
Take, for example, assistant professor of music education Dr. Kevin Shorner-Johnson. Most students know him as their music education professor. However, there is a lot more to him than the classroom may show. He teaches classes related to the history and philosophy of music education, as well as methods relating to the teaching of music in schools. He also teaches a world music class, which counts for the non-western cultural portion of Elizabethtown College’s core program. He is very interested in philosophy, educational history and educational technology.
A professor’s office often houses very interesting objects that have great meaning and stories behind them. Shorner-Johnson has two notable objects in his office: a replica of a hornbook and a posture chart. The replica of the hornbook dates back to the late 1700s. This tool was used by children in schools to learn the alphabet, numbers and the Lord’s Prayer. In his classes, he uses this tool to talk about the instructional technologies that have been used in education.
The posture chart is from 1940. The poster was originally used to teach band students to sit properly and also features famous musicians from the history of bands in the United States. Two famous musicians shown on this poster are Harding and Hindsley from the University of Illinois.
“The objects relate to my love of history and getting my hands on the actual tools and documents that impacted the way that we educated children,” Shorner-Johnson commented. “It is fascinating to understand the struggles of students and educators and the strategies for overcoming these barriers across educational history. The issues that educators faced in the time of Plato to the 1800s have great relevance to the struggles that we face today.”
Sophomore Keri Height had some positive words to say about Shorner-Johnson: “Dr. Shorner-Johnson’s class is one of the highlights of my week. He is a perfect representation of the Elizabethtown College motto, Educate for Service, as he just spent a week bringing instruments and teaching music to students in Haiti. He is a professor I know I can go to whenever I need help, and his door is always open. He is a brilliant musician, educator and human being; every student that enters his classroom is sure to look up to [him].”
Another professor that students may not know a lot about is associate professor of social work Dr. Susan Mapp. She teaches a first year seminar dealing with global child welfare as well as classes about social work research and international social development. Mapp is interested in geography, and that is quite obvious as soon as you step into her office. All over the walls are pictures of children from around the world whom she has photographed. She also collects globes that are displayed all around her office.
Mapp’s office shows a lot about her character and her interests and hobbies. Mapp loves to travel, and that is quite evident through the pictures and objects she has collected from her different trips. The pictures include children from all around the world including Cuba, India, Ecuador, Switzerland, Thailand and Honduras. She says that part of the reason she has so many things from the places she has been around her room is because it reminds her of something she loves to do, almost like inspiration. She can do her work in her office and look up to see the smiling faces of children whom she has met through travel and work.
Junior Allison Keidat said, “Dr. Mapp is wonderful. Although she is tough, she is more than willing to help out, and her main goal is to see you succeed.”
So, before you leave your professor’s office next time, take a glance around the room. You’ll be amazed to see what you find. Some things may reflect the subject the professor teaches, but some things might come as a surprise. You will most likely find something interesting that you never knew about your professor, maybe a hobby or interest that is completely unexpected. Maybe it will be something you even have in common with the professor. Whether you are going to their office for extra help or just to spark a conversation, you will always leave with something newly learned.