10 Ways to Be a Happier, More Successful Professor

IMG_3159As an adjunct instructor with motivated students and a generally positive outlook on life, other professors (and people in general) tend to have one question in common for me:

How are you doing this successfully?

It’s not always easy, but here are 10 tricks to being happier, and more successful, as a part-time or full-time college professor.

1. Come into the classroom with a good attitude.

I have a long story I could share here, but I’ll spare you. Basically, remember why you chose this profession in the first place. If you enter the classroom in a good mood (and stay in a good mood despite whatever else happens!), I guarantee your students will be visibly happier, more motivated, and cooperative.

2. Be friendly and respectful of your students.

The more respect you give your students, the more respect you’ll gain from them.

If you’re approachable and friendly with your students, you’ll most likely get more participation from them, more appreciation, and they’ll be more likely to approach you with questions about course content.

The end result?

They’ll be more successful as a learner, making you more successful as a the instructor.

3. Delegate classroom responsibilities.

Not only does delegation make your classroom more efficient, and result in you having more time and less frustration on your hands, but it makes your students feel important and part of the learning process.

As a suggestion, set your students up in groups, and when the class has an activity, designate one person in each group to be the leader. If you have a small job you could give someone else during class time, make the opportunity available to your students.

Once the class gets used to this routine delegation, most students will be excited to participate.

4. Make lectures engaging.

Incorporate relevant personal stories, TED talks (check out ted.com), Khan Academy talks and interviews (khanacademy.org), or movie clips as discussion points during lecture.

Just a quick break from some of the ‘dryer’ material can help keep your students engaged and happy.

5. Network with colleagues.

Making friends at your school will most likely make you more successful as a teacher because you’ll be more socially satisfied, feel a sense of belonging at the college, you’ll have someone to bounce ideas off of, and it’ll make attending school meetings more pleasant.

6. Take faculty development courses.

Taking faculty development courses in the areas you’re most interested in (ie. Global Community, Podcasting, Intro to Online Teaching, etc.) will teach you new skills, reinvigorate your drive as a teacher, and introduce you to new faculty members who are interested in the same areas.

7. Take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Do some sort of workout, meditation, or relaxation technique at least twice a week to clear your head and boost your energy level. Also remember to maintain a balance in your life.

It’s okay to work a lot (I know we all do!), but be sure you’re staying connected to good friends, family, and maintaining your health.

8. Learn how to live with less (this equals more money in your bank account).

It doesn’t matter if you make 30k or 100k a year, I know people who make both amounts and complain equally that they need more money. It’s not the money they’re actually looking for, it’s more satisfaction out of the simple things in life.

Trust me, it’s a great feeling to see that bank account grow and not feel compelled to spend it all.

9. If you’re bored with the content you’re teaching, find a new angle. It’s in your hands!

If you’re tired of giving the same lectures, add a short video clip a few minutes in, and center a fun and relevant discussion around it.

You could also add a new lecture and eliminate an old one. You could even spend less time on some material you’ve focused on for the last couple of years and focus more on other content that’s just as important but never seemed to fit in time-wise.

It’s all you.

10. Take a break once in a while.

I know during semesters when I teach around 8, I’m not quite sure how I’m supposed to slow down when the summer finally comes. I’ve usually become so accustomed to being around students and working around the clock that I have a hard time putting on the brakes.

However, let yourself relax, and consider taking an actual vacation. You’ll come back a more refreshed, better instructor.


These are just ten ways to increase your success as a professor.

If you’d like to learn more, check in with new posts weekly at happyprofessor.com or take a look at my book, Happy Professor: An Adjunct Instructor’s Guide to Personal, Financial, and Student Success on Amazon.com (if you can find a free copy, go for it).

Feel free to leave a comment or email me at erin@happyprofessor.com.


A Day in the Life of a Happy Adjunct Professor

IMG_9384Typical weekday.

Wake up at 9:00 am, read a few surprisingly hilarious chapters from a travel book about Costa Rica while savoring my favorite morning ritual- an amazing cup of hot tea.

Jog over to the gym to take a cycling class with a girlfriend, lay by the pool with her to chat for a while, shower, take a look at a TED.com video I heard about from a colleague (it’s an awesome concept- I think we’ll discuss that in class today to make lecture more engaging), finally head off to work at 3:30 pm to teach my first of two classes today.

I’ll have a smile on my face the entire 3 hours I’m at work, laugh with my students about every 15 minutes, be thanked by approximately 3 students, have my heart melted by at least 1 student who proudly shows new confidence and growth as a speaker, and be home to greet my husband when he gets home from work at 7:00 pm.

Does it sound like I have a cool part-time job? I do. I also make a decent salary that my husband and I can live on while doing something I would probably do for free, and most semesters I go in to work just 3 days a week.

Sorry if that made you instantly hate me. I’m a part-time college professor who teaches communication courses at 4 schools, has a crazy hectic life, but loves every second of it (if that just doesn’t sound realistic, check out The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor).

I’ve been doing this for 5 years, and if possible, I like it more every semester.

If you’re starting to lose steam as a professor (been there), want to know how to become (and be successful as) an adjunct, or just want to read the tips this happy professor has to share, feel free to stick around.

If you’d like to learn more, check in with new posts weekly at happyprofessor.com or take a look at my book, Happy Professor: An Adjunct Instructor’s Guide to Personal, Financial, and Student Success on Amazon.com (if you can find a free copy, that’s cool, too).

Feel free to email me at erin@happyprofessor.com.

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