Three roles of the advisor

Image: Markus Spiske


The advisor needs to be aware that his task is not to retain students and researchers, since they do not have the status of a thing

“What happens to his class now?' I enquired. At this he guffawed loudly. 'Without being too prophetic, I'd say you're for it” (ER Braithwaite, To Sir with Love.

For some time now, this pseudo-chronicler has been trying to write a brief treatise on the craft of teaching: this art that, since the advent of the internet in the late 1990s, has rivaled information portals/search engines and, more recently, with influencers (by whom, really?) and content producers (from what source and quality, huh?).

In addition to protesting against unfounded and unjustified accusations against teachers – almost always made by those who have never set foot in a classroom, and know nothing of the violence that this professional suffers daily, inside and outside institutions –, perhaps it would be opportune to dedicate a page and a half to some roles inherent to the task of guiding.

First primary function: responding to messages sent by beings interested in developing research (under our guidance, or not). It will sound contradictory to suggest that students carefully read and rigorously annotate essays that discuss the multiple forms of listening and solidarity, if we are not willing to read and respond to them. Obviously, this does not mean that we conduct the research of a thousand people simultaneously, nor that we are available XNUMX hours a day. This is not a servant-customer relationship.

Linked to the willingness to read and write is the ability to listen and speak. It will be useless to respond in writing to the student's message, if there is no reception and direction. By welcome, I mean attentive listening, combined with a cordial response, be it an indication of a working partnership; be it a recommendation that the student: (1) reflect on research hypotheses derived from the theme he has in mind; (2) dialogue with other colleagues in the trade, in case we cannot guide you; (3) establish an initial repertoire of readings; (4) inaugurate a study routine; (5) look at research as a job that demands humility, etc.

As for direction (assuming that the orientation begins), it seems to me that the second role of the professor is to encourage the student to pursue the topic of interest, taking into account the feasibility of the research; existing impasses; the unavoidable bibliography; the effective term for carrying out the work; the need to break down the theme (by author, work, historical period, etc.) when necessary; the importance of the student not transforming the research object into a mere narcissistic manifestation, etc.

If I'm not mistaken, the advisor's third function is to alert the student that no one is self-sufficient. Hence the importance of suggesting ways of conducting the research without bursts of genius; keep an eye on the messages sent (not only) by the advisor; gratefully and humbly address the evaluation board, etc. On the discursive level, propose models of how not to sound pretentious or categorical, when writing the research report, the monograph or thesis, the abstract for events, the review or the scientific article.

From the outset, supervisors need to be aware that their task is not to retain students and researchers, since they do not have the status of a thing: they are not “their” property. For our part, as we are not coach or deity, it sounds ridiculous to carry messianic phrases of effect, even if we resort to them as mere incentive formulas.

Respecting the attributions of advisee and adviser, try to stimulate the solidary conception of the world, precisely because it is a powerful antidote against ultraliberalism and marks a position against the proud hyper-subjects - beings jealous of their maximum relevance to reproduce pearls of common sense, as if they were philosophical maxims, such as: “the world is like this”.

In almost all partnerships, students will be modest in the initial contacts and will acquire a greater dose of pretension, perhaps supported by some autonomy, as they walk on their own. At the end of the mentoring contract (which can take anywhere from six months to a few years), students are more likely to disappear into the world and only occasionally remember their professors and advisors, asking them “how are you?”

But there is some consolation. Of the research links, what will remain is the record of the common trajectory in the Lattes curriculum and the official declaration (summarizing the long and complex work of orientation in three lines), issued by efficient systems Online and validated by automatons.

*Jean Pierre Chauvin Professor of Brazilian Culture and Literature at the School of Communication and Arts at USP. Author, among other books by Seven Speeches: essays on discursive typologies.

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