A few days ago our class had a discussion on the differences between Secondary School (Middle/High School) and a University. Specifically, we decided to identify all of the characteristics of a High School teacher against those of a University Professor.
Professionaly speaking, a High School teacher's background is rooted within an educational discourse. Not only do they have to attain a Bachelor's in their prospective teaching subject but they also have to get a teaching credential. Here in California, the teaching credential programs I'm familiar with focus on the multi-facet ways a student can learn and be assessed by. At the end of your program, I feel you are usually left with a strong sense of how to make education and the subject you're teaching accessible to today's youth. Admittedly some teachers don't remember every teaching tool they learned in credential school but it still gives most educators a stable background in teaching.
All of that gives the High School teacher the leg up over the Professor. Yes, the Professor definitely carries more intellectual clout as they usually have a Master's or Doctorate in their specified field of study. The drawback for them though lies within the fact that all they've learned throughout their academic careers is how to analyze and interpret their field of study on their own. Talk to any Professor here at CSUN and you'll find that the graduate schools they attended only furthered their understanding in their field of study. Very rarely will you find a Professor with a teaching credential or educational background. It's for this reason that most Professors we meet are research oriented.
Now the problem with this is that Professors will have often have loads of information to give their students but will ultimately fail in creating an enriching academic environment that would foster their student's intellectual growths. More often than not students are either day-dreaming their lectures away. It's not that the material isn't interesting for students mind you. It's more that the material is made intellectually remote and inaccessible.
That's not to say that High School students won't day dream in class. You'll always have a slacker or two in one of your classes who won't connect with the material. However our teacher credential training sets us up to be educators first and English majors second. Most Professors do not have this luxury and thus find themselves caring more about their research goals than about actually teaching a course (and as a student I've met many a teacher like that). Sadly, until Professors are given that same educational background that High School teachers have our university courses will suffer.
All of my favorite teachers (with the exception of a few here at CSUN, including you Professor =)) have been high school teachers. While they may not have had the academic authority that a Master's or Doctorate could give them, they definitely created a far more intellectually stimulating academic environment.
I hope that I can handle that half as well as they did.