Dr Joke de Wit
Studying is a top sport. I have studied a lot and completed many courses, always with great pleasure, but you must perform.
Passion for sports and education
I have a great passion for sports, so it was an obvious choice for me to go to the sports academy after high school. Studying at the sports academy for four years was a wonderful time. I loved doing something that I enjoyed without having to worry about other things. Although the labour market was tight in the eighties, I managed to quickly find a job as a gymnastics teacher at a secondary school in Nieuw-Vennep (North-Holland). Because I enjoyed teaching, I started studying German part-time so that I could teach both gymnastics and German. In the years that followed, I also completed a study in physiotherapy, but I never worked as a physiotherapist.
After more than ten years of teaching, I became a planner at that same high school. I knew I could not and would not be a gymnastics teacher until the age of 65. A few years later, I started working as an educational logistics employee at Erasmus School of Law. Among other things, I created the (exam) schedule and the study guide. After two years, the role of study advisor became vacant in the department where I worked. Together with several colleagues, I became part of the application committee. The committee was overall disappointed with the applicants and shortly after I was asked to become the new study advisor. As I had no legal background, which was a requirement for this position, I started doing a propaedeutic law course. It began with a propaedeutic year in 2001 and ended with a PhD in 2012. After a period in the role of study advisor, I became a teacher at the beginning of 2007 – I have always been passionate about teaching - after a vacancy arose in the Constitutional and Administrative Law department. This transition happened about thirteen years ago.
Commitment to society
With my research, I always try to contribute to practice. I think the average citizen of Rotterdam should be aware of the fact that our university is located in this city. I very much welcome the fact that students have side jobs, even if they are not directly related to their study. However, having a side job should not be at the expense of the students’ academic results. For example, I find it very admirable when students act as 'buddies' of children who are less wealthy or have some sort of disability. I have been chairman of the appeals committee of the municipality of Rotterdam for several years. Together with the other members of this committee, I hear citizens who think the government has not acted correctly, and advise the board about this. In this way I aim to make a contribution to the city of Rotterdam with my legal expertise.
Connecting with students
I am motivated to make improvements. Even if things are going well, you can always do better. You try your best and give it your all, but you should not get too comfortable when everything is just going well. In science, this can be difficult. When writing an article, it must eventually be finished and published. I remember being nervous when I received my printed thesis; I was worried about seeing an error when opening it, fortunately, that was not the case. I always try to improve in my lectures. If after an exam it turns out that students find a particular subject difficult, I try to pay more attention to it during the lectures the year after. Teaching as good as possible is also my biggest challenge at the same time; I am a self-proclaimed 'education freak'.
Your study time is a critical phase in your life; you learn to stand on your own feet and make your own choices. I love to teach this mixed group of students and convey my joy, enthusiasm and passion for administrative law to them. Not everyone has to become crazy about it, but I strongly believe in collaboration and establishing a connection with students in education. I could in theory record my lectures and play them again next year, because the content of the education probably will not have changed that much. However, I want to answer questions from students and ask questions to find out what someone does not understand and especially why they do not. Also, broadcasting last year's lectures this year would mean that the word 'corona' would not be mentioned. Well, as most of you understand at this moment in time that is not possible. The law study is about society and is very topical, which should be evident from the content of the lectures.
I admire students because I see the pace at which they study these days. Studying at the university can be quite demanding for students, and I, therefore, feel obliged to provide the correct information in time and publish error-free texts. It makes me proud when students tell me they are happy with me as a teacher, it makes my (educational) heart beat a little faster. I am also proud of the fact that I regularly get invited to write a scientific article about my expertise and that I am allowed to use my knowledge for society, for example as a deputy judge, the role I fulfil since one year now. I hope I will be able to continue being a deputy judge in the coming years and that I can look back on my working life with great pleasure in ten years' time. I am happy with the work I do, and I feel fortunate.
Most beautiful memory? Being a guest teacher in Curaçao. The life under water is so magical. When I am snorkelling on my own in one of the many bays there and see all those beautiful fish and coral, I can get tears in my eyes. What is your hobby? Sport. Deep in my heart, I still feel like a gymnastics teacher, and I am glad I was able to turn my hobby into my work for a while. What is your favourite book? Narziss und Goldmund (Herman Hesse). A German novel about a troubled and uncomfortable friendship between two men who are each other's opposites. What is your favourite travel destination? Terschelling. What did you want to be in the past? Gym teacher. How would others describe you in three words? Involved, direct, 'what you see is what you get'. Do you have tips for students? My advice is that sometimes you should take life as it comes, not everything can created or planned, the Corona crisis has shown us that very clearly. It is an art to get the most out of life with the possibilities that we have.