Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Advice to Students From a Real College Professor, Part I

Often it seems to me that there are students who are quite unaware of the horrible impression they are making on their professors. I know that nobody sets out to look like an unpleasant, whiny, annoying individual whose name profs dread seeing on their class lists. Maybe a few timely pieces of advice could help such students understand the error of their ways and make their relationship with their teachers more productive and enjoyable. Here is a list of suggestions I would like to offer to students:

1. Always remember that professors are human. Your prof might look like a scary, intimidating entity whose only goal is to make your existence as unpleasant as possible. This is, however, not usually the case. For the most part, college profs have no interest in torturing students or making them miserable. They just want to do their job.

2. Telling your professor that you HATE their course and/or that you only take it because of the "stupid GenEd requirement" is probably not a good idea. In all probability, the GenEd requirement wasn't created by your professor. It is also highly likely that they don't want a reluctant student like you in their classroom either. Would it make you feel good if your professor came up to you and announced, "Oh, my God, I really HATE having you in my class but I have to because of the stupid GenEd requirement"? Not really, I guess. Do your prof the courtesy of keeping your dislike for their course, for them, and for life in general to yourself.

3. If you messed up, own up to it because this is the mature and responsible thing to do. Everybody messes up every once in a while. Taking responsibility for it, however, will help you overcome the bad impression you made with your screwup. I had a student once who cheated and was caught. She came up to me and said, "I cheated and that was wrong. I'm really sorry. I promise not to do it again. I know that you don't have to believe me now that I cheated, but I will try to prove to you that you can trust me." And then she left. This was a very mature way of handling an unpleasant situation that made me feel a lot of respect for this student. 

4. If you messed up, crying, screaming at the professor, blaming them for your errors in judgment, telling them that you hate them, and complaining to everybody in sight how unfair it is to be penalized "just" for cheating, will probably not endear you to anybody. You are an adult now, which means that you are responsible for your own actions.

5. Scoffing, rolling your eyes, emitting loud, annoyed sighs, and mumbling "God, this is stupid" will not turn you into anybody's favorite student. If you don't like the assignment, the best thing to do is to suck it up, complete the work, and not make a spectacle of yourself and your dislike for the task.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Other students hate it too. There's nothing more annoying to students who want to learn, who are interested in the class, who are doing the work (amidst jobs, clubs, and other classes too!) than people like you described. As they whine, we're mumbling, half to ourselves, half hoping they hear us, "why don't you leave, then? Quit. Drop the class. Drop out of college."

My last semester, a friend (another graduating senior) and I took the GenEd math class. I'm pretty sure we were the only upperclassmen in a room of fifty or so freshmen. Every one of them were whiny, disrespectful, and obnoxious. All semester the professor, my friend, and I dealt with their whining, their attempts to get tests put off, lectures delayed, exams made easier, made open book, etc. It's finals week, and I'm stressed as all get out because these exams are the only thing between me and graduating! In the exam, students are talking, whining, chatting to one another. I tried to complete a simple calculation four times before I lost it. I swiveled around in my chair, and told them off. I raised my voice and cursed at them to be quiet, to be respectful, to just shut up because some of us were trying to graduate. My voice echoed across the auditorium. Everyone was silent, dumbfounded, and staring at me, including the professor. I felt so bad for him, and I felt guilty for disrespecting his classroom in that way, but I couldn't take it anymore. I turned back to my test, and my friend whispered that we were going out for a cigarette after he finished the problem he was working on.

He did, and we did. I actually ended up smoking two cigarettes in a row, I was so stressed. When we finished, we walked back in and finished the test. (I must say, there was no cheating involved with us leaving. We didn't compare notes while we were outside. Our professor was okay with it. We were the only ones who took the class seriously and behaved like adults, and I think he understood that I needed a breather. After three months of dealing with these buggers, he probably wanted to smoke a cigarette with us!)That was, without a doubt, the most concentrated number of shitty students I've ever dealt with.