As we head back to campus this fall, what better time to share some insight from the professor’s side of the story? I’m an adjunct lecturer at a Midwestern university and have been teaching at the collegiate level for the past five years. As I embark on my sixth year, here are some things that I (and I’m willing to bet, many other instructors) wish our students knew…
1. We Know You Think This Is A Blow-Off Class.
Oh, the dreaded general education courses. The credits that cruel provosts and regents think will make you a more “well-rounded” individual. We know you don’t want to take this class. We aren’t stupid. We know that you’re going to put in minimal effort. We know you won’t take this course as seriously as your other courses. While we know all of this, we will do our best to show you why you should care about this class.
We’ll show you why these courses are necessary. We’ll work tirelessly to explain why a public speaking class can actually be useful, why you will actually use information from that math class, or why taking English Comp I and learning to write effectively is a skill truly needed in life. I have to say though, I’m still struggling to see why I needed to take Earth Science… we never even built a volcano! (Which was the main reason I chose that science course).
In the end, you’re paying for this course – you should try to get as much out of it as you can. And you know the old saying; you only get out what you put in…
2. We Don’t Care What Your Excuse Is.
I can’t tell you how many emails professors receive from students each semester detailing why they won’t be in class or why an assignment is late. I want to say this in the most delicate way possible – we do not care. Okay, that did come across pretty harsh. We DO care, but it is almost impossible to keep up with the emails of each and every student. Some semesters, I’ll have upwards of 130+ students – that can turn into a lot of emails. (Side bar: I had a professor once who told us that we were to never, ever contact him. We were only to email him if the building was on fire. I’m not kidding).
A good rule of thumb: Don’t send your instructor an email about missing class if it’s anything less than death. Okay, again probably too harsh. Here are two of the worst email subjects I’ve ever received. The first one: a student vividly described a rash they had and why they weren’t coming to class. The second one: a student detailing how much more important their OTHER class was and that’s why they were going to be missing my class.
The best rule of thumb? Just do your work, go to class, and don’t give excuses.
3. We Hear/Notice Everything.
It’s amazing what students think I can’t hear. Note: in the beginning of class – you know the time, when everyone is milling around, about 5-10 minutes before the class starts. I usually walk in around this time and start setting up. For some reason, students think that by setting up the computer, writing on the board, or working on my lesson – I can’t hear them. I can hear students discussing the last test being unfair. I can hear them trash talking another teacher (Who is my friend! And someone I will be talking to after class in our office…). I can hear them discussing why they really missed class, when they told me they were sick.
We see you looking at your neighbor’s test. We know when you’ve simply copied and pasted an entire entry from Wikipedia. Please don’t make us be the bad guy and have to get Student Judicial Services involved. Believe me, a not-so-great grade on a half-assed paper is better than getting kicked out of a class for cheating.
4. We Remember Being A Student.
We truly remember what it was like. Yes, some of us are pretty removed from the student role but this doesn’t mean we don’t remember what it was like to be in your shoes. We know what it’s like to be juggling multiple classes. We know that our class isn’t your only priority. We know that it’s fucking early – we didn’t want an 8am class either. We remember being more interested in the cute guy 4 rows back than what’s going to be on the midterm. We remember being hung over as shit after Halloween and needing to wear sunglasses the entire next day.
We remember the feeling of anxiety and not knowing what comes next in life. We can empathize and understand. But you also must understand that many of your professors were extremely dedicated in school (hence why they never left education) so they will expect you to put forth some effort.
5. We Truly Want To Help You.
It always shocks me at the end of the semester when evaluations are passed out and I hear students say, “These don’t even matter.” In some cases and I’m sure at some schools, instructor evaluations don’t matter. Personally, I take time to read and look at all of my past evaluations when they arrive in my mailbox the following semester (usually while drinking a bottle of wine). I like to see what worked and what didn’t. I am lucky to have many coworkers who do the same. We truly want to improve and make our classrooms a more beneficial place for students.
Our job is to help you. Get to know your professors. Stop by their office hours. Out of the 130+ students I have a semester, I estimate that about 2 come to office hours. And these cases are usually just students who are arguing a grade or pleading for 500 points of extra credit. Go see your professors when you don’t exactly need something. Maybe you just want a fresh set of eyes to review your paper before turning it in. Maybe you want to talk about other classes offered in the program. Maybe you just want to vent for 15 minutes about how college can suck sometimes.
I promise that your instructor will welcome the visit and remember you. This comes in handy when a grade is teetering between a letter grade and you really need that professor to round up or when you’re getting ready to apply for grad school and need what seems like an endless amount of letters of rec.
If you take nothing else away from this article, please remember that your professors are people too. We truly want the best for you – that’s why we took this job.