Opinion

Being a Good Professor is More Than Just Teaching

By Maddie McCarthy

madeline.mccarthy@spartans.ut.edu

Dreading a class because of a professor is one of the worst feelings as a college student. We are paying a substantial amount of money to receive an education, and those dollars can feel wasted in a class with a bad professor. 

Sometimes, it can be the professor’s teaching style that we don’t particularly care for or it could be the attitude of the professor. If a professor is condescending to their students, belittles them for an incorrect answer or for asking a seemingly silly question, it can completely ruin a class. 

But to be a good professor is more than just teaching. 

Lecturing is a major component to a professor’s job. That much is obvious. The very set up of our classrooms with the professor’s podium facing the sea of pupils, commands that the students stay quiet and let the professor speak. 

However, there are plenty of other factors that make a professor stand out. There are simple ways to be a great professor who has a real, beneficial impact on students’ lives. 

First and foremost, it is important for professors to show their students respect. College students are adults and deserve to be treated as such. Unfortunately, I have not always found that all professors would agree.

Of course, there are plenty of college students who do not treat their own professors with respect, which is an issue. However, it is easier to establish a respectful environment for all parties when the one with the established authority, the professor, recognizes that their students deserve respect too. Their show of respect towards their students sets a good example.

Because UT is such a small school, with the average class size being 22 students according to the school’s website, we have the ability to engage more with our professors, and therefore, the professors can engage more closely with their students.

A good professor at UT, or any other school as small as this, should take care to get to understand their students to the best of their ability. This further establishes respect and fosters a closer professional relationship to students. 

I have always found that I learn the most in my discussion based classes. My professors who teach those kinds of classes are the people I have gone to for career and graduate school advice, and are the professors who have given me confidence in my field. 

Professors who engage their students are the professors who care about their students. It also demonstrates a knowledge in their field because they are able to go off-script and not read from some slides on a board. This is often what can keep students engaged.

I do think there is a responsibility to students to help make their experiences with a professor much more beneficial than they would be if they just showed up to class and sat in the back and said nothing. Yes, you can pass, but what will you gain?

The online platform Rate My Professors is one of the many ways to avoid taking a class with a so-called “bad” professor. Unfortunately, I think it can also be a way to avoid great professors, the ones who will challenge you to be the best you can be.

On Rate My Professors, students can rate any professor on their difficulty and overall quality. The site allows students to detail why they gave the rating they did. This can give the other students an idea of the professor’s attitude and teaching style.

I have noticed that many students have rated professors lower because their class was not an “easy A.” I have seen students complain that the professor expects them to read. I have even seen students complain that the professor requires them to show up. This is where I think students need to take responsibility to challenge themselves in their education if they want to get more out of their investment than just their diploma. 

A professor may be challenging, but they could also be the professor who writes your letter of recommendation to a graduate school, or the professor who encourages you to step out of your comfort zone and start a project that changes the whole course of your career.

But it is easier to encourage students to do more than the bare minimum when professors do more than the bare minimum, too.

Great professors are the ones who show respect to their students as people, and respect to their students’ intelligence. Professors who embrace this are the professors who make a real difference in lives.

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