Hi, friends! Over the course of my college career, I’ve heard fellow students talk about how “intimidating” or “hard” their professors are, but I’ve never been able to relate 100%. Of course, I’ve had professors who expected a lot of work from their students, but I wouldn’t use those words to describe them. I think people feel this way because they don’t understand how a professor’s mind works. In this post, I want to break down the stereotype of the intimidating/mean professor by introducing you to Dr. L, one of my favorite professors who works in the college of engineering. I had the chance to interview Dr. L recently, and I asked some questions that would help you gain some insight into the mind of a professor. Without further ado, here is the interview!
Aly: Some students are afraid to get to know their professors. Why should a student take the time to sit in front of the class and introduce him/herself to the professor?
Dr. L: Professors are people, too. Most are in the profession because they enjoy teaching. When you introduce yourself to your professor, you stand out from the crowd as someone who has given more thought to the subject than others. When it comes to grading, professors will remember students who come to them for help. Establishing a relationship with a professor can help you with research opportunities, scholarships, and even acceptance into graduate school. Remember: you are paying a lot of money to go to school. You have the right to ask questions of your professors and they have a duty to spend the time to answer them…
Aly: How should we deal with a class taught by a “hard” professor? I’m already hearing concerning things about my professors for the fall.
Dr. L: Some professors can be harder than others. That’s the way life is. It’s the same way in the workforce. Some managers are harder than others. If you are a good student, do your work, and plan your time well, you should not shy away from a “hard” professor. If you end up studying more, you will come out with the benefit of learning more. Sometimes hard professors just have a higher standard for students. Challenge yourself to meet that standard.
Aly: How do you feel about students using their phones or computers during class?
Dr. L: This ranks very highly on the “annoyance” list. For one, it is disrespectful to your professor and distracting to other students. If you’d rather be playing games on the computer than listening to class, it’s better to step out. If you’re using your computer to take notes or for other class purposes, then that’s perfectly okay as long as you stay focused on the class.
Aly: Are there advantages to going to lecture vs. just reading the textbook or the PowerPoint slides?
Dr. L: There are definitely advantages to going to lecture. For one, you have the opportunity to ask questions. Secondly, you are already studying as you listen to the lecture. Third, you get to know other students with whom you can discuss class content (maybe even your future spouse!) Fourth, it shows your professor that you are interested enough to attend class. If you get low grades or are a borderline student and you don’t come to class, you will not receive grace from your professor.
Aly: In my experience, most of my professors have been very interested in the success of their students, and were willing to answer my questions. But what should a student do if the professor just doesn’t care?
Dr. L: In that case, the student should look after their own interest. Again, you’re paying for your education. Make sure you get it.
Aly: Do you have any test taking strategies?
Dr. L: If you have an open book exam, study as though it were a closed book exam. You will always do better if you do that. If you’re able to review in the same room you will take your test, it helps you to remember what you studied (another advantage to going to lecture). If the exam has long calculations [note from Aly: Dr. L was referring to exams for math based classes like physics, chemistry, and calculus], the professor will find problems that require simpler solution paths than the ones in the homework. In other words, don’t overthink and don’t over-complicate yourself. Review the most important points in your notes.
Aly: What should a student do if they get a bad grade on a test?
Dr. L: You should talk to the professor and make sure they know you’re interested in improving your grade. Make sure you understand the material afterwards. If you have doubts about any of the concepts between that exam and the next one, ask your professor for clarification. [Note from Aly: This is exactly what I said to do in my What to Do When You Fail A Test post!]
I hope these questions and answers helped you learn a little bit more about how professors think and how to be successful in their classes. All in all, as Dr. L said, “Professors are people, too.”