A Letter To: Professors Who Bore Their Students
It’s not hard to notice when students are bored. The phones start coming out, the laptops are typing more than what the PowerPoint is showing, some even do other homework. We’re not subtle about whether or not we want to be in a certain class. Nappers, I’m looking at you.
I get it. First, it’s the heavy eyes. Then it’s that arm that becomes your head’s favorite place to rest. After that, it’s a combination of your arm not being able to support your head and the awkward jerking that happens when you almost hit your forehead with the table. Repeat this a few times until you notice the person in front of you is quietly snoring.
As a student, this has happened more times than I have wanted to. It’s not 100% of the professor’s fault. Maybe a solid 87%. I’ll blame another 6% on time of the class and the other 7% on whether or not the class was required (cognates: that’s another conversation we’ll have another day). However, that 87% creates a make-it or break-it culture for classes. There are those classes that students get excited for, even saying it’s their favorite class they’ve ever taken. Then there are those classes where you go through several life-changing questions: Should I really go to class? What homework can I do while the professor rambles about fish? If it’s raining, do you think the professor will cancel class?
The day that you don’t ask yourself these questions is the day that you know you made it into the “I found a favorite class/professor” group at UM. I knew I made it last semester when I walked into class and couldn’t stop raving about it. Even though it was only an Introduction to Documentary Photography class, to this day I still talk about it. Our professor always gave us real-life mantras and was honest about our work: it’s not about the grades; it’s about the work we were turning in. The work wasn’t for our professor’s approval. It was for us. Even though being a commuter with morning classes can be difficult, I never enjoyed going to class as much as I did for this class. I finally realized what it meant to really enjoy an hour and fifteen minutes of a class.
Taking this class made me realize what makes an engaging professor: Someone who treats students as adults capable of being responsible and taking ownership for their work. Someone who speaks to us as equals and always shares honest advice about their experience. Someone who leaves a lasting impression about what it really means to love what they do and be able to share that passion with others.
Students are here to learn and, whether they want to admit it or not, enjoy the process of being able to say they intellectually grew in college. Falling asleep during a lecture isn’t always the student’s fault – sometimes the topic really just isn’t interesting. But a professor standing in front of the class throwing information at a group of dozing students rather than really engaging with them doesn’t help the situation.
So here’s my advice: actually connect with your students through engaging discussions, thought provoking questions and honest, thorough critiques. A solid majority of us are interested learners who are sponges ready to absorb the useful information that I’m sure you’re also willing to give to us. If you don’t believe me, try it.