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Three Things I’ve Learned About College Professors

June 05, 2007

One thing that has surprised me the most about going back to school as an older student is how my view of professors has changed. Though I had a good rapport with several of my instructors in my early college days, the majority of my professors seemed omniscient and invincible fixtures of the establishment. Granted, this was at a large four-year institution with substantial class sizes. But now that I am in a smaller, more personal community college setting, I see my professors more as peers – the only difference being they are peers that have more years of formalized schooling than I do. I see them as hard working professionals who like me, lead busy, overloaded lives. I can identify with their struggle to balance family life and outside commitments with the particular challenges of their teaching careers and have a greater appreciation for their commitment to higher education and a newfound admiration for their dedication to their students.

Here are a couple of other things I’ve learned about professors:

1. Professors are generally more accommodating than they appear.
When I first found out a Publishing Your Writing class would be held on campus, I really wanted to sign up for the class but was uncertain whether or not I would be able to work out child-care arrangements. I e-mailed the professor before the class started and told her of my interest in taking the class. Being a mother of two young boys herself, she understood my dilemma and offered me the flexibility to do some of the course work at home if I needed to. I wasn’t expecting such generosity, but I’ve discovered most professors will work with you if you have extenuating circumstances. Communication is key, however. Fortunately, e-mail makes it easier than ever to keep in touch with your professor if you run into unforeseen problems.

2. Professors are people, too.
When I discovered my professor had two young boys the same ages as mine, we made an instant connection. Throughout the semester, we swapped parenting stories and proudly shared pictures of our beloved offspring. This experience only deepened my respect for my professor because I could understand her particular challenges of trying to balance her workload with parenting her young children. I noticed with compassion that many of her e-mails were sent in the wee small hours of the morning, probably because she was up with one of her boys or trying to find time to get some work done while they were asleep. Take the time to get to know your professors on a personal level. Find common ground by swapping family stories or find out what other interests they have outside of teaching.

3. Professors notice hard working students.
One day when I was on campus, I had the opportunity to meet the online professor for my English Composition class. Once she connected my name to my course work, she began raving about the quality of my assignments. As the head of the English Department at Arapahoe Community College, getting to know this professor proved to be a valuable asset as she later wrote a recommendation letter for me, notified me of a potential scholarship opportunity, and advised me on which English course to take next. I’m realizing that if you make the effort to stand out, professors are more than willing to make sure their stellar students succeed.


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