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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Patience: What Makes A Good Professor?


Utah is full of great schools. One of the reasons I chose to attend the University of Utah, specifically, was because in my high school it had a reputation for having great professors. That reputation spoke to me because as a student I know that professors and teachers in general have a strong influence on students — more than they probably realize. In fact, a student passionate about a subject could even give up on that subject if their professor ruins it for them. I’ve known people who have done this, and it’s tragic to see potential passions and talents get set aside. So, what makes for a great professor? What keeps students encouraged and excited about academics?

First, a great professor actually enjoys teaching, as well as the subject they teach. It’s always disheartening to hear a professor trash talk their own subject, or ignore their subject altogether while they go on tangents. But when a professor is focused and you see their eyes light up when they give a lesson, it makes you excited and motivated to go to class and learn about what makes them so fulfilled.

Second, a great professor provides helpful feedback. Did you do poorly on an essay? A good professor should tell you what you did wrong and how to improve in the future. A good professor won’t just write in the corner, “Good start, but needs work.” This strategy may seem obvious because, after all, the point of having a professor is to help you improve.

Third, effective professors encourage students to follow their dreams and definitely don’t crush their students’ aspirations. For example, if a mathematics student doesn’t know how to solve a quadratic equation, a good professor won’t tell them to quit. They’ll be patient and teach the student how to solve the problem.

Fourth, successful professors will actively email and communicate with their students. It’s difficult to have the courage to go to a professor with questions if they haven’t made it clear that they want to help and are open to putting in extra time to do that. Opening the lines of communication between professors and students makes it both easier for students to learn and professors to teach.

Fifth, a good professor doesn’t ban food from their class. If they want to ban cell phones, then fine. Those are distracting. If they want to force us to buy expensive hard copies of books, okay. But banning food will make most, if not all, of a professor’s students dislike them. So many of us rush to class in the morning without eating breakfast and run from class to class without time for eating. In my mind any professor who understands this and allows food earns respect before they’ve taught a word of their subject. Having food isn’t really distracting, and it’s probably more distracting to sit in class daydreaming about eating it.

Sixth, a great professor will make you feel stupid. They won’t do it on purpose, but throughout their lessons they will tell you things that you didn’t already know. And the way that they say it will make it sound so simple that you’ll feel stupid for not already knowing it — that’s just how good at teaching they are. The professor won’t make fun of you for not knowing the material beforehand, or praise themselves for being smarter than you.

Good professors can make or break a class experience. Sometime they can even influence the college experience entirely. We can’t always help having some bad ones who don’t care, are unclear or don’t really understand how to teach. But we can make the most of the good ones we get and use them to maximize our educational experiences.

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Comments (2)

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  • N

    November WrightJun 11, 2020 at 2:46 pm

    I’m a professor, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    Banning food:
    – I have taught in lecture halls where litter populates every row of seats because students who attended class before mine did not clean up after themselves
    – I have had students sit down on seats that were filthy because a student spilled a drink and didn’t clean up after themeself
    – I have heard of come lecture halls having bugs because of the filth of crumbs and sticky stains
    – janitors clean nightly, yet not during the day
    – a student is expected to respect their institution and clean up after themselves
    – food can, should and is generally “banned,” from studio courses, you cannot eat in an art class – it would be horrifying for a student to work all night on a project to set it down and learn the table, stool or desk was dirty with food residue

    I allow students to eat in lecture halls, but if after class I see food wrappers, I give a warning that this privilege will be revoked. A second warning is given. Food banned if I see food debris and trash after the 3rd time.

    Cell phones: I don’t ban cell phones, but I do request/ban their use in class. There is NO need for it. And, if one must take a call, it is expected a student is responsible and steps outside. Do not answer a call while a professor is teaching. It is very rude.

    I would as that all students have a high expectation for themselves as students as you all never consider: STUDENTS CAN MAKE OR BREAK A PROFESSOR’S EXPERIENCE. I know of some really amazing professors who have quit teaching all together because of student impatience, student rudeness, student entitlement, student excuses, student’s not taking responsibility and students being racist.

    It is important that professors see students as human beings and students see their professors as human beings with feelings as well.

  • R

    Realistic GuyJan 31, 2018 at 8:17 am

    Banning cell phones is kind of ridiculous. Same with banning lap tops. Ridiculous.