Why the way a professor treats a student matters

By Jared Talbot | gargoyle@flagler.edu

College level classes can be extremely difficult. Of course they aren’t meant to be easy, otherwise everybody would have a degree. Classes can take patience, late nights combined with coffee and energy drinks, stress and a lot of hard work. If it didn’t, then everybody would make the Dean’s List or President’s List every semester. It doesn’t work that way though, and while taking up to five or six classes at a time, students can get overwhelmed.

This happens everywhere at every college and the simple things can make a big difference for students. The type of assignments that are given out, deadlines, explanation on a subject and especially the way a professor treats their students can all play a role. Now this may not be a big deal to every student, but to me it can make a world of a difference. Students, for the most part, don’t ask for much from professors. As long as we are being taught the subject and understand the subject, not too much else matters.

The important thing that some professors seem to forget is that every student is different. Every student has strengths and weaknesses and some may be able to learn something in 30 seconds where for some it may take a week. It’s not the professor’s job to baby us. That is not what we are looking for. Yet, it is their job to teach us. For us to learn from them. That is, after all, why we are paying so much money.

So where is the line? Professors need to understand not every kid is going to get something right away but students can’t expect every professor to give them extra time. The truth is, you are never going to love every professor just the same as you are never going to enjoy every class. Yet a simple thing that some professors often forget is that we are all adults. We are no longer in high school anymore. We are no longer little kids that can get detentions if we “talk back.” 

According to a survey done by CNS News in which 800 students were asked, 49 percent of college students feel intimidated when speaking freely to a professor or talking about their opinions or beliefs that professors may disagree with. This is alarming because no student should have to feel this way. The professor is there to teach just the same as the student is there to learn. Yet a student should be allowed to speak their mind if they feel it will add to the conversation.

The majority of my professors thus far through college have been outstanding but I unfortunately directly relate to this. As a communications major, I aim to be a successful journalist one day. Upon taking one of my classes though, I ran into a professor who consistently ripped apart my pieces. Several students had this issue with this particular professor. Yet many were afraid to speak against this particular professor hoping to explain why they wrote things the way they did. I had the idea of speaking out. I felt like it was O.K. because to me, I was in college and an adult. I felt a professor would respect that.

In this case, I was wrong. Instead I was belittled. I was insulted and told that I would “never be a successful journalist.” That line has been burned into my brain and stuck with me ever since I was told that. It was hard to be honest. It hurt. I value my professor’s word and I respect them but I also pay out of my pocket a lot of my own money to go to college. I was stuck with two choices. Let someone with experience within the field I was hoping to get into affect me, or choose to let the experience make me better. To me, there is a giant difference between giving a serious talk to a student and belittling them.

Moral of the story is that words do matter. Do professors know more about a particular subject than the students? Almost always. Yet we want to learn from you not feel inferior. If we consistently are putting out bad work yet show an effort to get better, help us. Or rather, teach us. That is what we are in college after all isn’t it? To be taught. Not insulted.

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