I had [a boring professor] and fortunately I did not run for the hills [10 Warning Signs of a Bad Professor, usnews.com]. Sure, it took some work to listen, to read the texts, and to study, but I learned. About 10 weeks into a 16-week semester, the professor arrived for class and overheard a number of us talking about gun control and the Second Amendment. The professor proceeded to spend the entire class session telling us about the first and only time he carried a weapon. It was during his escape from communist Bulgaria, and the tale was absolutely fascinating. His narrative has stayed in my memory for all these years.
Comment by Walt Lessun of MI
One of my favorite instructors hasn't taken a single course in how to teach, but it's her enthusiasm for her subject (biology) and her interest in her students' learning that makes her a great instructor. At the same time, several instructors whose courses I've taken have taken teaching courses but would be better off in the another field because they're scatterbrained, can't keep track of students' work, etc. It's not really fair to say that they're shoddy instructors because they're researchers. Some of the items in this list are done to protect the professors, such as the seemingly silly rules in the classroom. That great instructor I pointed out told us from Day 1 not to text in class or we'd get docked a percentage of our grades; she finally announced midsemester that everyone who'd texted in class would have until 5 o'clock that day to tell her why they shouldn't be dropped, and then she would take the drop forms to the business office. There's a reason she did that, and it's not because she's some crotchety old woman who doesn't want the young students to have a good time; it's because class time is class time. It isn't text time, it isn't call-your-best-friend-and-chat-at-the-top-of-your-lungs time; it's time to listen and ask and learn.
Comment by Kristin of NC
These "10 warning signs" read like something out of a "10 warning signs you don't want to date this person" sort of article. Too bad these two very different subjects are treated in the same cheap, glossy fashion. No, no one truly wants a "boring" professor...but who decides what "boring" really is? Is it perhaps that the student himself or herself is bored with life, with college, with even having to get a degree in the first place? I'm considered an animated and involved instructor; however, I know students have been bored in my class. You know what? Tough. I am here to teach and, yes, learn alongside students. I will be no one's entertainer. And those "petty" rules? They absolutely are included in my syllabus, since so many undergraduates today assume it is OK to sit through class staring at their iPhone on their desk, waiting for something much more interesting to come across the wire. It's disrespectful and insulting, and I for one do not tolerate it. Student attitudes being what they are today, they should expect "nit-picky" rules. Indeed, there are plenty of professors who should rethink their vocation and/or be willing to take peer advice on teaching. Good teaching is an art form that requires thought, practice, commitment. However...good learning—on the part of students—is an art form that requires thought, practice, commitment. I wonder if "students" today should, in fact, be renamed "clients." Sounds more appropriate to me, sadly.
Comment by Trish of DC
While I don't have rules regarding "wearing caps during exams" (seriously, who does that?), I do have specific rules regarding attendance and punctuality, use of cellphones/iPods in class (totally banned), and other in-class behaviors that are relevant to creating an environment where learning can occur. I would love to be able to exclude such "petty" rules from my syllabi, but today's students are woefully self-centered and completely ignorant of appropriate classroom behavior. Many of those posting negative comments clearly know nothing about academia. No college or university is "raking in millions" from tuition and fees. Tuition and fees pay a small portion of a college's expenses. The reason they keep escalating is because states continue to cut back on funding for higher education. The money has to come from somewhere, and legislatures are saying that it is going to come from the students. Please address your complaints about tuition to them.
Comment by Clay of IL
I am a returning adult college student about to start my fourth semester. I have so far had both full-time professors (one was a chair) and adjuncts. I would have to say that I have seen both sides of this issue. Recently my college had a full-time professor fired one week before the end of the semester. The official reason was "he never uses the text"; from inside sources we (students) found out that he was one month from qualifying for tenure. One of my all-time favorite teachers (including high school) was an adjunct and the other never used the text. As a matter of fact, he told us all to leave class early, return to the bookstore, and sell them back. I think the biggest problem with adjuncts is a lack of connectivity. They know they won't be around to see how the students progress, they will never teach them another course, and they feel more like baby-sitters than involved educators.
Comment by Sonia of NC