Many of us probably remember a lecture hall packed with hundreds of students freshman year for a general education requirement with the stereotypical professor who taught directly from the textbook. If not, you’re lucky and you did not miss out on much. If you do, you’re not alone.
Even after freshman year, it’s common for college students to have several professors of this sort. I have heard friends say too many times, “My professor doesn’t even take attendance and the class is a waste of time, so I don’t even go.” College tuition is not cheap, so it’s unfortunate to be paying for higher education while taking courses that lead to this mentality.
When I tell others that I would eventually like to teach in the field of higher education, many doubt that I would be able to have a fulfilling and engaging experience because they likely think of the stereotypical college lecturer. I am sometimes told that it would not be as rewarding since it is more difficult to see students’ progress.
However, professors should show more empathy to their students and let them know they care.
As an education minor, the education courses I have taken at Binghamton University helped me realize that it is possible to be present as a mentor for students not only in kindergarten through 12th grade, but on the college level as well.
Most notably, professors like David Archer, who teaches in the department of teaching, learning and educational leadership, emphasize the importance of teachers showing empathy toward their students. At the same time, it is clear to me that he also genuinely cares about my well-being. After being a high school teacher for many years, he uses his same caring personality while teaching at BU.
Similarly, my English and creative writing courses at BU were all taught by professors who made close connections with their students and provided as much of a personalized experience as possible. They also were concerned about their students’ improvement.
Admittedly, it is likely much easier to give college students a more individualized experience in smaller classes, as the majority of English, creative writing and education courses are.
However, professors in a larger lecture should try their best to let students know that along with the teaching assistants, they are also there for them as guides or mentors whenever possible. Of course, professors post their office hours, but students would benefit if professors made it clear that students shouldn’t be intimidated by the large class size.
Professors should be more open to working around their busy schedules to coordinate appointments with students.
Even in a large lecture hall, being flexible and having a more hands-on approach also helps. According to American Public Media, Eric Mazur, a professor of physics at Harvard University, had little success in the classroom when he lectured, taught from the textbook and passively asked, “Any questions?”
But when he told the class to discuss the answer to a question with one another, it inspired discussion. The students likely felt more comfortable and trusted by the professor in this classroom environment. They felt more like equals rather than just students who are lectured to.
Being a student at a university does not mean teachers should no longer be there for you as mentors. I can guarantee that if I go into higher education, I will be open, personable and empathetic with my students.
Brad Calendrillo is a junior majoring in English.