Sunday, December 14, 2014

6 things professors wish they could tell their students, but never do. From USA Today's Voices From Campus.


For starters, some students avoid speaking to or even making eye contact with the professor they’re seeking help from. Many students never stop to chat after class or come by during office hours to talk. They don’t take me up on offers to grab lunch and talk about careers, networking and the like.
And when students do interact with me, they don’t ask enough questions – let alone the “right” questions. If they did, it would allow me to be completely honest and helpful. Students who are serious about achieving success in the workplace should frequently ask for feedback on style, manners, demeanor, leadership qualities, work habits, speaking abilities, networking – you get the idea.
Many students go out of their way to avoid dealing with their professors. But it’s useless to expect a professor to give valuable advice to an almost-complete stranger.


  1. I say this to my students all the time. "Please email me drafts. Please come see me during office hours. Please ask questions. LET ME HELP YOU." Saying it doesn't seem to help any more than not saying it, unfortunately.

  2. And as a corollary to that: the students who would most benefit from such help are the least likely to take you up on your offer.

  3. When I was an undergrad, I didn't hesitate to contact my profs if I had questions. After all, it's the squeaking wheel that gets the grease, right?

    However, while I was teaching, that wasn't the case. Usually, the only time any of my students wanted to talk with me was to whine about their marks and try and weasel more out of me unless.

    There were also those who were scared that they were close to failing and were hoping I'd pour enough knowledge into their heads to pass the final exam and, possibly, the course. After that, they'd pull the drain plugs on their brains and let all that information pour out as they believed they didn't need it any more.

    Of course, I got blamed for that by my superiors.

  4. I can conceive of nothing that would have led me to go to my prof for help when I was in school. That's what class was. That's what office hours were for. You did that or you took your lumps. I wasn't a great student, and maybe things would have been different. But the squeaky wheel is the last thing I ever wanted to be. I'd rather take the bad grade and work harder than mewl around as so many of these types of students do.

  5. Amen. Sadly, students have a tendency to disappear when they're having difficulty. I mention that on the syllabus, and urge them to get in touch, and I'm really quite generous about extensions and revision opportunities when they do, and even extend such offers via email when I see someone trying to complete assignments, but having problems, but there are always a few who simply disappear -- well, they disappear until I record the F in the registration system, and then they suddenly feel a need to talk to me, urgently. It's also possible to rouse some of them by posting failing interim/assignment grades on the LMS, but I really wish there were another way to get their attention.

    1. And I wish even more that they'd get in touch, and let *me* know that they're having trouble, because, frankly, with c. 100 students, I don't always notice as soon as would be ideal.

  6. In one of the programs at my joint, which is let's just say a preprofessional program in applied theory of hamstermobilery, we track down the failing students once, maybe twice, and call them in to meet with a panel of faculty. On one hand, it's a bit of hand-holding that should be unnecessary; on the other hand, there's a lot of student debt on the line, and it doesn't seem right to just let them bomb out and then have no way to pay back the loan by virtue of being closed out of the lucrative job that would have enabled it. On the third hand, we do try to make clear that in addition to getting their fanny perpendicular to the wrench and putting in the right kind of effort, tracking their performance and seeking help when they need it will be their job from here on out. We tell them that in their future careers, their underperforming could result in their clients' deaths, hence they must become competent in identifying when they're in over their heads and calling for appropriate consults, effective immediately.

    I think it's possible for many kids to make it through high school without ever having to identify, or manage the clean-up of, their own messes. They've been helicoptered to the extent that all ever they had to do was show up at the place and time they were told, and extra help was ladled in. Consultants were hired to manage their college applications, after which dear Spraugleigh arrives at Third Base U and thinks he hit a triple. Then for a disturbing number of them, this continues through college, and some of them come to my program. They regard their situation as would a caveman regard a turbofan engine, so ungrounded that they can't even ask the right questions.

    Some students have not encountered failure before my program because they had ridden on a combination of innate ability and just enough effort. Like the kids who've been helicoptered, they initially lack tools to get out of the hole, and they may even think that asking for help will be seen as a sign of weakness. With this group, we often have to disabuse them of the notion that they simply have to do more of what worked before. Most of them will accept the logic that since what they've tried hasn't worked, they need a new approach, and so they'll entertain our alternative strategies. And many of them do climb out of the hole.

  7. In case you're interested in the other 5 items in the article, here's a link to it.