What students should know about their college professors

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College students have no clue as to many daily routine and non-routine professional and personal challenges a college professor faces as a part of the higher education apparatus. Most, I imagine, think college professors are overpaid, stress free, work short hours, in a job that requires a masters or doctoral degree and perhaps some previous teaching or discipline specific experience(s). Contrary to this popular held belief among college students, being a university professor can be a daunting task for even the most experienced, educated, passionate, organized and caring professor. There are many university-mandated administrative duties, professional and personal activities above and beyond merely teaching their required course load that your professor actively participates in which requires time and significant effort. Examples of these mandated universities activities include, department, college and university committee commitments, grading hundreds of student papers and assignments, formally and informally advising students, offering tutoring services, department meetings, growing your program (recruitment and retaining activities) conducting research, grant writing and many, many others. From this fifth year non-tenured-tenure track professors’ perspective student success in achieving their learning and career goals are always my first priority. During this professors’ tenure, I have witnessed personal and professional student growth year after year freshman to seniors, from within the field occupational safety.  I would not trade this experience and feelings of satisfaction for the world. It is this reason I am personally committed to the profession and work hard required. Students however, need to understand that professors aren’t perfect make unintentional mistakes and are subjected to professional and personal challenges just like everyone else. The following is a list of 5 personal and professional challenges I wish college students knew their college professors endure.

They have oftentimes have multiple competing priorities.

College professors, while seemingly not engaged in productive purposeful work outside the classroom to the untrained eye, are very, very busy people. Higher education is a 50 – 60 hour workweek for most university professors. Normally, professors are members of numerous internal and external boards, commissions, committees etc. oftentimes in leadership positions. This requires professors to spend time planning and growing themselves within their field of expertise to better serve the student and university overall. Professors teach multiple courses and sections online and on campus with numerous assignments to be graded, student questions to answer, facilitators to monitor etc. Contrary to popular student belief, professors are not just hanging out but are busy with the business of personal and professional endeavors.

They have a personal life outside of the classroom.

Believe it or not college professors, are human and have a personal life outside of work. That is, professors are not all just theory, application, and grading research paper and quizzes. Your college professors have families to take care of and are sometimes even caring for their aging parents. College professors are middle school and high school volunteer coaches, referees, judges at sporting events, ushers at church, participate on local school boards in other community activities. That is, they have a passion to serve and become something larger themselves to help create a better community and world. Yeah, they are regular people doing normal activities as well.

They get sick, tired and have bad days just like you do.

It is important for students to realize that like everyone else college professors will suffer illness, fatigue or even have an occasional bad day. Professors are people first and they do their best to attend to every student needs. However, professors fall victim to the annual flu, pink eye, and even more serious diseases like congestive heart failure. Professors try to not permit any illness to interfere with the student learning the key concepts for each course. Professors will sometimes forego medical treatments in efforts to complete their course assignments. In addition to illnesses, professors have bad days. These are days when the everyday stressors of life interfere with their effectiveness and performance. Again, we are people first so we are subjected to the same life challenges as everyone else.

They are not the enemy and most are NOT out to get you.

No. Your professors are not out to get you. No. They do not dislike you or will give you bad grades on purpose because of the dislike. College professors generally treat all students as fairly as possible. Student grades are earned and evaluated using a rubric and have nothing to do with “liking” a student.  No. We are not out to get you.

The care deeply about your success now and in the future.

The most rewarding part of being a college professor is not about enriching oneself, but about building future leaders along a degree or career path.  Professors have a vested interest in student success and take great pride in shaping student thought and advancing ideas. They care about students in the sense of being apart of shaping the future. When professor see their students achieve and grow personally and professionally, it is a job well done.