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The Blue & Gray Press | August 21, 2019

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Great Professors Elicit Best in Students


I have had experiences with both good and bad professors during my time here at the University of Mary Washington. It is the experiences with the bad professors that make you appreciate the good ones so much more. Good professors are able to gain respect on their own, but what sends their greatness over the top is the bad professors.

There have been times when I have not felt comfortable with a professor. In fact, I had one professor that was unacceptably rude and unwilling to work with students.

At first, I assumed that I did not like this professor because of the subject and the time of the class, considering it was a science class at 8 a.m. However, as the class progressed through the year, I found myself losing all respect for this professor.

The professor would yell when students were tired and had not fully woken up yet. There was a week when I had been so sick I was vomiting the day before an exam. I hoped my sickness would subside in time for the test, but on exam day, 20 minutes before was supposed to take my test, I got sick again. I e-mailed my professor saying I would not be able to make it to the exam because I was sick. Knowing that the professor probably would not read the email in time, I also contacted my lab partner and notified that person of the situation so that they could let the professor know what was going on.

Later that afternoon, I received an email from the professor saying I would not be able to makeup the exam unless I received a note excusing me from class that day from the Health Center. In his email, he also said, “I have no sympathy for you being sick.”

Luckily, I had gone to the Health Center earlier in the day. I stopped by again to ask for a letter excusing me from that class, but the Health Center told me that they do not give out letters, but they made an exception and provided me with a letter stating that I visited the Health Center that day.

The next day, I took the letter from the Health Center to the professor, and he still would not accept the letter after my explaining that the Health Center does not excuse students from class. I was not able to make up the exam and received a 0 percent.

I am currently retaking the same science class with a different professor. Unfortunately, this class is also at 8 am, but this professor is more accommodating to the fact that not all of the students are completely awake in class at 8 a.m. I also feel more comfortable discussing problems and questions with a professor willing to answer them and is trying to make the material understandable for the students.

Carolyn Steigerwald, a junior business major, also retook a class with a different professor. “[I] felt more comfortable with the material when the teacher allowed us to ask questions,” said Steigerwald.

There is a significant difference in a student’s confidence when they have a professor that wants them to do well versus a professor that believes it is not their responsibility to help a student succeed.

When a professor is actively participating with their students, the students are more interested in the material, have a better understanding and participate in the subject more outside of class time.

I have also found that these types of professors are a great help on topics other than class material, such as finding the right major, deciding where to go with your life and searching for possible careers.

A good professor can encourage students to do their best and enjoy what they are doing. A good professor can help students gain confidence that is needed in other classes and throughout life. Whether a student likes a class subject or not, the professor’s attitude toward the class can make the difference between a passing and a failing grade.