Your Kid has Graduated High School! Now What? Part VII: Find that One Professor that is Eager to Help
College can be a scary thing. It can also be a happy thing. College in and of itself is like a roller coaster. You've met the criteria to get on the ride, but are seemingly unaware that there are ups, downs, cork-screws, flips, twists, and dives during your enrollment that can make you laugh, cry, scream, and let's be honest, heave your $4.00 lunch! But, there is something to be said about finding an instructor or professor who is not there for the money, the title, or the notoriety of having "grading power"... Yes, there are some who are truly there to increase YOUR wealth of knowledge. Those who will go to bat for you when you have suffered an injustice, and those who will listen to your rant when you need some moral support.
But how do you find them?
I'll tell you, it was a mystery to me for the longest. Granted, I had some excellent instructors during my undergraduate career at community college. They were kind, caring, and very considerate. One made such an impression on me, that I named my youngest after her. But, it wasn't until I had picked a major that I was able to really begin getting to know my professors. It wasn't until Grad school that I was able to communicate with them at a level that I felt was reciprocative of their time.
Being able to communicate effectively with them made a huge difference in the remainder of my college career. This happened not long after I chose to complete a thesis rather than taking comprehensive exams. I love writing and find that I learn more when I am left to research a topic, rather than being quizzed over what I have studied over the years. At the beginning of each semester, professors would ask what my topic was and it felt good to tell them. Little did I know, writing a thesis would take more time than expected, and would be more demanding than any exam I could fathom.
Still, I had an excellent advisor who encouraged me to think outside the box, and I knew having him in my corner would allow me to excel. He gave me room to make choices, and then guided me through the process to the best of his ability... Three times. Not because I failed, but because the topics I chose to study and research did. And just as life happens to students, it also happens to professors. Losing the ability to meet regularly over thesis matters left me feeling alone. But, having these down moments gave me an opportunity to speak with other faculty for ideas. I also got to know several of my professors through a graduate assistant position. Working with a select number of professors allowed me to learn more about them, their research topics and publications, and ultimately, allowed me to gain an immense amount of knowledge from that position.
This is where the real eager instructors came to the forefront. Those who kept us up-to-date on department matters and that also inquired input from the student body. Sitting in class, the instructor would do a little "house-keeping". That is, reminding us of campus deadlines, ask the students questions about what was happening at our level, and then they did the unthinkable! *Gasp*
One or two actually listened to us.
Not just the usual "oh really?", but an actual moment of listening and reflection, in which they offered what they knew about the issue(s), ways we could work to get through the issue(s), and of course, they held a genuine concern for the issue(s) we were experiencing.
Now, I could go way out into left-field and tell you about a hard lesson I learned regarding speaking up in an open forum, but I feel you aren't ready for that one just yet. Because try as I might, I'm still trying to figure out exactly what I did wrong, and how I could have done it differently that would have perhaps resulted in a different, but more pleasant response from the faculty and student body. So, I'll continue to ponder. But the end of the event was this: Some professors supported my side, while a few others (and students) were not as supportive. Does that mean I did something wrong?
It simply means I was on the rollercoaster of college and still learning, even in graduate school, of how to effectively communicate.
But how do you find the eager professors? For starters, you talk. You communicate. You share what your experiences are and you find that one professor who listens. That one professor who doesn't blow you off as just a 'time suck', or a 'constant complainer'. That one professor who values you as a student and knows that even though times may be different from when they were in college, that life happens at a speed not registered on a radar gun, and that sometimes, bad semesters happen. Trust me, they are out there. And as you meet with your instructors and professors, you will begin to find the ones that are eager to help. Before you do, there are a few tidbits of info you should know when approaching your instructor or professor:
1. Do not complain about a bad grade. The professor will grade your work according to their standards and your submission. If you aren't making the grades you want, consider whether you are:
2. Do email the instructor for an appointment if you are having personal issues that are affecting your classroom performance, and then:
3. Do not talk negatively about other students/faculty. This may give the instructor the notion that you are two-faced and just as likely to talk negatively about them to other students/faculty. (Small caveat here: After you have established a strong rapport, you might let your guard down and can joke about department issues and such, but you should still maintain a level of respectful decorum... use your people skills and you'll soon know which instructors you can joke around with).
4. When an instructor offers advice, TAKE IT! The majority of them are where they are because someone wiser gave them advice. They are passing what they know to you. Consider it a Christmas present, gift-wrap not included!
5. If you have that one instructor who seems to flake out on you and not offer advice, feedback, or attention to a matter, do not stop. Find another instructor or professor that will listen. However, if the instructor or professor has done all they can to help you, and you are still struggling, you might want to contact your advisor for additional assistance. In the off-chance that your advisor is the one flaking out on you, seek counsel from another advisor, or from an advising department.
6. Do not take things personally. This was a hard one for me. Not only am I a strong-willed female, but I am also a scorpio who wears her emotions on her sleeve. The slightest tinge of conflict can send me into a whirlwind of emotions and likely end in me crying, feeling guilty over something (I didn't even do), and replaying the scenario in my mind "one hundered and thirty-seventeen times". No, there isn't an error in that numerology! Part of college life is to make you grow - not just educationally, but mentally and emotionally. Learn from your mistakes and take feedback in a constructive way. However, if an instructor/professor/student is being disrespectful, stand up for yourself - even through the tears, but do it respectfully!
7. Lastly, have a friend or family member in your corner. Someone who has been where you are now and that can offer sage advice in your down times. This is likely the same person who is cheering you on while you're on top of those hills!
Not all doctors have a good bedside manner. Not all customer service representatives have people skills. Not all professors are approachable. But, do not lump them all in the "bad apple" basket. Find the one that stands out. Build a rapport with them and you'll have a colleague for life! I did and am so thankful for that friendship!
Just don't annoy them too much on Facebook!
Welcome! My name is LaVonda. I am the wife of Rodney, the mom of 5 remarkable kids (well, 2 are adults now), an avid homeschooler, blogger, and sociologist. I am blessed with the ability to spend my time sharing our homeschool and life experiences with you. It is my hope to provide you with motivation, ideas, and some candid stress-relief through my blog - Mom's Scribe! Grab a cup of coffee, sit on down, and make yourself at home!