Friday, May 13, 2011

6 Qualities of an Outstanding Professor

Coming to Boston from a private high school in Hong Kong, I had extremely high expectations for the quality of professors at BU. Of course, BU is an ENORMOUS school, so there are bound to be some good professors and not so good ones. 

What I've come to realize is that not all professors understand the art of teaching. They are all outstanding in their subject area, but to teach it to someone else is a completely different story.

Funny this happens during my senior year, but this semester I had a chance to see the best of it and the worst of it at the same time.

Never have I taken more than 10 minutes of my time to fill in "1" bubbles down the entire column (1 = Very poor, 5 = Excellent,) I guess that's a change.

So here's a basic comparison of the two anonymous professors. 

So what went wrong here with professor B? Almost everything to be honest... Not very conventional, but the student (not me of course =]) who collected the class evaluations decided to read a bunch of them out loud, and *surprisingly*, all the bubbles were filled in on the "1" column, and all the written comments were very negative.

Professor A was so loved that at the end of the last class, students voluntarily waited for her to finish packing, lined up at the door to express their gratitude with a huge hug. True story.

Ranting. A lot of ranting I know. 
To clear things up, here are 6 qualities I look for in a good professor.

1. A humble attitude - As a professor, you are hired because of your qualifications. As students, we KNOW you're good at your subject matter. You don't need to remind us every class that you have a Ph.D. Learning is a life time career by the way. Many professor admit to it, they learn from students as much as they learn from them.

2. Be strict, but don't be a robot - It is always hard to maintain a good balance between being too strict or too lenient, but part of the fun of teaching is that the rules are never completely rigid. Students are never the same, and it's important to tailor the class to different groups. Attendance is mandatory, we understand that. But it's hard to us to understand why you take off 10% of our final grade when we were put in a hospital for a week after a brutal car crash.

3. You're busy, but know that we are too - It's absolutely ANNOYING when professor say "I'll have your papers end of this week, or maybe the next or the one after. I have a LOT of things to do you know. You'll get it when you get it." Many students here at BU overload classes AND have 2 internships on top of a part-time job, but we're not allowed to say "you'll get my assignment when you get it" now are we? Why would we do our assignments if you don't do your job?

4. Open mindedness - Most professors are open to new ideas, or a challenge to old ones. Especially in the field of communications, it's important to follow trends and rising theories, (there's an awesome New Media class a BU). Debates are mind provoking, and to in my opinion, best way to learn. It's easier to convince students with arguments than just telling them they're wrong.

"It is not so much what is poured into the student, but what is planted that really counts."

5. It's about listening and quality feedback - Just as media is no longer a one-way street, neither is teaching. We are no longer in an era where we just sit and absorb information, because chances are we can get whatever information you are just feeding us from the Internet or books.

"Teach a child how to think, not what to think." - Sidney Sugarman

6. PASSION - Not just about the subject, but about teaching! As a professor, you basically hold the power to change the world. Your attitudes, values, knowledge and etc. is passed on to the next generation.

There are many reasons why certain people become teachers. Great vacations, get time to work on personal projects such as books, research or even your own company while teaching. Some people just do it because that's the best they got. But whatever reason it was, know that you are preparing the future pillars of the world, shaping and inspiring their thoughts.

"The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires." - William Ward