College x
Image via The Odyssey Online

Not one of which is ‘doesn’t take attendance.’

For students coming into their first year of college, classes are usually much harder than anticipated. Final grades can depend on as little as two exams, academic material contains stronger depth and complexity and expectations are raised to a higher standard. The demanding course loads push students to their greatest intellectual potentials, so much so that undergrads can’t help but feel overwhelmed by stress.

In the midst of such pressure, it is more important than ever for colleges to have good professors. Undergraduate and graduate programs are designed to prepare students for a successful future, and these mentors are essential to that process. Although the definition of a good teacher may vary, professors are supposed to build up their students and inspire a passion for the material they teach. Each person that leaves their classroom should be pushed to his or her highest potential.

Teachers are expected to prepare students for the future while simultaneously igniting their love for learning, and while it may be difficult to determine whether or not they are accomplishing this task, there are a few indicators that a professor is doing their job well. Below are some qualities that allow a teacher to challenge, strengthen and inspire their students.

They’re Knowledgeable About Their Subject Matter

Although knowledge is a basic requirement for teachers, it’s one of the most significant characteristics. In order for you to learn, your mentor must know more than just textbook definitions of important terms. Lectures should be engaging rather than a list of facts and rants, and your professor should demonstrate a vast understanding of the material that goes beyond the syllabus topics.

In order to be a professor, one must have a bachelor’s and master’s degree, while many schools additionally require a doctoral degree. While their impressive degrees can suggest that professors have reached their maximum learning capacities, a good mentor constantly seeks knowledge. Many teachers have researched or published books within their field, showing that they are still continuing their intellectual pursuits.

It’s easy to accept what a speaker says as the absolute truth, but perhaps the person may not be thoroughly educated on a topic. Your professor should be gaining information beyond the course material and constantly wishing to improve their understanding of their field. They should also strive to improve their craft in teaching, perhaps by pursuing a master of education so as to be a better educator. If they have a large base of knowledge, then you are learning from a credible source and are thus strengthening your own intellectual potential.

They Are Passionate and Not Afraid to Show It

A good professor loves what he or she is teaching. Many college students don’t look forward to taking advanced math or chemistry, and it is up to the teacher to inspire a love for learning. Although energizing a classroom is difficult, it can be done with perseverance and passion. One student, a writer for the “Odyssey,” even wrote a letter to professors who are passionate about their classes, showing that people really do appreciate when teachers love the subject they’re teaching.

Image via MSUToday

One of the easiest ways to identify a passionate teacher is if they smile. If an instructor loves to teach about a certain topic, then it will be clear that he or she is happy in the classroom. In addition, a passionate professor tends to lecture longer than the given time, usually talking after class ends, even though students usually fidget in their seats and sigh out of impatience, though the professor might not even notice because they’re so engulfed in the material they’re teaching.

Everyone is passionate about something, no matter how weird or boring that topic may be to others. Even if the class isn’t interesting to you, that doesn’t mean that the teacher is bad; sometimes, the material just doesn’t click with people. However, a good teacher has enough passion to make you respect the subject and learn it for their sake rather than your own.

They Make You Feel Like You’re Not Alone

It’s easy to feel stressed when you’re juggling multiple classes, extracurricular activities and a social life. It’s even more overwhelming when your classes are incredibly demanding, but, a good professor will give you help when you reach out for it.

Office hours should be a rewarding time for both you and your teacher, full of informative conversations and meaningful support. In this small amount of one-on-one time with your professor, you are able to develop a mentorship in which you are not just another face in a lecture hall. While your questions should be answered during these meetings, you will most importantly establish a strong foundation of trust between you and your instructor.

A good professor should make you feel like you’re not alone. People become teachers in order to make a difference in others’ lives, and you are an opportunity for them to do just that. Although attending a large university may make it scary to approach your instructor, they are there to help you. Their job is to prepare you for the future and help you discover what your own passions are in life; if you contact them for support, then they have the opportunity to share their wisdom and encourage you to pursue what you love in life.

Not every teacher is perfect, but there are many that deserve more credit than they get. With their countless hours of lecturing, grading and supporting, professors help shape the future. If your instructor makes you feel inspired and loved, then perhaps they are in the middle of shaping your future right at this moment.

Being a student is challenging and difficult, but good professors can make the experience easier. Whether it’s demonstrating joy in learning or just being a friendly face in the morning, good mentors can make any day a little bit better. It’s hard to remember that teachers are people too, and all people have inspirations, goals and passions. While you are pursuing your own personal aspirations, your instructors are doing the same. They may be hoping to inspire just one person in their classroom, and perhaps you can be that one.

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Kaitlyn Peterson


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