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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Professors should be given a syllabus too

By now, you have read the syllabi for all of your classes, gone over your professors’ expectations and the consequences of failing to meet those expectations. But you have not considered the standards by which you can hold your instructors accountable.

Learning is a trade-off. Professors should expect their students to arrive prepared and eager to learn. But you, as a student, should also expect your professors to arrive eager to teach. The miserably warm walk to class, the wandering around the Harvill building in search of the most elusive classroom ever, the all-nighters you pull — every crap thing you do for class should feel worth it when your instructor begins to speak.

If it doesn’t, your instructors are failing you.

The best teachers talk about their subjects with a reverence generally reserved for religious experiences. It’s as if they believe what they’re teaching will actually make a difference. As if you will go home and you won’t forget everything they said. And you won’t, if they really do have that much faith in their work.

The worst teachers drone on because they have to. You’re a set of ears to them, not a student. They don’t want to be there, and you don’t want to be there either.

To be fair, professors see so many faces that you do need to put in some effort. If you never tell them your name, they won’t learn it. But a good professor will ask you what your name is.

The best thing an educator can do is show that they give a damn. They won’t just stand there and use the same notes they used eight semesters ago. They won’t just lecture for an hour straight. They won’t assign an essay and expect their lecture regurgitated in essay form. No one gains anything from that.

A good professor will challenge you to think beyond the bulleted points in a PowerPoint presentation. They will ask you questions during class and force you to examine everything you’ve learned when they ask you to write a paper. When they return an essay, there will be more than a letter at the top and a vague comment about sentence structure at the bottom.

They should want you to be as excited about their subject as they are, to be critical and analytical, to think on your own.

Forget rankings and end-of-semester course evaluations. Those things are important, but nowhere near thoughtful enough. Narrow it down to an individual basis: you and the professor. Is your professor enthusiastic? Engaging? Commanding? Does he or she make you want to know more? Is he or she prepared to not only answer your questions, but help you answer them on your own?

If not, your instructors are failing you.

Maybe it’s a little idealistic to suggest that you be excited to wake up for an 8 a.m. chemistry lab. But once you get there, you should want to be there.

And if you don’t, is it because you genuinely do not feel like you are connecting with your professor? Drop the class or switch to a section taught by another instructor. You don’t want to be there, and you don’t need to be.

But, more productively, try being a better student first. Ask questions during class. Introduce yourself when you raise your hand, even if they don’t ask what your name is. Do more than just echo your notes when you write your papers. If it affects your score negatively, ask why. Incite discussion. If they won’t do it, you should try to.

An instructor-student relationship goes both ways. In the same way that they expect the best from you, you should expect the best from them. But sometimes you have to ask for it.

— Kristina Bui is a sophomore majoring in journalism and political science. She can be reached at

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