What Makes A Great Professor?

Well folks, it’s been an amazing summer, but as the bell tolls for August 24 today, the literal and figurative honeymoon is over.

With the advent of the back-to-school season and the signs of life on campus, it has become very real that in, um, three days, I am teaching a college class for the first time. Call me Professor JB! (But actually don’t, because I don’t have a Ph.D. and people are really weird about that “professor” title).

But however you name it, someone has deemed me acceptable to welcome new freshmen into college life and stare into their “when will it end?” eyes every Tuesday morning for an hour. This will be one of my biggest professional challenges in my career and I want to do it right.

I’m not striving to be the coolest teacher in the building. Or the most inspiring one who gets mentioned as changing their lives when these students win their Nobel prizes or whatever grand award that business people get (ohmygosh, how am I teaching a business class??).

Basically, I don’t need to be the Dumbledore of the university. Though that would be awesome. Especially if I was a wizard and had wizardry. And a pensieve so I could go back in time. And do business teachers read Harry Potter?! THIS IS WHY I GET CONCERNED!

But anyway, I do want to provide value to my students through this one-hour class. I want to challenge them to work with their peers, contribute to a class discussion and connect with the personal goals they want to achieve while in school and beyond… you know, all those college-y things. While doing this, I want the students to walk away from this class feeling like they have built a strong (or at least middleweight) foundation for their business education and their college success. My biggest fear is that their evaluations at the end of the semester will read: “The instructor was nice and tried hard, but I didn’t really learn anything.”

Honestly, that one line of text that has yet to be written by anyone keeps me up at night!

So here is where I need your help friends and readers! Besides knowing the course material (which I figure I still have a whole weekend to learn, right?), what made your favorite college professor so powerful? What did they do to make an impact on you in class? Any tips are so appreciated!

If you’re a student, teacher, parent, or just have to start driving through school zones again, happy back to school!

UPDATE: I asked my friend’s 11-year-old nephew today what he believes makes a great teacher and this was his response: They are nice, patient, and don’t just call on the people who always raise their hands, but get the whole class involved. I thought it was so sweet and insightful, so I wanted to share. I appreciate everyone’s feedback!

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18 responses to “What Makes A Great Professor?

  1. My favorite teachers from grade school through college all had one thing in common: They were passionate about the subject. They all clearly really liked what they were doing, and it made me like it even more.

    • Thanks Kimmy! I totally hear you and agree — passion can go a long way. I think about teachers who spoke with such energy and passion in classes and I maybe can’t remember every lecture now, but I remember that. It’s good for me to think about now! Thanks!

      • I think you will have plenty of that. You’re one of the most enthusiastic people I’ve ever met. It makes you fun to be around. You’re even enthusiastic about the things you hate (frogs!). I’m sure you’ll bring that to the classroom. :)

      • Aw, thank you! That’s so sweet and reassuring to hear! Speaking of frogs, I had a dream/nightmare the other night that they were raining on me like that scene in Magnolia. It was frightening!

  2. Enthusiasm! All of my favorite teachers had it. And most of them were also sincere and kind, too. All around good people. Like you!

    • Thank you Shary! I appreciate your comment and it is reassuring to hear. My colleague told me that the biggest thing students want is a role model and like you said, the energy and sincerity of a teacher can go a long way no matter what it is they are teaching! Thanks again!

  3. I really enjoyed reading this latest post!… The most memorable thing any professor/teacher ever did for me in class was expressing that they believed that I, as a student, had just as much to offer to the class as he/she did as an educator. With that, mutual respect was established and the classroom became a safe place to truly express thoughts and ideas. I think once students know their minds have just as much value as the person’s leading the class, they are more willing to be participants in their own education.

    • Hi Maggie! Thanks so much for reading and for your insightful comment. I think you are so right and I want to make sure I tell/convey to my students how much I value their thoughts and contributions to the class. My class is really designed to be interactive and discussion-oriented, and I need to work hard to promote that safe space. I’m making notes about it now. So thank you!

  4. Caryn! That is so exciting you get to teach a course! I would love to know more about it. I’ll give you a call! And you’ll be great. You are so easy to be with, and I know you’re students will really respond to you.

    • As thank you Corinda! That is very kind and I hope my students will feel the same way! I hope you are doing great and would love to catch up and tell you about the class and hear what’s new with you. Thanks so much for reading!

  5. Hey soul sister! I am so excited for you. This is an amazing opportunity and something I know you will rock. I agree with all of the comments above. One thing I really enjoyed about one of my professor’s in college was their open door policy. I got to have one-on-one meetings with them (granted it was for a paper), but I had their individual focus and concern and got to know them beyond the lecture in class point. I know your door is always open, but perhaps it’s something to reiterate to these students!

    • Thanks so much Rach! I totally agree and while I like to think I have a very open-door policy, I need to make sure I let the students know this so I will definitely need to reiterate it Tuesday morning! On a similar note, I now have “office hours.” Hehe. Thanks for reading!

  6. Caryn, methinks you are going to make a wonderful teacher/professor! To me, what makes for a great professor is a good sense of humor, compassion, and the ability to really listen to students. Good organizational skills earn bonus points! Congratulations, lady! May this be the start of a wonderful year! :)

    • Hi Bella, thanks so much! I had my first day of class yesterday and I think it went okay. There were some blank stares, but they responded to when asked, so I guess I’ll take that. It is a 9 a.m. class after all, which to the students it may as well be 6 a.m.! Thanks for your tips, I do think it will be a great year. I hope you are settling in back at home!

  7. Hey there, I have an award for you over at my place Blogger of The Year 2012 Award here’s the link→ http://nackynice.wordpress.com/2012/11/27/its-your-time-to-shine-blog-of-the-year-2012-award/ Congratulations!

  8. when will it end?” eyes !!!! The DUMBLEDOR OF THE SCHOOL LOL OMG I was ROLLING!!! My husband is finishing his PHD and will be teaching soon. I think he needs to read this blog to get the REAL DEAL!!! the 11 year old is right… getting the whole class involved is the BEST! terrific blog I am SO excited to follow!!!

    • Hi Jasmine! Thanks so much for checking out the blog and for your comment. I just wrapped up my semester and hoping to get back into blogging so I can share what I actually learned from my first teaching experience — I think I learned more than the students! Congrats to your husband on finishing his PhD. I look forward to checking out your blog! Thanks again.

      • OH thanks!!!! I like knowing a teacher I can ask you to grade me!!! For some reason I think this grading thing has ruined generations of people. We don’t see success in little things as a society. If we DON’T win a prestigious award or noticed by Bryant Gumbal it’s not successful… GRADES WE NEED GRADES… maybe we could have LIFE teachers… you could set up a website and people could tell you how they are doing and what life goals they have achieved and you could grade them??

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