DONOHUE: Teachers: break your habits

Caity Donohue

When it comes to education, there is really nothing like a great teacher.

Whether it is the first person to tell you that you are something more than just mediocre, the first teacher to turn the light on and help you understand, the first person to talk “to” you instead of “at” you or the teacher you can’t stand at the time but later come to value, there is no comparison between this league of teachers and the rest.

Being the experts on education that we are as college students, we know the sad truth: these teachers are few and far between. 

Across the nation, most students go through syllabus week with their fingers crossed, hoping for at least normal, reasonable professors. 

The truth is, if there were any way to assess this kind of quality, in all likelihood the largest population would be average professors. In addition, I would estimate that the percentage of good teachers — not great — outweighs the truly bad.  

Great, however, can often be a rarity. From the time I was seven years old and absolutely positive then that my second grade teacher was out to ruin my life, my parents have told me that teachers want to help.

“They certainly did not go into that business for the money. They want to enlighten young minds,” they would often repeat to my siblings and me. 

But their message was clear; there is no such thing as a bad teacher.   

I can hear the chorus of complaints rising across campus now. Don’t worry, I agree with you — the bad teacher does exist. As an education major, I hear the refrain of “There is no reason to be a bad teacher,” approximately once or twice in each new education class I take. 

What I have found from students across the board is that idiosyncrasies have the power to make or break a professor. 

Let me give some examples: as a professor, if you have an organizational complex, a spotless office and a clear, set-in-stone syllabus, as students, we like you. No surprises, no confusion over when you might collect that assignment or when we can come by your office with questions. 

If you happen to be like a certain high school teacher I had who required all essays to be stapled a quarter of an inch from the top and the left side of the page, well, then we’re concerned that you may very well be nuts. 

The differences between the good and the bad seem so much more pronounced now because of our years of experience and the fact that we are older now. 

I like to say that we are all that much closer to being a little more rigid, a little more set in our ways, but really I’m only half-kidding. 

In a past semester, I had a professor who required that no students leave the room during the 50-minute period. 

Anyone who knows me even a little has come across my annoying but completely involuntary (and generally infrequent) problem of sneezing. All that blessing, and apologizing and eyes watering — so distracting, I’m sure. 

Trust me, it is a colossal pain, but never more so than when I’m in a situation where I can’t excuse myself to go get my uncontrollable sneezes out of my system. 

I know this sounds silly, but the “you-shall-not-pass” mentality of this professor drove me practically insane because I so resented the flashback to the seventh grade bathroom pass era. 

What it comes down to really is one simple plea from the student body.

Professors, we try hard to repress our pen-clicking, our finger-tapping, our slouching, our lateness, our naturally messy behavior by way of “fresh-off-the-presses at the library” pristine papers and any another irritating habits we have — and we recognize that we have a lot — at your request.  

We thank our fabulous teachers over the years, and only ask that if you are in the small percentage that does not want to be fabulous, please just be reasonable.