Working with Professors
By Ashley, age 24, Massachusetts
Sweet Designs Staff Intern
Throughout my university days and even before then I was intimidated - no, make that terrified - of any person who was deemed more powerful than me. It was my own bizarre and personal rule to not bother teachers and administrators with questions or concerns, and I remember scurrying away from the classroom and not so surreptitiously squirming out the door as soon as the bell would ring class to a close. In an ironic twist of fate, I now receive my graduate school funding by working as a Teaching Assistant, a position that pushes me to the front of a classroom on a weekly basis. I have been disillusioned to the fact that engaging your superiors by speaking openly and honestly with them about your academic concerns not only makes your presence memorable, but also allows your instructor to sympathize with any classroom issues you may be having. To steal a catchphrase from late celebrity chef Julia Child and use it perversely, don't be afraid!
During the last semester, the students whom I admittedly preferred were those who were the most attentive during, before, and after our discussions, namely those I did not have to provoke conversation from and those who readily addressed me regarding issues they were having with assignments. Students who possessed more positive attitudes impressed me with their maturity, seriousness, and interest in the subject matter. Increased participation does lead to more lenient grading, as it reveals that the student is concerned about his or her work. Simply speaking can make the difference between a B+ and A- average.
This is not to say that I issued lower grades if students did not participate. As someone who suffers from social anxiety disorder, I understand and empathize with shyness. However, I was less inclined to notice their presence or view them as particularly passionate unless they completed superior written work. Professors want you to interact with them. Who would want to get up in the morning if they thought they would be addressing a cement wall all day? When students send text messages from underneath their desks, whisper or snicker to one another, or avoid eye contact, this behavior is inconsiderate, whether or not you intended for your actions to have negative implications. Imagine yourself in the teacher's position before you take your seat in class again. How would you want to be treated?