You can admit it—professors can be scary.
They stand before you, speaking with a well of knowledge that seems to never end. They assign huge chunks of reading that get in the way of all your weekend plans. And, in the end, they hold the fate of your final grades in their hands.
Who are these “academics” that seem to posses so much power throughout your journey through college?
Well, the good news is that they’re actually not too bad. Despite how intimidating they can be, professors actually just want you to be successful and learn something about the subject matter they’ve spent their lives studying.
So before you start sweating nervously in the back row of your classes this semester, here are a few things to always remember:
1. Your Professors Are People… Just Like You
Yes, your history professor may be able to talk for hours about the impact of the Monroe Doctrine. But they probably also appreciate a greeting and polite conversation.
When you enter the classroom, say hello to your professor. Heck, maybe even try asking about how they’re doing! It gives you a chance to get to know them, and nothing is more awkward than just sitting in a quiet classroom waiting for them to get started.
Also, sit up near the front of the class—it’ll be easier to pay attention to the lecture. Plus, your professor is bound to appreciate people not just cowering in the back of the room, making you a friendly and recognizable face.
2. They’re Capable of Empathy
Your professors were undergraduates once, too, so they understand how crazy of a time it can be.
We’ve all had the horrible experience of walking into a classroom underprepared, or feeling like the paper we’re turning in isn’t as good as we want it to be.
If you’re ever nervous or feeling behind, don’t be afraid to talk to your professor about the situation and ask for help. They know you’re not a robot, and all they ask for is your best effort—so show them that you’re willing to give it your all!
3. They Have Stresses, Too
They may have been undergraduates once, but chances are you’ve never been a professor. So before you start ranting about that bad grade you got on your paper, remember that professors are under enormous pressure just like you.
From administrators, to submission deadlines, to tenure decisions, and everything in between, your professors have a lot on their minds… so go easy on them.
Remember, by putting in your best effort to learn the material, you can make their jobs much easier. The more prepared and positive you can be coming to class every day, the more prepared and positive your professor will be about helping you.
4. Not Every Professor Loves to Teach
It doesn’t seem like it makes sense, but it’s true—not every professor loves teaching. Teaching is just one aspect of their job at the university, in addition to researching and writing about their field of study.
Teaching and lecturing is a requirement they have to meet in order to continue doing what they love. So just like you may not love taking that extra math class to fulfill a university requirement for your English degree, it’s comforting to know your professor may be right there with you.
Now that’s not to say every professor doesn’t love teaching. In fact, most do! Just don’t forget that you’re both chasing the same goal—continuing to grow, learn, and move forward professionally.
So help them out by being a prepared, responsible, and excited learner.
5. They Have Lives Outside of the Classroom
This one is a no-brainer, but it’s also the one we forget the most.
We forget that our professors go places after they finish teaching. They may have families, or hobbies, or passions beyond just their work. You may even see them out and about around campus, having a drink at a bar.
They may also have failures, disappointments, or difficulties outside of class that you’d know nothing about by just listening to them lecture.
All this is simply to say that your professors may have a bad day prior to class that has nothing to do with you. Just like you’d hope they understand that your life may be crazy leading up to a mid-term, take some time to do the same for them.
In the end, never forget that though your professors may seem scary, they’re actually always rooting for you. Nothing makes a professor happier than a student who shows an interest in the material—especially when that student asks for help.
So take a deep breath, walk into that classroom, and have no fear—your professors are rooting for you to succeed.