You have — arguably — one of the most influential and important jobs out there. As your students, we see … You are tasked with shaping the college experience for a diverse body of students.
The first thing that students experience when sitting in your class for the first time is your syllabus and introduction. We like hearing a little bit about you before taking your class! Students also appreciate it when you tell us your pronouns, preferred title and how best to contact you (email, Microsoft Teams, an old-fashioned phone call).
We know not all of us use office hours, but if we need help, we will come; be sure to have them published somewhere or tell us when and where they are. We’ve taken classes before that require office hours at least once during the semester and this has been exceptionally helpful to break the ice. We find ourselves going to office hours more often after we do it the first time.
Expectations around ongoing communication and availability are also helpful so we know when we might hear back from an email or how long it might take for an assignment to be graded. If you have strict submission deadlines in your class, you should also enforce personal deadlines for grading. Students should never wait until the latter half of the semester to start receiving grades for exams or papers that were written during the first month of classes — or worse, not receive any grades until finals week.
Conversely, just as you will inevitably fall behind on grading from time to time, we will inevitably submit an occasional assignment late. If a student asks for a reasonable extension that will not disproportionately interfere with your grading process, there’s no reason not to accept their late work. Students are here to learn and doing the work will allow us to grow as learners and students; locked deadlines are a sure way to ensure that students won’t do the work.
When it comes to structuring your class, it can help to be mindful of students’ learning styles by giving them options to learn the material through multiple avenues, such as combining lectures with readings or group discussions with individual projects. And if you provide exam reviews, ensuring that they accurately reflect the content of the exam is the best way to prepare students to show their learning.
The same goes for online classes. If you teach online, please provide multiple ways for students to access the class contents, such as video lectures, PowerPoints and other learning guides. Too many professors simply post the homework on Canvas without providing any additional material. This is frustrating for students who pay thousands to UCCS for you to teach them, not to teach themselves everything.
Especially leading up to exams, students often have questions about content, and your approach to these questions matters. Belittling a student for not knowing something is never warranted or necessary, and if they are asking you a question, trust that it’s because they were not able to find the information elsewhere. Have patience and offer your knowledge or other resources, because when students ask questions, they are expressing their desire to learn.
Also, don’t be afraid to recognize when you make mistakes and communicate the correct information to students. We know you are growing and learning with us. If you don’t have all the answers, that is OK — just follow up when you figure it out so that students benefit and receive the information they’re looking for.
Finally, you have a full life, and so do we. While academics are one of our highest shared priorities, many things get in the way, whether it’s health, family, work or even just making dinner at the end of the day. All we ask for is a mutual understanding and respect for our other commitments.