What Your Professors Expect

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No two professors are the same. While some are sticklers about arriving to class on time and assignment deadlines, others couldn’t seem to care less about punctuality and will gladly hand out assignment extensions upon request. However, when striving for top-notch grades, it’s important to understand what your professors expect of you, and to be aware of what works and what doesn’t in a classroom setting.

Over the years, I’ve learned how to be a stand-up student, even at times when I’m less than enthusiastic about the subject of the class. This is not to say I am a genius or anything; sometimes it pays to simply know proper classroom conduct. The better you act around your professors, the more willing they will be to work with you – even if you are not a whiz in a given course. It all comes down to first knowing what teachers expect, and then working to meet their expectations.

First is the most basic rule of all: no texting in the classroom. Ok, I know I sound a little bit like your mother here, but honestly, the quickest and most sure way to offend your professor is to use your phone while he or she is lecturing. We’re all guilty of it, and I know it may seem like the text you’ve just received will burn a hole in your pocket if you don’t answer it right now, but trust me, it’s not worth losing your teacher’s respect over. If you insist on texting during class, at least try to be subtle about it.

Jason Chan is an assistant professor at the University of Iowa, and he can attest to the annoyance of texting students, saying “[It’s] my biggest pet-peeve." 

Next is the issue of punctuality. It may seem obvious that one should arrive on time to class and turn in assignments by the set deadline. But, obvious or not, there are many students who just can’t make it on time. Being late communicates that you don’t value the course or the material being taught. If there is a situation that makes it hard for you to be on time, such as having classes located on opposite ends of campus, let the teacher know. Then, they can at least take this into consideration should you arrive a few minutes late.

As for handing in assignments on time, use your best judgment on whether or not to request a deadline extension. If the teacher informed your class of the due date months in advance, it’s likely that he or she will say you should have planned ahead better. But, if something comes up that is completely beyond your control, communicate that to your professor — in a respectful manner — and it’s likely that they will be able to accommodate for your situation. And, in the end, know what your professor’s policy is for deadlines; some will be stricter than others.

“When it comes to handing in assignments on time, yes, that's important,” Chan said. “But I have a system set up, such that every day an assignment is late, 10% will be deducted from the score of the assignment. So the students know what will happen if they decide to hand in their assignments late without proper excuses.”

If you want to go the extra mile and make your professor’s job more fun, try actually participating. From my experience, professors do not enjoy lecturing at you for an hour straight; they also want to see that you are listening and engaging with the course material. An added plus? Chan recommends participating as one way to succeed academically.

Mary Rose Cottingham is a senior instructor in the English department at the University of Illinois. She also says that one of the best ways for students to show their concern for academic success is to be alert and participate in class.

“[Students should] cultivate curiosity about the subject, even if one doesn't initially have curiosity about it,” Cottingham said.

Finally, communication is the key to any successful teacher-student relationship. Should you miss a class altogether, explain the situation to your professor. Let them know what happened, and express that you will work to make up whatever you missed as soon as possible. If you show that you care, your instructors will be more willing to help you. 

Edward Abplanalp is a philosophy professor at Illinois Central College, and he says he cannot stand it when students miss class and then ask “Did I miss anything important?” This is a great way to tell your professor you don’t care; of course the professor in charge of the class thinks what happened is “important.” 

Even if you already have the brains to ace tests and speed through assigned readings, these tips for classroom conduct will serve you well as your college career progresses. It’s likely that you will need of letters of recommendation from your professors, and you don’t want to be remembered as the student sneaking into class 10 minutes late, or constantly texting. Treat the classroom setting like you would a job; making a good impression on your teachers will pay off in the long run. 


Sophomore > News-Editorial Journalism > University of Illinois

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