Instructing a course takes organization, preparedness, and in-depth knowledge of the subject. Instructing a course effectively takes a love of learning and people.
Most instructors have a love of learning, but how many professors have a genuine love for people? Let’s be real, loving people – any people – is a difficult, nearly impossible endeavor. It takes the complete surrendering of self-interests, time, mental capacities, undivided attention, honesty, and unconditional care. To love as well as you can takes humility and an authentic desire to see other people change for the better, without giving up and without suspending hope.
Some would argue that an instructor does not have to like her students to teach effectively – that she only needs to be able to convey the content in an intriguing fashion, supply thought provoking and mentally challenging assignments, meet the university metrics, and relate the course content to modern employment expectations. What do you say?
Do you really want an instructor who doesn’t care about your personal growth, even though she can convey the core content with poise? Wouldn’t you rather have an instructor who desires to see you, as an individual, change and adapt for the better, while using the core content as a tool in that process? Wouldn’t you want an instructor who truly recognizes your needs, asks you challenging questions related to your own personal experience, knows your face, and knows you by name?
There are many professors who love seeing their students become better people. But how do you determine whether an instructor is teaching simply for work, or teaching for the love of the students? Here are some suggestions for determining whether or not the instructors at your school follow an intrinsic policy to genuinely care for their students:
- Interview as many instructors as you can – especially the instructors who teach the middle and upper level core courses in your program. Get a feel for their interest in student growth and their interest in you as a unique person.
- Ask them how they assess student growth. Do they simply measure a student’s development by a point scale and test results? Ask them if they have enough time to get to know their students on a one-on-one basis.
- Do the instructors at this school help students with career development, do they give career advice, and will they write job recommendations or serve as references?
- Do students at this school stay in contact with instructors after graduation?
- Will the instructors meet with students upon request, to give extra help? Do they make themselves available before and after class, or do they only have one office hour per week to meet with students?
- How do the instructors at this school encourage students to pursue their own curiosities? How do the instructors support student led projects?
- Are the instructors willing to deviate from the university’s recommended lessons to teach what students are hungry to know? Are they surveying their classes to determine student curiosities and thirsts? Or, do the instructors care more about sticking to the university’s recommended lessons, concerned that the administration won’t renew their teaching contract?
- Also, you can interview current students and graduates of the college. Ask them if they valued their instructors, if they felt their instructors cared about their growth, if they've been helped with career development, and if they were mentored by their professors. Find out who the caring instructors are at the college, so you can request them.
Consider the costs associated with college. You cannot afford to be taught by professors who do not have a love for students. Classes should not be seen by the student – or instructor – as hoops to jump through for the sake of earning a degree. Before enrolling at a college, determine if you’ll be paying for adequate instruction, or if you’ll be paying to jump through multiple hoops for a credential or piece of paper. Even if you are not concerned about the financial loss, consider the loss of time and opportunity costs.
Finally, all instructors have bad days. Don’t over expect. Don’t expect an instructor to sacrifice all of his time for you. Be realistic about it, since the instructor probably has a hundred students to manage. Try to determine whether or not the school’s instructors have an overall love for students, and not just a love for the subject matter.