January 8, 2018 8:37 pm

Norman Eng

I love and hate knowing what students think of me. Don’t you?

You should.

You should love it because it’s the best way to improve your teaching. The more you know how students think, the more you can customize your lectures.

You should hate it because…sometimes you don’t want to hear it.

My popular original post, Professors: I Just Wish You Would…, got instructors talking. Some thought students made valid points and others…not so much.

Here’s how it works: Every term, I ask my undergrads what one thing they wish all professors understood better. And they never disappoint. Some complaints will sound familiar (stop giving us so much work!), but maybe–just MAYBE–it’s because we keep ignoring them.

Welcome to the Spring 2018 edition. Enjoy.

One thing I wish all professors would understand is that when half of the semester comes rolling around we all need a mental break. 

Professors should be aware that we just need that one day off where we can use it to simply relax or catch up with work because as we all have mentioned some of us have multiple classes and work full time that rarely even have time for [ourselves].

As a student, I wished all my professors knew that their class is not the only class we are taking. 

We are taking many other classes in order to graduate on time. On top of that [some of us] are working full time to pay off college. Sometimes it’s hard of us to be up-to-date with all the readings and assignments. We students are human after all, not a machine. We shouldn’t be penalized for every little thing. For instance, lateness, missing homework, etc. Professors should understand this situation, as I believe they would have faced the same situation. It should be okay for a professor to cut students some slack once in a while.

One thing I wish all my professors (especially math professors) [knew] is that not everyone can do certain things as good as you. 

So stop assuming we are as smart as you are (in your top area) and teach us the way you think genius should be taught.

One thing I wish professors better understood is that one assignment or exam should not be more than 30% of your grade.

Not everyone is a good test taker and there is so much that could have been learned by a student but when taking the exam or assignment [their] mind could just go blank.

I honestly wish some teachers knew that students are less interested in the class when they don’t get to know us personally.

I feel if a teacher doesn’t know my name I am not going to be as engaged as I would be in a class oppose to a teacher that does know my name. If there’s not a name to the face of a student, then I know that the teacher is not interested in teaching us in a way that would help us and only teaching us in ways they want to. I feel they’re just slapping a grade to our names based on our papers but not our effort in participating only because they don’t know who we are.  And yes, people are going to say ‘Well, it’s your job to go up to the teacher and make yourself be known,’ but not everyone has the enthusiasm to do so.  Some people are shyer than others.

I would like that professors have a better understanding…that perfection is not everything in the academic field.  

That there is no space for perfection. It is better if they can understand that the effort that students put in is all it matters. As long [as] the students hand stuff in, I believe that grades should be base[d] on effort and not perfection.

I wish all professors understood that most, if not all, students have other responsibilities other than school.

Sometimes I feel like professors forget that students have jobs and families to tend to. We would never hand in late assignments intentionally. We know how much that would affect our grade…because we’ve been so backed up with everything else, it gets out of hand.

I wish that some professors knew that students can’t dedicate all their time and effort on school only or a specific class.

Although we as student are enrolled in the class we also have to dedicate time to work (financial stability), taking care of family business and even preparing for other classes at the same time. Some professors would actually come to class and state how many hours a week students should put in work for that class specifically.

I believe some professors understand the fact that we are all human beings with different responsibilities and aspirations.

To those professors I want them to know those due date extensions and time taken to explain assignments are appreciated and have saved many students from being overwhelmed. During this semester one of the concepts I remembered was that some people have ‘fixed mindsets,’ some have ‘growth [mindsets]’ and some have a little more of either. This is something I would like professors to know about their students and remember that not everyone learns the same and to have an open mind.

Another thing I would like to tell professors is, greet us with a smile.

When professors don’t smile or are mean, it doesn’t make feel comfortable to ask questions or even speak in class. When professors are nice I feel more motivated to attended class. If professors are mean, I tend to dread going to class. 


Personally, I like the comments about giving students a mental break and the last one about greeting students with a smile. So simple; yet incorporating these ideas can make a world of difference. Which ones grabbed you?

  • Very timely post! Part of me love how candid students are but part of me wonders if they are any more busy than we were back in the days. Will keep these in mind! Keep these coming.

    • I’m not sure if they’re busier but their attention is probably more splintered than we were. Social media and all.

  • Several things resonated with me. I’ve been both teacher and student and have felt frustrations on both sides. I’ve had courses where one paper counted for anywhere between 75 and 100% of the grade! Ridiculous! As a teacher, I set clear guidelines for assessment tasks. Effort is never one of them. Understanding concepts, demonstrating the ability to make connections, using resources effectively and creatively, integrating diverse opinions, in short using higher order thinking
    skills should be the focus when assessing student work. While I may admire how hard a student worked on a task, if the understanding of content or concepts is palpably
    missing there’s really little to assess unless I have included a specific rubric on effort (handed out well in advance of due dates) and I have no business putting a grade on it. How would I assess ‘effort ‘? The idea that life gets in the way of task completion has merit but needs judicious application. If student work is consistently late or incomplete, it’s time for a sit-down face-to-face to find out what’s going on. I am recovering from a serious
    illness and stuff I should have had done is not anywhere near done. But
    my profs and my committee all
    know I’m not slacking. Life is in the
    way. But I also know that in the real
    world I sincerely hope my car
    mechanic gets the work done on
    time, my lawyer did her prep and
    wrote her briefs carefully and
    accurately before the court date, and
    my surgeon knows every possible
    avenue and outcome before scalpel
    is laid to flesh. In the real world there are real deadlines which must be met or one does not keep one’s job. As a teacher, I give students extensions on individual grounds. And yes, sometimes I get suckered. But mostly not. As a student, I do not believe as did a fellow student in a previous class -a student who handed in not one assigned task, who consistently arrived late and did not participate when there, and who consistently and blatantly lied about it all – that the instructor of the class
    ought to be grateful that s/he even
    bothered to show up let alone do the
    reading, writing, and thinking the
    class expectations outlined. S/he
    had a busy life. S/he was trying but
    expectations were just too high. There was a student who perhaps (?) was unclear on the concept of what being a student entailed.

    • I do agree about not grading effort. I decided to put that comment up b/c it is the unvarnished way the student thinks. Keeps us at least in the loop about what expectations they have (no matter how unrealistic they are). Thanks for your thoughts, Carol. Always enjoy hearing from you!

  • Wow! This actually made me feel a lot better about my teaching. As a new professor, I imagine my students think I’m horrible and wish they had ANYBODY else!

  • Interesting comments! Professors don’t know their students’ names? For shame! Every teacher, no matter the level, should make an effort to at least know their students’ names.

  • I appreciated what the students said. One challenge I am facing this year is the college where I teach a course requires faculty to complete a time-on-task form showing we are asking students to complete 7.5 hours of work each week (and this does not include class time, but is in addition to class time). I do not like completing this form and much of what I put down is guesswork on my part. The hard part for me is I have colleagues who used this approach and their students did not learn the material, they just knew how to complete assignments.

    I find I often need a mental break during the semester, just like the students. I will come into class one day in the middle of the semester and tell them we are to going have a regroup class where we look at where we are and what is left to do in the semester. We all like this time. It is not on the schedule, I just pick a day when their faces tell me they are feeling overwhelmed.

    • In theory, one of the benefits of being a professor is autonomy, the ability to make professional decisions due to your expertise. Time-on-task forms go against that, but you do have the power to provide mental breaks when needed. Keep doing what you know is right! Your students are lucky to have you.

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}