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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A positive interaction with a professor.

Today I had a very personally satisfying conversation with a professor.

I am in a class (for my unnamed major) that is very small in size (there are fewer than 10 students in the class).  Despite the fact that this is such a small class, there are some aspects of the class causing me considerable difficulty.  I am doing okay in the class overall, but it feels like a struggle the whole way.

I have talked to the professor a few times throughout the semester about my problems with this specific aspect of the course.  He knows I'm having a hard time with it, and has worked to help me understand the topic.  I'm still teetering on the edge of complete cluelessness about one particularly difficult aspect of this topic.

(Oh, I give up on being so cryptic.  I'm having a hard time with statistics.  I'm not a statistics major, but I'm majoring in a discipline that relies very heavily on statistics for analysis of data.  I have taken the required courses on statistics and understand the basics, more than the basics actually.  But this particular course requires a complex understanding of statistics.  More complex than I was expecting.  As my professor once said, "I didn't learn this until grad school.  But since you all are so smart, I'm going to teach it to you now."  I like being challenged in most areas.  Statistics is not one of those areas.)

I was talking to my professor after class today about a question I had not related to my issues with statistics.  But after he answered that question, he asked how I felt I was doing in the course as a whole.  Specifically, how I felt my understanding of the important issues were despite my uncertainty in the realm of statistics.  I told him truthfully that I was still pretty confused, and that despite the fact that I actually did fairly well on the last test, I still was not at all confident in my ability to perform and analyze these statistical procedures.  He reassured me that he was always there to help and/or answer questions and suggested that after each class we have a mini "check-in" to make sure that I am understanding everything. 

He also pointed out that today in class I participated very enthusiastically in the discussion and contributed a lot of outside knowledge.  We were talking about issues in which I was able to display my (relative) "expertise" in educational policy.  I knew things he didn't, and was deemed the "education expert" in the class.  He thanked me for my contributions and clarifications on things he didn't know and emphasized the value of my participation in the class discussion.

He then went on to mention a question I had asked in class the previous week.  He felt that my "question" was really a comment in disguise.  He was using this incident as an example to point out that he believes I know more and understand more than I give myself credit for.  In other words, he thinks that I am smarter than I think.

The sum of this unexpected conversation was an increase in the appreciation I have for my school and the professors who work here.  I go to a small school and receive the benefits (and astronomical tuition) that goes along with that.  My professors are able to pay attention to the classwork and contributions I make.  They are able to know enough about me to understand my strengths and weaknesses, and play those to benefit my educational experience at the college.

And also, in large part, this was a post I can look back at on days when I'm feeling disenfranchised from my school and am frustrated with it's smallness and my courses and my professors.  The professors are not evil and they do want to help.  And it's not just the education professors who want to help.  (I have always had very good relationships with the education professors, despite any frustration I may have about their teaching practices.  They are for the most part always receptive to the individual needs and differences in their students).  As is consistent with my school's goals, the professors are focused on their teaching and their students as much as, or more, than their research.  They are there to help and I should not be intimidated by them or afraid to ask for help.  They want to help because they want us to succeed.


Blogger robtherunner said...

It is hard for me sometimes to approach professors about class content because I feel like I am in college and I should be able to work at whatever problem it may be by myself. I have found, just like you, that often times the professors are actually quite willing to help.

7:49 PM  
Blogger nick said...


6:14 AM  

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