Is it the class or the teacher?

I’m sorry that this is extremely random, but this is the beginning of my attempt to make as many thought-provoking posts as possible, and I just spent 15 minutes thinking about what to write, and this is the best that I was able to come up with – What’s more important to you when taking a class: Loving the material or loving the teacher?

Disclaimer: Feel free to stop reading if you’ve already had enough of this.  Pretty sure I would have stopped after the first line.

Anyway, if it were up to me, I would choose to have a great teacher.  I think learning about areas of interest is extremely important, but I think the teacher has the ability to make you love or hate the subject matter in just about any case.  In my experience, I’ve found that I typically either really like my teacher or really dislike him/her.  There really isn’t much middle ground for me.  I think part of this is just my personality, but the point is that if you don’t like your teacher, odds are that the class is going to be miserable.  I can’t recall any class that I’ve ever taken where I loved the teacher but had a negative overall experience.  A few good qualities that I look for in any teacher include a sense of humor (good job, Ray), organization and clarity, motivating, understanding, and passionate.  Obviously, mastery of the subject matter is always crucial, and it never hurts to have someone who occasionally lets you out early (Ray – you may want to work on this a little, but you’re still a great dude).

Thoughts?

3 thoughts to “Is it the class or the teacher?”

  1. I agree. I think most teachers love their material (or did at some point). The ones who can express this love without scaring or boring their students are golden. My double bass professor was the main reason why I came to UofM. She commands respect and is generous with her knowledge. I’ve studied with her for three years and am still inspired by her teaching.

    1. I agree wholeheartedly- I think that a truly great teacher can transform any subject material into something intriguing and worthwhile if they are doing their primary job, which is to be passionately inspiring.

      I don’t know if anyone reading this has had the privilege of taking a class with Nick Harp while here at U of M. If you have not, you need to- especially as a writing minor. He teaches Art of the Essay- ENG 325. Take it! It will be the most uplifting writing class and teacher that you will ever experience at Michigan. There were business majors, psychology majors, pre-med students who walked in there with me on the first day and had zero passion for writing. But by the end of last semester, that class had become a real “safe haven” for me because everyone was producing incredible pieces of writing and enjoying every opportunity to exchange them for peer critiques. People were not holding back, writing creatively and enthusiastically about all kinds of things. Nick inspired everyone to participate in class discussions– he would come into each class as his energetic self and sit cross-legged on a different table in the room every class. He felt more like a fellow friend in the classroom, ready to joke and talk with everyone and have a good time, more than he ever felt like a professor. And yet, somehow he managed to get three ten-page essays out of us throughout the semester and enlighten us with plenty of deep discussions about non-fiction writing, essays, and novels. We never felt like he was telling us what to do; we felt like he was guiding us and allowing us to be creative, speak (or write) our minds, and build a real sense of community with one another.

      A great teacher gives guidelines instead of rules, allows for open-mindedness and plenty of question-asking, and takes just as great delight in learning from his or her own students as he/she does teaching them.

      So many times, I have taken a class thinking it was going to be interesting based on its subject matter, and so many times I’ve been disappointed because of the teacher and ended up hating the class. But especially since coming to college, I have learned that it’s better to take a class based on the knowledge that the professor is going to be great than to take a class based on your interest in a subject that has a mystery teacher. If a friend recommends a professor to me, and the class fits my schedule, I take the class. Because when I look back on my Michigan experience, I’m not going to remember nearly everything I learned, but I will remember every teacher!

      (By the way, Ratemyprofessor.com is a lifesaver!)

  2. Over the past two and a half years as a college student, I can attest that solid teachers are of upmost importance. I’ve been subjected to far too many courses that leave me to imagine how much more impactful my time spent could have been, had the teacher been more effective. It’s a true shame when a course description is exciting but it ends up that the teacher brings no life to the subject.
    That means having a teacher who is more than someone who relays information to students, who genuinely cares to better their lives and make a difference past bettering their GPA. Because in the end, classes aren’t about cramming in material, but they’re about creating relationships and inspiring ideas.
    Take your favorite book. When it’s taught by the right professor, it’s elevated to levels you never could have imagined. When the teacher is less than perfect, you’re left detesting the same book. A class is only as interesting as the teacher wants and wills it to be.

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