Somebody stole my car radio and now I just sit in silence…
One day in class, we gave up. It was hell week for many of us students, and on that day, we just didn’t have it in us to try and understand fluid mechanics. Midway through the lecture, pens stopped, faces blanked, and eyes glazed.
My professor finished his example - two whiteboards’ worth of momentum conservation using Reynolds Transport theorem - and turned around.
“Are there any questions?”
Silence - one so profoundly confused and defeated that it was almost funny.
My professor’s face fell. He checked over his math and looked back at us.
“Is there something you guys don’t understand?” he asked hopefully. “What don’t you get?”
After a few seconds, somebody spoke up and pointed at the whiteboard.
“Yeah, um…. that? Where did you even get that?”
Everyone laughed in agreement and relief they weren’t the only ones lost.
“Okay, what exactly don’t you understand?” He probed us with questions. “Where did I lose you? Did you see where I substituted?” Slowly, students began to ask more questions and discuss the work at his encouragement. Thanks to his attentiveness, we were pulled out of our apathy and made to understand.
Compare that to another professor who does next to nothing for their students but show up and present. We’ve all heard of - or had - that one professor with useless lectures and a bad attitude, the one who was so condescending and unhelpful whose office hours made no difference (bonus points if they answered your questions with “find it in the textbook”), that one professor who you ended up hating so much that you now hate the subject because they were that bad.
Maybe they’re first and foremost a researcher, consultant, or other some industry professional. However, in the classroom, your professor is first and foremost your teacher. We students pay tens of thousands of dollars to be taught, not to self teach. If we didn’t need our professors, we’d opt out of ridiculously overpriced tuition and buy ridiculously overpriced textbooks instead.
Or both. Some of deal with both.
Yes, it’s always easier to blame a professor than to acknowledge a bad decision. You could’ve studied instead of going to that party last night, or you could’ve done another practice test instead of spending so many hours on Netflix (no, twelve episodes should not be finished in one sitting).
Sometimes, though, we do the best we can. The least a professor can do is try to help when you ask.
If you were shot down after asking a clarifying question, or ignored after requesting practice problems, or otherwise discouraged from the subject, go ahead. Blame them. Blame your professor if they’re unwilling to help you understand. Rage at them if they brush aside your learning because it’s too elementary in their eyes. Resent them if they kill your love for the subject during the semester. Teaching you is their job; if they don’t want to help you learn for any reason, then they’re not worth what they’re getting paid for.
We’re independent, bright adults trying to take on the real world. However, introductions to higher-level concepts, even with competent teachers and a plethora of resources, is especially difficult the first time around. Physics and dynamics will vary from challenging to nearly impossible due to the nature of the material. Take a professor who can’t/won’t teach a proper foundation for these broader concepts, and you’re left with cumulative holes in knowledge, or worse, a delayed semester of graduation.
Or both. Some of us repeat classes and still know nothing (darn you, Tech and your soul-sucking classes).
We don’t ask our professors to hold our hands down the path; we ask them not to make it so difficult to walk in the first place.