Top 8 Traits of The Best Professors: Elevate Your Education
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Student Life

8 Qualities of a Standout Professor

Essential Traits That Define Academic Excellence

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Professors are, to everyone, a different entity. To some, they might be a nuisance, an ordinary teacher that spurts out words and directions as if robot-like. To others, they are an absolute inspiration, but regardless of how you perceive them, they do ultimately serve as the last mentor we encounter before we enter the rest of our lives. Everyone deserves at least one professor that motivates and empowers them throughout college. Besides, they're pretty much the only adults in our lives at college. While we are transitioning into adults ourselves, it's still important to have some around us in the process to encourage us and remind us of what's important. Professors are practically our parents and bosses simultaneously, and although it may not seem like it to some, they are human, and are also ones to recognize your strengths and weaknesses of how you work. I am able to express my gratitude of how vital professors can be in our lives, from having had quite a few that have changed me as a student, which has brought me to recognize good qualities of a one.

Since professors have more flexibility that other teachers with not only what they teach, but how they teach, the ambiance of a college course can be really interesting and unexpected sometimes. Thus, classes can be made pretty unique and memorable if paired with the right person to teach it. Unfortunately, we will all have professors that we felt we couldn't work with, didn't understand us, or made us flat out feel like a bad student, but amazing professors can make up for that and remind you how great they really are in our lives. With sometimes overwhelming content, it can be a blessing to have someone that is able to instead make it enjoyable. Below is a list of qualities every professor should have, or at least aim to have, in order to be the best of the highest rank instructor they are, and influence students for years after school.

1. They treat you as a friend, not just a student.

three person pointing the silver laptop computerthree person pointing the silver laptop computer Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

The difference between feeling like a mere annoyance talking to a seemingly-superior professor that talks to you like a machine on a phone, and talking to one that you can relate to and feel comfortable talking about anything with, is tremendous. It can completely alter your attitude towards the class, boost your confidence, create a better learning environment, and leave you with a good reflection of the overall class. When I first had certain teachers that were comfortable enough with students to treat us as friends, and tell us their life stories, give us advice, and sometimes even talking about wanting to take us on a hike as a class, I thought it was of utmost unordinary. However, I soon realized how great it makes the class. This quality of a teacher makes everyone within it feel more whole, comfortable, and happy. Professors canbe serious and fun.

2. Perfect balance of control

Do Something Great neon signDo Something Great neon sign Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

There are two types of professors: those that give you assignments, and those that challenge you beyond just assignments.

Professors that do the best they can and go out of their way to send reminders on upcoming events or assignments, make sure we're always on our feet, and confront us if they feel we aren't doing our best, are what make great students. Professors don't always offer the best assistance, so appreciate when they go out of their way because they care about your success in class. If you ever feel annoyed at a professor reminding you about an assignment, you'll miss it when you come across the professor that expects you to remember it all. All in all, a professor that pushes you, and furthermore encourages you to push yourself, is of great importance.

3. Take the material to another level.


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Teachers that really try to go to all lengths and take all kinds of approaches to explain something, rather than read straight off a powerpoint like a student who doesn't feel like getting an A on a project, are significant for a ton of reasons. Doing so helps you pay attention so much more, remember certain material better, and learn how to take a different perspective on things. In many classes, these even goes beyond just helping students memorize things better; it can help them analyze or take on new ways of thinking (this is very useful for classes with a lot of analyzing, critical thinking, etc).

4. Treat everyone equally.

person in red sweater holding babys handperson in red sweater holding babys hand Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

When a professor makes you feel as if you are incompetent because you didn't catch a certain phrase or reminder in a series of hundreds of other things said, it's a horrible feeling. It's also not so pleasant when a teacher always calls on the Hermione Granger of the class, without giving shyer students that raise their hand a chance to speak. A great professor should treat everyone equally, give everyone the same chance, and never prioritize a student over another for any reason. Every student, especially those that sit in the back and sulk their head as if they have no confidence, should be encouraged.

5. Have a sense of humor.

person holding white round ornamentperson holding white round ornament Photo by Danilo Batista on Unsplash

While this isn't a necessary trait, it certainly boosts the enjoyability of the class, and turns complex or boring content into more exciting ones. I love professors that have a sense of humor, especially if they're able to create humor out of a very bland topic to teach. Of course, being too humorous isn't always good when it's tied to a hard-to-grasp subject. Humor can be great to a degree, otherwise. Even if it's simply a professor that doesn't mind eating a poptart in class, talking about ridiculous trends on social media to connect with us, or making fun of Pokemon Go, I always love when a professor doesn't mind showing the funny side of them and expressing themselves. A good laugh in class can be following up with an open mind and better attitude to take in a subsequent long lecture.

6. They don't over-expect; they understand you.

Honor smartphone beside mug and paper with penHonor smartphone beside mug and paper with pen Photo by Aman Upadhyay on Unsplash

The great kind of teachers expect the best from you, but don't expect too much from you. A teacher I once had for a morning class understood the difficulties some of us have with getting up in the morning. Moreover, she understood that sometimes "life happens," as she stated, and that things tend to naturally happen that are out of our control, and obstruct our schedule. In other words, she was lenient about us coming late to class once or twice. She has us text her if we were going to be late, but nevertheless she tried to understand us the best we could. She tried to offer alternative assignments or ways of learning if some of us weren't visual learners, or great at learning in other forms, and was always offering her best advice if we ever needed it. That teacher was kind enough to listen to a student in distress one class, for as long as they needed until the student could focus on their work again. To me, and the whole class, she was a teacher, counselor, mentor, and a great friend. The best teachers realize that we can't be perfect students, even if we try as hard as we can--they think on our level to incorporate teaching in better ways. They focus on offering as much help as they can outside of how much most professors are expected to help.

7. They stick to their word.

man in blue dress shirt standing beside woman in pink and white stripe dress shirtman in blue dress shirt standing beside woman in pink and white stripe dress shirt Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

I cannot express how disappointed I have felt when I did an assignment, one of which I put a lot of thought and work into, double checked to make sure I brought it to class the next day, only to feel my face sink when the professor said they'll just collect them the next class as if they forgot. This has usually been the case for me with daily journals, or any other almost annual assignment. While it may seem as though they're doing some of the class a favor, they are actually devaluing the assignments, and the work students put into them, making them less obligated to keep up good work habits towards the class, or and obstructing them from working even harder in the future. The best kind of professors stick to their word, and make each task feel rewarding to the student. Never leave any student feeling like they put in a wasted effort.

8. They're open to change.

scrabble chips forming shift happens word near white featherscrabble chips forming shift happens word near white feather Photo by SOULSANA on Unsplash


Professors are there to answer your questions about the class. Chances are that if you have one, and you were paying attention, the professor might not have made something clear enough. But they don't always realize this.

I have had only a few teachers in my life that truly realized there was always something they could improve on as a professor. They did not get insulted when someone told them group projects were not a good approach to a certain project, or that they didn't make something clear enough. I've had teachers admit they were wrong, as each one is bound to make a mistake at least once. But instead of blaming the class, when they did not emphasize that we have to do something enough. Some of these said teachers even let us vote on due dates,if we did or did not like a strategy of the class, and if we wanted something to be changed. I really admire these teachers, and they make for a great professor just like a student does; both open to how they can build themselves, and recognize that they're not perfect.

There is no such thing as a perfect professor, but one that's as good as they can be is an essential to all aspects of a class. A great professor can make you enjoy content you don't particularly like, they can bring you more confidence in the class, change and expand your perspective on what you already know, and make your overall college experience more enjoyable . After all, they are one of the big parts of the class that motivate us, and either feed our drives, or demotivate us. Lastly, a good professor is made by good students, so it isn't just their duty to be a great professor, but it's also yours to help get them there. Students and teachers correspond to one another in that way, both playing important roles to build one another in different forms. Be a good student, and you will help build great professors. If you don't appreciate them now, you will when you don't have them anymore.

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