Professors have the right to be as formal or informal as they would like in the classes they teach. They can demand absolute authority in their classroom, they can be their students’ best friend in and out of class, or they can fall anywhere in between those two extremes. It all depends on their teaching style. But no matter what the nature of the relationship between the students and the professor is, students must always be respectful toward their professors.
In a perfect world that would be true, but this is Oswego State. In my nearly two and a half years here, I’ve witnessed some incredible rudeness from students to professors. The sort of rudeness that, in high school, would most definitely land you in detention. Unfortunately, detention doesn’t exist at this level of education. We’re supposed to be better than detention by now, but are we really? It’s about time we assess why we think this kind of disrespectful behavior is OK in the world of higher education.
Of course, the worst of it comes in gen-ed lecture hall classes. I’m not surprised to see students being rude in a class like that: the population is mostly freshmen, the class is required, which engenders bitterness, and most often the subject matter of the course is not related to the majors of the students taking it. There are also usually upwards of 100 students in the class, so one-on-one interaction and engagement with the professor is a no-go.
It’s a recipe for disaster. Students forge signatures on the attendance sheet, they leave their earbuds in while the professor is lecturing, they take out their laptops to go on Facebook or Twitter (which I really don’t understand if your smart phone is sitting right there on your desk—that can go on Facebook and Twitter too, you know, and it’s a lot less noticeable), they don’t put their phones on silent, they pack up early to try and get the professor to stop lecturing before the class is officially over, and they act as if they are entitled to a study guide, a review sheet and a cheat sheet for every test.
These things get on my nerves in every lecture hall class I’m in, but what really shocks me is when these behaviors carry over to small classes. If you are not a freshman, not in a lecture hall class and not devoid of all social skills because you were a feral child raised by wolves who managed to overcome the overwhelming odds against you and gain acceptance to a college in the SUNY system (if you are, congratulations—that must have been one killer application essay), you should not be listening to music in class. Nor should you be scrolling through social networking sites while your professor is talking, letting your phone vibrate loudly on your desk with every text you receive, packing up your stuff while the professor is trying to make an important last point or whining about the way your professor runs things.
You accepted the laws of that class on the first day when the professor handed you their syllabus and you didn’t drop. If you didn’t read it, that’s your own fault.
In college, your education is in your own hands. Your professor is there to present the material in a way that makes sense, answer any questions you might have and challenge you on what they have taught to make sure you are learning. Disrespecting your professor will rarely lead to an automatic fail, but it’s not doing you any favors either.
Look at the opportunity you have been given here. You are one of the very few lucky people in the world who gets the chance to pursue higher education, and your professors are here to help you achieve that goal. You’re paying a whole heck of a lot of money to be here and learn from them, so why waste both your time and theirs? They are not just dispensers of lectures, tests and grades. They are a source of knowledge for your future. Instead of perpetuating the “us vs. them” mentality we all had in high school, try giving your professors a little respect. You’ll be amazed at how much it can improve your classroom experience.