This is my 11th semester at UT, not including my time spent overseas or over the summer. I've had a pretty wide variety of professors, and they've taught me through many different methods. After all this time, I've learned what seems to work.
Before I make any suggestions, I need to clarify some assumptions. I can think of more than a few professors who would be extremely pleased to know I remembered to make assumptions.
Assume: You are a professor who wants your students to be successful and learn the material you are teaching.
Advice: First and foremost, great professors care.
The way each professor expresses that is hugely different, but the best professors I've ever had just seem to be the ones that I feel actually care if we learn.
I had one professor yell at my class every single meeting, the entire time. He may have called us monkeys, plumbers and Martha Stewarts, but it eventually became clear that he was trying to shake us awake. He would say, "The Japanese will eat your lunch!" Despite his unorthodox way of showing it, he truly wanted us to become the best engineers we could become so we could compete with the international community after college.
Great professors also use the Internet. Blackboard is a powerful tool, and it is shocking how infrequently professors utilize it. Through the website, you can give us the lecture slides early, post homework so it doesn't get lost in the email shuffle, make announcements and post grades. All of these things make it easier for us to stay on top of the class, ultimately leading to more learning.
Embrace your weirdness. The greatest and most memorable professors are the ones who don't care what we think. They wear ridiculous clothes and tell bad jokes. None of us expect you to be businessmen in suits. In one of the most famous images of Einstein, he's sticking his tongue out. Cracking a joke about the Volkswagen hauling a Mobile Ohm is not likely to be funny outside an engineering class, but we all died laughing that day. I guess it just goes with being nice, but professors are often quirky and it is awesome, just run with it. It'll make class better for you and for us.
Get your grading done as soon as possible. I know and understand you're busy, but regardless of major, all students appreciate it when we get our grades back sooner than later. If you hear students celebrating when you pull out an unusual folder in class, it might be a red flag that you take too long to grade exams or papers.
Give an outline of your notes before the class starts. I always try to absorb everything you say and copy everything you write down, but unfortunately, I can't write and process at the same time. My favorite classes are almost always the ones where the professor gives us notes early. Then I can follow along with your notes, and make my own comments about what you say in the margins. Plus if you're one of those professors that loves to block my view of the board until you're ready to erase it, I won't miss anything important.
On the day before Thanksgiving, a lot of students are going to skip class. Many students need to fly, many more have at least a three hour drive. I hate making that trip last minute every year. Just cancel class on that Wednesday so we can have time back home with our families. Making it a day where you give extra credit for coming just favors people from Knoxville, and the time a professor made it an exam day was the worst – the exam wasn't finished until 5 p.m. Please just cancel the class.
Nate Talbot is a senior in mechanical engineering. He can be reached at email@example.com