There are so many reasons to be excited about going to college - dorm life, late-night taco runs, and getting off Tatooine and away from your family moisture farm! One thing you probably haven't been counting down the days for are your new professors! Okay, I admit professors aren't the most enticing part of one of the most amazing life experiences but, despite the desperate, late-Sunday-night-and-still-haven't-started-that-research-paper wishes of every college student since a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, classes are still a required part of the college experience. Your new professors can either be Obi-Wan Kenobi, or Darth Vader, but you don't want to get in a light-saber match with either. So here are a few things you should know and think about when it comes to your new Jedi/Biology 101 instructors.
The first thing to realize is that not all professors are the same. Some are talented teachers, and enjoy investing in the lives of their students. Others only teach because they have to in order to get their research labs funded. You will find all kinds of professors at every university you visit. So what do you do if you get stuck with Emperor Palpatine in Intro to 19th Century Slavic Literature? There are some simple ways to get on your professors good side (even if that side is dark).
Here's a Love/Hate list of simple things to keep in mind if you want to be the ultimate teacher's padowan:
Yoda Hates: Students who wait to ask for help until two weeks before the end of the semester - don't wait until the last minute!
Yoda Loves: Students who show up on time and prepared for class - not being late shows that you're serious about your education.
Yoda Hates: Students who challenge their authority. Even if you can debate your professor into a perfect logical trap, don't do it. You will not change their point of view because a professor needs to maintain authority over the class and its subject matter. You will only succeed in making yourself a target.
Yoda Loves: Students who engage: Try to think of insightful questions (but don't just blurt out anything - not all questions are created equal). Communicate with your instructors and don't allow your iPhone or other things to distract you in class!
Sometimes no matter what you do, it seems like some professors want nothing more than to freeze you in carbonite. There's not much you can do once you're in that situation except do your best to get through it in one piece. However, there are ways to avoid Jabba the Hut in the first place. A critical thing to think about when it comes to professors is what university you are attending. Different schools attract different kinds of professors. I've attended every type of university under the sun and had both good and bad professors at every single one. With that fact in mind however, most Christian colleges try to foster an academic environment designed to enhance their students' faith through intellectual and spiritual challenge. It's been my experience that the professors they hire generally reflect this goal.
Christian universities have lots of superb professors who are genuinely concerned for the academic and spiritual development of their students. Large public universities are not worried about spiritual development and so many of the professors they hire are actively opposed to those who espouse a Christian worldview. That is not to say there are no respectable professors at state schools, but they are much harder to find than at a Christian University. If you want to give yourself the best possible chance of developing some valuable student-professor relationships, definitely consider a Christian University.
Whatever university you decide to attend, make sure there are some professors there that you respect and are willing to learn from. There's no reason to make your journey through college more difficult than necessary by attending a place where all the lecturers are angry storm-troopers. Making a decision to attend a Christian university instead of a secular college can often be the difference between relating to your professors as foe or friend. So whatever path you choose, be sure that the force is with you, er...you know what I mean. Best of Luck!
David T. Atkinson