“If you scheduled a class with this guy, drop it. Do not take his class.”
These are the words that sent my naïve freshman heart into a tailspin.
The class I had been looking forward to taking for months had only one open section remaining, and the professor was almost universally panned on the Internet mecca of college student opinions, Rate My Professors.
Rate My Professors is a website that allows students to score their professors based on their easiness, helpfulness, clarity and — interestingly enough — attractiveness.
With every sad-faced emoticon that accompanied the students’ comments on this professor’s page, my excitement for the course turned into fear. Words like “impossible” and “horrible” and “boring” were cropping up left and right as I scrolled. I didn’t know what to do. As a freshman, I had very little experience with choosing a course based on the professor. I wanted to take the class, but with the bevy of bad reviews, I considered dropping it before even going to the first class. It was only a general education course. I didn’t need to tank my GPA this early in the game. All of those students couldn’t be wrong, right?
Perhaps it was my relentless optimism that led me to keep the course on my roster, or maybe it was my freshman ineptitude of understanding my degree audit and figuring out what other course I should take instead. It was probably the latter. In spite of my fears, I decided to give the class a shot.
It has been one of my favorite college experiences so far.
Instead of a grumpy old professor who hated his students, I found myself under the tutelage of a passionate man who just really loved the subject he taught. He demanded students work hard in his course, but he wasn’t unreasonable by any means. He just wanted his pupils to appreciate his subject as much as he did, and he rewarded his students who made an effort to excel.
I soon learned that the class — which can accommodate up to 450 students — was filled with my peers who had no vested interest in the subject matter of the course. They had assumed the class would be an easy elective and quickly jumped on the opportunity. When the time came for class participation, the room was often silent.
I felt bad for my professor, who stood in front of judgmental college students day after day, hoping that someone would want to contribute to the learning process. When students would raise their hand or offer insightful comments, my professor’s face would light up. It soon became obvious that his true passion was inspiring thought and interest in his students, and when students responded positively, his teaching was most effective. He was nothing like the person he had been made out to be on Rate My Professors.
Even though it was a general education course, the skills I gained from this “impossible” class have served me in almost all of my other courses throughout college, in almost every subject.
After taking this class, I approach the way I relate to both my professors and the subjects they teach with an open mind. To this day, the professor for that course — the course I almost dropped because of its negative reviews — remains one of my favorite professors I have had in college.
Often the success one will have in a course depends on the competency of the professor. Sometimes a student will take a class with a professor that just doesn’t work for them, and with that in mind, a tool like Rate My Professors has the best intentions. But what happens when the students who want easy-A’s (if there are such things) are the ones writing the reviews?
So many students could be missing out on awesome class experiences because they put stock these online discussion forums. An actual quote from the Rate My Professors page on my favorite professor is, “This professor suckzzzzz.” Yes, you read that right.
A year after I took his course, I emailed my professor about a movie I had seen that dealt with some of the material we covered in his class.
I wrote to tell him that the film was enjoyable to me because of my experience in his course, and he responded with enthusiasm and excitement that his course had stuck with me, even outside of the classroom.
A professor with that kind of passion for what he or she teaches is the kind of professor students should seek out, not complain about on the Internet because they are forced to do some work in order to pass the course.
Sure, I’ll probably continue to browse Rate My Professors before every course scheduling showdown, but I’ve learned through experience to take those reviews with a grain of salt. If you want to take a class but are concerned about the professor, give it a shot and see how it goes. You may find your gamble paying off for semesters to come.
Katie Murt is a junior majoring in English and is The Daily Collegian’s Tuesday columnist. Email her at email@example.com.