preparing for college

Teachers vs. Professors: Getting ready for University

After the post, “Assume good intentions of the teachers (and others) please” was public, my son, who is in college wrote me,  “I definitely feel like professors care a lot less than teachers do about student mastery of the material.  A professor is very much of the attitude ‘if the student isn’t doing well, that’s completely their fault’ whereas a teacher takes more responsibility in the student’s understanding”  

When thinking of my own college experience, it seemed that professors did care about students but in a more general sense regarding the well being of a student.  As far as content was concerned, it was up to me to figure it out through reading and lectures. One could also visit a professor during office hours but that was quite intimidating to me.

Unlike high school teachers, college professors are less likely to find alternative methods to disseminate information for diverse learning types as the standard format is “the lecture”.  I doubt that in a college classroom there are many sequencing activities, matching games, gap tasks, and other assorted hands-on activities that we come up with in high school.

Furthermore, a college professor is less prone to modify a testing or assignment schedule for his/her students as many high school teachers do.   Often when I schedule out a couple of weeks of assignments, I consult the affected class and have them check their schedules and if necessary, we tweak the schedule.  That does not happen at the university level.

So how can students use high school, especially the final two years, to truly prepare for the university experience?

  1. Get in the habit of approaching teachers with questions and for clarification.  We welcome students’ questions.  We want to help! 
    • Parents, before stepping in to resolve issues for your children, encourage them to approach the teacher and work out concerns.  Have your child begin with either speaking to the teacher after class or by sending an email to the teacher requesting an appointment.  If this habit is established in high school, accessing a college professor during office hours will be less intimidating.
  2. If you are absent, find out what you need to do to get caught up. Once  you are in college, no one will be chasing you down.
    • Parents, encourage your children to send out emails, check class websites, and communicate with teachers to determine missed work.
  3. Work within the boundaries the teacher has set rather than trying to persuade the teacher to change his/her ways. 
    • Parents, support your child in problem solving and dealing with the parameters given him/her rather than trying to enforce a new or different set of standards on the teacher.  No university professor is going to adjust for a complaining student.  The attitude is, “deal with it”.
  4. Learn to prioritize.  Determine what is most important to attend to.  Do it.  Then let the rest wait.
    • Parents, help your child list tasks that need to be done, prioritizing them by importance.  Students, especially IB students, need to learn that occasionally something needs to slide in favor of completing a more important task.  Students need to deal with that fact. 
  5. Take ownership of your own learning.  Recognize your own strengths and weaknesses.  If you struggle to achieve specific tasks, determine what you can do differently to complete expectations.   At the university level, it becomes irrelevant whether the professor is a “good teacher” or not.  No one cares.  It becomes the sole responsibility of the student to learn the material, with assistance of the professor. 
    • Parents, do not find fault with the teacher if your child struggles in a class.  Instead, find ways to help your child become a stronger student under this specific tutelage.

In working within the framework that has been set by high school, students will better prepare themselves for their university experience.

Can you think of additional ideas to help high school students prepare for working with professors at the university level?  Please add them in the comment section below.