I remember stepping foot onto a college campus for the first time, unsure of how I was expected to interact with my professors. In high school, teachers treat us like minors and tell us what to do. We need permission to get a drink, use the restroom, and say something during class time. In college, however, we are no longer minors and more responsibility is given to us and expected. In college, absences no longer result in a phone call home, and it is our job to make sure we get to class on time. All this new responsibility is scary, and that’s why I’m here to help.
For those of you who don’t know, Farmingdale is not my first undergraduate experience. I went to Elon University in North Carolina to obtain my first undergraduate degree, and I did not begin my journey here until I was 26. At that point, I was familiar with being an adult and how I was expected to interact with other adults, which made my life significantly easier. This experience made me increasingly aware of the sizeable gap that students have to fill when transitioning from high school to college.
During my time here, I have had 19 different professors. Of the 19 professors I have had, all were approachable. Three of them, however, stood out as not only being excellent teachers of the subjects they taught, but did an incredible job of teaching students proper etiquette in the classroom. These three professors were also very welcoming and relaxed in their personalities, which created a wonderful learning environment. What surprised me most was their ability to handle disruptions so professionally that the student learned a valuable lesson in maturity.
To help impart this handy information to new students, I asked these three professors to answer a series of questions for me in order to find out more about how they teach and what they expect for us. Not surprisingly, they have very similar philosophies, and I am excited to share their responses with you. These three professors include Professor A. Hecht and Professor Faro from the Biology Department, and Professor Dolce from the English Department.
Q: How do you recommend a student approach you for questions? Do you want students to come to you with specific questions, or to vaguely mention a topic they are struggling with?
Professor Dolce: In a perfect world, I would hope all my students would come to me with clear, concise questions, but that is not always the case. I am a firm believer that ANY student question is better than NO student question. Sometimes students need more background or surrounding information to identify the “right” question to ask, so that might lend itself to a student just saying, “Help me, I don’t understand!”
Q: What’s your favorite way to be approached by a student?
Professor Hecht: Students with difficulties usually speak with me right after class. If the class has 80 students in it (such as the one I am teaching now), it is helpful if they give me their name first. In smaller classes, I usually know everybody.
Q: Given the subject you teach, what suggestions do you have for students on how to best prepare for your class? Do you recommend reading the PowerPoint or chapter in advance?
Professor Faro: Weekly assignments in my class include post lab questions, reviewing the material, and also pre-lab questions to prepare for the next lesson. In doing these, the students are forced to read the next chapter we will be covering. Also, every lesson is preceded by a reading assignment.
And finally, the big question…
Q: How do you prefer to be addressed by a student?
Professor Faro: I expect to be called by my last name, with the appropriate title in front. A year or two ago, a student kept calling me “Mister” instead of “Professor.” It’s not the worst thing – I just reminded her it’s “Professor,” a sign of respect. She was fine with this and really didn’t even realize what she was saying.
Professor Hecht: I feel it’s important that the students don’t feel I’m their “pal” and should use either Doctor or Professor. I would politely tell a student who called me by my first name that as the professor I should be addressed as such as a courtesy.
Professor Dolce: As an instructor, I would definitely pause if a student referred to me by my first name. I would ask the student to please refer to me as Professor Dolce. Many times, however, I ask former students to call me by my first name.
In these answers we can all find many useful bits of advice for students who have some uncertainties regarding etiquette and professor interaction. It is important that we develop a classroom that is full of respect, both for our professor and our peers. Using these tips will help one to accomplish this.
I wanted to also impart to you some of my own advice as a student here at FSC. I have developed a few helpful habits on my journey here, and I listed them below.
- Always, and I mean always, address a professor in the following format:
“Hello, Professor _____________, my name is Dani Maloney and I’m a student in your Biology 170, Anatomy Class on Wednesday at 8:00am. I was wondering if I could ask you a question regarding the assignment, ______________.”
Regardless of how comfortable you are or how approachable your professor seems, this approach never fails! It shows the professor that you respect them and also respect the fact that they are teaching many, many classes. I’ve seen other approaches fail, and I highly recommend this one, or a variation of it, as a go-to strategy.
- Talk to your professor about any potential issues or absences you may have, but be certain you do not lie to them.
One of my professors constantly laughs at how a student has had at least 10 grandparents die over the course of their time at Farmingdale. Remember, professors are smart and will remember what you tell them! I find that honesty is the best policy. Last semester a family member of mine had a serious health issue and I alerted each of my professors in private. I did this to ensure that a last-minute absence was not laziness on my end. By doing so, professors appreciate the honestly and will work with you! The opposite is true for lying, however. If you tell a professor a lie and get caught, your credibility is now shot. Remember this when talking to them.
- Know how many credits you can handle.
I have a problem with overloading my schedule that has persisted for two years now. I took 21 credits last spring and I’m at a whopping 28 this spring between my classes at FSC and my master’s degree at night. I do it by using incredibly polished time management skills that took decades to master. I set out specific times each day for my various courses and adjust the schedule as needed to accommodate for test or project weeks. One thing I do not recommend is trying to do what I do without proper training. It took me years of increasing my course load to manage this much, so don’t be ambitious here. Start small, especially as a first-year student. Take 3 or 4 classes and give them your best effort. For classes with a lab attached, don’t take more than 2 per semester. If you are on a time crunch, utilize summer term, winter term, and online classes instead. I assure you that taking five hours of classes at one institution and driving straight to another to take 3 more is grueling. Start small, work your way up.
- Get Involved
It is easy to drive to class and go straight home after. Don’t do this! Join a club, form a study group, play a sport, volunteer, work on campus, etc. It truly improves your college experience and I highly recommend it. Recently, I found a fun way to get involved by participating in campus photo shoots. I met some wonderful people doing so and had a great time in the process. I’m the one on the right!