‘Should I Take This Class?’

Last week I ran into several former students, a rare occurrence for me. It is always fun to see that they are still taking classes and pushing onward—the road to a degree is a long one when you start out in developmental courses. There was a downside to the pleasant reunions though: Uniformly, I heard complaints about a specific professor.

There are myriad complaints students can have, some valid and some just part of life. Issues with too much homework, boredom, or a monotone voice are all things I can be sympathetic to but not much more. I usually remind students that they won’t click with every instructor and that they can be successful as long as they work hard.

Before students even leave my English 100 course, I try to prepare them for 101 professors. Some are more adept at working with non-native English speakers or first-generation college students. I try not to give students specific recommendations, but I struggle with it. When someone comes to me and asks point-blank about Professor X, who I know runs a class of straight lectures, I’m honest and say so. In front of the whole class I’m more circumspect—I say that pupils should research to find the best fit for them. I use myself as an example, noting that I have a specific style that some students like and others don’t.

Is it ever OK to tell students not to enroll in a course with a specific professor? The one I keep hearing about, semester after semester, is making it very difficult for me to remain collegial and respectful. My primary role is to teach my charges so that they are prepared to move forward with their educational goals. Does that include guiding them in choosing future instructors?

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