He thinks, she thinks; she thinks, he thinks

Ever get the feeling that you are being misjudged as a student? That the cards are stacked against you? That you are being falsely accused of inappropriate behavior? Taking the other side’s perspective into consideration is one key to success. We asked some communication and media faculty about typical differences of perspective on sticky issues between professors and students – their answers may surprise you!

1. Course content

What you are thinking: This is so incredibly boring…

What your professor is thinking: This is the most exciting thing EVER!

Yes, it’s true. Not all of your courses will make you jump for joy, or have you on the edge of your seat with excitement. However, although the subject may not be changing your life, it could well be one of the most important things in your professor’s life – perhaps THE most important thing! Many academics devote their entire lives to the subject they are teaching, so even if the topic is not ‘doing it’ for you, showing a bit of interest in the subject is guaranteed to energize your instructor, and they are unlikely to forget your attentiveness!

2. The wall

What you are thinking: That professor has no idea I have been on Instagram for the entire class…

What your professor is thinking: That student has been on Instagram for the entire class...

You have to trust us on this one: we know. Although several of our communication and media professors have studied non-verbal communication for years, and can likely tell you exactly what you are doing behind your computer screen with uncanny accuracy, there are many indicators that even an untrained but experienced instructor can observe. To take a simple example, remember that your computer screen gives off different types of light – a telltale sign as it reflects off your skin and clothing. Your hands also communicate a great deal –  not only which keys they are pressing, but also the speed and flow – and your eyes even more. Although you might feel absolutely confident that you are in a private zone behind the wall of your notebook screen, do not be so sure…

3. My professor doesn’t care

What you are thinking: They hate me and want me to fail!

What your professor is thinking: Come on, you can do it!

We have all felt this at some point in our lives. Your teacher, your coach, your classmate doesn’t like you, and wants you to fail. It is natural to feel victimized; it isn’t easy to point the finger at yourself. But the reality is often quite different. Your teachers really want you to be successful, and you would likely be quite literally shocked at the adrenalin rollercoaster they go through in grading papers and exams, and their disappointment when things do not go so well for you. If you need evidence, go see them and ask for feedback on your work – we bet you won’t find them laughing!

4. Attendance

What you are thinking: I can miss 9 hours of class in this course! Where will I go on holiday this semester?

What your professor is thinking: My goodness, (insert your name) has missed 9 hours of class!  They must be ill – I had better contact the Dean and find out what’s happening!

Attendance policies exist to make sure that, well, students attend! This is because by going to classes and engaging with instructors and course participants, it is expected that information will be better comprehended, and students will learn more effectively than if there was no opportunity for interaction. It is assumed that students want to do well, so if a student is not attending, your professors will quite often expect that something is wrong, and may be worried about your performance. No one really thinks that the attendance limit exists as a sort of gift, to allow or encourage students the opportunity to not attend, do they?

5. The consultation hour visit

What you are thinking: I will send a few messages on my smartphone; this conversation is going slowly…

What your professor is thinking: I cannot believe my student has come to talk to me, and is rudely playing with a smartphone during the conversation…

You go to visit a professor during consultation hours, and they look up your grades on their computer. As you feel they are preoccupied, you decide to do the same, and send a few messages, check the hockey scores, see what is happening in town tonight… However: there is a difference in the ‘preoccupation’. Your professor is preoccupied with you, and your needs. You are preoccupied with something completely different. Whether at the local bank, visa office, or visiting the Dean for preregistration: disengaging and playing with your phone sends a strong signal… and it is not a good one.

6. Class discussions

What you are thinking: Just tell us the answer! I want to go home!

What your professor is thinking: I am opening up their minds...

Ah, the class discussion, one of the key aspects of the small-class educational experience. We do some readings outside the classroom, meet together to go over key aspects, and then engage with the reading, and each other, to take our knowledge to another level. However, sometimes it is difficult to get the discussion going, and even harder to sustain it. Your instructors are not trying to fill up the time; they know from experience that discussion and group examination of a topic can bring you a plethora of benefits, enabling you to understand and apply the topic, and to then speak about complex phenomena with confidence. However, like anything worthwhile, engagement and discussing complex material takes effort from all involved…

So there you have it, six ways in which professors and students perceive classroom situations differently. While it is always difficult to accept responsibility for yourself and your own behavior, doing so can sometimes result in an increase in understanding, and a reduction in conflict!

Follow us

Go to top