- Ineffective instruction methods can lead to students losing interest in subjects that once excited them.
- Class time is often best utilized by engaging students to be actively involved in the learning process.
- Students who get to know instructors during office hours may develop better relationships with them.
As part of my pediatric counseling practice, I often discuss with students of all ages how to best deal with their instructors at various levels of education, including elementary school, middle school, high school, and college.
Most often, my patients complain that they are dealing with a poor instructor. However, our discussions also include ideas about how to become a better student by getting the most out of the instruction provided by any teacher.
It is important to acknowledge that students’ negative perceptions of the quality of instruction may sometimes stem from an instructor’s strictness or high expectations. In such cases, it is crucial to counsel the students on how they can adopt a more positive attitude towards such instruction. For instance, students may come to realize that an instructor’s high expectations may reflect the instructor’s belief in the student’s potential for success.
Ineffective and Burned-Out Instructors
Sometimes, instructors are ineffective because they are no longer interested in teaching effectively, dislike their students, or are burned out. However, I believe that most poor instructors want to do a good job but err in how they execute their educational plans. Here are some examples of poor instruction that I encountered as a student:
- Several instructors chose to highlight the deficiencies of their students as a way of prompting them to improve. Such an approach caused some of their students to stop trying because they felt it did not matter how hard they tried, became anxious or angry, or felt unable to improve.
- Some instructors were rigid because they felt it was important to convey everything in their lesson plans and always present lessons with the same methods. This approach did not allow them to be flexible in best addressing the needs of their students.
- Other instructors were unable to capture their students’ interest and then lost control of the learning environment. These instructors spent much of their time correcting student behavior, which caused even more of their students to lose interest.
- Some instructors appeared to have preconceived notions about their students based on gender, socioeconomic background, or race. This made it harder for certain students to earn the instructors’ appreciation and caused some to cease working hard to improve. Unfortunately, as a result, the instructors’ initial biases were confirmed.
It is disheartening that ineffective instructors can cause students to lose interest in subjects that previously greatly excited them and fail to inspire other students to become interested in these subjects.
My advice to patients who complain of having to deal with poor instructors includes repeatedly thinking loving, kind thoughts about the instructor, such as “May you be healthy, happy, calm, and at ease.” Such thoughts can lead the student to approach the instructor in a better way and help prompt the instructor to view and treat the student more favorably.
As an example of kindness, I tell my patients how I interacted with a hospital official many years ago when I needed to receive their approval to advertise for a new employee. The official was known to delay approval for new hires, and when asked to expedite approval, the official typically delayed further. After waiting two months for the official’s go-ahead, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Rather than confronting the official regarding the delay, I went to the hospital gift shop and purchased a box of chocolate. I came to the official’s office and offered the chocolate as a gift in appreciation for all the hard work they had done on behalf of my department. The official was pleased to receive the gift and expressed that they had rarely received any acknowledgment of their efforts. The official then asked if I required their signature, and I walked out with the approval of my advertisement.
I explain to my patients, “Usually when you treat people with kindness, they respond with kindness.”
It is important to let an instructor know when students feel the educational method does not meet their needs. In some cases, instructors will change their approach based on such feedback when it is delivered respectfully. Sometimes, contacting the administrator overseeing an instructor is necessary to remedy the situation adequately.
If the lesson plan is inadequate, I encourage my patients to study the subjects using resources outside of the classroom. With the advent of the internet, ample written, audio, and video resources are available to anyone who wants to strengthen their knowledge base.
Finally, sometimes inadequate teaching can be supplemented through work with a tutor or a study group involving other students.
Fortunately, many outstanding instructors care a lot about their students and are able to teach in a way that helps their students learn well. In turn, their students are much more likely to retain their newfound knowledge in the long run.
Examples of effective instruction include:
- Instructors who take the time to get to know their student’s individual learning needs and adjust their pedagogical style accordingly.
- At a time when there are many venues through which information can be conveyed, class time is often best utilized by prompting students to be actively involved in the learning process, including through dialogues with their instructors, group projects, and encouraging students to connect what they are learning to real-world situations.
- Some instructors enhance the educational process through the provision of memorable experiences, including based on the instructors’ personal background. For example, one of my high school English teachers sent a story I wrote to her friend, a famous author, who gave me very encouraging comments that I remember to this day.
Due to the crucial role instructors play in the educational process, an exceptional teacher can breathe life into the dullest of subjects. As a result, when advising my patients on selecting elective courses to enroll in, I urge them to prioritize the quality of the teacher over the subject matter.
I encourage my patients to ask questions during class and to make themselves known to their good instructors. In this way, the instructors will be more apt to provide individualized input to the students.
Some instructors are even willing to provide mentorship to their students, which can continue even once their students complete their classes. For this reason, I suggest students work to get to know their teachers outside of the classroom settings, such as through interactions after class or during office hours. In this way, a mentoring relationship is more likely to develop.