Nice profs finish last

Column by Hallie Beard, Opinion Editor

Hallie Beard

Through many years of dance classes, school and workshops, I’ve realized I don’t prefer nice teachers.

Strange as it sounds, the instructors who yell at and borderline insult their students on a daily basis are the ones I’m most responsive to. If the instructor has a reputation for making students cry or quit, sign me up.

It’s not like I revel in the pain of others or enjoy getting belittled – in fact, public humiliation is my least favorite sensation on this earth and I’ll do anything to avoid it. What I enjoy about harsh teachers is that, to the average student, they don’t care about being your friend. They care about giving you quality instruction and fixing the issues you have, point blank. With those kinds of teachers, it’s black or white, hot or cold, in or out. They teach with the assumption that some students might hate them, and that’s OK.

Growing up, I had a dance teacher who was known for being challenging, demanding and less-than-pleasant sometimes. When I was young, I feared moving up in the ranks because I’d have more classes under her – I knew I’d never be good enough to keep up. But, as I got older and learned what she wanted to see or what she considered good, it was much easier to make adjustments on myself and please her. By the time I graduated high school, she was one of my favorite teachers, and I had chosen to have extra small classes with her.

As a more advanced student, I learned more about her as a person and was able to appreciate her teaching philosophy. I loved classes with her then, and we were able to joke and laugh as a group. Tackling her challenging choreography was no longer the frightening chore it was in childhood – instead, it felt like a team effort, like she was rooting for us to get it right.

Now that I’m a lazy-bones college student who hasn’t had a dance class in ages, I’d give anything to return to my home studio and get yelled at by her.

Similarly, I have a current writing professor who is known in the department for being coarse. When I first mentioned taking a class with him, former students of his widened their eyes and said, “get ready to cry.”

His first class was a shock, but I left smiling. There were students who cried and dropped the course, but I couldn’t believe how. He’s extremely critical, but each one of his critiques has sound reasoning backed up by experience, just like my former dance teacher.

With that in mind, how could I do anything but agree with his critiques for me?

That professor said in class recently he’s been teaching for more than 30 years and has tried both “sticks and carrots” in getting students to learn, and sticks have worked best every time. I believe it – while hard instructors will never be dubbed “the nice one” or “the cool teacher,” they will get the results they desire.

Don’t get me wrong: there has to be balance, and I’d hate to only have “mean” professors. I need my lenient professors or ones I can joke around with – they’re just as valuable and I respect them in other ways. But in some instances, I can’t be given leeway. My laziness will take over, and everyone will be let down.

Not every student is like this – thank goodness – but more often than not, I’ve got to have a gun to my head and the fear of God in me to get something done and done right.

So, to all you teachers who think your students hate you, we don’t. At least, I don’t. Keep your finger on the trigger, because it works for me.