I recently came across an article written last year by Lisa Wade, a professor at Occidental College. The title of the article was “10 Things Every College Professor Hates“, and it looked at what some of the top complaints that college teachers have about their students.
While I have seen most, if not all, of the behaviors listed in that article, to me such behaviors are the exception, and not the rule.
So I thought I would write a rebuttal of sorts , listing the 10 things I love about my college students (in no particular order).
- they are idealistic – they believe that the future will be better than the past or the present. They don’t see why poverty or homelessness can’t be eliminated or why the environment can’t be cleaner. And they are willing to work towards such goals.
- they keep me (somewhat) up to date on pop culture – I’m still stuck back in the 70s with my musical tastes. So when we have a musical group coming to campus, my students will bring me up to speed. This semester we had Big Sean (no idea who he was); last year we had ScHoolBoy Q (again, never heard of him); the year before that it was Nikki Minaj (at least I’ve heard of her, but none of her music). Each time, my students would patiently explain who the person was and why it was a big deal that they were coming to Nova.
- they look for volunteer/community service opportunities – this probably my favorite trait of Nova students. They love to volunteer. Whether it’s for Special Olympics, Martin Luther King Day of Service, Habitat for Humanity, mission trips, etc., our students are eager to share their time and talent with the disadvantaged.
- they care about their school work – you can tell the students want to do well, both for personal pride as well as knowing that it will help create a strong resume. They do their homework, come for help when they need it, and prepare as best they can for tests.
- they are respectful – not only to me, but to each other. Many of them say thank you after every class (I guess for letting them catch on their sleep), and apologize for when they are late or miss class.
- they have a nice sense of work-life balance – both now and in their vision of the future. There is a lot of demand on students’ time; academics, part-time jobs, student clubs, social activities, and most of the students seem to learn how to manage it all. When they talk about their future careers, most of them indicate how important family life will be for them.
- they keep me up to date with technology – particularly the latest mobile apps. While I love technology, and try to keep up with it as best I can, it’s hard to be on top of everything, particularly apps aimed at their age group, which is where many breakthrough apps get their start.
- they laugh at my jokes – well at least they put up with them. I usually tell the same jokes, year after year, so I’m always nervous when I get a student a second time. But then I realize there’s a good chance they either weren’t listening or have forgotten the joke from the first time around, so I tell it again, and I get enough polite laughter to encourage me to tell the joke again next year.
- they are socially aware – they know what the big social issues are, and are willing to take a stance on those issues. And as noted before, they are willing to do something about those issues as well
- they’ve got school spirit – much more than I ever did, and I loved my college. Our students will get up at 8:00 am on a Saturday to stand out in the often chilly air to cheer on the high school seniors who have been accepted to Nova and are visiting the campus to aid them in their decision. They are obsessed with the men’s basketball team, and they have a loyal, and growing alumni base.
So while the issues that Professor Wade describes in her article are real, I think they are all issues that can usually be managed up front by setting some expectations for behavior.
The behaviors that I listed I consider to be the norm, at least among my students. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many amazing students in my 30 years at Villanova, and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to stay in touch with a few of them over the years.
As I’ve said before, if my students are typical for their generation, then I am quite optimistic for the future of our communities, our country, our world, and our planet.