Mutual respect needed in class

Michelle Poje

“If you respect me, then I will respect you.”

Raise your hand if you have ever heard a professor say this on the first day of class. If not, you will eventually. This is a typical teacher comment that pops up as often as phrases like “lateness will not be tolerated” and “you can always find me during office hours.” It’s a promise that sounds good on a syllabus but, as I have come to find, isn’t always so easy to pull off in the classroom.

As college students, we deserve respect from our professors. I am an adult who works two jobs and carries a heavy course-load every semester so that I can graduate and contribute to society. I am one of many on this campus who feels this way, who shows up to class on time, completes assignments and pays attention to lectures.

And yet, why do I sometimes feel like we’re all treated like a bunch of five-year-old delinquents?

People may have differing definitions, but for me, respect simply means treating someone the way they should be treated. Respect is not forcing a student to show you samples of their writing because you don’t believe the good paper they wrote is really theirs. Respect is not making a student bring in proof that they were at a funeral or sick with the flu. Respect is not making students sit every other seat because you assume they will cheat.

I once had a teacher accuse my class of cheating because we all did well on a test. “I’m curious as to why all of you got As,” Professor X said. The fact that we all may have actually studied apparently never crossed Professor X’s mind. This is not respect.

Without respect, it’s easy to understand why so many students have little faith in their abilities. Professors aren’t on this campus to merely spit out information like robots. They are here to encourage and support us. So many students look to their professors for guidance. I know I do.

And I understand that disrespect is a two-way street. I have been outraged at how some students will answer their cell phones during class or consistently come in late. There are students on this campus who do not value an education, who see college as an obligation rather then a privilege. I understand this.

But why should those of us, who are proud to be in college, have to suffer because of the people who aren’t? Why should I have to explain why I wrote a good paper or did well on test? Why should I have to beg for respect like it’s something I don’t deserve?

The intention of this column is not to do a typical “the world is out to get me” rant that so many college students are guilty of. My intention is not to lump every professor at Kent State into the same mold either.

My intention is to encourage respect in the classroom. Students on this campus want to feel like their professors can trust them. At this level of education, I think we have more than earned it.

Michelle Poje is a senior journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater.

Contact her at [email protected]