In my freshman year, my major required lots of science classes: astronomy, pre-calculus, programming, so I was getting ready for a busy semester. The first day of my pre-calculus class, was sort of, intimidating. Usually at the first class you get the hang of it from the teacher, the syllabus, the pace of the class. Not with this one. There was some degree of uncertainty as to what to expect from this class.
When I was a student, I always liked the challenge. I believe that if you study and prepare, there is no such thing as a hard class. That’s why when some of my classmates gathered around at the end of the calculus class, somebody starting saying that this professor had fame for being extremely hard and that every semester, most of his students fail or end up with a C. A good friend of mine decided that he was going to switch to a class with an ‘easier’ professor; he suggested I’d do the same. I kindly declined and decided to stay.
I must say that in the next couple weeks I starting doubting if I made the right decision. At one class I remember asking a question and the professor answered it in a way I thought was very condescending. That day I went home sad, disappointed, and I even remember telling my husband about the whole thing, me having the opportunity to change classes and I didn’t. Since the deadline to switch the class without penalties was over, I had no choice but to stay. My husband cheered me up and I just thought of doing my best as with every class.
On the first project, we had to do something with exponential formulas utilizing real data and using the knowledge and formulas we learned in class. I did mine about the exponential growth in population within the next 20 years for my hometown in Saltillo, Mexico. The following week, the professor was giving back the graded projects but by the look of my classmates, this was no good. I saw lots of F’s and C’s and all I thought was why I didn’t listen to my friend then.
When he gave all the projects back except mine, I started to worry. The professor then proceeded to explain how this particular student did the project while he is holding it in the air (his voice very serious). At this point I am totally freaking out. All I thought was, if this guy starts making fun of me, I don’t care, I am getting up right now and I am dropping this class even if it stays in my student records for eternity.
It turned out he began praising ‘this’ student project. How organized, neat, professional, detailed, useful content, pages numbered, he even loved the cover page. He said he wanted from now on to have all projects to follow this same format; and then he called my name… This made me feel so proud and motivated to study even harder, but especially gave me the confidence I needed. I would not say his class was easy, after all calculus is not an easy topic, but his way of teaching helped me to truly think and analyze math concepts to then be applied to real life situations.
At the end of the semester, not only I did very well, I truly enjoyed his class and learned a lot. I also understood why this professor was nationally recognized as a great math teacher, and why he was so avoided by students. Sometimes students want the easy A and don’t care whether they learn something or not. I also saw my friend who switched classes at the beginning of the term and I asked him how it went with the easy teacher. Turns out he got a C which he claims was because the class had an easy teacher and therefore he did not study as hard as he should of.
The lessons learned here are, a) listen to your inner voice and don’t follow the crowd, 2) the old say about studying hard and doing your best does pay off, and 3) never go with what people tell you. Just because someone had a bad experience at something, it doesn’t mean you will have it too. Oh, and 4) there is no such thing as an easy teacher or an easy class. NEVER.