To My Professor: Student Voices for Great College Teaching is the latest book to be produced by students in the journalism class responsible for the "Bias Busters: Guides to Cultural Competence" series. The book attempts to reach college professors by giving them advice and techniques to use in the classroom.
It includes narratives from students about a variety of situations that they’ve encountered with instructors. Using information and suggestions from exemplary educators and other professionals, the book offers strategies that professors can use to address or avoid these issues altogether.
Led by Editor-in-Residence Joe Grimm, the class that created this guide was made up of 18 students in various majors and minors, from Packaging to Advertising + PR.
To My Professor: Student Voices for Great College Teaching is the 10th book that Grimm has created with students and the largest. With around 52 chapters, the book covers topics such as religion, sexuality, race and more. It was created with the purpose of being a resource for professors – a possible supplement for the training they receive about how to guide their actions in the classroom.
"Our audience is professors who want to be better teachers – and that’s most professors," said Grimm. "A lot of professors don’t get enough training. A college professor typically gets less training than high school teachers or elementary school teachers."
The class used several methods to collect statements from students. In a hallway on the second floor of the Communication Arts and Sciences building, a bulletin board with the hashtag #ToMyProfessor and blank note cards asked the question: "Did you ever want to tell a professor something but couldn’t?" The board encouraged students to write or tweet about a situation they faced. Other approaches included social media and in-person interviews.
"We were looking for things that seemed genuine, honest, that seemed like these are situations that we could deal with or give people some strategies on," said Grimm.
Bryce Airgood, a recent journalism graduate, participated in the class and explained the role of students in writing a book that helps professors become better educators. She said that they went to professional sources and experts for the suggestions that they would give professors.
"It’s not just us saying like, 'Hey, this is what you should do.’ We are actually getting this advice from people who know what they’re talking about," said Airgood. "So, hopefully people will take that part seriously, because it’s not just our opinion. We actually have good sources for the advice and what-not."
Grimm noted that many of the sources whose stories are shared in the book are from Michigan State University, but there are also students and professionals from outside the university as well. A special section in the book provides resources that are specifically available to MSU professors, however, this feature can be replaced with one for another school by request.
While people have already expressed interest in the book, Grimm said that even if sales are low, he learned more about his own role as a professor in the School of Journalism through creating it.
"Working on this book, I think it has changed the way I teach because I see sometimes when I said things that weren’t right or did things that weren’t the smartest. So, I’ve gone back. I’ve already changed my syllabi and changed the way I try to teach in the classroom and outside of the classroom," he said. "If nothing else, the book will help one professor become better, and that’s me.