You did it. You’ve typed the final sentence of your grueling final essay. You’ve breathed a sigh of relief as your applauding classmates signal the end of your last presentation. The semester is over, and you can pat yourself on the back for getting one step closer to your degree. But, when you ask yourself what it is you just did for the past ten weeks, or if someone asks you what your class was all about, you draw a blank. Maybe the class was difficult. Maybe the professor drove you up a wall. Maybe the course covered a whole bunch of topics with which you were already familiar. In any case, you feel like this class was an utter waste of time.
That’s definitely how I felt at the end of one of my classes this semester. I won’t say which class it was, but I will say that the class was one of two options for fulfilling a requirement of my graduate program. Of course, I have no way of knowing if the other of the two options would have been a better fit for me, but I do wonder what might have been if I had chosen differently. I finished my final assignment for the course well ahead of time. I am fairly certain that I will get an ‘A’ in the course overall. However, I don’t feel strongly that the assignments that I completed and the articles that I read served to deepen my understanding of the course’s subject matter beyond a superficial level. In light of this frustration, what’s a budding LIS professional to do?
Be Honest in Evaluations
What prompted the subject of this HLS article was a reminder from my school to complete my course evaluations. While I was going through the form, I took the time to think carefully about what specifically caused me not to feel that I had benefited from the class, and express that as thoroughly as possible. It’s definitely tempting to think, “I hated this class because ugggggghhhhhhhh.” It’s even easier not to submit an evaluation at all if, as is the case in my program, evaluations are not technically required. Even so, thorough feedback can keep other students from running into the same problems you had by prompting the professor to make changes to the structure or content of the course. Because I gave concrete suggestions, I have hopes that my input will be taken to heart. Also, in my program, the administration allows for students to access previously submitted evaluations (anonymous of course). If your school does this, too, you can rest assured that your input helps your peers with their course selection decisions, which brings me to my next point:
Communicate with Peers
One of my friends was observing that it seems like people at the graduate school level don’t use public review services such as ratemyprofessor as much as they do at the undergraduate level. I don’t have any hard data on that observation, but I think there’s some truth to that. I’ve certainly received advice from friends further along in the program on what to take or not to take, but that information came by word of mouth. I think that it’s worth it to revisit services like ratemyprofessor in order to maximize our capacity to communicate with our peers and those who will come after us.
Shift Your Career Plans
The reason why I chose this class instead of the other class that would have fulfilled my program requirement is that I felt that the former class was more aligned with my career goals in a particular realm of librarianship. As difficult as it is to admit, I think that part of the reason why I felt that this class was a waste of time was because it was not very interesting to me, which means this specific area of librarianship is probably not a good fit for me. That truth can be hard to confront because, as is common when planning a career path, I’ve become rather invested in it. Nevertheless, it’s better to discover that your imagined career doesn’t excite you as much as you thought it might while still in school. After all, you have more time and freedom to adjust. In that way, even a class that feels like pulling teeth can be an important learning experience.
Have you ever taken a class that you wish you hadn’t? What advice would you offer to folks in this position?