Professing my gratitude

Angela Hickman
Angela Hickman

Last month, I got a letter in the mail asking if I would be interested in writing a letter in support of a former professor who’s up for reappointment. Over my five years here, this is the second time I’ve been asked to write such a letter.

There are a lot of things about the English department I like: Professors are generally approachable, the staff in the department office are helpful and, by and large, the courses offered are interesting.

But, over my four years as an English student, I’ve noticed that a lot of my professors have run their courses in more or less the same way. It’s as if there’s a format for how to get the most out of your students with the least amount of marking, and while I appreciate the smaller workload that comes with fewer assignments, I didn’t know how much I was capable of learning in one course until last year.

In general, there are a lot of things I prefer about seminars. There’s more class discussion, works are often studied more in-depth and there are no TAs marking your papers, so you know if you have a question that the professor is your first and often only stop for answers.

But still, my seminars seemed to run the same way. All, that is, except one.

My renaissance seminar had a workload that was head-and-shoulders above the rest. ‘What’s the deal with this prof?’ I thought to myself as I looked over the syllabus, with its three essays, 12 mini-assignments, one group seminar presentation and final exam.

But by the end of September, I knew: she was young, excited about her field and interested in different kinds of learning.

By half-way through the first semester the mini-assignments didn’t feel as painful as I was expecting them to; set up as a combination of two-page response papers or creative assignments, having to study specific works in order to respond directly to them made everything seem a bit more interesting.

Having a professor so engaged in her work that she didn’t mind marking 12 extra assignments from everyone in the class was pretty inspiring too.

Even more inspring was when she scheduled meetings with everyone individually to talk about the course, our papers and where we wanted to go with our studies.

I’ve been lucky during my five years at Queen’s to have passionate and interesting professors, but this is the first time I’ve been given the opportunity to speak out on behalf of one of them.

One of the best things about the hiring process at Queen’s is student input, which I can only imagine must be one of the most important elements when deciding who to hire.

In the season of reference letters and grad school applications, I’m just happy to know that I was able to return the favour and write in support of a professor I hope to see at Queen’s for years to come.

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