No such things as ‘scary’ professors?: Troy students and staff weigh in

Jixuan Tang photo

Student Zhifei Zheng took a speech course from Dr. Maryjo Cochran (above). He found her to be a good teacher — “strict, but she only is strict to the students who do not want to pay any effort into their study.”


Jixuan Tang

Some professors seem scary at first but actually are good teachers.

“Professors are often viewed differently by different groups of people,” said Zhifei Zheng, a broadcast journalism major from Yangzhou, Jiangsu, China, who was a sophomore in the spring. “It depends on how much effort the students paid into these courses.” 

Zheng said he accidentally chose a speech course taught by Dr. Maryjo Cochran, a professor of communication studies, who recently had a 3.2 overall rating out of 5 on the ratemyprofessors
.com website. English is Zheng’s second language, so he was nervous. 

Zheng said that at first he felt afraid and even didn’t know what to do. But he tried to improve and tried his best to complete the tasks assigned by the professor. In the end, he got a good result unexpectedly.

Improved skills

“I think Dr. Cochran is actually a good teaching professor,” Zheng said. “Since I took her course, I have improved my speaking skills to a new level.

“Dr. Cochran is strict, but she only is strict to the students who do not want to pay any effort into their study. In fact, I am very supportive of her to do so, because the pay and return should be proportional.”

Zheng said every time he carefully prepared a speech, he worried that he would not perform well. Cochran always encouraged him and told him that he could do it well, and that made him feel confident. 

When he successfully completed the speech, Cochran gave him a comprehensive critique of the things he said well plus the things he needed to improve, Zhang said.

“I don’t understand what the students who rated her on thought about. At least, I really enjoyed Professor Cochran’s course. 

“In fact, we do not need to be afraid of the so-called horrible professors. All we need to do is to pay as much effort as we can. Success achieved through hard work often is worth more to pride and enjoyment.”


Cochran said she expects all students to use English more professionally and to become “more confident and fluent in their speech.”

She said she encourages students to read more books outside class so that they can get more knowledge, and not just confine reading to the textbooks. 

“I hope students can demonstrate effective verbal and nonverbal delivery skills when giving speeches,” Cochran said. “I am willing to help them with their work because I want them to be successful.”

Cochran commented that “learning to encourage and appreciate students is important.” She said she appreciates students “who work very hard and really want to do every job well. Sometimes the speeches aren’t perfect, but we all learn from our mistakes.”

Cochran said she has seen many international students who study hard and are willing to do every task better. Because of the language difference, she understands “their language proficiency is a work in progress.” She respects their extra effort to succeed.

Better outcomes

“Respecting each other is very important, I think,” Cochran said. “I give students strict course requirements because having structure for my assignments improves student outcomes.”

She recalled when, as a graduate student, she had to complete a big project and spent a lot of time on it. 

“When I finally completed the production, my professor gave me less than helpful feedback,” Cochran said. “He scribbled ‘good job’ on a Post-it Note. What I wanted and needed was his valuable criticism and advice to make my production even better. I wanted to learn from any mistakes he thought I made.”

She said lazy students don’t do well in her class. If they treat her expectations with a perfunctory attitude, she will grade them with the same attitude — that is, equally. 

Making the effort

“In other words, I really respect students who put more effort into their work,” Cochran said. “This attitude is not negotiable, and I will continue to have high expectations
for my students.

“I’m nurturing in my teaching but also a taskmaster. I want my students to be successful in college and in life.”

Silvia Li, the university’s director of special international initiatives, said: “I think all the professors in our school are excellent enough. There are no inferior professors, only lazy students.”

Enjoy learning

Li said many students want only to win the game or enjoy the wonderful music; they do not want to find that unique enjoyment from the so-called difficult courses. 

“Learning is supposed to be an enjoyable process,” Li said. “Students can often improve their learning ability and self-requirements to a greater extent by taking courses taught by the serious professors.

“It’s really a growth of personality. These professors who have their own serious way in teaching are the most precious treasure of every university.”

Related posts