Professors are people, too, and like to feel appreciated. The way professors feel appreciated isn’t through gifts or saccharine praise, it’s through students who demonstrate a genuine interest in the subject. Your professor is probably teaching his class because he or she has spent a LOOOOOONG time studying this topic or writing about this topic or working in this field, so he or she would probably be ecstatic to know that you share his or her enthusiasm. Here are so tips to help you go that extra mile:
Don’t just care, LOOK like you care
Students aren’t always aware of it, but their body language and in-class behavior speaks volumes to a professor, and though a professor may seem lost in their own little lecture dream-land, they notice everything. So the student who is slouching, yawning every five minutes, coloring every other line in their notebook, and texting behind their textbook, is obviously not going to make a professor feel as appreciated as a student who is sitting up, making eye contact, nodding, and taking notes.
Ask questions in class
For some reason, students tend to feel intimidated or shy when it comes to asking questions in class. Professors will often pause during a lecture to ask for questions. This is because they WANT to start a discussion. If all they hear are crickets chirping, that feels crappy. So prepare some genuine questions to ask before class, and be the person to fill that silent, vacuous void. Your professor will be grateful and interested in what you have to say.
Respond to questions in class
The same goes for answering questions. A teacher may pose a question in the middle of a lecture for students to discuss. Many students feel worried about getting it wrong and looking stupid, but even if your answer is incorrect or a little bit incoherent, your professor will greatly prefer that to the all-too-familiar silence.
Nobody wants to volunteer to do a presentation first, but the ones who DO volunteer first stand out because of their confidence and enthusiasm. (Plus, if you go first, your professor will probably be more lenient with your grade since you’re kind of the guinea pig.)
While you should absolutely respond to questions, ask questions, and be proactive, don’t dominate everything. Don’t be the only person doing these things, and make sure you allow for other students to participate equally. If you steamroll over people or try to make the class the ME-show, you will actually annoy your professor, not impress him or her.