Your instructors at this level are different from your teachers in high school in a couple of significant ways. First, though you may have had some brilliant and accomplished teachers in high school, all instructors of higher learning are experts in a specialized field. They will likely have or be working toward an advanced degree in the subject they teach.
Be aware that there are other distinctions between what a high school teacher does and what an instructor does. Your high school teachers may have kept track of your progress and reminded you when assignments are due, but at the college level that responsibility rests solely with you.
Higher education entails being a more independent student; you are in charge of your destiny. Taking an active role in forming a relationship with your instructor is a part of that responsibility.
Some instructors may be supported by an instructor’s assistant. An instructor’s assistant or teacher’s assistant, often called a “T.A.” for short, is a bridge between the instructor and the student. Their job is to work more closely and directly with the students than the instructor is able to, so they can be a great resource for you when it comes to clarifying instructions or answering questions you might have about assignments or policies. Assistants usually perform much of the grading and evaluation of your coursework.
While your instructor’s assistant is not your instructor, they are not your peer either. Take advantage of your instructor’s assistant’s approachability and availability, but be respectful of their role and the work it took for them to arrive at their position.
In addition to teaching classes, your instructor’s job may entail working professionally in their field, publishing academic books and articles, or speaking at conferences nationally and internationally. They have spent years focusing on the topics covered in your course. Even if these topics are not the same ones that interest you, you can appreciate their commitment to knowledge. In addition to letting that knowledge facilitate your success in the course, let their expertise inspire you as you make your own path through higher learning.