Professors should be more compassionate towards working students

All this work would be manageable if I had just a day or two more. PHOTO: Sharon McCutcheon/Unsplash

By: Tammana T., Editor

As students become exhausted from life inside and outside the classroom, professors need to realize that – pandemic or not – not everyone has the privilege of focusing solely on academia throughout his degree. Although professors themselves are under massive workloads with their own deadlines, empathy for student responsibilities can make the difference. Until the structure and inherent expectations of the university can be revised, consideration of faculty is essential.

Noticing a student who is hurting and lending a helping hand whenever possible can help a student more than you might think. Offering support can pave the way for students not only to learn better — which is part of a teacher’s role — but also to feel more comfortable with their life situations.

Some students must work full-time while in school to support themselves while in school. Finding the motivation to just get through the day can be a challenge, as a day can include many hours of work, classes, and then coming home to study. By being flexible with deadlines, holding extra office hours, or even being a source of encouragement at times, professors can ease the academic burden of their students. These behaviors are huge in helping students stay motivated and get some much-needed time to relax.

Professors can further support students by providing a safe space for non-academic discussions. Many of my professors in the English department have office hours for their classes, but students often use this time to share personal issues and establish a dialogue that helps them feel more comfortable – and perhaps even a little light. Of course, while these discussions are helpful, they are neither the purpose nor the responsibility of a professor’s office hours. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, SFU Health and Counseling Services has dedicated counselors and psychiatrists to help students cope with stress and anxiety.

Balancing a full course load and a full-time job, sometimes there are no days off in a week. Some days I had to do my homework on the Skytrain on the way to work. Other times I had to ask for extensions because I had to stay late at work. By suspending judgment and being understanding, professors can strengthen the life of a struggling student by simply saying “yes” to an extension or showing support for a student’s efforts. Trusting students to complete their assigned task within the time they requested without penalty can eliminate stress and improve the quality of work. It also helps students to think clearly before tackling (or re-addressing) a topic, which will help them retain and better understand information.

Teachers should really be considerate of those who break their backs to complete their studies. I have heard of many cases where a student will have difficulties in life and academically, and instead of being kind, the professors have strictly said no to help, even in the most minor way possible. From helping students prepare for exams, offering advice in articles, or wanting to review course material, professors can make a huge difference.

If I had not had the help and support of my teachers when I was in difficulty, I would never have continued my studies. Sometimes a kind gesture – like extending a deadline – can make or break a course for students. It is therefore important that teachers know their students and know that they can really make a difference.

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