We’ve all at some point sat in a classroom and thought “Wow, this professor hates me.” Maybe he attacked your essay violently with a red pen or he didn’t smile at you when he passed you in the hallway. Regardless, student-professor relationships aren’t always Kim and Kayne levels of perfect. But even if professors seem like they’re teaching simply for the paycheck and long vacations do they really care about their students?
I observe many of my professors’ actions and comments in class. I’ll admit—sometimes the vibe I get makes me feel like he or she just doesn’t like me. Plain and simple. Maybe I’m paranoid because I’m an athlete and we typically have that “dumb jock” stereotype floating over our heads. But as I began to take smaller upper-division classes (we’re talking ten people max), I realized most professors really do care. Most just show it in weird ways—like challenging us when we’d really just prefer a box of sprinkled donuts.
When I walked into University of San Diego Professor Deborah Kelly’s microeconomics class, I knew she truly cared about me as an individual. For instructors like Kelly, teaching is more than just a job. She enjoys seeing her students grow and succeed both in the classroom and in their everyday lives. “The greatest thrill I have is when I read the answers on in-class assignments or exams and the students are able to apply the concepts,” said Kelly. The fact that students are able to understand what’s being taught and “how it applies to their life and the real world” is something that she loves seeing. Kelly especially loves when students send her articles relating to topics correlating to lessons. “[I also like] when students arrive early to class or talk about the latest movies or what they did over the weekend,” said Kelly. “It helps me get a better understanding of their lives.”
Outside of office hours, people like Professor Kelly really make students feel like rockstars. “I enjoy seeing students outside of the classroom where there is no pressure to perform but instead we can just talk,” said Kelly. She attends a majority of the sports games occurring on campus to show her support for her current, past and future students as well as display her pride as a Torero. “It’s fun to see them achieve in other ways, and they always appreciate the support as I help cheer on the team,” said Kelly.
Aside from the amazing Professor Kelly, my literature professor, Dr. Hasselbach, this semester arranged short meetings with every one of her students during the first weeks of school. But not about class—just to get to know us. Professor Hasselbach said she likes to do these meetings to see what kind of courseload her students are taking. “I try to remember what it felt like to be in that phase of life, when everything seems, and is, so urgent and possible,” said Hasselbach. She enjoys helping students out in any way possible. Caring, right?
I was surprised to see how much time some professors put into making sure students get the right information. My Environmental Ethics professor, Mark Woods, needed to watch his dog during the time I asked to meet with him (which was after his typical hours), so he went home and brought his cute little pup into office hours. What gets better than extra help and adorable puppies? Not much besides those sprinkled donuts.
When asked what her response would be to students who feel as though professors are out to get them, Professor Kelly responded diplomatically. “Some students may feel this way, and yet some professors are challenging them to innovate, create and dig deeper.” Similarly, Hasselbach stated that, “Most professors are genuinely invested in their students’ success.” Both feel professors aren’t trying to be evil, as much as we might think they are.
You may think professors like Kelly, Hasselbach and Woods are the unicorns of professors, beautiful and impossible to find, but they feel most instructors have the same mindset they have. The paycheck isn’t substantial enough to make a difference, and while the vacations are nice, the lives and successes of students are more important. Stepping back from the world of letter grades and exams can help you find the caring person beneath the professorial mask. Of course professors care about their students. That’s what makes them so great.