Let’s take a walk down memory lane and reminisce about the unforgettable experiences of high school. Rather than looking at the parties, the awkwardness, and the moment you tossed your cap into the air like they do in Disney movies — I want to talk about your favourite teachers, and why they were your favourites.
Perhaps they’re your favourite because they never gave out tests, and only assignments. Maybe it was because they understood the difference between empathy and indifference. Or maybe it was because they were the only one to clap after your caffeine-induced-all-nighter of a presentation about civics and careers.
Let’s just be honest with ourselves — your favourite teacher was your favourite because they actually cared. I don’t mean the teachers who bump your grade because they know it’ll boost your average, or even those who claim not to have a favourite student but if they did it’d be you. I’m talking about educators who give a shit about your education.
These teachers stayed after class to give you tips on how to ace an upcoming assignment or test. They spent their lunch breaks going over the material or lesson again in a way you understand it. They gave constructive criticism and showed you how to do better (but in an approachable way because some of us are frail and withered and too sleep deprived to know any better).
When teachers care about the students (and the material they teach), students tend to learn more and pay attention longer.
We never valued those teachers when we had the chance. Now that we’re paying thousands of dollars for our classes, finding a professor who cares is more important than ever. You never see the same professor everyday and you rarely get on a first-name basis with them — it’s simply a different experience.
We get it, online teaching isn’t easy, but online learning isn’t any better.
Far too often have I seen professors brush a student aside when they need assistance. It’s either “talk to your TA,” “dig up your textbook,” and never “here, let me help you understand this.” I get it, professors are busy people, but it’s not rocket science, folks. It’s almost one step above the minimum effort required for human decency.
Online learning has made it even more difficult to connect with professors — both on a human level and a shotty internet latency level. Some professors use Zoom to deliver their lectures and interact with their class. Others use recorded lectures from previous years and only communicate via delayed email responses (at least those lectures had a laugh track). We get it, online teaching isn’t easy, but online learning isn’t any better.
Now professors, I hear what you’re saying: “how can we care about each individual student when there are over 100 of them in each of my classes?” And that’s a brilliant point, because then the onus is on the university system to reduce class sizes. But oh no, that would reduce student enrollment to the point where York isn’t in the top three largest universities!
Thankfully, the concept of professors giving a damn isn’t too foreign, as there are professors who do care after all. When you find them, it can be life-changing.
Student success rates tend to be higher when they’re treated like more than just a number, and while I don’t have the numbers to show you (don’t you dare make me write a feature about this), it makes too much sense to ignore.
So professors, please offer your time to assist us, offer constructive criticism (that means actually handing back our papers), and help us understand what you’re trying to teach. I beg of you, if you can afford to give a damn, just give the damn. And if you can’t, at least try to give a little damn — it’s not very expensive and you’ll find the exchange rate quite surprising.