As the spring semester winds down on campus, I encounter a fair number of colleagues who are stressed out with grading or with students who are trying last ditch efforts to succeed in their classes. It’s easy at this point of the semester to get bogged down in the work and lose sight of the power we have as educators. My original plan for today’s post was to offer some simple steps to help faculty through these stressful times or to provide some ways to help faculty reflect on the past academic year and to consider changes they would make moving forward. As luck would have it, however, an article from today’s Chronicle of Higher Education provided a solution for both.
Reporting on a recent Gallup-Purdue Index Poll that examined the well-being of 30,000 college graduates, researchers found that respondents who had engaged positively with a faculty member on campus were more likely to report being engaged in their future workplace. As Scott Carlson writes in the Chronicle, “college graduates… had double the chances of being engaged in their work and were three times as likely to be thriving in their well-being if they connected with a professor on the campus who stimulated them, cared about them, and encouraged their hopes and dreams.” While the study was published recently, it echoes the findings from other researchers. Take a study conducted by Daniel Chambliss and Christopher Takacs that was discussed last fall on Inside Higher Education. In Chambliss and Takacs’ work, they interviewed 100 students and their educational trajectories at an unnamed institution. Undergraduates were more likely to major in a field if they had an inspiring and caring faculty member in an introductory course. Students were also equally likely to write off an entire field if they had a single negative experience with a professor. The evidence is clear: Caring, inspiring professors make a difference.
So, as we’re crazily grading our final exams and we’re dealing with another crying student who is stressed about their final grade in our course, it’s easy to forget the stress and challenges that our students are facing. I’m not suggesting that we lower our academic standards or to give in to every crazy request for extra credit for those ill-prepared students. But we can resolve to care. We can be inspiring and engaging and demonstrate concern for our students’ well-being. At stressful times like the end of the semester, we need to remember that the crying student at our door is somebody’s daughter or son. He may be someone’s father or she could be the primary caregiver in some extended family. Regardless, they deserve our attention, our respect and definitely some care.