Every semester in my Comp classes, my students write Compare/Contrast essays. One of the topic choices is “High School v. College.” In 99% of these essays, the students write, “In College, the professors don’t care about their students” or something to that effect. I try very hard not to take this personally.
I try to give them the benefit of the doubt and think that they were trying to say that professors will not necessarily chase after them for work, or call their parents when they are failing/slacking/acting up. I mean, they can’t possibly think that we don’t care about our students, right?
They can’t possibly think that it’s easy to watch someone not do any work and fail. Or to watch someone work very hard, struggle, and still fail. To watch students struggle to stay awake in class, not because they were out partying all night, but because they were working the 3rd shift so that they could take classes during the day. To watch students struggle to succeed in college while dealing with a divorce/financial problems/homelessness/abuse/drug addition/alcoholism/disabilities.
There are students whom I will never forget. Students like J, whom I had for a developmental class 4 summers ago. He was a recovering alcoholic, in his 40s, who just got his GED. He struggled with writing, worked very hard every day, and still failed. And dropped out of college. I was devastated, and wondered if I should have passed him just to boost his confidence a bit. I often wonder where he is now, and hope that I’ll see him in the college hallways again. Or M, whom I had in class 2 years ago. Similar story, same ending. She failed and dropped out. There are so many other students I wonder about, and pray that they’re ok and doing well.
There are students every semester whom I want to just sit down and tell them that they need to grow up, or start caring about their education. I want to tell them that they are blessed to have this opportunity, and that they’re wasting it. I can be just as defeated as the student when they do not do well on an assignment. Or I can be so proud that I can’t help but want to hug them when they succeed at an assignment, or anything else.
Yet, my students say that professors don’t care. Sure, I know that some don’t. But so many of us do care. But we also recognize that our students are adults, and are responsible for making their own decisions, and their own mistakes. And that means that we have to stand by and watch them fail or succeed. They’re all driving their own buses.
But I do care. When I stop caring, I’ll stop teaching.