“In College, professors don’t care about their students.”

Source: Icanhascheezeburger.com

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.


About JessieB

Just a 30-something girl trying to figure it all out. I write about weight loss, books, motherhood, life, and whatever is on my mind.
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12 Responses to “In College, professors don’t care about their students.”

  1. annaholler says:

    Interestingly, I found the opposite to be true. I felt that my college professors cared very much and my high school teachers did not.

    That said, I think that if a teacher (of any grade level) sees a student working very hard and still failing, it’s part of the teachers job to find a way to help the student become successful. Certainly, this is a challenge and I definitely don’t think that a student should be passed just because they try hard. It probably requires a little bit of mind reading and too many extra hours, but that’s why teaching is a calling for magicians. 🙂

  2. Every semester I have taught so far one of the comments I often get on my evals is this prof really cares and that shocked me. I always wonder who started that story or rumor because it absolutely is not true.

  3. Sarah says:

    I adore this post Jessie! It’s obvious that you care deeply about what you do and people see that (I do at least!!!) Don’t let this get to you- most of the people that say professors don’t care are the ones that want everything handed to them without having to work for it. Those ones who are wasting the chance (and blessing!!) that they’ve been given.to be able to get an education- not everyone gets that opportunity!

    It seems a little different than it did in my previous degree now that I’m getting a degree in science. I’ve actually come across a few professors that truly didn’t care. They’re only teaching because it comes attached to grant money for their research. When you care about your grades and come to them with concerns they call you a perfectionist and say that it’s ridiculous that you care so much about a number. I’ve actually had one professor confess to not being prepared to teach class because she was too busy working on her grants! Not all of them are like this though- I’ve had so many go out of their way to help me and truly wanted me to succeed in their class.

    When I was getting my music degree the profs seemed to care so much more though than with this science degree. They were in it for the love of teaching and music not because there was any kind of grant money attached to it for research. I guess it depends on their reason for teaching…

    Obviously I’ve put a lot of thought into this- I was a teacher for 5 yrs before I went back to school for a new career. I think that teachers are absolutely the most unappreciated (and underpaid!) people there are. I love that you care about your students and I know that it can be frustrating at times but when you get frustrated think about all the people that have passed through your classroom that you’ve helped without realizing it! They may not always say it but they appreciate you!!

    • Laura says:

      Obvs I know the professors that Sarah is talking about, and I completely agree. In science, all these professors teach because they are also doing research and it’s required. Only a few, who don’t do research, are the ones that seem to truly care.

      In business – it was WAY different. Only a few professors didn’t really put a lot of time into their classes, but that was because they also had full time jobs and were just adjunct. But in business – you have to truly WANT to teach because the salary you were making in your full time job is way too sweet to decide a professor’s salary would be better. So the professors that I had in b-school were amazing compared to some of these professors I have now in science.

      I’ll also say, my experience with junior college professors was horrendous compared to my 4 year university professors. I had three professors, and two were horrible. They didn’t even want to be there. One professor truly took time out for her students.

      But frankly, teaching is just a career in the end. Just like being a RD, or a lawyer or a chef. Some people go into the profession because they have a serious passion for it. Others just want a job. I’ve yet to really find a career path where everyone in that career is 100% dedicated to it and is passionate about it. That’s just life! Luckily, you and myself and Sarah are the passionate ones and therefore the ones that will make a difference in people’s lives through our work!

      • Sarah says:

        Lovefest!!! Hugs for all!

      • You raise a great point — there are many people who teach for the benefits like grant money, research facilities, extra money, and summers off. Being an adjunct is also difficult — many of us are teaching a billion classes at a billion colleges just to make ends meet. And then there are the ones who have FT gigs who adjunct for money.

        I just can’t fathom teaching without caring. It’s so foreign to who I am, and what I believe in.

    • Sarah, thanks for the feedback! I’ve been immersed in the Humanities for so long that I had no idea what it was like in other departments. Many of us don’t have work tied to research, unlike those in the sciences. It’s interesting to see the difference!

  4. Stina says:

    First of all I found your blog through Laura and Sarah’s Tweets. When I did my student teaching (high school English) I had many students use “well they don’t care what you do in college” as an argument against me. And, from my own experience with that, I think you’re probably right to give them the benefit of the doubt.

    Generally when my students would throw the “professors don’t care” line at me it was when I was expecting things from them like showing up to class on time or turning in their work. When I would refute their argument and let them know that most of the teachers I had in college very much cared about my attendance, assignments and quality of work, they all seemde genuinely surprised.

    I think a lot of high school students and even first year college students operate under the notion that college = complete freedom. I also think a lot of them learn the hard way that’s not the case, but that’s simply my opinion.

    • I’m glad you found your way to my blog!

      It’s interesting that you had the same experience with HS kids. Many of my students have told me that their HS cared more about them. They allowed students to turn in work late with no penalty, emailed their parents to let them know what was going wrong/right, etc. When they come to college, they don’t get those things anything, and they perceive it as not caring. So unfortunate.

  5. Pingback: “In College, professors don't care about their students.” « A Last …

  6. Jack says:

    Good post. I will be facing some of these issues as well..

  7. Bob Newhart says:

    Yeah well, at my university I go to help sessions when I get stuck on an assignment, and half the time the TA or LA is not there when they are supposed to be there to help. Told the professor about this, she didn’t care, just kind of stared at me and didn’t say anything.

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