COLUMN: Nurturing shouldn’t end in college

Angela Oliver

There are some lost souls walking around this campus. Some struggle in their classes. Others quickly give up because they don’t know where to turn.

But it might be, dear professors, because you don’t always do enough.

Yesterday, I heard four very good professors say that teaching, in its most basic sense, is not their only job. They said they are also mentors and nurturers. And I, like many of my fellow students, appreciate that.

It is easy for professors to give the “real world” speech, stating that no one plays fairly, and no one cares, so they might as well start being hard on us now.

But let’s be honest: College is not the real world. Our professional paths most likely won’t lead us to a place where there are rules for having company, allotments for food or social exceptions for public intoxication. So why not add to the unique experience of college by not being so “real”?

I’m not saying it’s the teacher’s job to be lenient or too comfortable with their students. But it is not a crime to care about them.

I think too many professors are clouded by the idea that students are adults and therefore don’t need any extra encouragement. After all, we’re old enough to push ourselves on our own. But they should treat college like any other educational setting and realize that their attitudes toward teaching us affect our attitudes toward learning.

That might not mean much to many professors; I’ve had a few who admittedly don’t care about their evaluations, and it shows in their methods.

I’m just saying that simply instructing is not enough. When you’re dealing with hundreds of students who have different learning styles, different backgrounds and different abilities, there’s no way you can neutralize your courses to fit them all. Trying to accommodate everyone would be impossible, but putting in a little extra effort for a student who noticeably (and sometimes painfully) needs more from you won’t hurt.

Don’t shrink from spending time with a student if you see them trying but they can’t seem to make any progress. Don’t be afraid to ask about distractions in their life that might be keeping them from reaching their potential. And don’t give up on a student who doesn’t start off strong; your input might be just what they need to do better.

Many professors are probably thinking, “What does she know?” I’m not a professor, and I can only imagine how hard it is to maintain several classes. But I am an observer. And I’ve seen and experienced how things can improve if a professor shows that they care.

On “One Mic,” a militant, yet inspirational anthem, Nas says all he needed was one life, one breath, one chance – one microphone to spread his voice to the world.

You, dear professors, could be that for your students. You can be their inspiration; all it takes is one word from you, one time to let them know you’re there if they need you.

Sure, there is The Learning Center, the Counseling and Testing Center and other services for students who need help. But they might be more comfortable reaching out to someone they see a few times a week.

Your extra effort could increase graduation and retention rates, give a sense of happiness to a student who has had a hard life, or bring out a talent or strength they didn’t know they had. You never know if you’re the only positive influence they’ve ever encountered.

It would take more of your time and energy, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask, as I’m certain someone did the same for you. And since we’ll soon fill many of your shoes, you shouldn’t mind paying it forward.