Caring About Students Matters

Good teachers care about their students. We all know that, but sometimes over the course of a long semester, it’s easy to forget just how important it is to show our students we care about them. I was reminded of this importance by two recent studies, which I read and highlighted for the December issue of The Teaching Professor newsletter.
In terms of research design, the studies couldn’t have been more different. In terms of results, they both came to the same conclusion. The interactions students have with their teachers and the kind of relationships that teachers establish with students profoundly affect students’ learning experiences. And it’s a finding that’s been established in study after study.
But it isn’t always easy to care about students. We may care theoretically, even actually, but when we’re tired, stressed by all that our academic positions require, and pulled by what’s happening at home, showing that you care isn’t all that easy. And then there are those students who themselves so clearly don’t care—about us, our course, their major, or their learning. Caring for a student and having that completely ignored or otherwise disavowed doesn’t do much to motivate continued caring.
So, at the risk of sounding crass, I’m wondering whether you can fake it when you don’t feel it. It may be like what we tell students in their first public speaking courses: “Even if you’re quaking in your …