Kindness, Generosity and Compassion
How to treat our students
Here is my commitment to treating students when they are facing difficulties with work, and outside pressures. I have not put these commitments into writing in my course outlines (syllabus). I will do so in future.
I will treat students kindly. I will try to treat them in the manner that I would like to be treated. I may not always manage this, because I am human too. Nevertheless, I will strive to be kind. I want students to feel comfortable with talking to me, as a teacher and as a mentor. I cannot be a friend to everyone, but I can be someone who can offer advice and support.
I recognise that my course is not the overarching event in their life. It may have to take second priority or even lower priority to many other things. There may be outside pressures on the student that I do not know about. There may be outside pressures that the students are unable or uncomfortable to talk about with their Professor. I will not press them for the reasons. If I can, I will suggest other services that they might find helpful.
I will treat students generously. I will trust them when they ask for extensions for work, or cannot attend laboratory or other scheduled class events.
A Few Notes
Most of us put deadlines and other time structures in our course for very sound reasons. We want to apply some pattern, and some milestones or goals in our course, other than just at the end in a final examination. We want the students to move through these goals at a steady pace. We should recognise that not all students are able to keep up that pace throughout the entire course. We should accommodate them, as far as possible. Sometimes this can be difficult, because of resource limitations, such as the availability of graders, or laboratory demonstrators, or laboratory space. Students should recognise that this can place an extra burden on the instructors and support staff. Compromise by both parties may be necessary.
I will also not act to police my students on absences. I will not ask for sick-notes or notes to prove the reasons for an absence. I will treat my students as responsible adults, not as adversaries. The new proposed labour laws in Ontario remove the need for workers to provide a sick-note to prove absence from work. I will do likewise. Why burden the health services with this?
I have been trying to do this in the courses where I am the responsible leader. I recognise that when I am co-teaching, my colleagues may not follow this philosophy. I will endeavour to change their minds.
We can teach effectively and still treat our students with generosity, kindness and compassion. On some days we will be sorely tested by a student. I was sorely tested today, whilst writing this piece. Nevertheless, he persisted.