Connection with Instructors

As I mentioned in the previous blog, on Wednesday I went to the Classroom Inclusion panel. Two different students asked questions of the panel about having more of a community with faculty, getting more support from them, and having more of a connection with their instructors and peers. The answer these students got bothered me, even though I had to agree. The response faculty said was that in some ways they would never get that because faculty at places like Virginia Tech and University of Georgia (where Dr. Bettina Love is on faculty) put more emphasis on research, so to be able to keep their jobs they have to close their door to students frequently.

This is true. If your appointment is anything greater than 40% research there probably is not enough time to have a completely open door policy for our students. I am not saying that one way is better than another and in the end it is what is right for students and individual faculty members, but when I heard those students ask those questions, I felt bad for them. These large research oriented universities have great benefits for students, but there are drawbacks as well.

As someone who came from an extremely small undergrad, it has been difficult for me to not have the individual time and open door policy for my own students that I had with my faculty. I think my biggest class in undergrad was 15 with the average between 3 and 6 (and this pedagogy course may be the biggest one I have ever had). I knew the faculty very well, which I still appreciate. I try my best to get to know my students individually (with the added challenge of it being online) and give them individual instruction and feedback. Though, admittedly, I really can keep about 20 students stories and challenges straight in my head out of ~70 and the rest I keep notes about. When I taught face to face, I would recognize student’s faces but often could not remember their names.

As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, I often feel like our students are just on a conveyer belt that we help them check off boxes. The Gallup survey has shown that making at least one connection with a faculty member helps students succeed after college. Each student may need different things and will connect with different faculty/instructors. I like to think that it may not be our job to connect with all 100+ students we have in our courses each year, but if we can connect with a few, we are doing our job well.

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