Anna-Kaye Powell is an Accounting student at San Diego State University
Underpaid. Overworked. Teachers have simply become among the most undervalued professionals in our society. But why? Instructors and faculty seem to be consistently working beyond the 40-hour work week, taking the time to prepare their material, staying involved on campus, and setting their students up for success. It just doesn’t make sense.
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly limited instructor-student interaction. But, students’ appreciation for our instructors should be growing, not declining. Here is a list of reasons why I’m continuously thankful for my instructors — and why every student should be, too.
They Remain Flexible and Are Always Adapting
Throughout the pandemic, instructors had to adjust to a whole new way of teaching. Teachers and professors navigated through learning management systems that they may not have used before, such as Canvas and Blackboard. They have also learned to navigate Zoom and other communication platforms. Instructors were learning these systems alongside their students, and utilized them for their individual courses.
They Always Keep Communication Lines Open
Most instructors will keep their doors (and other forms of communication) open after class has come to an end through Office Hours, drop-ins, and email communications. Many instructors are willing to commit more time to helping their students than what may be required.
Personally, I’ve experienced a handful of professors who go as far as to respond to emails late into the night whenever students needed urgent questions answered. I believe any instructor committed enough to answer my last-minute questions at 9 p.m. should be given an award for dedication.
They Gracefully Deal with Disrespectful Students
At any teaching level, instructors are already dealing with a lot of stress factors. Unfortunately, the pandemic has only added to their worries. On top of adapting to different systems and technologies, instructors also must deal with keeping students engaged and alert.
As a student, it’s easy to disengage with online curriculums, especially when attending lectures through Zoom where you can mask yourself with a turned off camera. Imagine teaching to a mass of empty, black boxes that give no feedback. It’s no fun, and instructors must simply hope their material is understood. Even just seeing a few active faces out of dozens can be a welcome and appreciated sight.
One of the best feelings following a bad exam is seeing a generous curve after the results are live. Instructors are in no way obligated to do this. But, it’s always a relief when they do. Appreciate the instructors who give extra points here and there when they sense students are struggling. Bonus points and extra credit go a long way for us as students. These accommodations sometimes even give us the push we need to aim for the grades we want.
Many instructors even push deadlines and cancel certain classes because of noticeable stress, or simply wanting to give students a break after a big exam. These instructors really sympathize with students and deserve our utmost gratitude.
A Note to Fellow Students: Be Thankful
Recently, I had a professor who, within the past year, lost two loved ones within months of each other. Shortly after, she was diagnosed with cancer (but fought it and won!). Despite facing all of this within a single year, she remained devoted to her students, taught with grace and continued to give powerful career and life advice that would stay with us students forever. This professor is but one example of the relentless instructors who greatly care for their students despite personal hardship.
Our teachers, professors, and TAs are no different than the students they teach. They have their own emotions, battles and losses. They endure struggle and stress, and still must find the effort to come out of bed even on their worst days. As one student to another, it’s imperative that we remain thoughtful and considerate when speaking with our instructors. Continue to put yourself in their shoes and be respectful and humble for their efforts.
All instructors and faculty should be respected and appreciated, whether we know what they’re going through or not. Try making your own list of reasons why you appreciate your current and past instructors. What were you grateful for? What were the small things you didn’t take for granted? What was it that you did take for granted, but maybe shouldn’t have?
Simply remember to just be kind to your instructors and faculty and appreciate the little things. Turn those Zoom cameras on, engage in discussions and ask questions. Make sure they know you are grateful for all their efforts — and don’t forget to always share your thanks.
This post is part of our Teacher Appreciation series. To read more real letters from students, explore the full archive.