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Can You Care Too Much?

As a faculty member, is there such a thing as caring for your students too much?

It does increase your workload. Just today - one day - I had a student who told me he forgot to print out his paper last week, could he still turn it in? Another had sent it to me but forgot to hand it in out of his backpack. Another just had back surgery and has been out and missed the start of our Reacting game. Another has had serious issues with her anti-depression medication and has gotten behind in class. Another one today was in the hospital with issues related to a kidney stone.

Then there is the student who has missed a total of nine classes and the last three. I don't have the energy to chase after him. I noted another one with just about as many absences who got up and left the class to go to the bathroom about half way through the 90-minute course period. I don't think he came back. But I had 23 or so other students to try to engage and mobilize for learning.

It's the end of the term. We still have two and a half more weeks of teaching to go before the finals/finale period [I abhor the notion of a class having a "final" so I use the term "finale" which my friend Tony Crider has written about before].

I continue to try to think up engaging material for my students, while at the same time covering my material and trying to gauge that they are learning. And I still want to help them all. But sometimes I get overwhelmed, too. There are so many needs and so many issues and so many difficulties.

I realize I could stand up at the front of the class, not say hello to my students, and lecture to them. Let them learn or not - who cares!?!?  And yet, I care. I care about the student who needed to get to her doctor to have her medication changed. I care about the student who has missed 9 classes. I care about the student with the back surgery and the one who was in the hospital today trying to find out what was wrong.  It's more emotional work to care [which is sometimes undervalued and under-recognized in higher education]. It's more work, period, to care.

Yet I do believe that caring about students helps them learn. And my business is teaching. And learning.


1 thought on “Can You Care Too Much?

  1. Victoria (Lloyd) Stinnett

    It's been over a decade (showing my age) since I took your class as a student and I can honestly say that I could tell you cared about me as a student but also as a person. When a class about Ancient Egypt, my favorite, was going to be offered the next semester you cut out the notice and put it in my mailbox. I was excited for the class but even more touched that you thought of me (I still have that piece of paper). My biggest regret about colllege was not taking your classes sooner and realizing my love for Art History. If I had started earlier I'm sure I would have had a different or at least a dual major. Thank you for being the kind of teacher who truly cares, I'm sure it's exhausting, but it makes a difference.


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