Professors should be more compassionate towards working students

University students who also work can experience burn-outs faster

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A pile of folders and papers are stacked up for the entirety of the photo. Some of the papers are folded, and the pile looks in disarray. The folders are brightly coloured and stand out.
All this work would be manageable if I just had an extra day or two. PHOTO: Sharon McCutcheon / Unsplash

By: Tamanna T., Staff Writer

As students are getting burnt out by life in and outside the classroom, professors need to realize that — pandemic or not — not everyone has the privilege to only focus on academia throughout their degree. Though professors themselves are subject to massive workloads with their own deadlines, empathy towards students’ responsibilities can make a difference. Until the structure and expectations inherent in university can be revised, consideration from professors is much needed.

Noticing a suffering student and lending a helping hand wherever possible can aid a student more than one thinks. Offering support can pave the way for the students to not only learn in a better way — which is a part of a professor’s role — but also feel more comfortable in dealing with their life situations.

Some students have to work a full time job while studying to support themselves through school. Finding the motivation to simply get through the day can be a challenge, because one day can include many hours of work, classes, and then coming back home to study. By being flexible with deadlines, holding extra office hours, or even occasionally being a source of encouragement, professors can ease their students’ academic burdens. These behaviours are huge in helping students remain motivated and also get some well-deserved time to relax.

Professors can further support students by offering a safe space for non-academic discussions. Many of my professors in the English department have office hours for their classes, but students often use this time to share personal issues and build dialogue that helps them feel more comfortable — and maybe even a bit light-hearted. Of course, while these discussions are helpful, they are neither the purpose or responsibility of a professor’s office hours. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, SFU Health and Counseling Services has dedicated counselors and psychiatrists to help students deal with stress and anxiety.

When balancing a full course-load and a full time job, there are sometimes no days off in a week. On certain days, I’ve had to do my homework in the skytrain on my way to work. Other times I’ve had to ask for extensions because I had to stay later at work. By suspending judgment and being understanding, professors can bolster a struggling student’s life by simply saying “yes” to an extension, or showing support for a student’s efforts. Trusting students to do their assigned task within the extension they have asked for without penalty can remove stress and improve the quality of the work. It also helps students have a clear head before approaching (or re-approaching) a subject, which will help them retain and understand information better.

Professors should really be considerate to those busting their backs to get through school. I have heard of many instances where a student will be struggling through life and academically, and instead of being kind, professors have strictly said no to helping out in even the most minor ways possible. By helping students prepare for exams, offering some guidance in papers, or in a willingness to revisit lecture materials professors can make a huge difference.

If I didn’t have some of my professors’ help and support when I was struggling, I never would have continued my degree. Sometimes, a kind gesture — like extending a deadline — can make or break a course for students. So, it’s important for professors to know their students and know that they can truly make a difference.