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What Faculty Want their Students To Know

How do we best support students in the aftermath of crises, especially when those crises happen within our community and center around race and gender? At the Innovation in Pedagogy Summit, May 6, 2015, UVA instructors discussed the wide range of ways in which they reached out to students this past academic year. Some of these faculty members have shared their stories in a previous blog.  This post offers a collection of messages that instructors wrote during the last five minutes of the Summit session in response to the perceived lack of support voiced in this open letter. The anonymous messages below are not meant to answer the wide range concerns voiced in the open letter. Instead, they offer a glimpse into the seriousness with which instructors take these concerns and show their heartfelt care for students. If you would like to add a message, please email us at trc-uva@virginia.edu.

  • As a faculty member, I was deeply shaken by this past year’s events. This didn’t happen somewhere else, it happened here in our front yard. Part of my identity is as a member of the university’s community. I felt scared, shamed, powerless to change, uncertain of my role, unsure whether to bring it up. These are difficult topics—sex, race, politics, violence—and my main priority was to not offend anyone, yet I do think these conversation must be had. Every time I brought it up, I was so impressed with the insight, care, and concern of the students. It is these conversations that helped re-instill my pride in our institution and give me hope that together we can move forward and make changes that are needed at the institutional, community, state, national, and worldwide level. Together we can do great things!
  • You are not alone. We are also confused and lost and trying our best to deal internally while supporting you externally. Feel free to contact/connect with me. My door/email is always open.
  • Please know I deeply care about you (yes, every one of you) deeply and want to support you here in your academic journey. While we all come with different life experiences, it is only in recognizing our differences and sincerely listening to one another that true understanding can take place. May you be gentle with yourselves, with one another, and to your faculty. I welcome us continuing the conversation—please don’t assume I don’t care. I really do!
  • Please do not confuse my inability or hesitancy to talk about sensitive or difficulty topics with a lack of caring. I do care—very much. But I, like most of my engineering colleagues, have as little training as you do when it comes to talking about sexism, racism, suicide, or depression, etc. I also tend to find large-group settings, like our classroom, to be impersonal and overwhelming. But, since I do want you to know that I care, I promise to devote a few minutes of class time to acknowledgement when bad things happen and to reiterate my door, ears, and heart are open to you. Please come to talk to me.
  • I would like you to know that I care. I care very deeply. I care about you, your learning, your well-being. I teach because I love students. I love teaching. I love learning. Please let me know what I can do to communicate that I care.
  • The issues in society and at UVA are what I care deeply about. I think about them all the time because I am part of the same community as you are.
  • I wish students could be a fly on the wall during my conversations with my family to see my confusion, anger, fear, and uncertainty about how to help students.
  • I wish they knew that whenever I see someone struggling in the class, I am making every effort I can to help that person, even if I do not talk directly to them. For example, that instance—of seeing someone not doing well—usually leads to slight changes in my methodology and to an effort to make the class more accessible to everyone.
  • I want to know you as individuals, help you know that you belong here, and support you on your journey at UVA.
  • I wish that students knew that we as faculty/graduate TAs are struggling to process and to come to terms with the same issues that they are. Students often look to us to guide them or to affirm their perspectives. However, we also need time to grapple with these issues ourselves or risk taking a stance that alienates some students in our classroom. I think that sometimes students expect an immediate response from their teachers, or else they interpret a lack thereof as a lack of caring. I wish they knew that we struggle with these issues in much the same way that we do, and do not ourselves always feel in a position to offer the guidance and affirmation they crave.
  • I am deeply sorry that I, as one of your instructors, failed to acknowledge the events of the past year that have caused you emotional pain, anger, and sorrow. I too am affected by these events, and as your instructor I struggle with how to broach this topic with you. How do I start the conversation in my course? How will you react? How will I react? How do I show you that I care about you as a person? I pledge to you, as my student, that I will find ways to acknowledge distressing events in the future.
  • We have the same feeling as you. We love you and want you to be safe and to flourish. There are deeply seated wrongs in the culture that will take longer than my life to correct. [We need] your help if we are to have progress.
  • We do care. Feel free to reach out. We may not have all the answers, but we are willing and eager to explore and learn with you.
  • Many faculty do care and are open to helping in a variety of ways.
  • Know that I spent four days this year at green dot training learning how to help create a culture shift @ UVA

 



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