Two weeks ago I attended the DePaul Teaching and Learning Conference. It was the 20th year of the conference, and it impressed me even more than it has in previous years. The keynote presenter this year was Todd Zakrajsek, and he had a lot of interesting things to say in his talk. The one that got the most laughs was when he told us that it’s important to make students believe that you care about them. Once the laughter died down he pointed out that the alternative to that state is having students who don’t think you care about them, which made what he had to say simultaneously funny and profound.
Of course, Dr. Zakrajsek isn’t the first person to talk about the importance of caring when it comes to students. I’ve written previously about a study examining whether students believe that faculty care and what impact that has on learning, something I presented at a School of Computing Teaching Lunch last spring. Sadly, I didn’t find the time last summer to look at more research on caring and computer science, but maybe this summer will be different.
What I am happy to discover is that at least some of my students know I care. This week I had a student send me a link to a New York Times article discussing the role of professors and how it’s changed over time. He said he thought I would find it interesting, and I did. But what I took away from the interaction is that this student knows that I think about the role I play in my students’ lives and that I’m interested in reflecting on that role. I consider that to be a great compliment.