The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday September 20th

Column: Professors are people, too

<p>Brooke Dougherty writes for the opinion desk at The Daily Tar Heel.&nbsp;</p>
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Brooke Dougherty writes for the opinion desk at The Daily Tar Heel. 

It’s that time of the semester. Stress is at an all-time high. Students are scrambling to put together their final projects and papers. Zoom burnout is real. Nerves are ramping up as final exams approach. 

As students, it is easy to get stressed out over school — especially as the semester begins to wind down. The past few semesters have thrown a lot of curveballs, and it’s been tough adjusting to college in a pandemic. It’s normal to be frustrated and exhausted, but what we shouldn’t do is take those emotions out on professors — after all, they are people too. 

During “normal” semesters, I took for granted that I could make friends with the classmates who sat next to me. I didn’t think twice about what a blessing it was to be able to casually talk with professors after class, or come into office hours for a short chat about assignments and build a relationship face-to-face. 

I know it has been hard to connect with our teachers when our options are limited to Zoom office hours and email, but we must resist reducing them to simply faces on a computer screen.

It is easy to assume that professors have everything together, simply because they are the ones teaching us material. But in truth, they are human beings, and they are not above making mistakes.

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about how the pandemic has affected students, but not instructors. They are going through the same types of things as we are, but with additional stress.

They’ve had to adjust their material to fit for "Zoom University," and learn technologies that they might not have had experience with previously. Academic life has encroached on their personal space just as much as it has for students. 

We turn in one assignment; they have to grade 50. None of my professors signed up for this kind of teaching experience, and no one saw this coming. Students’ lives aren’t the only lives that have been turned upside down.

They’ve got other priorities, such as their mental health, families and other classes. Professors who are parents are not only teaching us; they have had to learn how to juggle schooling their kids from home at the same time. 

Not to mention having off weeks, dealing with sickness or possible vaccine side effects. 

I’ve seen fellow students get extremely frustrated at our professors when assignments are graded late, or emails aren't replied to immediately. A few weeks ago, one of my professors hadn’t uploaded a specific assignment yet, and several of my classmates were quick to bash the fact that it wasn’t on Sakai. We found out later that she had been dealing with her entire family getting sick over the weekend. 

When things like this happen, it’s easy to let disdain grow and let off some steam by throwing blame at someone, but professors have lives that we know nothing about. They are dealing with struggles that aren’t public. They don’t ask for extensions or days off, and they can’t just miss a class due to sleeping in. 

Let’s go into the final few weeks of the semester giving grace, as they are trying to be the best instructors that they can be under these circumstances. 

We’re all excited for summer — we all cannot wait to take a breath and spend time with our loved ones. But we have to remember that our professors aren’t immune to having bad days or rough patches. 

We ask them to be understanding of what we are going through, so we must extend the same courtesy to them.


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